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  • 11/17/2008

Make More Time for Yourself



Here’s how to tame your schedule — and claim carefree minutes for yourself

Time can be on your side — if you re-shape your schedule. With the help of a dozen psychologists, researchers, and coaches, Real Simple came up with a three-part plan to reseize the day.


Step 1: Step Back (for a Second)

Figure out why you want more free time. “You can’t win a game you haven’t defined,” says David Allen, a productivity expert and the author of the best seller Getting Things Done. You’ll be more motivated to change if you have a specific goal.


Make a wish list

Write down all the activities that you long to do more of — whether they’re things that make you happy, relaxed, sane(r), or all three. For example: going for a swim, sleeping until you’re no longer tired, volunteering on a project you care about, or getting an hour all to yourself. Rank the items in order of importance to you, then pick one or two to focus on first. (Once you get the hang of this system, you can address the rest.)


Now write down how you really spend your time.

 Keep a detailed diary for a few days. (Want some encouragement — and comfort that someone’s life is as crazy as yours? Check out the diaries of three Real Simple readers.)

“You might be surprised by how little time you spend doing things you love most,” says Randy Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University

 Says Pausch, “The key question to keep asking is, Are you spending your time on the right things? Because time is all you have.”


Step 2: See What You Can Give Up

This is the hard — but liberating — part: Rethinking the way you spend your time. As you sit in front of your crammed-full daily diary, consider this: Devoting more time to what you love can help you get more done overall. “It sounds like a paradox,” says Neil Fiore, Ph.D., a psychologist and an executive coach in Berkeley, California, and the author of The Now Habit ,

“but research shows that to be productive and creative, you must make time for recreation and relaxation. Trying to skimp on them hurts your motivation and often leads you to procrastinate.”

 Plus, being a little selfish will keep you from becoming resentful, burned out, or cranky. And that’s a good thing for everyone.


Since you can’t manufacture time, you need to find ways to free it up. Take another look at your list of current activities and ask yourself four questions:


What can I delegate?

OK, so maybe your 11-year-old can’t load the dishwasher as well as you can. Hand over that task and you’ve got 10 minutes to spend on something more fulfilling. The fact that you’re teaching your child responsibility — with, yes, an occasional eye roll or chipped dish — is a bonus. If you’ve reflexively been handling most of the household duties — dry-cleaning drop-offs, filling out school forms — turn some of them over to your spouse. (No, this does not make you a bad wife, a bad mother, or a nag.) Try similar strategies at work: Give junior staffers assignments that stretch their capabilities, rather than swooping in and doing the job yourself.


What can I outsource?

Housecleaning and lawn care are obvious answers, but also think about things like tutoring for your kids — especially when it comes to subjects that take hours to get up to speed on (amo, amas, amat…). Before you decide you can’t afford this, scrutinize your spending. Chances are, there’s a way to reallocate your resources. Could you forgo dinner out one night a week in exchange for freedom from all that washing and folding? If you need more convincing, calculate what your time is worth, says Timothy Ferriss, a time-management expert and the author of The 4-Hour Workweek . To get your “hourly rate,” cut the last three zeros off your annual salary, then halve that number. So if you make $60,000 a year, your hourly rate is $30. “If it takes you three hours to clean the house each week, that’s $90 worth of your time,” he says.


What can I do less well (at least sometimes)?

Here’s an easy efficiency boost: When something you’re working on is good enough, stop. “It’s a waste of time to do everything perfectly, such as polishing the underside of the banister,” says professor Randy Pausch. “Instead, focus on doing the important things adequately” — like showing up at a friend’s birthday party even if you haven’t found that just-right present. Or making a simple pasta dish for a special dinner instead of going full-out gourmet. Not only will you gain more time but you’ll also have energy to actually enjoy these events rather than just feeling frazzled.


Author: Thayer Allyson Gowdy

Other Related Links:

Exercise Gives Mother Extra energy

The Two-Week Stress-Less Plan

9 Things You Can Do to Be Happy in the Next 30 Minutes

Make More Time for Yourself : Part 2

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