How to Get Perspective on Your Life

Do you ever feel that you’re so caught up in the day to day and hour to hour routines of life that you never get a chance to step back and see the bigger picture?

Do you get lots done, but without a real sense of accomplishment?

Have you ever reached the end of a busy week and wondered what the point was?

I expect we all feel like that from time to time – but for some people, it’s the norm. Perhaps you’re juggling studies and work, or work and family, or multiple projects and goals. Maybe you have a nagging sense that there’s something wrong or that your priorities are skewed – and you keep promising yourself that you’ll be less busy next week/month/year.

The problem is, you always seem to be busy. You’ve got lots on, and your attention is on the details, not the whole picture. How can you get some perspective on your life?

Take a Weekend Away

This is a big one, true, but please don’t rule it out as impossible. Can you take a weekend away? That might mean going on a mini-vacation with your spouse (especially if you never get any time together now). It could mean going off on your own for just a couple of days … perhaps walking, cycling, traveling to see old friends, or even going on a retreat.

We often pack our weekends with commitments and chores, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Even if you can only take a single day for yourself, you’ll return to your “normal” life with renewed energy and fresh clarity.

Schedule in Thinking Time

One of the most powerful uses for your time is to think. So often, we end up spending our day answering emails, returning calls, racing through work – and never pausing to consider whether there’s any better way to do things.

Spending just half an hour a week – a fraction of your working time – in thought can give you a chance to question whether everything’s really going as well as it could be. If you need some prompts to get your thoughts going, try:

  • Where am I wasting a lot of time? Can I ditch/delegate/diminish those tasks?
  • What’s going well? How can I do more of that?
  • Do I feel unhappy about anything? What can I do about it?

(If you feel like thinking never really helps, or that it just makes you feel worse, check out these common patterns of limiting thinking.)

Write a Journal

Journaling is a really powerful way to work through problems and to get your thoughts out of your head. If you have trouble sleeping at night because you’re constantly worrying about the next day, try journaling for just ten or fifteen minutes before bed. Putting your thoughts down in black and white really helps you to get them in perspective, and it can often prompt you towards solutions.

There’s no one way to write a journal. Some people like to write every day, others write less often. You might find it particularly helpful to pick up your journal if you’re facing a difficult decision, or if something seems to be weighing on your mind.

Be Brave

Finally, getting perspective on your life requires an element of bravery. Sometimes, we end up burying ourselves in work and busyness in order to avoid thinking about deeper problems.

Being brave might mean facing up to a relationship which needs serious effort. It could involve admitting that you’ve chosen the wrong career and you’re miserable at work. It may well mean standing up for yourself and your own needs, and turning down other people’s requests. You might take on board a health problem that you’ve been trying to deny, like your smoking habit or your weight.

I know how hard and scary it can be to face up to problems in your life. Even if you’re not especially happy most of the time, it’s easier to keep going through the motions and kidding yourself that everything’s okay. But by stepping back, getting some perspective and being honest about any areas of life that aren’t working, you can take real strides towards success and true fulfillment.

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Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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