Is Your Life a Hamster Wheel?

Do you ever feel like you are running in a hamster wheel? Your to-do list is a mile long. Each week begins with an ambitious list of priorities. By the end you are out of breath and wondering what you actually accomplished.

You can take charge of your schedule and get off the hamster wheel. It begins by getting clear on what really matters. Feel the freedom of running your life rather than letting it run you. Here are six tips for getting off the hamster wheel and creating a pace that works for you.

1. Set a maximum of three priority tasks per day.

Yes, you read that right. Three main tasks. Identifying success as three simple tasks gives your brain a specific target to aim for. It is easy to come up with a to-do list with dozens of items. Unfortunately, unplanned events or requests can quickly overturn the best plans and you wonder where your day went. Instead, simply choose three important tasks per day.

Feel the freedom of running your life rather than letting it run you.

2. Learn to say “no.”

Once you know your three important priorities, say “no” to anything that interferes. Develop your own wording for turning down opportunities that don’t align with your current goals. Practice saying it in front of the mirror if you need to! People will respect you for following your values, and protecting your schedule keeps you off the hamster wheel.

3. Focus on one hour at a time. 

The rest of your day (or your life) doesn’t need your attention right now. Be present in the moment and focus on doing your best in the hour that is in front of you. Concentrate on getting one thing done at a time, and avoid "task-hopping." Make the task meaningful by drawing on your strengths. How could you use empathy or maximizer to add your signature touch to a school assignment?

4. Determine whether you're an owl or a rooster.

Identify the times of the day when you’re most productive and focus your energy on doing the most important things during those times. Schedule your studying for times when you can seriously engage with the work. This can be very different, depending on your biochronology. Some students find 11 p.m. the perfect time to focus, others 7 a.m. Just because your classmate studies at a particular time doesn't mean it will work for you

5. Take time to refresh and recharge.

Time spent away from work refreshes the mind and makes you more productive. After every hour of work, take a 15 minute break to allow your mind and body time to reset. Find what energizes you, whether it’s a walk outside, listening to music, or connecting with a friend.

6. Create a plan for the upcoming week

Doing a weekly review is a key time management habit. This concept was created by David Allen author of the classic productivity book "Getting Things Done." This practice helps you plan your schedule and decide what is most important. A weekly review involves three steps:

  • First, scan your calendar for the past week and the current week. Look for loose ends, meetings and other matters that need further attention.
  • Second, review your email inbox and note any upcoming dates.
  • Third, review your goals for the year and incorporate them in the coming week

These six habits provide focus and peace in your schedule. You get to choose the pace of your life and what you want to get done. Are you ready to escape the hamster wheel of trying to get it all done? Partner with a StudentHero coach to create your own plan for accomplishing and enjoying your goals. Instead a dash, make it a dance.

How do you jump off the hamster wheel? Comment below with your favorite tips. 

Carissa Gay is a career and leadership coach who helps aspiring leaders clarify their vision and maximize their impact. She lives in San Antonio, Texas, and enjoys books, chocolates, and cross-cultural adventures. You can connect with her on FB at Courageous Leaders