Time. Everybody wants more of it, but it’s a limited commodity. The trick is knowing how to use your 24 hours each day to make sure you get everything done that needs to get done, while saving a bit for yourself. Here are a few ideas for carving out more time—to spend on the things you care about most.
Spend a day or two tracking what you’re doing each hour of the day
A good place to start is to track your time, so you know what you’re spending it on. Keep a pad with you for a couple days, and simply note anytime you change what you’re doing, and how long you spend on it. You might be surprised—and discover a few areas you’d like to cut back on (social media) and others you’d like to bump up (exercise, friend time, smelling flowers).
Define what “me time” looks like to you
When we say “carve out more time for yourself,” what does that actually mean? It’s different for everyone. For some, it’s a coffee alone in a café. For others, it’s reading to your kids. For others, it’s running up mountains. Define what you want to be doing more of, so you can prioritize it.
Once you know what you are spending your time on, and you’ve defined what “me time” is, get it in your schedule—every day. Literally block it off in your calendar. Write it down. Post it beside your computer monitor. Remind yourself every day what you want to be doing more of and you’re more likely to commit to doing it.
Hire someone to do the things you don’t want to do
Instead of doing that plumbing project you think you could figure out, or re-painting your house, hire a professional to do it. They’ll be faster and better than you, and you’ll have more time to do other things. Of course, if you love doing these things, then by all means, go for it! Again, the point is knowing what you like to spend time on, and what you hate doing.
It doesn’t always seem this way, but planning ahead often saves time in the long run. What are you taking for lunch tomorrow? What evenings do you have free this month? What groceries do you need for your meals this week? Planning for and booking essential events and appointments ahead of time means you can carve and lock in time out for yourself (if there’s any left!), and not be surprised by events you forgot to put in your calendar. Don’t forget that Luvo delivers! Order a cooler of their delicious and healthy frozen meals so you always have something nutritious on-hand.
Combine exercise and your commute
Exercise is important for our health, and most of us commute to get to work. Why not combine the two to do them both at once? But, you might say, I live 40 kilometres from home, how could I combine them? It can be as easy as finding a parking spot five kilometres from the office, and walking or jogging the rest of the way. Or cycle part-way, then take your bike on public transit for the rest. There are a million ways to make this work, and you’ll free up more time for yourself later.
Exercise on your way anywhere
It doesn’t just have to be on your commute. Need to go to the grocery store or pharmacy or bank? Instead of getting in your car, walk or jog or bike and then skip your workout later. The world is all the fitness centre you need. Put some shorts on and get it done.
Put your phone away
Most of us spend a lot of time on our phone, doing nothing constructive and taking time away from other things we’d rather be doing. Randomly scrolling photos, reading Twitter posts we don’t care about, and generally wasting time. Try putting your phone in a drawer when you get home from work, so it’s out of sight, and you’ll be less likely to pick it up and waste your precious free time.
Listen to e-books and podcasts
Want to be informed but don’t have time to read? Try e-books and podcasts, and listen to them while you’re walking somewhere, doing the dishes or in the car. There are millions of interesting stories to listen to. Check out this great list of dietitian-approved nutrition podcasts.
Don’t let email run your life
People have written whole books on this one. It’s probably my biggest time waster. After scanning the advice out there, a few pro tips for more efficiently dealing with email include:
- Check your email only a couple times a day. Not every five minutes. Obviously, the feasibility of this depends on your work situation and imminent deadlines, but in principle it makes sense.
- Decide that If you read an email, you’re going to respond to it. Don’t “Mark as unread” to deal with it later. It doubles the amount of time you spend on that email, and kills your free time.
Deal with issues only when you’re ready to deal with them
Don’t waste time trying to solve challenges when you don’t have any of the information, tools or support you need to solve them. If they’re not life-threatening, set them aside and tackle them when you’re ready. Sometimes the best time to do something is later.