I know there are things you want to do, but can never seem to find time for them. When asked what you want, your immediate answer is more time.
What if I told you I could get you more time?
Hard to believe, I know. I didn’t believe it either until I figured it out for myself.
I’m not talking about an entire day, but at least a few hours to indulge in the things you want to do. For some, it will amount to an entire day or several hours every day.
Every person is given 24 hours in a day, which equals 168 hours for the week. What you do with those 168 hours is up to you ultimately. Yes, there are things that need to be done. However, you choose how you spend those hours.
The key to finding free time is to discover where your time is spent. It is similar to budgeting your money. It’s hard to set a good, reliable budget that you can maintain if you don’t know how much you currently spend in a month.
First, we must research where your time is being spent right now. This is the difficult part of this process.
Step 1: Track Your Time
You will need to track where you spend every last minute of the next 168 hours. I know that not every week is the same, but it will give you an idea of where your time goes. You can certainly run this time study for several weeks if necessary.
Print off seven copies of the 24 hour time log(label each with the day of the week) or grab a notebook and a pen. Start tracking where you spend your time. Think like a lawyer who has to track their billable hours – every single minute of your day needs to be accounted for, so the correct “client” is billed for that time.
My time log is broken down into 15-minute increments for the majority of the day and one increment for the portion of the night when most people are sleeping. Write enough information in each box that you will be able to figure out what that time block was spent doing.
Step 2: Calculate Your Time
After you have tracked all of your time for 168 hours, one week, it is time to add it all up. Categories may include cooking, cleaning, work, commuting, child care, reading, eating, television viewing, talking to friends, time on social media, doctor appointment, kid transportation, sleeping, grooming, or working out. Your life may dictate more or different categories. Track how many minutes you spent in each category.
Now it’s time for a little more math. If you need to, pull out a calculator. Once you have counted up the minutes, divide by 60. This will give you the number of hours spent on each activity.
Add all of the hours and minutes together from each category. It should equal 168. If it doesn’t, you have done something wrong. More than 168 hours you have either figured out how to clone yourself, or you miscalculated where you spent your time. Less than 168 hours and you forgot to track something or sat looking at a wall and didn’t write that time down.
Step 3: Examine the Results
You may argue this is not a typical week because you had to take your child to the doctor, or an unscheduled meeting at work took place but is there ever a typical week? One week someone is sick, another week the kids have a half day off school, you take a vacation day, or a broken car necessitates a trip to the repair shop. There will never be a perfect week to do a time study. Remember life happens. This is an average week, and you can always track for two or three weeks and then average out the time. If you do that you would total up all 2 or 3 weeks and then divide by 2 or 3. This will give you an average amount of time spent on each activity.
Now that you have the time for each category it’s time to take a good hard look at that and decide if that is acceptable. Think about what your goals or priorities are, and if you don’t have any, it might be time to change that. If your goal is to run a half marathon, but you only spend 30 minutes running a week, you are not making that a priority and you are unlikely to be successful in that goal.
I bet you will find some surprises with where your time is spent. Most times we exaggerate the amount of time we spend in some areas and underestimate how much time we spend in less desirable areas. I noticed when I did this myself that similar to tracking my food consumption, I started to question how I spent my time when I knew I had to write it down.
The examination of your time study is the most important part of this process. You need to decide how badly you WANT time for yourself and your interests. If you want something badly enough, you will reprioritize your time. On the time study before you is exactly where the 168 hours this past week went. Some questions to ponder:
- Are you happy with where your time went?
- What activities do you wish you had spent less time on?
- Which activities do you wish you had spent more time on?
- What are your priorities? Or what do you want them to be?
- How do you feel about the time decisions you made this week?
- What are you willing to give up to do more of the things you enjoy doing?
- What could you do differently next week to spend more time on the things that are priorities?
Your time study may show you spend too much time on mindless activities. If you cut back on them or eliminate them all together, you would have more time for the things you enjoy. Maybe you will see that you have lots of 15-minute spots open, but not enough bigger chunks and the activity you want to partake in requires bigger chunks of time. For instance, I love to scrapbook, and I prefer to do that in several hour chunks rather than 15-30 minute segments. Look at your time study to see if there is a way to move activities around to create bigger time chunks and fewer 15-minute segments. Could you combine errands with kid drop of for pick up, so you aren’t out driving as much? If the activity you want to enjoy more doesn’t require large time chunks then take note of those 15-minute open spots. I love to read, and I try to have a book with me at all times so I can read during these time blocks, expected and unexpected.
Step 4: Make a Plan
Similar to budgeting, now that we have the data on where our time went we can plan for where we want our time to go in the next week. With a zero-based budget, you look ahead to the month and what expenses are unique to that month and how you will allocate money accordingly to cover all areas of the budget. For your time you need to think ahead for the week and see what time constraints you have (i.e., dr. appointments, meetings, travel) and then allocate your time accordingly.
For instance, I know that working out is important to me and on Thursdays, I work all day outside of the home, and my daughter has karate. So on Thursdays, I make sure to get my workout done while she is in karate.
Whether you use a google calendar or paper calendar, try planning out when you will accomplish the things that are most important to you over the next week. Be sure to include that time for yourself.
You will need to revisit this time study every once a while. Any time you start to feel overwhelmed like you can’t get any time for yourself or there isn’t enough time to accomplish all that you need/want to do then do another time study. It will help you to reprioritize where your time is going. I do not advocate giving up sleep time as a way to give yourself more time for you. I strongly believe you are a better, more rested and able to take on the world person if you get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Laughable for new moms, I know, but for everyone else, if sleep is a priority it can happen.
Remember every successful person in the world has the same 168 hours a week that you do. Stop wishing for more time and instead find a way to make the time you have work for you.
Good Luck and may you enjoy countless hours on what you WANT to do!