After a couple of busy weeks at work, unconsciously full weekends and the sun heading to bed by 6pm of an evening, I noticed I have been feeling like each day is just blurring into the next, whizzing past with no real rest in sight. Ever had that feeling? So much to do, so little time?
It is often at the expense of our ‘free’ time that we manage to fit everything into our busy schedule. True free time is vital to our health and wellbeing. We need it to feel good, mentally and physically. But in the go-go-go of modern living it is so easy to feel like you don’t have a moment to catch your breath. So how do we reclaim more time, without sacrificing all those things on the to do list? Thinking about this dilemma helped me identify a few areas of my life that I can start to bring back into balance. I hope it helps you too.Don’t get caught in front of the TV
Each week, the average Australian spends 13 hours in front of the TV. By changing only the amount to TV you view, you can claim back numerous hours, for some up to 2 hours a day! If you want to relax in front of the TV that is fine! There is nothing wrong with a movie, a cup of tea and a snuggle as a relaxing, pleasurable way to spend your spare time.
What I am talking about is that time you lose just idly staring at the TV, watching whatever comes on without thought or intention. The best way to avoid this is to make a decision about what you are going to watch, and know how long it goes for. Turn the TV off after your show is finished and move on to something else. Perhaps you may even want to limit the number of shows or hours you watch per night. If you choose to watch 1 hour or less, you may have already reclaimed 7-10 hours a week you can use for going to the gym, exercising, playing with the kids and so on!
Early to bed, early to rise
The old saying is true, and actually much more beneficial for your health! Heading to bed early, around 10.30pm, can mean you are up by 6-6.30 every morning (as long as you need the average 7-8 hours sleep a night). Getting up early can give you more time to exercise, prepare lunches, or even get a chore or two done. Sleeping this way will also encourage healthier energy levels, allowing you to feel more productive and motivated during the day. No need to roll out of bed and rush straight to work, grabbing some take-away for breakfast and lunch, and then feeling too tired to exercise after work, so losing yourself in front of the TV until bed.
Getting up 1.5 hours earlier (and going to be 1.5 hours earlier) will give you the time to get all those things done before you head to work. That might sound scary at first (trust me, I’m with you!), but your body will adjust after only a few days of early rising. It is far easier to change the time you wake first, and allow yourself to go to sleep earlier, than trying to start by putting yourself to bed earlier at night. You might want to start with half an hour at a time, if this makes things easier.
Make a plan
How easy it is to realize on Sunday night that the weekend is over and you didn’t really do anything except the weekend jobs that needed to be done? It can make you feel like you didn’t have a weekend at all! During the week, make a plan about what you would like to do on your weekend and make it happen. Be sure to include fun activities, not just a list of jobs you have to complete. Scheduling in the fun stuff will make you feel like you really got something out of your weekend! Even if it is just one thing over the two days. It can be as simple as a long hot bath and a good book, a visit to a friend, taking the kids to the park, whatever makes you feel happy and excited about doing it. It gives you something to look forward to during the week, and something to talk bout on Monday morning when your friends ask what you did on the weekend.
If you fall into the trap of going grocery shopping after work almost every day, then start changing that now! By organizing yourself and the chores you have to do, you will be able to maximize your time spent doing those things- leaving much more time for fun! Do a big shop once a week, run errands on a designated day, schedule in things like getting a hair cut and going to the chiropractor on the same day so you will notice all the time you don’t have anything planned. Simply by shuffling your schedule around, you will find yourself with more blocks of free time! I love a little weekly planner diary for this. I can look at my week and see where I am blocking things in, and what areas I am keeping clear for free time!
Have a look at how many hours you are supposed to work per week. Now ask yourself, how many are you actually doing? Many people get caught in the trap of working longer and longer hours to get ahead in their workplace. Unfortunately it has become almost expected in many work environments. People are not taking their allowed holidays, sick days or even overtime in an attempt to ‘stand out’ and excel. This habit can be very detrimental to your health. If your workload far exceeds your ability to complete it in the time you have, perhaps it is time to have a good look at those expectation and decide if they are realistic. If they are not, a friendly chat with the boss will bring their attention to the fact that you are doing more than you should, and by prioritizing yourself and your health, you will be a more productive and healthy employee in the long run.
Too many Australians are ‘burning out’ with chronic fatigue and illnesses by the time they are in their late 30’s. A little less ‘extra’ work now can save you years of exhaustion in the future. This is a difficult conversation to have, I know. I have actually had it myself a few years ago and was relieved and surprised by the outcome. At the end of the day, your boss wants a productive, happy, healthy worker. They want the work done of highest quality, with a positive attitude. People who are working too hard, for too long can not maintain these characteristics.
This is one of the ‘issues’ that gets brought up at our Embracing Health Detox Retreats a lot. People are just doing too much, and when they get the chance to stop, they realize that they are killing themselves, often unnecessarily. The number of people who have returned from a retreat to reschedule their work life blows me away. And you know what? I have not yet heard a single negative reaction from a boss. More often these employees are rewarded with a lighter work load, an assistant to help, a rearranged working schedule and so on. One lovely lady I had the pleasure of talking to was even offered a pay rise PLUS a reduced work load! Now we can’t all be that lucky, but if your work is eating into the hours on either side, it might be time to make a change.
Put down the iStuff
This is a big one for me. I’ll wake nice and early but because it’s a little chilly now, I’ll grab my phone, jump back into bed and check out what’s been happening in the world while I have been asleep. Even writing it, it sounds ridiculous, but that’s what I do. Then before you know it, there’s no time to exercise and barely enough time to get ready for work. It’s a bad habit I have gotten into, and something I am happy to break. The same goes for night time. We will often lie in bed at night watching funny videos online until our nice and early bedtime, has stretched out past 11pm. It’s easy enough to make the bed a no phone zone. I find that at night I don’t want to stay up and watch the same videos, and in the morning I might have a quick flick through the news feed but once I am on my feet, I am more likely to want to get out and about. See if it works for you!
Even if you change one simple thing detailed here, you will have already taken a big step towards claiming more ‘you’ time back in your life. Time is so precious. None of us know how much we have in this life so please enjoy your moments. Enjoy your free time!