How To Carve Back Time For Yourself
What’s the biggest luxury in 2018?
More covetable perhaps than even Hermes Birkin (Himalaya white crocodile and studded with diamonds and 18 carat gold in case you’re wondering) which went under the hammer at Christies recently for a record £2.9 million, more elusive than the perfect pair of trousers – and certainly more useful. Owning more of this would add untold quality to our lives, making us infinitely wiser, happier and certainly a hell of a lot less stressed.
The answer of course is time. Who do you know anymore that isn’t busy? Hands up how many of you are too busy to read a book, take up a hobby, learn French. Every day I meet the world’s ‘busiest’ women at the school gates, about to combust with endless to-do lists and bake sales before dashing off to work where they will attempt to smash the proverbial glass ceiling. Or else go home to put on yet another wash.
Given that there aren’t going to be 25 hours in a day anytime soon, I’ve often wondered if it’s actually possible to claw back time? How do you have more of it? Is it actually possible? What started off as a bit of a game, an experiment even, threw up some rather surprising results. I can’t say I’ve cracked it entirely, but the immense joy of having more time than you anticipated (even if means just jumping into bed earlier) is unrivalled.
It’s easy to hide behind the excuse of work, children or both, but this is what I’ve learned.
Learn not to over think things
We lose many, many, (did I say many?) HOURS each day having imaginary conversations in our head: worrying about why someone hasn’t replied to an email (hello, perhaps they’re just busy?) or the way someone has misinterpreted what we’ve said. I’ve also learned to ditch worry, guilt and stress unless something really bad happens: a trip to A &E is my benchmark here, not that you forgot to pack the waterproofs for the year four canoeing trip. This is also guaranteed to leave you with deep sense of calm to boot.
Stop putting limits on yourself
The jury is out on the ‘have it all’ generation. Have you noticed how people are always telling you what you can and can’t do or how much you can or can’t take on. Try deciding for yourself. That I take too much on is an understatement but I’ve learned how to cope with it, and more importantly I’ve also realised that I really thrive on it; it makes me feel alive. And happy. It is who I am.
If you’d asked me before I had kids whether I thought it would be a realistic expectation to exercise three or four times a week first thing, I would probably have said no. And yet, I adopted a ‘zero tolerance’ approach involving less moaning, more doing . As it turns out getting up earlier wasn’t nearly as hard as I had imagined. It makes me feel invincible and in turn more focused – and zippier – for the day ahead.
Get up earlier
Which leads me neatly to my next point. Yes obviously getting up an hour or two earlier claws back time (and yes, this is far easier in the summer when we don’t want to hibernate), but getting up earlier also just gets your day off to a better start. That quiet time is magical and feels like the most wonderful escape from everything and everyone. And everything just flows better. Try it.
Have some clarity
Work out how you want your day to look like and stick to it. This may mean only checking your emails at certain times so as to better focus on your work or erasing social media apps off your phone so that the endless scrolling temptation is avoided. But ultimately you are the architect of your day. Time is precious, choose wisely.
Lower your expectations and just learn to wing it
The latest in my box of tricks and what I’m secretly quite proud of, even though my mother is possibly horrified. I decided this year that in order to do a busy, interesting job where I’m lucky enough to meet interesting people who are deeply passionate about what they do combined with bringing up three small children and all the endless (yawnsville) school-min, life-min that that involves is not compatible with a cleaned or tidied to within-an-inch-of its life house. Yes I have a brilliant weekly cleaner but my house still looks a total tip.
I have become very adept at not seeing the mess. And frankly I don’t really care. I’d even go as far as saying I’m quite proud of myself for learning to let go. As I’ve said before (actually Lucia van der Post said it first), no one lay on their death bed wishing their house had been tidier. We have one life: go and do interesting things.
On a similar note, I leave any sports kit packing to the five minutes before we walk out the front door. Which means most of the time it might be crumpled or worse still, unwashed but it sure beats spending an eye-wateringly dull 45 minutes the night before making sure everything is perfect.
Get your kids to help
Get over the neurotic control freakery thing you have going on and get your children to help with chores. You’ll thank me for this when they stop treating you like a door mat.
Be more man
A not-too-surprising thought occurred to me as I was compiling this list: men don’t do any of the above. They don’t fret, or worry, or panic the way women do. They generally adopt a ‘sod-it and see’ approach to life and aren’t crippled by a myriad do’s and don’ts. Furthermore, men never feel the need for that eye-rollingly awful concept of ‘me-time’ because despite busy lives and jobs, they rightly factor in time to do things which are deeply pleasing for the soul. And perhaps therein lies one of life’s biggest lessons.