“You will never find time for anything. You must make it.” -Charles Buxton
We all have the same 24 hours in a day, but the variations on how those hours are spent are endless. Some people have pretty strict schedules and routines, while others wing it and take things one day at a time. I’ve done both. I’ve had times when I scheduled everything in my day from eating to driving to planning the next day or week. I’ve also had periods when I woke up with no agenda other than making it through the day. With hindsight, I see that with either extreme, one thing is true…there is enough time in the day.
Before I dive into what that means, allow me to fill you in on what my life looked like as an extreme planner and an excessive do nothing-er. In my early college years, I developed an obsession for planning and scheduling. I had one agenda for school, one for work, one for my personal life, and one that literally contained all the information from the three previously mentioned agendas. I have no idea how or why I came up with this, but in my mind I was on top of my life. Everything was color coded, neatly printed and easily accessible. If I ever found myself in a coma and needed someone to carry on as me, they would have it all laid out neatly, and scheduled perfectly.
The only issue I had with obsessive planning was that I got nearly nothing accomplished. Sure I made it to work on the right days at the right times and to doctor appointments, but nothing else of value was really accomplished. I would spend hours breaking down a syllabus or chapter into chunks of a To Do list that I was either too burnt out to actually study or felt prematurely accomplished by my planning that I never actually did anything.
Scheduling things didn’t help me with my severe anxiety either. So although I made plans, I had a hard time following through cause I had spent too much time planning and not enough time growing and healing. I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, I was unable to maintain this habit. But instead of trading it in for a healthy, realistic approach, I plummeted down into do-nothingness. Aside from going to work, binge eating and going to class, I sat at home, and did nothing productive. I didn’t workout, I didn’t volunteer, I didn’t socialize. It was depressing.
At both extremes I remember always feeling like I never had enough time to do anything meaningful or productive. I wondered how people had time to do stuff. To develop new hobbies, have healthy relationships or take care of their own health. Fortunately, over the years, with lots of trial and error I figured out that there is enough time in the day for things that are important.
One of the things that has been helpful to me is identifying my priorities, responsibilities, values, projects,and hobbies.
- Priorities: God, marriage, being a parent, improving my own health and wellness.
- Responsibilities: Taking care of my home, financial obligations and goals, dog, work etc.
- Values: Love, compassion, respect, contentment, simplicity, kindness, gratitude, communication, etc.
- Projects: MoM Coaching blog, health coaching, book writing, and minimizing my possessions.
- Hobbies: Painting, writing, being outdoors, reading.
I’m sure I can add more to a few of those categories, but keeping those main things in mind helps me structure my days, weeks and months, so that I am able to devote time to things that matter without feeling like there is never enough time in my day.
So what does this look like?
My priorities are worked in daily. Currently, I wake up at 4 am, stretch for about 20 minutes, have devotion/prayer, then either go to the gym, write or read. By 6 am I have worked on improving my health and wellness and spent time with God. I have the rest of my day to spend time on my marriage (meaningful conversation, quality time, hang out, etc.) and parenting (read books with my son, play with him, teach him something new, take him to the park or do an activity with him, etc.).
My values are basically guidelines for how I handle my responsibilities, projects, hobbies, etc. I strive to give 100% to the things I work on, the people I encounter and the task I complete. I don’t necessarily work on every hobby or project or even responsibility everyday, but I do one or two things from those categories at the least. Even if it’s just reading for 10 minutes a day or cleaning for 20 minutes a day, I make sure that by the end of the week I have dedicated a reasonable amount of time to each of the things I have listed above, plus more. I don’t excessively plan it all out either. I write down deadlines, appointments, events and reminders, but by starting my day early and on such a productive note, I don’t have to plan to do every little thing, I can just do it.
Of course I have days or weeks when I get off track or one specific thing takes up all my focus or I need
a little a lot of down time. But those times are not stressful and hopeless for me like they use to be. The way I view my time now, reading a book with my son, vacuuming and going for a walk is a productive day. That means I would have strengthened my bond with my son and encouraged him to enjoy reading. I vacuum daily, which means I always make the beds first, and I pick up anything laying around and I usually do one other thing like dust or wipe down the bathroom or take out the trash after doing all that. So vacuuming is a catalyst for me to get my environment in order, which makes me feel good and sane. And since my home is clean, I’ve exercised, stretched, had solitude with God, and have spent quality time with my son, a walk feels like a treat on a nice sunny day (which goes toward improving my health and wellness and getting outdoors, which I really love).
If you find yourself feeling bogged down and pressed for time, take a moment to write out your priorities, responsibilities, values, projects and hobbies. Remove any distractions that are stealing your time (social media, TV, junk food, drinking, smoking, complaining, wastefulness, etc.). Be honest with yourself about how you spend your time, and whether or not you are satisfied with it.
Plan to spend just 5 minutes a day on priorities (you may find that you actually have more than 5 minutes). Pick one responsibility to focus on each day. Find thirty minutes to an hour each week to work on a project or hobby, all the while you should be cutting distractions. Finally, do those things with your values in mind. Over time you will see a shift in how you spend your time and hopefully find that there is enough time in the day to live the life you want to live!
Have a great week! And happy 4th of July if you’re in the US.