A few years ago I found myself thinking,

I can’t wait to retire so I can have time to read books!

Deep down I knew this was a ridiculous thought. Why was I waiting? Reading increases my happiness, so why not make it a priority now?

So I did. I  made happiness a priority by creating an inviting reading area, and by scheduling time on my google calendar to sit down with a good book several times a week. (Read more about that process here.)

Then some amazing things happened!

I read the entire stack of books next to my bed. I got invited to join a bookclub and I said — ok, yelled — YES! And I started to feel like I finally had more time in my day, every day.

Time management sounds like something very stuffy and corporate. But using some basic productivity principles in your home life will make more room for your happiness. There are a few steps leading to the place where you get to put your hobby on the calendar. The process is definitely worth it.

Time management step 1: Identify your goal.

What activity do you crave? If you had an extra hour in the day, what would you do with it? It may seem weird, but if you are having trouble thinking of an activity, look to your stuff for clues.

From working with many people in their homes to organize their stuff, I’ve found that we tend to buy items which speak to our desire for more time. For example, one woman had over 30 pairs of yoga pants in her closet because she was yearning for time to relax and wear them! Another dear lady had 18 boxes of herbal tea in her cupboard, many were the same type. She kept wishing and wishing for the time to sit and sip some tea.

Me, I had stacks of books around the house I was collecting for retirement (and I was in my thirties).

Check out your budding collections. Whatd’ya got there? travel magazines? bath oils? cookbooks? Let those collections give you an idea of what your heart is craving to do with more time. Let this goal motivate you to put some effort into step 2.

Time Management step 2: Inventory your time.

Spend a 4-7 days figuring out exactly what you are doing when you are not at work. How are your spending your “free” time? Your unscheduled time? I was very surprised by what I found.

Fixing problems — usually other people’s problems — was filling a lot of my time. I learned at an early age to anticipate and prevent potential conflicts not just in my life, but in the lives of those around me. I wouldn’t even give someone a chance to ask for help. Before they even knew they had a problem, I was already up in their business fixing it. in my everyday home life, this looked like: setting out outfits for my kids in case they needed a change; making snacks for people in case they got hungry; cleaning off most surfaces in case someone stopped by. It was exhausting and also pointless. Not to mention annoying to my family who had no chance to solve their own problems.

cover of book, "The Not so Big Life"

Then I read “The Not So Big Life” by, Sara Susanka, also a perpetual problem-solver, in which she explained how much she hated conflict and how she went to great lengths to avoid it at all costs. Her problem solving, like mine, was taking up a lot of her time.

Susanka urges you to take an inventory of your time to find out what you are doing to waste time (and why). It’s an amazingly helpful exercise that pays off in spades! Creating a time inventory helps you realize how many minutes ( or hours!) you spend on activities which may or may not bring you happiness.

What are you wasting your time doing? Maybe it’s a physical activity like re-organizing spaces, playing Candy Crush, or scrolling Instagram. Maybe it’s worrying, or trying for perfection that is not even possible.

Figuring out how long things actually take to accomplish is another way to be more in charge of your time. Let’s say you are volunteering to do something (like create a flyer, or write a proposal, or host a coffee date). How do you know how much time to block off in your schedule for that project? How long will it take to prepare, to clean up, or to follow up?

Start tracking your time like you track your money. It is more valuable, after all! Find out what you are spending your time on and how much you are spending.

Time management step 3: Evaluate your self-worth

This one is a little touchy-feely but the most important step of all: acknowledge that you deserve to be happy. If you need some help (most of us do) believing that you are enough, go read “Daring Greatly” by Brené Brown or go through her online process Wholehearted Inventory.

Here are some nuggets of wisdom from Brené:

  • We tend to stay so busy because of a shame-based fear of being ordinary…comparing our lives to media-driven visions of perfection.
  • Talk to yourself the way you talk to people you love.
  • You can be scared and brave at the same time.
  • Let go of exhaustion as a status symbol.
cover of book "Daring Greatly"

Each of these bullet points will send your head spinning when you really drink them in. She’s been talking about this stuff long before it because mainstream. Basically, spending time with BrenĂ© Brown is the best therapy you can get for under $100.

Time management step 4: Just say NO

Yes, it’s unbelievably hard to stop a lifelong habit like perpetual problem solving. But it is not impossible. Give yourself motivation. Brown suggests posting a comfort list (a vision board or collage) to remind you of things that make you feel great. This visual trigger will hopefully help you say no to activities which are wasting your precious time.

The more you can say no to useless, unpleasant, or numbing activities, the more time you will have for things on your Yes List!

vision board for 2014
my comfort list

Don’t get me wrong, I love to clean, organize, and solve problems. But now I have time to read everyday because I’m not constantly responding to perceived emergency needs. 

By identifying your priorities and being realistic instead of haphazard about your schedule, you’ll be able to spend more time doing things you really enjoy.

Your turn

What’s something you want to do but have been putting off? Do you believe you deserve to have time to do it?

Is your knee-jerk response to these questions an eye-roll or a deep sigh? We all have a lot of stories in our heads about our self-worth. I believe it’s time to start telling yourself a good story!

Please share your experience and parts of your journey with me in the comments or in an email: Nonnahs at getorganizedalready dot com. Thanks for reading. Please subscribe to my newsletter for more inspiration and ideas!

Sincerely,

Nonnahs

Also published on Medium.

2 Comments

  • Very nice! This reminds me of a quote, although I can’t remember the author or source: “When you say ‘yes’ to something, know what you are saying ‘no’ to.” I’m wondering, though, what you think of moving tip #3 to the #1 spot on your list? I think the others will follow when we really, truly learn to value ourselves. Thanks for sharing this with us!

Your thoughts please