One of the biggest obstacles I hear with my coaching clients is that they don’t have enough time in their life to make healthy changes. I hear things like: I want to exercise more, but I am just so tired after work. I don’t have time to cook dinner every night. I never get to do anything fun because I’m running everyone else around. Sound Familiar?
I work with lots of busy women – some have children, some don’t – but they all have a common theme of feeling super stressed but don’t know how to make time for the things they know they should be doing. Good news. You do have time to create a life you love. And I am here to help you un-busy your schedule and take back your time.
You often fly out of work to pick up your kids and take one to practice and the other to a ball game; following the game and/or practice it’s back home to help with homework while eating a less-than-healthy take out dinner; once the kids are finally asleep it’s a Netflix binge and bed. Get up in the morning and repeat. Then you spend a bulk of your weekends playing catch up on housework, errands and whatever else is on your to-do list. And you look at the calendar and wonder, where did this month go?
Or, maybe you don’t have kids, but still struggle with not enough time to do the stuff you want to do. Maybe you work longer hours than you should, have a long commute, or are just plain exhausted at the end of the day and thought of exercise or cooking makes you want to cry. You feel like you should be able to do more of things that will make you happier, but you don’t have the energy.
I hear some version of these scenarios over and over with the busy women I work with. Most are lucky if they eke out a few hours a week for actual life enjoyment. And then they wonder why they feel stressed and bummed out most of the time. Why they hate work, hate their spouse, hate their body, etc…These are funny, vibrant, smart women – but who have lost control of their schedule. They put everyone and everything else first. And after a while, the lack of self-care catches up with them.
If this sounds at all familiar, it’s time for you to take back your life and your schedule. It’s time to make some changes, to start asking for help and to get clear on what’s truly important in your life. You are finite resource and where and how you spend your time should not be mindless or set to autopilot. In order to create a life you love, you need to be very deliberate about where and how you spend your time.
I often ask my coaching clients “What does your best day look like?” I don’t mean what kind of house you’d live in or the type of car you’d drive if you won the lottery. I mean what would your life look like if you were living your purpose and finding happiness and abundance each and every day? What would you be doing? How would each day fulfill you? Because, ultimately, that’s your goal – to create a life you love in which every day is your best day, right? No more of this floating from day to day in a haze of coffee drinking, chip binging, Netflix zombie stressfullness.
I want you to make two lists. For the first list, write down what you want to be doing in your life, specifically, how you want to spend your time. For example, would you wake up and do yoga before work; would you take time to cook a healthy dinner? Would you finally sign up for that pottery class you’ve been wanting to try or take the leap and go back to school? On the second list, write down how you are actually spending your time on an average day. Are the lists similar? Or are they completely different? Are there things on your first list that you could be doing now? Are there things on the second list that you can stop doing?
On days when I start to feel frazzled, like I haven’t accomplished anything, I take a hard look at where I’m spending my time. Usually I find that I’m frittering away 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there on things I don’t need to be doing. Maybe mindlessly surfing the internet, or grabbing another cup of tea and chatting with my coworkers, even though we already did our watercolor break earlier that morning. Don’t get me wrong – taking breaks is good for you – but not every break is created equal. Reading the lastest celebrity gossip doesn’t recharge me the way a 10 minute walk would. Chatting with my coworkers is fun but isn’t helpful if I’m only doing it as a way of procrastinating writing a report.
Tracking your time for a day or two can help you identify problem areas. You may be surprised at how much time you spend on certain activities – like office gossip, or surfing Amazon or watching TV. The is true for the weekends as well. If I’m not careful I can waste a whole afternoon binging on OISTNB or The Great British Baking Show. Once you are aware of how much time you are potentially wasting you can start to make a more mindful daily schedule that is filled with the things that are important to you.
I always leave enough wiggle room in my schedule to accommodate the unexpected. By not jamming my schedule full, if something unexpected comes up it doesn’t derail the rest of my day. I’m careful not to over schedule myself by adding things to the beginning or end of my day. I don’t schedule work or appointments or exercise before 7am or after 7pm.
Many of my coaching clients decide the only way to establish a regular exercise routine is to get up an hour earlier in the day and just get it done and over with. While this might work for some people, I find that if you are not a morning person, getting up early (one thing you don’t like) and exercising (another thing you don’t like) is often a recipe for failure. A better approach may be to choose a time to exercise when your body needs it. Mine happens to be around 5-6 pm. This is also prime time for practice/dinner/late work meetings. So each week I set aside at least two days during the work week where I can exercise at this 5-6 pm time slot, rather trying to tag it onto the beginning or end of my day. I also plan one or two nights of easy dinners (read: leftovers) so that if I am running late, we won’t end up eating dinner til 9pm.
Rather than trying to cram more stuff into my day by making it longer, I look at ways to cull unproductive or unnecessary things from my schedule instead.
Working women are among the most nimble and flexible people on the planet; they organize, problem solve, nurture, inspire, motivate and educate. But one area where many fall flat is the ability to delegate. There are many reasons you might not want to ask for help including not wanting to inconvenience others or the default thinking of it ‘it’s just easier if I do it myself.’ But the ability to ask for help is one of the best ways to take back your schedule and have more time for yourself. Asking for help isn’t a weakness. It’s a way to prioritize your time for what’s important.
Remember, delegating means being comfortable if something isn’t done exactly the way you want it all the time. In my house we have a saying when it comes to cleaning. There is Clean, and then there is Mom-Clean. If company is coming for dinner I make sure that my kids Mom-Clean the bathroom. Otherwise, regular old clean is good enough. Clean means that the house will be picked up and look respectable, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend eating off the floors. It may not be as good as if I took the time to do it myself, but that’s okay. It’s not the hill I want to die on.
If you are feeling stressed and rushed on most days and you aren’t taking the time to take care of yourself, maybe it’s time to declutter your planner and free up your schedule. Get clear on how you want to spend your time. Ask yourself what’s important to you? What does your best day look like? Be honest with yourself about the amount of time you waste on unproductive tasks or things that someone else could do. Leave yourself some wiggle room, to accommodate the unexpected. And finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help and start delegating to others.
To help you take back your time and create a life you love, I’m giving away this free daily planner sheet. This custom planning tool will help you prioritize the important stuff in your life and take inspired action toward your goals. Print as many as you’d like (for personal use only- thank you!)