22 May 2018

Creating More Time: The Self-Care You Didn’t Realize You Needed

Notebook open to start planning how to create more time.

Photo by Studio Ease on Unsplash

Each of us gets 24 hours each day to use as we will.  It’s a renewable resource — the next day we get another 24 hours. But it’s not an expandable resource — you can’t get 28 or 36 hours in your day no matter who you are, who you know, or how excellent your credit score is.  So what do I mean by Creating More Time?

I mean that if your life feels like you never have enough time to get everything done, or you feel like a drone because all you do is work, you could decide to change a few habits that would allow you to feel less harried and behind. Change a few more habits and you might begin to feel like you had some breathing room and even a bit of (dare I say?) leisure.

Here are some habit changes that can make a huge difference in the felt experience of your life. Start with one that seems the most do-able and see how that goes. Then you can try another.

  1. Under-promise.  If you think you can get something done in a week, say you’ll get it done in 2 weeks.  That way, when you remember all the other things you’re responsible for this week, or when a “surprise” happens, you won’t feel the pressure.  You can ALWAYS over-deliver.  My husband and I went to dinner at a restaurant where the host told us he could seat us in about 40 minutes, did we want to wait?  We said yes.  About 20 minutes later, our “buzzer” went off — there was a table for us. The host was our hero!  He had managed our expectations, and then he over-delivered.  Even if you never over-deliver, under-promising and simply delivering what you promised is a great way to create more time.
  2. Give yourself 2 hours of “protected time” each day when you can focus on one thing at a time without interruption. Tactics that help: headphones, go to an empty conference room or a public library, don’t take email or phone calls, let people know not to interrupt you now.
  3. Start overestimating how long things will take you. Most professionals underestimate how long things will take, and then feel ineffective when it takes longer.  We can spend hours discussing how this bad habit came into being, but it’s actually not as important as learning how to correctly estimate how long things will take. Here’s an easy rule of thumb for how to change the habit: if you truly think something will take you a week, then plan for it to take at least a week and a half, maybe two.  This is a lot like under-promising, but it’s between you and yourself.  In time, you’ll get better at estimating.
  4. Get more help somewhere in your life.  At work, see if you can make the case for hiring a temp, or hiring a whole new permanent person. Delegate more effectively to people you can delegate to — stop protecting them at your own expense. Outside of work, see where you can get help with household work, yard care, food shopping, and all manner of errands.  There are apps such as Task Rabbit, Uber Eats, and Instacart that provide useful services. Neighborhood listservs such as Nextdoor.com allow people who need help to find local people who can help, for a fee (or not).  Are you using professional resources effectively or are you trying to do everything yourself: your own taxes, your own financial plan, your own will, etc?  Getting good professional help usually means there’s much less on your plate and hanging over your head, AND in most cases they’ll do a better job than you will because they’re experts and you’re not (sorry).
  5. Reduce your daily To-Do list by 2/3. Having too many items on your list day after day takes a toll on your sense of yourself as an effective person and contributes to your feeling perpetually harried and strapped for time. You can keep all your To-Do items on your master list so you don’t lose them. But on a daily basis? Get real.
  6. Stop underestimating the value of time OFF the To-Do list! See cartoon, at the top. Have you ever found a solution to a  seemingly intractable problem when you were not actually working on it?  Or had a flash of insight, intuition, or creativity when you were out for a run or reading a novel?  Our hard-driving pre-frontal cortex is not the only part of our brain that can solve problems. When we’re relaxed and at leisure, it’s easier to hear from some of the other parts of our brain.
  7. Fire your Inner Perfectionist — she’s become way too controlling. You don’t need to do A+ work in every, every, every aspect of your life. For example, try delivering a B+ job next time you have friends over for dinner and notice that you all have a good time together anyway (which is the point, isn’t it?). Or at work, consider dialing down your word-smithing — there may be emails you can send without multiple re-writes. Chances are there are some aspects of your life and work where you can be less than stellar and not lose your edge.

You may not be able to implement all of these tips, but picking a few that address your biggest culprits is a great first step.  It’s hard to escape a constant feeling of being on the edge of burnout when we are fighting the clock all day every day. Taking back some of your time is the self-care you need.

