Today our lives are busier than ever before. Our time is pressed by career, family, friends and sometimes even the things we took on as being “for me” become a chore that saps our precious time. I mean, while your iphone addiction may be considered ‘a break’, is it really relaxing and does it really do anything to recharge your batteries? Doubtful.
So how do we successfully take time out for ourselves? Where can we look for those little nuggets of time in a world of perpetual task lists? It sounds simple but we all know it’s not. Here are some tips for addressing issues related to the time in our lives and some advice to help you find some time for yourself in your hectic schedule.
- Complete a Time Audit
It might sound silly but we often actually don’t know where our time goes. Over the course of a normal week, make an attempt to keep track of what you do with your time. Carry a small notebook and check your watch when you start different tasks at home and at work.
What were the surprises? Do you spend an inordinate amount of time checking emails, responding to phone calls, completing tasks you thought were a minor part of your workload? Try to think about why these things take longer than you thought they would. Are you completely focused on them or, because they are minor tasks, are you doing something else at the same time? As we’ve been aware for a while now, multitasking is not always the best way to go.
If tasks take longer in reality than you expected or allowed for, you will always feel as if you are behind schedule and ‘playing catch-up’. Knowing where your time goes is the first step to finding some time for yourself.
HINT: Allow more than enough time for tasks, including driving to and from various places. Use your audit results and be realistic about the time you’ll need to complete tasks. If it suits the way you work, use your audit results to create a timetable or schedule for your day and don’t forget to include coffee breaks and downtime in your plan.
- Complete a Priorities Audit
This will work in conjunction with you time audit to help you determine whether you are spending your time on the things that are actually most important to you.
- Start by brainstorming all the commitments you spend your time on (use your time audit to help you) including your spare time.
- Check your list and see if there’s anything missing eg. it’s important that you visit your great aunt every month but your time audit wasn’t completed in the week that you have you visit.
- Rank your commitments in order of importance.
- Compare the ranking with your time audit – you have to be a little flexible here. For example, ‘work’ may rank down your list a little but take up a huge amount of time, you need to take into account the fact that without work many of the leisure time commitments are not possible. Of course, make sure to acknowledge and address whether the time commitment required by you job is worth it.
- Plan a Break
Plan breaks in your daily schedule but also in your leisure time. We sometime fill our weekends with as much socializing or home duties as possible because our hectic working lives leaves little time during the week to chat with a friend, catch up for a coffee or get the clothes washed. When we pack our lives so fully, we leave no down time and we tend to feel as if we are rushing from one thing to another – from work to drinks with friends to a dinner out to a family birthday…
Regularly (perhaps once a month or two) block out a weekend in your diary or calendar. Give it a title like “My Time” or “VIP Weekend”. Don’t accept invitations on these weekends. And don’t wait for a free weekend to present itself because last minute invitations can easily swallow up your time or, if you do actually get the weekend to yourself, you’re not ready for it. In your scheduled time off from your life, plan something that you want to do. Spend the weekend catching up on some reading, watching some DVDs, wandering around a market, gardening, playing in the park with your kids… whatever it is that you will enjoy and will make you feel as if you have used your time in a decadent manner. You’ll feel more refreshed and ready for your working week if you’ve actually treated yourself and allowed yourself the time you need to start feeling human again.
In summary, know your time usage; know your priorities; and plan time for yourself. You’ll be more productive in the long run and, besides, you’re worth it!