Get 8 days out of every week!
No, I can’t teach you how to expand time but I do remember ads like that for tonic wine when I was growing up, promising to help you find more energy.
In my previous post I wrote about why it’s important to find what you love and DO IT – but I know myself how hard it can be to carve out time when life seems to be so busy, let alone find the space to do something that can feel like a luxury.
But we have to resist the cult of BUSY …
it’s a trap we can easily get caught up in, especially in a comparison culture – we all know someone who seems to have a superhuman amount of energy and motivation, and who’s able to get SO much more done than we are.
But busy is often a symptom of something else; that hectic activity might be more about FOMO or be masking something else:
“Look how busy I am! I really do matter in this great big universe … Don’t I? Tell me I do!”
“Of course I am SO busy because I’m SO important!
“I really need to be doing something about X but I’m avoiding that so I’m really busy over here doing Y instead.”
Which brings me to the first of those changes you can make:
- Don’t get caught up in busywork
Working for myself I know just how easy it is to get caught up in a variety of things that aren’t important OR urgent – from cleaning to emails – and then I look busy, I feel busy but I’m NOT getting on with the things that matter.
Even with a business to run the truth is that checking emails first thing (or every 5 minutes during the working day) is just a load of busywork. I get more time to do what I need to do if I set aside a specific time to look at my emails later in the day.
Now most of us are so wedded to our smartphones and other internet-connected gadgets, we can get sucked in to responding to things all the time. We’ve all been that person who’s checking their phone every time it pings or bleeps because it makes us look and feel like we’re oh-so-busy.
So let’s not be that person anymore and bust the myth of busy!
The second change relates to the first because it’s about understanding what’s most important for YOU to do:
- Proximity is not priority
When it comes to finding time to do what you love you’re basically making a choice: do I prioritise this housework or do I go and practice yoga/paint a picture/read a book with the kids (insert beloved activity as required) and live with a teeny bit more dust or clutter for a few hours?
Often we’re tempted to do what’s in front of us without asking ourselves if this is actually the MIT* and whether we’re really the person who needs to do it.
*Most Important Thing
Women are still more likely to be doing the biggest share of domestic work, and research shows married women have an extra 7 hours of housework a week thanks to their husbands – even more if they have kids. If that rings a bell for you it’s definitely time to re-evaluate the division of labour in YOUR home. After all, if someone else can do the washing or load/unload the dishwasher let them do it!
- Schedule your day (including your free time)
I don’t mind how you do it but DO it. Get a wall planner, use the calendar on your device, draw your own, use a notebook, get a chalk board … Honestly, you can do this however you like. My weapon of choice is a spreadsheet which even has lovely blocks of different colours to show various kinds of activity (and the FUN stuff is in a lovely sky blue colour).
Find some time (see 1. above!) to sit down and note all the things that are already scheduled in a normal week – work, appointments, classes etc. Begin to plot them on your planner or calendar – the key thing here is to be realistic about how long things take and also to include stuff like travelling time to and from activities – and then you can begin to put in the other stuff, including time to do the things you love (especially those you aren’t doing already).
If there aren’t enough hours in the day then you know you are doing too much and it’s time to start delegating, deleting or doing things differently, but you have to start with knowing what matters most to you – if your family are the MIT then draw a line in the sand and don’t work at weekends or only early (before everyone is up) or late (when everyone’s in bed).
Stop watching TV and turn off your devices if you have to, but make sure that there is plenty of sky blue time to do those things that make you happy and that you really enjoy.
I hope that doesn’t sound like I’m encouraging you to fill every minute of the day with activities – in fact it’s the opposite as this article reminds us – but by scheduling you’ll see where the time is going and you’ll begin to see where you can create space for the things you WANT to do.
What do you think? Are we just trying to do too much? Do share your thoughts in the comments below.
P.S. There’s a great article from Christine Carter Ph.D at the Greater Good Science Centre on 3 other ways you can feel less busy. Read it here.
After I wrote this post I also discovered these articles: ‘The Busy Person’s Lies’ by Laura Vanderkam in the New York Times which talks about the value (or not) of tracking your time. Also this one from the Power to Fly website which goes in to more detail about the value of scheduling.