I never have any free time to do what I want

We all have busy, hectic lives, and the demands of career, family, friends and interests outside work can sometimes seem too much. How often do you find yourself saying (or thinking, resentfully) “I never have any time for myself” or “I never get to do what I want”?

Just as no-one is forcing food into your mouth and ruining your diet, no-one is standing over you with a stick (I hope!) and forcing you to spend your time doing things you hate. If you feel you have too many commitments and demands on your time, cut some out. These are all methods that have worked for me:

Slash your “to do” list

You probably have a mental or even paper list of all those things you “should” get round to doing. It might be spring cleaning, baking cakes for the kids to take to school, visiting relatives who you don’t especially like but who you feel duty-bound to see …

Go through the list and strike out anything which:

  • You don’t want to do
  • You don’t have to do

Be ruthless! The number one way to find more “free time” is to cut out things which you don’t enjoy and which don’t have to be done.

Get others to help

Perhaps the house really does need cleaning: if the clutter’s built up so much you’ve forgotten what colour the carpets underneath are, it might be time for a tidy up. Enlist the kids, your partner, or housemates to help out: don’t be a martyr and feel that you have to do it all yourself.

(Though, if it’s any consolation, housework burns calories …)

Do a time-audit

Lots of time-management experts recommend this – for a day, or better, several days, keep a record of what you were doing when.

Jot down hourly or half-hourly intervals at the side of a piece of paper, and write a few words describing what you did at each point. Once you’ve done this for a day or more, look back and identify places where you could “save time”.

Block out “free time” for yourself

It’s easy for time to get eaten up by “Stuff” happening – Tim Brownson writes about this in his excellent book “Don’t Ask Stupid Questions – There Are No Stupid Questions”. Schedule time for yourself: block out a couple of hours on a Saturday to relax and do whatever you enjoy; read, have a long bath, go for a peaceful walk or browse round the shops.

Another way to do this is by joining a club or group. Is there a local evening class or regular get-together for a hobby you’re interested in? If you want more time to knit, write, do woodwork, etc, join a group so that you have a set time and place to enjoy yourself.

What do you want?

Take five minutes to jot down a list of things which you enjoy doing and wish you had more time for. Mine looks like:

  • Writing (creative, non-fiction, and my journal)
  • Cross-stitching (I always have a project on the go, but make very slow progress)
  • Reading novels/short stories (there are stacks of books on my “to be read” pile)
  • Shopping for “fun” as opposed to for groceries…

Now find a way to work at least one thing which you love into every day. That might mean having an hour to yourself in the evening with a good book and a big mug of tea (shut the door, bar your kids or partner, and insist on remaining undisturbed). Or it might mean some guilt-free time spent web-surfing or playing video games.

You get twenty-four hours in every day. Make sure you spend at least one of them doing exactly what you want, and you’ll notice how much more cheerful and you feel.

(Image above by xandroid)


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