When we think about the word “time,” it can conjure up a number of phrases that make it sound like our enemy—time crunch, time constraints, killing time and, more frequently, ”there’s never enough time.” It works much better if we can see time as our ally and make it work for us rather than against us. So I invite you to practice taking time or making time for the things that are most important to you.
My sister sent me a card once that said,
It’s easy to let time take you, but it’s wonderful to learn the secret of taking time.
Here are some suggestions as we learn to approach time from a different perspective and hopefully take away some of the overwhelm and stress of our busy lives.
1. Be More Aware
How we use time is a product of the choices we make each day, and our choices dictate how we live our life. In every single moment, we are at choice. And, in any moment, we can make a different choice.
2. Use Humor
Find a way to use humor to lighten things up. I love John Archibald Wheeler’s take on time:
Time is Nature’s way of keeping everything from happening at once!
3. Make Notes
Get all your “To-Do’s” out of your head. Make lists either on paper or electronically. I prefer paper because I’m very visual and very tactile. I have a Master List that captures projects large and small, divided into columns by the roles in my life: Business Owner, Household Manager, Volunteer, Spiritual Being, Health/Physical, Home Beautiful, Family/Friends and Creative Time. There is no one way to keep track of everything, but I invite you to create a system that works for you to incorporate the many things that may be on your To Do Lists.
4. Capture 4AM Ideas
With so many things going on, I sometimes wake in the early morning hours with an abundance of ideas—for various projects, trips, upcoming events, gift ideas, etc.—so I keep small post-it notes next to my bed to write those ideas down (one idea per note) and get them out of my head. Then I can usually (!) go back to sleep. That’s how some of the ideas for this blog came into being. When writing my first book, sometimes there were so many post-its next to my bed that Gary began to call them my “flurries,” often covering quite a bit of floor! We joke about it, but it sure helps me get back to sleep while capturing some ideas that get integrated into my various writings and activities.
5. Plan and Prioritize
Planning can decrease stress and save a LOT of time. I keep appointments in a monthly calendar and then plan my projects around them. I map out a quarterly plan (usually by season or prior to a vacation or other major event), and from there create a plan for each week. This works well for me because I can set aside anything that does not require my current attention, knowing it is scheduled for a later day, week, month or year. Things I plan in the future don’t take up space in my mind now. The clutter from my busy mind is eliminated and I’m able to focus more easily on the current project or task—those things that are important to me in each present moment.
6. Be Realistic
Sometimes we expect to get a lot more done than is possible. Then we’re disappointed and often our To Do list grows. I love humorist Erma Bombeck’s solution for summer expectations. She used to make this huge list of things to get done over summer vacation and later find she rarely accomplished anything. Then she got wise. She posted a large piece of paper on her refrigerator entitled, “Things to Do This Summer” and there was absolutely nothing written on it. Then, if she DID get something done, she was thrilled. No more unreal expectations and no more disappointments, only celebrations!
7. Ask for Help
Delegate! For a long time it was “much easier” if I just did everything myself…until it wasn’t! Even if we have certain skills and expertise, who says we have to do it all? Do the things you enjoy the most and let someone else do those you enjoy less. Teens are always looking for ways to make money, so I hire them to pull weeds, wrap gifts, file papers, shred, etc. It’s a win-win! Having a cleaning lady and/or a gardener (even occasionally) also helps.
8. Take Time to Breath
No matter how busy you are, take some time for yourself. I purposely schedule “putter days” or “pajama days” as well as regular massages to release the stress, recharge and renew. And every day I take some sort of mini-break…to read, watch some TV (Gary and I love sports!), call a family member or friend, plant some flowers, go for a walk, swing on the patio swing, take a nap or a bubble bath, do a jigsaw puzzle (it’s really fun online—TheJigsawPuzzles.com and it’s free!). I also enjoy journalling and art journalling, if only for a few minutes (or a whole afternoon!). Find the things that nourish you and “fill up your well.” Practice self-care in as many ways as possible. The more we take care of ourselves, the better we can be in everything else we do.
9. Listen to Your Body
Pay attention to your energy levels and when you do your best work. Tune into the best times for food and beverage, the best times to rest and relax (even for a few minutes), the best times to sleep and wake up.
10. Find Joy in the Little Things
Notice the flight of a bird, the sound of the waves (we live near the ocean), the sun shining through the trees, the playfulness and curiosity of a child or a pet, the beauty of a sunrise, sunset or the stars. All of these create “mini-breaks” from our busy lives that allow us to pace ourselves. Taking breaks helps me get more done in any given hour, day or week. When times are busiest, sometimes I’ll cut or buy a single flower, place it in a vase nearby, and take a moment (often several times a day) to simply enjoy its beauty and its fragrance.
11. Practice Gratitude
This alone has made a huge difference in my life. Every day I am thankful for all that I have, all that I do, all that I am. Even in the most challenging or busiest time, there is always something to be thankful for. One of my favorite signs (on the wall in our kitchen) says,
Thanksgiving Was Never Meant to be Limited to One Day
Think about how you spend your time and how you would like to spend your time. Think about the choices you are making and give yourself permission to make different choices to bring about different results. Here’s an affirmation that might be helpful.
I am grateful that I choose to make time
to do the things that are most important to me.
I’m very glad I’ve taken the time to share these ideas and connect with you. I wish you much joy and many blessings always.