“There will never be a day that has more hours in it than this one.”
We’re so optimistic, aren’t we? We always think there will be more time tomorrow, or next week, or next month … We’re sure that errand, project, job, whatever, will get done sometime – we’re just not quite sure when. I know I’ve been so reluctant to admit that I can never really save time, only make better choices about how to spend it. If that’s true, and you’re anything like me, we had better work out the best ways of doing it. And we love a good spend, right?
So, sometimes less really is more.
1. Take the challenge to drop a commitment
Dare to give up something you do regularly (daily, weekly or monthly) that you have discovered drains energy from you, rather than giving it to you. Ultimately we want to work towards dropping all commitments that distract us from our values and goals.
Today, start with dropping one.
Make a phone call, send an e-mail, or call in on someone and explain that you no longer have time for that commitment. Keep the end in mind: you want to be free to do the things that really matter. Have the courage to be true to that desire.
2. Learn how to say ‘no’
Such a tiny word with such big implications. Saying no means we don’t want to help, doesn’t it? It means we’re selfish and mean, right? It means we don’t really like you, we just don’t know how to tell you.
Actually, it doesn’t have to mean any of those things. It can just mean ‘no’.
We over-commit our time to projects and activities we don’t really love. Let’s be honest, there are only 24 hours in a day and a lot of those are already taken up with sleeping, eating and working. How much time do we really think we have left? Most people only have two to three hours a day they can really call their own.
Train your brain to give ‘no’ the meaning you want it to have. It means ‘I know your time is important, but so is mine’. It means ‘my priorities, on this occasion, are different from yours’. It means ‘that’s your responsibility and I’m not going to be fool enough to do your job for you’. Or whatever it needs to mean for you.
Value yourself as highly as you seem to value others. Become the best person you know at saying ‘no’ to distractions so that those who matter to you the most get the best of what you have.
3. Set limits
If you’re an ‘all or nothing’ person who easily becomes absorbed in a creative process or activity, it might be wise to chunk the task down into defined blocks of time. Ha! The chance to ‘get lost’ in anything would be a fine thing, I hear you say. However, if you do ever get enough child-free moments to indulge, then this approach of ‘chunking down’ has the dual purpose of protecting your time, and relieving you of the uncertainty about whether you’ll get to finish the task – you know, in fact, that you will re-visit it when its allotted time comes back around.
Set limits too on things like how much research you do before making a purchase. Don’t clutter up your time with too much examination of your options. Be realistic: you’ll need to spend more time working out the best buy for your dream home, but considerably less on your new cushion covers – unless there’s something you’re not telling me!
4. Implement Routines
We may resist their drudgery at times, but routines are a very effective way of achieving regular tasks. If we change our mind we change our behaviour, so let’s reframe the ‘routine of drudgery’ as ‘effective methods to make my day go smoothly’. Some tried and tested routines are listed below.
- Prepare the night before:
- Packed lunches
- Work clothes/school uniforms
- Office documents or laptop/school letters, actioned and signed
- Handbag/PE bags/swimming kit/instruments
- Get yourself ready first. Get up 15 minutes before everyone else to reduce fighting over the bathroom, toaster and last night’s left-over pudding.
- Use a family calendar
- Put it where everyone can see it so that each person can be responsible for his or her own preparation. This means you don’t end up being at everyone’s beck and call.
- Enter all appointments, visits, school dates etc as you are informed. Check the calendar as a daily habit while you are preparing the lunches. Include any items that will be required that day in the appropriate bags so that in the morning it’s a straightforward ‘grab ‘n go’.
- Schedule in time for yourself. If you don’t do it nobody else will.
- Set a good sleep routine. A good evening routine helps ensure the whole family gets the sleep it needs. If you need to go to bed a bit earlier in order to make an early start the following day, then do it. Kids not sleepy? Well, we’ve become regular users of our local library and get stories on cassette or CD for our boys. If they’re not sleepy when we are they can still go to bed, but remain entertained longer than our energy levels would allow.
- Teach the kids to do it
Does it really matter if the beds are not made properly, or the breakfast dishes are not washed up and put away? If it does really matter for you, then create a simple system to deal with it and stick to it. For example, teach your children how to make their own beds instead of doing it for them. Insist each person takes their own dishes to the sink/dishwasher/cat for licking – whatever.
The more stressed you are about your morning routine, the more stressed your kids will be.
Manage your time better today.
Be the change you want to see.
So, what’s the one thing today that you are going to drop or give up on so that you have more time for the things that really matter?
If you’d like to read the previous related article on ‘Choosing how to spend your time’ it was published in this month’s newsletter. Just visit www.unlockthecage.com and sign up to get a copy – I’d love to share it with you.