“Oh, if only I had more time, I could finally organise my apartment.”
“Oh, if I had more time, I would finally start that side business.”
“Oh, if I had more time, I would go to the gym and work out.”
“Oh, if I had more time, I could read the books on my nightsand.”
When I talk to people about what they think the #1 reason is that keeps them from getting ahead in life and doing the things they want, “I wish I had more hours in the day” tops the wish list.
The saddest part? I meet people who have struggled with this for many, many years. They are continually swamped, overwhelmed with endless to-do lists, and even when they do manage to come up for air, it’s just for a moment, and back down they go, the cycle of overwhelm starting over. Year on year on year, this can only lead to one place: burnout.
I’ve been down that road, and let me tell you: it’s not pretty.
So instead, today I want to talk about a hard truth. It’s just one sentence, but once you know it, it can transform how you think about your time.
Here we go:
You will never have more time.
Okay, that sounds way too scary without the emphasis. Let me try that again.
You will never have more time.
You can only make more time.
Let me explain.
Free time is not a mystical gnome who appears on its own whim going, “Tally-ho, I’m here now, so you can go sleep, play with the kids, read, scrapbook and do all the entries on your “once I have time” list!“
In reality, if some of your time becomes free, tasks will always comfortably slide in there. There’s space, so they’ll fill it up. You will never run out of work to do (and that includes housework, errands and things to study). You will never be done. You can only stop working.
And that is exactly why the often repeated adages like “I’ll rest when I’m done” are misleading, or the other phrase that I hear used so many times for motivation but I find really insidious, which is “I’ll sleep when I’m dead“. No. Don’t be dead. I mean, we’ll all be once, but please, don’t die now. And especially don’t die from work.
So takeaway #1 is that your time is limited.
You have 24 hours a day, for who knows how long. Let’s hope there’s a lot of years and months and days to go, but however many it is, time is your only non-renewable resource.
Plus, it’s the only resource that you don’t know how much you have left of. Of course you can do things to extend it, but at the end of the day, you cannot be certain.
One thing you can do is manage the time you have – but remember that it’s something that only you can do. The sooner you take control of your own time and stop waiting for someone else to let you rest, to let you sleep, or to let you do what you really want to do, or tell you what will make you happy, the sooner will you have a life that you actually like living.
Takeaway #2: Since you’re the only one who can take control of your schedule and free up your time, if you don’t make more time, you will not have more time. Nobody else is going to do it for you.
Risks (that are worth it)
Taking control of your time and setting boundaries is hard. I get it. For one, when things go wrong, you can’t blame anyone else. And when things don’t turn out the way you want them to, there’s no one there to complain to.
But then, how frequently do things turn out the way you want them to when you leave all decisions about your life to other people?
The fact is when it comes to your needs, dreams and how much time you need to do them, you’re the only real expert. You have a much better chance of success to begin with if you are the only person you have to consult on your happiness goals — to get some well-deserved rest time, to draw the line between your work and personal life, to find your own ideal life balance.
When you have a clear idea of what’s best for you AND take steps to realise that idea, you will hear the familiar phrases: “not a team player”, “bossy”, “full of herself”. (If you do this and you’re a man, you’ll be marked by phrases like “family-centric”, “ambitious”, or “a man who knows what he wants”, which does make it easier, but as the real barriers are internal, it’s still not a simple path.)
And there’ll be those who see your efforts and say “Oh, how lucky you are!” But by then you’ll know it’s not luck, and it’s not magic, but focus, work and hard decisions.
Either way, you’ll hear the detracting voices from outside, but don’t let that get in your way. You will never find a thing that everybody in the world will like and agree with. You are not a bad person for taking care of yourself. Your concern should be about whether you like how you live or not. And if you don’t, then you’ll know you have to change, no matter what anyone says.
A simple, two-step method you can start with right now
Here’s something that literally takes two minutes to do, and still marks a significant step towards better caring for yourself and your time.
STEP 1: Get your calendar (on your phone, on Google, on your desk, your planner, your filofax, whichever you use regularly)
STEP 2: Find a one or two-hour timeslot in the next week that you can block out just for yourself.
Now comes the hard part: stick to that appointment with yourself, and don’t let anything except for a true emergency take it over.
And when that time comes, don’t be late! (It’s a date! ;) Put down whatever else you’re doing and spend those couple of hours with something that you know you’ve been sorely missing. Is it a workout? Is it a power nap? Is it planning? Is it a walk? Is it a conversation? Is it play? Is it a creative hobby? Is it a book? Is it dancing? I’m sure you have at least 3 things in your head already, so go and book that time with yourself!
If you find that your calendar is totally, absolutely, entirely full, then you have an extra challenge: find the single least important thing in there, something that you don’t want to do and you have no real obligation to attend. Then go ahead and decline it. You’ve just made a huge step forward in prioritising your needs.
Congratulations! This is your first step in making self-care part of your time management strategy.
Of course, carrying out a mind shift in how you think about your time is not easy. With that in mind, I’ve collected the biggest myths about time management that hold you back from being in control of your time (and how to bust them).
And if you want a simple, tried-and-tested method that you can use in 15 minutes to gain clarity, cut down on your to-do list and untangle yourself from overwhelm, check out my newest free mini-training, The Machete Sorting Technique.
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