By Jenna Birch, SELF
Do you ever feel like you've got so much on your plate that you're not getting anything done? How about that feeling that you're accomplishing a lot in the here and now but haven't really touched your long-term goals yet?
If you want to get your energies in line with your values in 2015, we've tapped the talents of psychiatrist Kristen Carpenter, Ph.D, director of women's behavioral health at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, for a little help. Here are eight steps to take right now for more balance and less stress as you work toward crossing some major milestones.
1. Realign Your Time With Your Goals
Don't get burnt out with activities that will not fulfill you. "Resources of time and energy are finite, and yet we always have demands on our time," says Carpenter. "Keep some sort of calendar or planner, so you can track how you are spending your time. How you spend your time should be in line with your values and goals. If it's not, you need to restructure your schedule to closer reflect that."
2. Note Two Symptoms of Burnout
Carpenter says you should take notice of two symptoms that you're scattered or maxed out this year: "If you feel like you're falling behind, or you're not doing anything particularly well, that's a big sign you're overbooked," she says. "If this is the case, you need to scale back." Make a list of your obligations and activities, and decide what's most important.
3. Be Mindful of Your Yeses
Notice what you're taking on and to which tasks you're saying yes, says Carpenter. "This is hard for us, but if it's not helping you reach your goals in life, then it's just eating up time," Carpenter says. Instead of jumping the gun with an immediate yes, earn to say no, or simply delay your yeses by saying, "I'd like to do this, but I need to see what I have on my plate right now." This allows you to consider: Am I doing this to be a team player, or because it will move me toward my goals? If it's just because you feel like you should, it's an opportunity to say no when you've got a lot going on. If you defer the decision, really evaluate it, it's a little easier to say no -- and not overwhelm your schedule with obligations.
4. Shut Down (Your Gadgets)
Don't be so accessible all the time, says Carpenter. "This is hard for women, especially as they're growing their careers," she explains. "But you must keep work confined in some way, in however you define your workday." Maybe you ignore your emails and texts from 6 to 10 p.m. every day, she says, or you shut down everything at 10 p.m. to recharge until the next morning. "This will help keep you balanced," says Carpenter.
5. Call Time Out For an Hour
Think about it this way: Make yourself take some time every week that's just for you, and it must total one hour at minimum. "Even if it's just simple meditation, organizing, or getting brief a workout in during a crazy week," Carpenter says. "Maybe it's just 15 minutes a week, four days a week. If you don't step back, you won't notice where you can be more efficient."
6. Don't Just Work, Work, Work
More and more, a lot of young women are developing an all-energy-here, no-energy-there approach to their lives, Carpenter explains. Don't throw all your eggs into the career basket, if you know that someday you'd like a family. "Evaluate what your goals are long-term, both personally and in your career," says Carpenter. "You can have it all, but not all at the same time. Ask yourself, 'When will marriage be important?' or 'When will kids be important?'" Like you did with your career as you decided what to study in college and which jobs to apply for, you have to plan ahead.
7. Know When to Shift Your Focus
If you focus on your career in your 20s, be ready to accelerate your timeline in your 30s if you want marriage and kids, says Carpenter. "It can be done, but know what to expect," says Carpenter. "A lot of women underestimate how hard it is to develop their personal lives when they hit this stretch in their early and mid-30s, and then find a partner. If you want to find someone or have kids, shelving this part of your life completely is not a strategy I'd recommend." Time will pass you by, so keep up with dating in your 20s and realize your options in your 30s -- like online dating, setups with friends of friends, and hitting up gatherings where you know there will be new people with whom you can mix and mingle.
8. Keep Goals Manageable
Sure, we'd all like to climb Everest, go skydiving, meet the love of our lives, get the promotion and finally write down novel idea we've been holding onto since our college days. That said, too many goals means you may not reach any of them. "It will be overwhelming," says Carpenter. "Keep it to two per category -- personal, professional and family or relationship -- and no more. Any more than that, and it won't really stick." So, if you made a lot of resolutions, circle back to your list and decide which are most important to you this year. Cross off a few, kick butt on the biggies now, and you can reevaluate in 2016.
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