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Making Positive Changes When You’re Busy

You might assume that making positive changes when you’re busy is impossible. If you can’t make sweeping shifts or create a major overhaul, why even try, right?

When we’re busy or feeling overwhelmed, we have a hard time knowing what’s realistic, said Natasha Lindor, MS, CPC, a coach who helps clients create work-life harmony. Instead, we’re more likely to go to extremes, she said.

For instance, you’re at a new job and putting in a lot of hours. You want to stop eating takeout and start cooking at home. “[Y]ou might think you have to cook these amazingly healthy meals, and build it up in your head. [That’s] because everything feels so huge in the midst of overwhelm.”

However, you can make positive changes even while your days are long or there’s a lot going on. Below, Lindor, founder of The AND Factor, shared some helpful ideas.

Be Flexible

Avoid taking a narrow, rigid view of the changes you’d like to make. That is, be open and flexible about what they’ll look like day-to-day. Try to adapt to changing circumstances, and incorporate positive behaviors where you can.

Lindor shared these examples: Your goal is to incorporate more movement into your life. But you didn’t make it to the gym after work. Instead of feeling guilty, you get off a stop earlier. By taking a longer walk, you’re still doing something that supports your overall goal of becoming more active. Another day you prepare a nutrient-rich dinner. Again, “you’re still taking care of your body and giving it what it needs to be healthy.”

Your goal is to give back. But you don’t have time to volunteer. Staying flexible you decide to find small ways to help: You share a post on Facebook to support a friend; you call another friend who’s having a hard time on your drive to work; and you smile at everyone you encounter, Lindor said.

Take “Right-Sized Action Steps”

Lindor works with her clients on taking “Right-Sized Action Steps:” “doing what they can given the time, energy and focus they have available.”

Every time a client takes a right-sized action step, they’re making a deposit in their “Positive Change” account, she said. “[A]nd even the smallest deposits add up over time.”

For instance, you’re trying to quit smoking. Instead of quitting cold turkey, you focus on saying no to the next cigarette, Lindor said. You “chew a piece of gum, drink some water or call a friend.”

Or you have a 9 to 5 job but want to start your own business. You commit to speaking to three people each week who left traditional jobs and now have their own business, Lindor said.

Or you want to pay off your debts and start saving. You create a document that outlines how much you owe. You also pick one area where you’ll reduce expenses or increase your income, she said.

Play the “I Am Becoming” Game

According to Lindor, this is about shifting your mindset. You say to yourself, “If I am becoming someone who _______, how would I handle this situation?” Then create a plan for navigating a busy time.

If you’re becoming someone who practices self-care, how would you incorporate this into a busy week? For instance, you might wake up earlier to meditate for five minutes or write morning pages. You might use your lunch hour to take a gentle yoga class. You might ask a family member or hire a babysitter for Sunday morning, so you can meet a friend for breakfast and a walk.

If you’re becoming someone who‘s assertive in all areas of your life, how would you handle different situations? For instance, before blurting out yes to requests (and regretting it later), you start telling everyone: “Thank you for asking me. I’m going to think about it and get back to you.” You start directly communicating your needs with your loved ones. For instance, you tell your spouse that you need help cleaning the house. You start setting boundaries, such as shutting down your devices at 7 p.m. so you can focus on your family.

As Lindor said, “Having a plan based on the mindset of what the change or goal you want to achieve will help you fare well, especially during busy times.”

Find the Lesson

If something didn’t work out the way you wanted it to today, avoid beating yourself up. Instead, use it as valuable information, as a lesson “to take a different approach tomorrow,” Lindor said. This might mean reevaluating your expectations, reducing your to-do list, rescheduling certain tasks or treating your self-care routine like a high-priority meeting.

“The path to change is a long-term game, not something that happens overnight.” So start small, be flexible and remember that you’re doing the best you can.

You also can grab a free guide on building work-life harmony from Lindor here.

Working mom photo available from Shutterstock

Making Positive Changes When You’re Busy

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. is an Associate Editor and regular contributor at Psych Central. Her Master's degree is in clinical psychology from Texas A&M University. In addition to writing about mental disorders, she blogs regularly about body and self-image issues on her Psych Central blog, Weightless.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2018). Making Positive Changes When You’re Busy. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 10 Jul 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.