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10 August 2016

Feel the Guilt But Take Time Off Anyway

Let Go Of Guilt and Take Time For Yourself to Replenish

Feel the Guilt But Take Time Off Anyway

Taking some time off the treadmill, whether it’s a week’s vacation, a day off, or an hour to yourself, makes a lot of people feel guilty. We live in a culture of rampant busy-ness, and so many people have significantly more on their plates than is actually do-able. Taking any time off can seem irresponsible, like you’re letting down the team. But feeling guilt doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing anything wrong. In this case, you’re just out of your comfort zone.

The reality is you need the down time in order to be as productive as you can be. Just like in music, where the rests are as important as the notes, so it is in a professional’s life. Down time enhances your productivity. It’s counter-intuitive, but it’s true. You certainly know that the opposite is true: when you’re exhausted and burnt out, you’re not the best you can be, creatively or productivity-wise.

There is great restorative value in allowing yourself some free and clear time off. It will reduce your stress level and lighten your heart. Here are three recommendations for powerful actions you can take, starting immediately:

  • Once a month, take a half day to yourself, with no “results” required: spend the time however you really feel like spending it. If this is truly impossible, start with 2 hours or even 1 hour — whatever you can pull off.
  • One day a month, allow yourself to wake up on your own, without an alarm. If you have young children or pets who need early morning attention, find someone else to take your place that one morning.
  • Every week, allow yourself at least one hour, somewhere during that week, when you are NOT RUSHING, when there is no time pressure on you.

When you practice these small “time-outs” from your usual pressured existence, you will probably feel guilty for not accomplishing something or for not leveraging your time to the max. That guilt will be a good sign — it will mean you are really taking some time out. And that’s a good thing for you.

Try at least one of these recommendations in the next 30 days. It’s a way to have a micro-vacation in the midst of a busy time. You will more than make up for it when you get back into busy mode: you will have replenished some of your personal reserves and will have more of you to bring to your work.

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5 February 2015

Mentally Preparing for Valentine’s Day

YellowHeartLeaf

Valentine’s Day can be a lovely experience, whether or not you are in a relationship, and if so, whether or not it’s perfect. Here are some tips to help you enjoy Valentines Day:

  • Be good to yourself, and appreciate all that you have to give.
    Yes, it’s great to be in love, to be loved by that special someone who always knows exactly what you need and gives it unstintingly to you at the exactly optimum moment, and who always gives you the perfect Valentine’s Day gift. But that may not be your situation.  And even if it is . . . the first person we all need to love well and fully is ourselves. So make Valentine’s day a day of loving yourself.  In the right way, of course. I’m not talking about narcissistic self-obsession. I’m talking about mature, kind, self-awareness and acceptance about what makes you…you.  There are two essential elements to this.  First, turn off the self-critical voices — this is essential.  Then you can turn to the second element of this, which is to appreciate what makes you special, unique and loveable. The more you understand what makes you special, the more you can share this with people in your life. The more you give and love, the more love comes back to you.

 

  • Be grateful for the people in your life that you love, and let them know how you feel about them.
    You might not know it to see all the hype about this holiday, but there’s more to love than just romantic love. There’s also friendly love, family love, neighborly love, pet love, colleague love, job love, neighborhood love, love of children and grandchildren, love of life and many more. Love makes your life richer. Let Valentine’s Day be a reason to reach out to everyone you love and let them know how much you care. I know someone who uses Valentine’s Day to write a handwritten note to each of her closest friends, expressing what she appreciates about them. I know someone else who always takes a small subset of her women friends out for dinner that night. I don’t mention these examples to make you feel guilty about one more thing you don’t do, but rather to illustrate a whole other approach to the holiday.

 

  • Don’t let the media, advertising, and the retail industries impact your feelings of well-being and self-worth.  Hallmark Valentine’s Day cards. TV ads. Radio ads. Boxes of chocolates. Romantic music and images of stargazing couples exchanging gifts.  Ads for diamonds.  These are some of the ways Valentine’s Day is interpreted in our culture. It’s become a holiday for everyone who makes money from our need to feel connected, romantic, or loved.  Don’t be hijacked by all the hype.  You can define how you choose to observe the holiday.  Or whether to observe it at all.

One way or another, make it a great day for yourself.

And if you like chocolate?  Have some!

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