What would you do if you had a spare hour each day? Many of us spend time wishing we had more time. We have 168 hours in a week, yet sometimes we get to the end of a week feeling like we haven’t spent time on the things we really wanted to.
I have certainly felt that in the past. There were times when I would look back over my week and I would think:
- Why didn’t I have time to play with the kids?
- Why didn’t I have time to get to the gym?
- Why wasn’t there time for me to see my friends?
When it came down to it, I felt like:
- I didn’t have control over my own time.
- I was going from one activity to the next without making a conscious choice of where I was spending my time.
- I was saying yes to what other people wanted me to do with my time.
Sometimes you have to reach a point of being fed up before you will act and make changes to your life. I decided that the upcoming new year would be different, I was going to reclaim my time and gain control over what I did with it and these are three key things I changed to do it.
1. A single goal
I had always been a goal setter, but often I would set so many goals for the new year that a few months into the year, I would feel overwhelmed by how far away I was from so many goals. I had set goals for things I wanted to do, but with a finite amount of time, I couldn’t always work out where I should spend my time – which goal deserved my time that I had available?
I realised that my own goal setting had been causing me to spread myself too thin and dilute my focus. It was time for a new approach – I set a single goal for the year and then decided on a few key habits that would help me achieve that goal. In 2015 it looked like this:
My goal – Be a planned, patient and present mother to my beautiful kids
My habits –
- Be in bed before 10pm each night
- Maintain a regular fitness routine
- Pause and think before I speak
- Practice gratitude daily
- Make only positive statements (no complaining)
Setting a single goal was a complete game changer. I no longer felt overwhelmed by all the things I wanted to do. I had my goal statement to focus on and it became my rudder or guiding light for the year. It acted as a decision making filter I could use when I needed to make decisions on where I would spend my time. It helped me say a polite “no” to activities that weren’t a good use of my time – I reclaimed many hours across my week that allowed me to spend more time with the family.
2. Scheduling key activities and white space
For years I had also been creating weekly schedules to help me manage my workload at home and work. Not dissimilar to my goal setting, my scheduling was also causing me to feel like I was time poor and always rushing.
I scheduled so much into my week that at times I felt like I didn’t have any spare moments. If something didn’t go to plan, then I would get behind and often feel like I was constantly behind and had to rush through things to get them done and ticked off. This really wasn’t the way I wanted to live my life.
I wanted to schedule the important things but keep my schedule uncluttered so there was white space. Space for me to choose to do things on an ad hoc basis, space for when things went wrong, space for when great opportunities came up.
So I redid my schedule. The first few things that went on it were:
- Time for exercise – early mornings work best for me, so I made this my non negotiable.
- Lunch breaks – I used to eat lunch sitting at my desk thinking it saved me time. This really is a myth. Our brains need proper breaks and taking 30 minutes to eat lunch and recharge meant I actually got more done with better quality after my break.
- Core household tasks – I am not a neat freak but there is base level of tidiness and cleanliness that I need to stay sane. I worked out what were the basic tasks that I had to get done each week and found a place for them on my schedule.
- Time with the kids – if you want something to happen, you need to schedule it, so I scheduled time on the weekends where I could have one on one time with the kids.
A schedule can seem like a rigid way to run home life. However if it is created with your goal in mind, it not only allows you to spend time on the things you want to, but it saves your time.
How many times have you stood in the house, not knowing what to do next? Or procrastinated with tasks of low value because you had no plan? Schedules reduce procrastination as they guide you with what you need to do when. Try creating a schedule for you week and you will be surprised and how much time you can reclaim in your week!
3. Getting more sleep
Being a Type A personality, my view of sleep was that I could skimp on sleep and power through to get things done. I saw it as a strength that I could work late at night and still get up to our early rising kids and still work well. How misguided I was!
The reality was that working tired as I so often was, I was very unproductive. Tasks took me twice as long as they should, I was not as happy as I was when I was well rested and I wasn’t as patient with the kids as I wanted to be.
It can be hard to break the habit of over working and late nights, but I knew I had to make a change. I was so tired during the days that everything felt like a huge effort – daily life really shouldn’t be a grind.
So I set myself new boundaries. My bed time was not negotiable, I needed to be in bed (unless I was out of course) by 10pm. If there was work to do, it would just have to wait until tomorrow. I found the first few nights extremely hard. I would almost have a twitch to get on my phone and answer a few emails that I knew were sitting there waiting for my response. But I didn’t and after about two weeks, I felt like a new person.
It took about two weeks for things to settle down and for me not to feel out of control, but those two weeks of discomfort were worth it. At this point I had more energy, was able to focus better and get through my work so much more efficiently. And most importantly I was a much better mum because I wasn’t feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and constantly “on”.
As I was procrastinating less and getting through my tasks quicker, I didn’t need to work once the kids were off to bed and I reclaimed time to wind down in the evenings and spend time chatting with my husband.
Reclaiming time I used to lose on not knowing where to start, not knowing where I really wanted to spend my time and on procrastinating required me to change my processes and habits. Change is almost always challenging, but the benefits of this change was worth the effort – I now feel in control of my time and have time to spend on the things that are most important for me.
If you want to begin reclaiming time in your life, I recommend starting with setting a single goal. You can see the exact process I use here and what my goal for 2018 is.
Good luck with it and if you set a single goal, I would love to hear what it is!