Here are some tips for finding more time for yourself.
You have a sink full of dishes, three loads of laundry, seventeen bills to pay, a big stack of novels you’d love to read, and zero—count them—ZERO minutes of free time. “Where does the time go?” you lament. Here are some ideas to get you started on your quest to have a life:
1. Reduce waiting time. If your doctor or meetings always run late, plan ahead. Make good use of this time and carry note cards, bills, and magazines in your tote.
2. Limit your television watching. Sensible limits may relieve guilt from overindulging while freeing up time for more worthwhile pursuits. Record your favorite shows and skip the commercials.
3. Say no to yourself. If you’re not excited about attending a social function, then don’t go! Stay home and relax. Or if you planned to go grocery shopping but the sun is shining and you’d rather be in your garden, it’s fine to change your mind and do your shopping tomorrow.
4. Cut down on cleaning. Keep cleaner within reach and spray the shower before getting out. Wipe the sink after each use. If you’re inclined to make the bed, pull up the quilt before you get out of it. Use washable throw rugs with rubber backs in heavy traffic areas. Change filters on the heating/cooling system frequently to cut down on dust.
5. Batch tasks when you can. It takes longer to do small administrative tasks one at a time. Instead practice “saving up” these items. Put all your copies in a “to be copied” project file; your filing in a “to be filed” bin; etc. Pick a regular day and time to handle all these tasks at once.
6. Don’t put things down “just for now.” Temporary places too often become permanent places. Put something away while it’s in your hand rather than allowing large piles to accumulate.
7. Reduce time at the store. Use catalogues—or store Web sites—which will gift-wrap and mail presents for you. Buy gourmet gifts from an online bakery or specialty store to have on hand when you attend parties—nuts, jams, teas and candies make excellent gifts.
8. Hire it out. You can get the kid down the street to mow your lawn for twenty dollars. Now think about hiring out housekeeping, laundry, cooking, and other tasks you don’t enjoy or need to do.
9. Change your pace. If you normally do your grocery shopping on Saturday, pick a weeknight to go instead. The stores are much less crowded on Wednesday evening than Saturday afternoon. The desire to get home after work, instead of feeling like you have all day, will keep you clipping down the aisles.
10. Focus on simple pleasures. When your day’s work is done, make time for yourself. Relaxation doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. A bubble bath or really good cup of coffee can be as satisfying (and less time consuming) as a spa visit or fancy restaurant. Yes, extravagant occasions are nice, but when you focus on simple pleasures, you’ll get more for less, in less time, more often.
By Laura Stack, author of Find More Time and Leave the Office Earlier