The first thing that I'm looking for when seeing any communication from someone looking for answers is the language they have used to describe the challenge. Language is a tool and technology, just like the device you're reading this on. It has its own rules and effects.
Language, in my opinion, is by far the most powerful technology we've invented. A single word can change everything. A lot of people are sloppy with their words because they don't realise how powerful of a tool it is.
We also all have habitual ways of describing things. We have little language habits that can tell you a lot about someone and how they think.
To give you an example of the power of language, change the word 'monopolised' in the sentence above to 'ripped away' and then read it back out loud.
Changes the entire feel of the email doesn't it? Makes you really think about your words. And that was one or two words, with a few sentences and once you get good at this you can really build a picture of someone just listening to them talk.
For this Breakdown, language and a good understanding of how human beings usually think are all we need to help this person.
The four words that jump out to me are 'somehow, monopolised & very stressed.'
The first - monopolised, is probably an exaggeration. It's extremely unlikely that this person is literally spending every single second of the day doing the work that another person is forcing them to do. This exaggeration makes me recognise that this feeling is very annoying for this person and has probably been going on for quite some time.
I'm not sure whether or not it's been going on for a long time and just been noticed or always been there but never dealt with, so I'd usually ask a question here to confirm.
The next: very stressed. This is the most interesting to me. I'm curious as to why this is making this person so stressed because the challenge seems to be pretty easy to fix... just stop giving your time away. It's as simple as that, but the fact that this hasn't happened makes me think that there is something deeper here.
That something is probably a belief that you must make other people happy (people pleasing) and the stress is coming from a battle in the mind of 'doing what I want to do so I am happy' and 'helping others which is how I am happy.'
These two are mutually exclusive in their current form which combined with feeling like this is a really hard problem to solve is probably causing the stress.
Lastly and the really key word here is the word 'somehow.'
Let me be extremely frank: there is only ever one way that your time gets used and that's by you deciding where to put it.
Even the most normal uses of time in the world like 'I have to go to work' are lies - you don't have to do anything. You might feel like you have to, but that doesn't mean it's thetruth.
I don't care if you have 15 children, no partner, work 90 hours a week and own three penguins who need constant attention. You are still in control of your time and that is what it is.
To say that this is 'somehow' happening to you is like looking at the rain outside, deciding to walk around it in, then coming back inside and saying 'I somehow got wet, but it was totally the rains fault!'
No it wasn't, don't blame the rain or other people. It was your decision and will always be your decision.
So my read on this situation is:
1) This has been going on for quite some time
2) There is probably an element of people pleasing her
3) This person is making this more complicated than it needs to be and thinks this is harder than it is
4) This person isn't taking ownership of their problems.
In an ideal world, I'm able to ask questions to confirm all of these assumptions (and I recognise they are assumptions) but in this case, this challenge is so common that we can be confident that at least 3 of them will be on the money.
So when someone languages a problem to me like this, what I really hear as the truth is something like:
'At this present time, I am allowing myself to feel frustrated because I am consistently choosing to allow my time to be used by other people because I have either failed to set boundaries around my own expectations with people or I believe that pleasing people is a blueprint for my own happiness. This effort by me is being unappreciated by the people around me, which I allow to cause me stress, conflicts with my desires to take care of myself AND it means that at the end of the day the I choose to not continue to do what I wanted to have done during the day and blame other people instead.'
When you put it like that - this is pretty straight forward and clear solution as the problem is very obvious and simple to fix.
You need to take control and ownership of your life and your time. There is nothing that you can be made to do in the world, it is and always will be a decision by you. Even if it feels otherwise, that's just a lie you're telling yourself to make yourself feel comfortable.
Stop saying that these things 'somehow' happen and recognise they happen because you let them happen, and if you want it to change then you need to put in the work. Thinking about something rarely does anything, action is the only true form of power in the world. So if you want to not have your time monopolised, then stop letting people do it.
Step one: is for you to get some clarity on exactly what is is that you're not getting time for. Is it reading a book for 20 minutes? Is it spending 30 minutes on the phone with your friends? Saying 'I want time to do things that I want to do' will get you nowhere. What things do you want to do? How much time will each of them take? Until you have clarity over what you want you're wasting your own time.
Step two: is to carve out the time that you need and communicate that to the people around you that you're going to be spending that time where you want to. Make sure you communicate this in a way that recognises the other person's POV not just your own. If they tell you that you can't do that - tell them to stick it. It's your life.
Step Three: Don't let yourself be pulled away from the plan and use the word no if someone tries.
Step Four: Realise the best way to make anyone happy is to be so happy yourself that your mood is infectious. Fill up your own cup until you can't imagine not giving to those around you because you have so much joy.
Step Five: Don't change the plan once it's working (something way too many people do)
Step Six: Give yourself a stiff self-high-5 for winning.
It really is that easy - it's the work to make this stick that can sometimes be hard.