It seems that life gets busier with each passing day. Between jobs, parenting, house maintenance, social obligations, church, community service and fitting in time to work out, cook and sleep, our plates become so full that pretty soon things start falling off. We can no longer keep everything in order, devote the right amount of time to each item or keep our sanity as we try to juggle it all.
I definitely went through a phase where I felt overwhelmed all the time. I was stressed, sleeping only a few hours a night, and felt horrible about how much time I was or was not devoting to each item on my list. I had to draw the line and decide what the most important thing in my life and start cutting things out, instead of continuously adding to my list.
Here is how I did it without feeling guilty:
The first thing I had to do was set priorities. For me, that was my family. I knew I needed to be able to spend more time with them, yet I needed to be able to provide for them. My social life took a hard hit, as did my career, but it needed to be done for me to get the balance just right. Girl days, gym dates and conference meetings are out, but working from home, mommy and me classes and family fun days are in.
Decide what your priorities are and start putting them first. When something comes up that takes you away from your priority, ask yourself if the time, effort and energy to do it is worth sacrificing what is truly important to you, before you commit to it. It might mean you need to make some adjustments in your life. Have less of a prestigious career and less you time, but you will be surprised how much you find that those things are not as important as the time and experiences you would miss out on had you not made changes.
Let go of society's expectations
If our kids are not reading by preschool, speaking at least 2 foreign languages by kindergarten, and in 20 different organized sports while in elementary school we tend to think we are failing as a parent. It can be easy to lose sight of the fact that our kids are just kids. While it is not bad to have them in little league or an amazing preschool, it is not vital to their success.
Go back to your priorities; if all of these extracurricular activities are taking too much time from them, then it is counterproductive. Don't be afraid to cut out all the extra stuff and focus on what is really important. It may be hard to not compare your child to someone else's who has received their black belt by age 5, but you are the one who knows your kids best. See what makes them happy. Spending hours in classes away from you and your family may not work for you, and that is okay.
I really hate confrontation, so having to tell someone no was really hard for me to learn. Telling myself no was even harder. I want to be able to do it all, so admitting to myself that that is not possible was extremely difficult. I had to take a deep breath and just accept that I would not be happy if I continued saying yes to everything. Now I pick and choose the things I do. I weigh their importance in my life, in society and how it will affect my family and my time. Once I got in the habit of thinking about things before accepting or rejecting them, it became easier. As a result I feel I have a more balanced and peaceful life.
Don't be afraid to ask for help
There are times in your life where you feel you cannot cut anything out without a serious consequences. When this happens, don't be afraid to ask for help. For example, if you cannot stay on top of the house work, hire a cleaning service to come once or twice a month. It is more affordable then you think, and it can save you valuable time and effort. Ask neighbors or family to help watch your kids once in a while so you can go to the gym, or finish the project you've been asked to do at work. This is not technically cutting things out of your life, but it is a way to cut down on your total responsibilities and share the load so you can keep your sanity.
My life is not perfect, it is still crazy, but by cutting out the things that were taking my time away from my priorities, I discovered how much happier life could be. It is hard to feel guilty when I know I am making the right decisions for me and my family.