Recast “Me” Time
There was a time in my life when I not only had to have a “current read” on my bookshelf, I had to have the next book lined up and ready to go. God forbid I finish one book and be unprepared to start the next! Nowadays, if I read two books a year I consider that a victory. Between work, the kids, the house and the all-too-occasional snafu that throws all of that out of balance, finding time to dig into a great book feels like self-indulgence.
But what if, instead of considering the latest Khaled Hosseini novel as “me time,” I considered it “personal development,” a spin on workplace “professional development?” At work, taking time to hone your skills is lauded as a way to bring value to the company and propel you to the next level of your career. It’s considered an effective use of time, not a leisurely one. What if I took that approach not only to reading, but to finding time to exercise or finish that photo album?
“The people who get ahead at work value their own development and make sure they’re always thinking, ‘what’s my next step?’” says time management expert Jan Yager, Ph.D., author of “Work Less, Do More.” “They’re thinking about how they can use their time to develop themselves. If you make self-fulfillment a priority and realize that ‘me’ time is not selfish, it will make you a better [person and] parent.”
Schedule Social Time
At work, you know you have to be at a staff meeting every Monday morning. Similarly, blocking out time on the calendar to have fun with family or friends--even if you don’t yet have a specific plan--helps ensure it will happen. “Too often the weekends [slip by] and, by the time it’s over, you’re left wondering ‘What did I really do that was a wonderful thing?’” says Yager.
Schedule a babysitter for every Friday night and make it date night. Inform the family that Sunday morning is when everyone will sit together at the breakfast table. Plan lunch with a friend every Saturday. By scheduling social time you increase the odds it’ll actually happen.
If a project at work is going to take more time than you have the manpower for, you bring in extra help to ensure you meet your deadline. Do the same at home. “I was getting annoyed with my family because I was spending all of my spare time cleaning up their messes,” says Karla Trotman, 37, owner of BellyButtonBoutique.com in Wyncote, Penn. “So I hired a cleaning person. It wasn't as expensive as I thought it was going to be. She is far more effective than I ever was and is super fast. I now have free time to spend on myself, as opposed to scrubbing a toilet.”
Set Clear Expectations
Just like being upfront and firm about deadlines helps projects flow more smoothly at work, the same can happen at home. “Set deadlines for important household tasks like cleaning up the garden or completing homework,” says Jessica Oman, 34, founder of Write Ahead in Vancouver, B.C. “This makes the expectations clearer for everyone involved and makes it more likely that things will get done efficiently and within a reasonable amount of time. You can even offer a reward, like an extra $5 on allowance, for finishing work ahead of schedule, similar to offering a discount for invoices that get paid early.”
Multi-task Where Possible
You don’t have time to exercise? Or read a book? Do both at once. Load the latest bestseller onto your smartphone and listen while out for a run. Also consider multi-person-tasking. Need to fold the laundry? Pull your tween away from the tube and have her fold alongside you. You get a chore done, teach a valuable skill and, with any luck, get some girl-talk time.
Similarly, if you are longing for some time with your girlfriends but just can’t make time for dinner out, invite them along for the tasks you have to do. If you have to hit the mall to buy a new pair of shoes or are in desperate need of a fresh manicure, use that time to catch up with a friend too.
Prioritize your Tasks
If your to-do list is too long, you’ll be tempted to stuff it back in your purse and curl up on the couch with a pint of ice cream. Instead of being overwhelmed by all you can’t do, prioritize the most important items on the list and get those done first. “What is the most important thing you need to get done at night after work?” says Yager. “If the answer is, ‘Read to my child,’ then make sure that’s what you do before you tackle anything else.”
Make Long-Term Plans
At work, sales plans stretch years into the future. So should your dreams. Even if it’ll take you two years to save up the money for that trip, Yager says, having something to look forward to can completely change your attitude. Develop a budget and watch with pride as that vacation account grows each month. Start reading travel magazines, clipping out pictures of your dream-escapes. Before you know it you’ll stop stewing about what you wished you were doing and instead fantasizing about what you will be doing sooner than you think.