We’re all busy. We all pack our days and our lives with things to do, places to be, tasks to tick off, people to meet, and then lament the lack of time for all the other things we want to do, the things we didn’t get round to. We curse ourselves for not having got half of what we wanted done. Does this situation sound familiar to you?
I recently got the chance to do some extra hours at work, and I took the opportunity, thinking the extra money would be useful. So, for the last few weeks I’ve been working full time. But outside of work, I didn’t want to change anything. I still wanted to write blog posts, and read what everyone else has been up to. I still wanted to cook everything from scratch, take my own lunch to work every day, and make sure we were eating proper meals at night. I still wanted to keep things plastic- and convenience-free. I still wanted to take photos to post on instagram. I’m also doing a short course, so I need to make some time for studying. Did I mention that my job has a killer commute? 2+ hours daily. Oh, and outside all of that, life was going on. Friends were having birthdays, I had friends to catch up with who were coming back from travelling, others who are imminently leaving to go travelling. There were interesting events happening in the community. Family commitments. My boyfriend (completely reasonably) wanted us to spend some time together.
Of course, I tried to do everything. On one level, I was relatively successful. I juggled a million things and micro managed my time so any spare second was filled with something productive. But I felt stressed out, tired, and fed up. My boyfriend and I seemed to have endless conversations about chores; who should be doing them, why they weren’t being done, whether the world would really end if we didn’t wash the tea towels for another few days, whether it was acceptable to eat the same thing for dinner five days in a row. I knew I was making less healthy choices, and that made me frustrated. How on earth does everyone else manage to cope, when I don’t?
Then it struck me (or more accurately, my boyfriend pointed out) that other people aren’t coping so much as compromising. When people are busy, they’ll go out for dinner, or get takeaway. They’ll buy convenience foods. They’ll put friends and family on hold, maybe. Or they’ll continue to try to manage everything until they compromise their health, or their relationships, or just burn out.
My problem was, I wasn’t willing to compromise. On anything. I still wanted to do all the things I did when I had more time, except with far less time.
As I wasn’t getting any more hours in the day, and I clearly didn’t have enough time to do everything, I either had to compromise, or drop something. They were my only choices. It may seem like a daunting choice, but you know what? Deciding what to do wasn’t nearly as hard as I imagined.
Here’s what I did.
Step 1: Figure out what is important to you
This was easy for me. My relationships, my family and my friends. My commitment to living as sustainably as possible (no nasty plastic packaging or convenience foods). My desire to eat proper, healthy, balanced meals. My need to see things through that I start. Your priorities may be the same or they may be completely different to mine. Either way, map them out.
Step 2: Figure out how your spending most of your time
I was spending 40 hours at work, as well as 10+ hours commuting. Out of my week, that is a lot of hours… but working didn’t feature in my first (priorities) list. Neither did money. That’s not to say I don’t need to work at all, or that the extra money isn’t useful, but right now, neither of these are a priority for me. The part-time hours I was working before were enough to pay the bills, and we aren’t saving for anything specific, so those extra hours I was working weren’t doing much to improve my life. In fact, they were taking time away from all the other things that I wanted to do, and making me feel stressed.
Step 3: If they don’t match up already, take some steps to get them aligned
Are you spending the majority of time doing the things that you want (or need) to be doing – the things that you prioritised in Step 1? We should be spending more time on the things that are important to us. Once I realised this, I found it a whole lot easier to figure out what needed to be dropped, and where I needed to concentrate my time. Starting next week, I’m going back to my part time hours, which should give me an extra 10 hours to focus on what is important to me. Maybe in the future my priorities will change, but for now, this is how I’m creating space in my life for the things I want to do.
Your priorities and commitments will no doubt be different from mine, but the process is the same. If your situation is such that you can’t drop things completely, think about compromising. Devote more time to the things that matter, and let the rest take the hit.
Our time is precious. We can’t get any more hours in the day, so we need to use our time wisely.
“Everything changed the day she figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in her life.” ~Brian Andreas