Many people I come across tell me how they have no time for themselves. They are so busy managing life and all it’s challenges; keeping up with business priorities, making money, seeing clients, networking for new business, typing proposals, responding to emails, writing emails, making phone calls, doing the bookwork, shopping with their partner, taking the children to out of school activities, spending time with relatives that they don’t really want to be with, paying bills, fulfilling on administrative responsibilities, cleaning, ironing, washing dishes and so on and so forth.
It seems that there is never enough time in the day to do all these things and make time for ourselves. Perhaps we don’t take enough exercise or have enough “chill out” time. We want to go to the movies or ten pin bowling, take a dance class or have a meal out with a loved one, drive out into the country, go to the beach, have a weekend away or watch a football match. None of this appears possible because “priorities” get in the way.
Well, here’s the thing, we all have exactly the same time as everyone else. That’s 24 hours each and every day, that’s it, period! So how is it that some people seem to have all the time in the world and others never have enough time and don’t even get enough sleep?
The answer really is very simple. It’s how we use the time we do have that matters.
For many people, if they were to just audit their time, each and every minute of the day, for one week, they would probably be amazed at how much time they “waste” on things that they would admit, if they were honest, were unimportant and meaningless.
There is a whole industry based on time management. There are software programmes, paper planners, diaries, training courses and workshops, organisers and even coaches to help you de-clutter your life. Ultimately though, it boils down to us being able to say yes, or no, according to whether the request, appointment, meeting, conversation, email or task, fits within in our wants, desires and outcomes we say we are aiming to create. If not, we would be better served saying no.
The problem, I hear you screaming at the top of your voice, is that sometimes we “have to” do things we would rather not. We “have to” go that meeting, clean the house, answer the phone, complete that project, answer that letter, see the doctor or the dentist, take the children out, answer that customer complaint and do our accounts. Well that in itself is not true. Yes, there may be consequences to not completing on things and if we had managed ourselves more effectively in the first place, we would not be in the position of trying to squeeze too many things into our day, week or month.
So what specifically needs to happen for us to make the time we want?
First, get clear on what you do want. If you have no clarity on what you want, how can you expect to make the right choices in terms of managing your time, aligned with what you want? So create some goals, uncover your passions and write down what you want. Then, every time you are faced with a choice or decision about scheduling your time, choose in favour of your goals or passions. If it doesn’t fit, say no!
Second, schedule everything! This includes your “free time” activities. If you want to spend more time in the gym, schedule it. If you want to take your partner out for dinner, schedule it. If you have important tasks to complete, schedule them first, preferably first thing in the morning, before you open email, or even your browser.
Third, notice when you are more productive. For some, this is first thing in the morning so do the “tougher” or more productive things before you lose what energy does exist. Many people find they are easily distracted in the afternoon, so schedule tasks or meetings that won’t take too much effort or are more enjoyable. Some people find they are more creative in the evenings, so schedule thinking time, or artistic pastimes, writing, dance classes and so on at this time of day. Find out what works best for you and schedule your time accordingly.
Finally, treat all scheduled activities with the same integrity. In other words, if you have taken the time to prioritise time for you in the gym, meditating, seeing a movie or simply chilling out, treat that appointment with yourself as you would your most important customer or your boss. Don’t be tempted to let time for you slide just because an external influence is demanding of you.
Stay in integrity and respect your own time as much as you would for others.
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