Before I left for my recent vacation, my stress was at its peak. I realized that I was rushing everywhere, literally–can you relate? I know I don’t have to tell you that rushing is really not good for you, but in our fast paced culture, it can be hard not to get caught up with over-filling our plates and packing our schedules too full. This time of year can be especially difficult as we transition away from summer’s more laid back pace.
And we all know what things are typically the first to go when our plates get too full, right? Our yoga practice, meditation, reading before bed, quality time with our partners, playing, date night…basically, all of the things we need to sustain and stay balanced in such a fast pace. I often hear when it comes to self-care, ‘I just don’t have time’–and I can relate, too. Time seems to be one of the most precious commodities these days and the impact of extra time on our happiness and satisfaction levels is significant. Recent studies by Elizabeth Dunn and colleagues indicate that buying extra time actually moves us up one whole notch on a 10 rung happiness ladder.
So here are some simple ideas for creating more time in your day. It may take a bit of extra time to arrange but once it’s set up, consider the impact it’ll have on your well-being. Just remember not to fill your schedules right back up with more things!
- Outsource tasks you don’t enjoy. You may be thinking that outsourcing (or paying people to do things for you) is only for rich people. Wrong! Though it’s certainly easier if you have unlimited funds, most of us can reallocate expenses in order to pay people to do some of things we don’t enjoy. Perhaps you could cut out 2 dinners out and pay someone to clean your house each month. Think of how that might free up your Saturday to spend time with your family.
- Pool your resources. Are there any tasks where you could combine forces with a neighbor or some friends? You might consider creating a carpool for school pick ups so that you only need to pick up 1-2days/week. Or you may try bringing some friends together to cook for the group 1x/month or so. Three friends and I tried this back in the winter where we would take turns cooking a huge batch of soup (essentially, we each cooked 1x/month, and got to pick up yummy soups the other 3 weeks of the month).
- Do things in batches. Consider how much time you spend each day making meals. Could you spend 2 hours on the weekend making up a big batch of breakfast burritos and then just freeze them and pop one in the oven each morning? Or perhaps respond to emails or facebook in batches as opposed to throughout the day. Try checking email only 2x/day. We spend a lot of energy switching tasks so consider how much time and energy you might save if you only checked these things several times throughout the day.
- Combine things that are important to you. For example, perhaps you’re trying to squeeze in catching up with a friend to an already busy day and trying to figure out how to fit your workout in too. Go for a walk or hike with your friend instead of frantically trying to squeeze the gym in before you meet your friend for a glass of wine. Or invite a friend over the work in the garden with you or do some fall clearing out–then return the favor!
- Take some things off your plate. Say ‘no’ to things. Take a look at your busy schedule and see if there’s anything that doesn’t bring you joy and that doesn’t absolutely have to be there. Choose to let go of those things and remember what you’re saying ‘yes’ to when you say ‘no’ to something else. You’re saying ‘yes’ to less rushing, less stress, and more happiness and satisfaction. It’s worth it. One of my friends changed her mind about going on our recent trip at the last minute because she realized that going on the trip was actually going to create way more stress than the relaxation.
- Ask for support. Perhaps you’re one of those people who feel like it’s easier just to do it yourself than to explain or teach or ask someone else to do something. Sure, it saves time in the short run, but it keeps your plate full of things other people could be helping you with so it takes up way more time in the long run. While I was out of town, my husband had to make lunches so I made a detailed list of what typically goes in the lunches. The list making took less than 5 minutes and now it’s easy for us to share that task, rather than me doing it every day just because it was easier than explaining what I do. Same with kiddos–perhaps there are some easy tasks that they can do. Though, it may take more time initially supporting them, reminding them, supervising, once they get it down, you can take that task off your plate!
- Get creative and collaborate with others. Reach out to friends and coworkers to ask if they have any time saving tips or practices. Call a meeting with co-workers to explore how you all might pool resources, delegate, or support one another with tasks e.g., are you all creating your own lesson plans each week when you could take turns creating a master lesson plan and just tweak it as needed?
- De-clutter your physical space. You may wonder how adding something to your already packed schedule actually creates more time. Clearing your physical space can have a huge impact on your wellbeing, productivity, and flow of your energy and resources. So it may very well be worth it to take a day and de-clutter your clothes, books, paper, kitchen cabinets. Your system will feel the impact of more space around you, resulting in an internal spaciousness that will make it easier to slow down and to feel like you have more time.
9. Just slow down. Make a commitment not to rush. I know this is easier said than done and may take some compromising. Perhaps instead of rushing to the gym, you decide just to work out for 20 min instead of 30 so that you can take your time arriving. This may take letting go of some rigid ideas about what is good enough or worthwhile, but the impact of not rushing on your whole nervous system probably outweighs the extra 10min of exercise or whatever else. This is especially important at the beginning of the day, as it sets the tone for your day.
Hopefully these give you some ideas of how to work with your busy schedule and create more time as you transition away from summer. Don’t forget to celebrate the moments when you’re not rushing so that you can really feel and take in the experience and how much better it feels. Here’s a great example: This morning, I dropped my son off at daycare and his teacher wasn’t ready yet so we had to wait. In the past, I would have been in such a rush and would have gotten really stressed out because it would mean I was going to run late to my next thing. But I hadn’t scheduled things back to back so I had plenty of time to just hang out and I felt relaxed…and the rest of my day felt super productive and easeful as a result. So don’t forget to notice and celebrate the positive changes you’re making!
Challenge: Take 10 min to sit down and look at your schedule. Make sure to consider and include all of the tasks you do including errands, cleaning, cooking, lawn care, etc. Print out or pull up this list of ways to create more time and consider even just one thing that you could apply that will create more time and less stress.
Affirmation: I have all the time that I need.