A few years ago I started thinking,
I can’t wait to retire so I can have time to read a book!
And then I realized how ridiculous that sounded. Why am I waiting? Reading makes me happy, so why not make it a priority now?
So I did. I made reading a priority by creating an inviting reading area and scheduling time to sit down with a good book several times a week.
Then something amazing happened.
I read the entire stack of books next to my bed and made it through books I’d wanted to read for years. I got invited to join a bookclub and I said — ok, yelled — YES! By honoring the appointment I made with myself (I physically put it on the calendar) to settle in to my reading area on the porch — no finishing the dishes or checking the facebook at that time — I was able to feel like I finally had more time in my day, every day.
It sounds deceptively simple because there are quite a few steps to get to the place where you can just put it 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. What’chou got there? travel magazines? bath oils? cookbooks?
Now you have 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.
Fixing problems — my problems as well as others’ — used to fill 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.
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 joy.
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 it on and how much you are spending.
Time management step 3:
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 take her online course The Gifts of Imperfection.
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.
Each of these bullet points will send your head spinning when you really drink them in. Basically, spending time with Brené 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 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!
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.
What’s something you want to do but have been putting off? Do you believe you deserve to have time to do it?