How many times have you found yourself wishing you could indulge in a hobby, spend a few moments pampering yourself or do something you used to do but no longer have time to enjoy? Do you feel as if you will never again do those things because you can’t fit them in to your day? Read on for 10 different strategies to claim back that extra time just for you.
Life is after all meant to be enjoyed, not simply endured.
Whenever we say that we will do something ‘when I find the time’, what we are really saying is that we value all of our other tasks over this one because we are not making the time for it. For example, let’s say I have decided I want to get fit but only plan to do some exercise ‘when I find the time’. You can guarantee that I will never do anything more than I am currently doing. Perhaps I want to take up a new hobby. Again, if I decide I will only do it when everything else is done, I will most likely never begin. I must decide what is important and then physically schedule it in to my day. We need to intentionally make that thing a priority, add it to the calendar and claim time for it in advance.
For me this thing is writing on my blog. There were a few important steps I needed to take to free up the time to make this happen. I started off by thinking about all of the things that needed to be done before I could feel free to sit down and write. I noted that for me to really focus on my work, I needed the house to be tidy, the children to be busy and my immediate to do list completed. I had to put some processes in place in advance and this is what I did:
- Put an alert in my phone at the time I wanted to begin writing.
- Set an alarm to go off 30 minutes before writing time reminding me to start tidying the kitchen, putting away any piles of laundry and generally getting the house into order. (Interestingly, as an aside, it’s amazing how efficient I can be in completing these tasks when I am on the clock.)
- Ensure that the family are all taken care of and remind them that I cannot be disturbed for a set period of time.
- Set a 5 minute reminder so I can be sitting down ready to start exactly on time.
2) Say no
How many times do we agree to do something without even thinking about it? I regularly find myself doing things for the children in particular which they are perfectly capable of doing themselves. It’s not hard for them to get their own drink of water or make a sandwich, yet I find myself slipping back into the habit of doing it for them. I am now making a conscious effort to help them to help themselves by saying no to simple requests. I am also working hard to be less of a people pleaser at work and not go on autopilot to solve everyone’s problems for them. I am using more and more of the scripts on the article ‘6 guilt free ways to say no’ to help me achieve this.
It’s so easy to spend hours going down the rabbit hole of social media, following links to videos, articles and other things in a never ending time sucking vortex. There are social media restricting apps you can download such as Anti-social to help you wean yourself off this or you can simply set a timer for yourself that will go off after set period of time. You might be surprised if you were to actually time how long you are spending in this area.
This may seem like a contradiction but staying up late in order to get more done is actually counterproductive. When we are tired we are far less efficient. It can take a long time when tired to achieve something we can do relatively quickly when we are well rested. I find that for me, I also make silly mistakes which then require me to redo the majority of the work anyway so I now make it a habit to go to bed and tackle the thing in the morning with fresh eyes. (See here for some tips on getting a better night’s sleep )
5) Set up routines
A routine can enable us to complete quite complex tasks quickly and efficiently with very little effort. I have a morning routine which allows me to complete everything on autopilot without the need to consciously make any decisions about what I am going to do or how I am going to do it.
- I have my wardrobe organised so that I can easily grab a matching top, bottom and shoes
- I have my breakfast juice ingredients cut up in the fridge ready to pop into the machine
- I have my keys, bag etc. in their set place so I can simply grab and go
I don’t have to spend any time thinking about these things so my mind is freed up for other more interesting thoughts.
6) Group your errands
Rather than making several short trips to get tasks completed, start by making a list of all of the things that need to be done and then look to see if you can group these together to be done all at the same time.
For example, my list might be: Get fuel, pick up bread, drop off dry cleaning, withdraw cash, collect daughter from ballet lessons.
Perhaps some of these things could easily be done tomorrow but why not do all of them in the one trip? All I need to do is leave a little earlier, drop off the dry cleaning, buy the bread and withdraw cash all at the same place, collect the ballerina and then get fuel on the way home. This is a much more efficient way of managing all of my tasks than doing them in separate trips or over a couple of days. A secondary benefit is that fewer trips means fewer impulse buys and more money in my bank account at the end of the week.
7) Cook extra
It takes no more time to cook a meal for 8 than it does to cook it for 4. Use the extra food for a meal later in the week or take it along to work for lovely healthy, money saving lunches for the next couple of days.
8) Stop ironing
I realise that this is close to blasphemy for some people and for others it is a non issue because like me, they simply don’t do it. I have managed to reduce my ironing to nothing but the odd dress shirt for my husband when we are going out to dinner on a special occasion. Otherwise, I just do not do it and frankly no one has ever noticed. I achieve this by:
- Not buying anything in linen
- Hanging up my clothes as soon as they are washed
- Hanging tops on coat hangers straight onto the line to dry without peg marks
- Taking clothes out of the dryer as soon as they are finished and folding or hanging up immediatelyQuick, simple, countless hours saved.
9) Get rid of clutter
Having too much in the house can be a huge burden on our time. Clutter makes us lose things, forces us to spend time trying to organise it and has a detrimental effect on the brain. Researchers at UCLA carried out a study with 33 families in which they looked at levels of a stress hormone measured through saliva and found that there seemed to be a link between how mothers in particular talked about their home and the level of stress hormone recorded. Ochs states: ‘Ironically, the study found that our need to reward ourselves materially may actually increase our stress—at least for moms.’
Having a good declutter session regularly is a great place to start followed of course by the resolve to stop adding to the clutter by bringing fewer items into the house.
Whilst this might not always be doable given individual circumstances, it may be possible to get someone else to complete the mundane recurring chores to free yourself up to do the interesting/important ones. I know people who outsource the cleaning, gardening, cooking and even the mum’s taxi service by sharing the pick up and drop offs with friends. Consider whether something like this is an option for you in your life.
We need to place a value on our time and give our own wants and needs the attention they deserve. Putting a few of these ideas in to place will help to free up a considerable amount of time that can then be used to indulge in a couple of those personal interests that we so often put off until later.
Life is meant to be enjoyed, not simply endured.