As a time (and stress) management consultant, I deal with a lot of people who are trying to juggle a lot of things, and setting priorities is complicated and difficult because everything seems to be of equal importance. So the first thing I do is make a priority list, and we work on time management from there. But recently I’ve realized that I’ve been letting my clients down. I’ve been working with them on priorities like juggling work-time and housework, relationships and children, partners and self. I’ve been helping people plan ways to follow their dreams and reach their goals. I’ve been ignoring the things that need to come before any of that other stuff.
At first I thought it was sort of a joke, but the more I thought of it the more I realized it was true: every list should start with air, then food, then shelter. It’s obvious to us when we see people who don’t have enough of those – people who are starving, people who are homeless, people who are drowning. But we assume that we have enough. You might even be saying right now, “I don’t need to worry about getting enough to eat; I’ve got more important things to think about and I’m already fat!” But Maslow’s hierarchy suggests that we can only find fulfillment in subsequent levels – relationships, goals, spirituality – when the basic level is fulfilled. If we’re not happy, then maybe the real problem is in that basic level.
How many times have we said: “I should eat better”? “I should sleep more”? “My doctor says I went into early labour because I was dehydrated”? (Okay, maybe that last one doesn’t pertain to everyone.) How many times have we said: “I can sleep when I’m dead”? “I find myself getting stressed out by the littlest things”? How many of us sit on payday with our budgets and our bills, and we pay this and we pay that, and we look at the end and see how much that leaves for food? – how many of us, maybe without realizing it, put that most important thing dead-last?
After working with a lot of people who have a lot of different problems, and after working on myself – and what has often been a significant amount of stress – I believe that a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast can solve almost every problem, either directly or by putting my head and my heart in a place where problems can be solved.
At first, you may think it’s sort of a joke, and I understand, because life gets so complicated and so worrisome and so heavy, and it would be silly to think that all of that could be changed by eating and sleeping enough and well. How can you juggle all those things – work and school and family and friends and exercise – just by eating and sleeping enough and well? But it’s not silly at all.
So while you sit down and put food and sleep at the top of all your lists, I’m going to get a burrito because I’m starving … and – I promise you – it will make all the difference.