If there’s one thing that has inhibited my pursuits of happiness in the past even more than a lack of money, it has been a lack of time. Despite the fact that we all have the exact same amount of time in each day, I often feel like there is simply not enough in mine to allow me to do both what needs to be done and what yearns to be done.
It’s an obstacle I’ve heard from countless others as well.
“With kids and work and school and the house, I just don’t have the time to even think about anything else.”
“Maybe this summer when school is out.”
“Or in a few years when the kids are out of the house.”
“Hopefully we’ll have the time when we retire.”
Of course, when we say those things to people who seem more productive or ambitious than us, we’re often told that our problem is not a lack of time, but a lack of desire.
“If it was really important to you, you’d find the time!”
Um, OK. That might be true to a certain extent. But it is also true that we get stuck in mental ruts when it comes to how we think about time. We get used to spending our time a certain way and it can be difficult to see beyond those habits.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to break out of those ruts.
There are ways to find more time for doing the things that make you happy.
How to Find the Time to Do What You Love
Figure out how you’re spending your time.
I’m a big believer in identifying where you are before making a plan to get somewhere else. Try keeping a time journal for a week. Print out a blank daily schedule and fill in the hours with notes about how you spent the time. ”Worked” “Email” “Drove” “Dinner” “TV” “Talked on the phone”
At the end of the week you’ll have a better idea of how you’re spending your time. You may be able to spot some “free time” you didn’t know you had without making major changes.
Make new choices about your time.
You might find that you have an hour here or there that you’re not really using, but probably not. Most of us use every waking minute of every day. The question is not if we’re using our time, but how are we using it?
Are you putting your hours where your heart is?
I used to spend a ton of time watching TV. It was kind of relaxing, but mostly it was just what people do at the end of the day. When I took a closer look at my time and how it compared to my values, I found that I’d rather be using my TV time to read, talk to my husband, work on my writing, or go for a walk with the kids. Funny thing is that all of those things end up being more relaxing than watching TV. Now, I still watch TV, but I limit my time to the shows I’m most interested in seeing and avoid mindless channel surfing.
To be clear, I’m not saying not to watch TV. I’m saying to take a look at how you spend your time and ask yourself if those are conscious spending choices.
Embrace Small Chunks of Time
There are all kinds of productivity tips that can tell you how to “save time” so that you’ll have a free 15 minutes here or there, or an extra hour at the end of your day. I have no doubt you’ve tried a few of them in the past. A lot of us work hard to save time, but we struggle to invest that time into our passions.
The trick is to decide in advance how you’ll spend your time.
Are you working towards a specific goal? Make a list of specific steps that have to be taken in order for you to achieve it. You can also make a simple list of things you enjoy or things you want to do that you never get around to. Organize that list by how much time each tasks requires. When you find yourself with 15 free minutes, do the next thing on the 15 minute list. Have several hours to kill? Pull from the list of things that require a longer stretch.
You don’t need 8 hours at a time to take an online class, 3 months off work to write a book, or retirement years to volunteer more. You can make use of 15 minutes here, an hour there, or a free Sunday afternoon when it happens.
Our time, like our money, is ours to spend however we choose.
May we all practice choosing with intention.