I always feel like I'm running out of time. I don't mean in the global sense - although, if you want to get philosophical about it, we do start running out of time the moment we're born – but I mean every day, hour- to- hour, minute- to- minute. So often, I'll be involved in something and glance up at the clock. It never fails to catch me by surprise to see that one or even two hours has passed, instead of what I thought (one or two minutes). This makes me anxious; I mean, how will I get everything done with time passing by so quickly??
And I don't like anxious. Not a bit.
When you break time down into minutes, it sounds as if you should have all the time in the world. It reminds me of the lyrics from the show, Rent. A "year in the life" worked out to a whopping 525,600 minutes. That's a LOT of minutes. Why, then, does a year pass so quickly, pushing us to make resolutions (usually unfulfilled from the year prior) for the upcoming year that are crammed with "find more time to do XXXX," or "make time for XXXX."
I wonder if it's just me.
I turned to Laura Vanderkam, whose book; "168 Hours" hit the shelves on May 27. In it, she seeks to uncover the way to do it all. Laura to the rescue! Here's what I learned:
Q. You say that even the busiest people have time to take care of themselves. Convince us!
A. There are 168 hours in a week. Even if you work 50 -- more than most people -- and sleep 8 hours a night, that leaves 62 hours for other things. In 62 hours, you can definitely find 3-4 hours to exercise and a few others: to write in a journal, pray, meditate, or engage in other soul-restoring activities that have a big impact on your health.
Q. The math seems right, so why do many of us feel like we don't even have 15 free minutes?
A. We live in a distracted society, where lots of things -- email, TV, web-surfing, housework, errands, puttering around -- expand to fill the available space. You have to choose to make time for meaningful activities like exercise or volunteering, and plan ahead to make them happen, or otherwise they never will.
Q. What places in most people's schedules work well for nurturing themselves?
A. Lots of people exercise in the mornings. You don't have to get up early every day -- just aim for twice during the workweek to start. If you've got little kids, and usually watch TV after they go to bed, consciously try to turn off the set an hour earlier and use that time to do something calming. Don't spend that time picking up the house -- it will just get dirty again! Go for a brisk walk during your lunch break at work, or if you've got a 20- minute break between phone calls or meetings. And on weekends, trade off childcare time with your spouse so each of you has a chance to exercise or decompress.
Q. Speaking of your spouse, how can couples make time for each other?
A. A solid, positive marriage makes it so much easier to live a healthy life. Like a healthy body, a healthy marriage also takes an investment of time -- time which is easily quashed in favor of distractions. Yes, it's important to do date night from time to time, but that's not the only way couples can spend time with each other. Carpool to work together. Call each other during the day. Meet for lunch once a month. Sit down for breakfast together. And get in the habit of spending the last half hour before bed with each other, talking through your days and your plans and goals. Turn off the TV earlier so you're not exhausted. If you're traveling, you can have this "spouse conference" by phone. But if you're both in the same house, have it in your bedroom. What that leads to is up to you!
Q. How can we start putting this plan into practice? Do we need to write a schedule for each day – each hour, for instance?
A. Certainly not every hour! I find it's best to think in terms of 168 hours – that is, your weekly schedule. What I do is make a list of my top work and personal priorities for the week. I might have two columns due, I might want to run four times, go out to dinner with my husband and spend an afternoon at the zoo with my kids. I'll break those down into actionable steps. For instance, going out to dinner requires checking our schedules, calling a babysitter and making reservations. Then I figure out where in my week to do these things.
Q. What if you're a "right-brain" kind of person, bad at scheduling and especially sticking to one? Any tips?
A. The good thing about focusing only on your top professional and personal priorities is that you don't try to do too much. So you only have to do a little bit of scheduling, which leaves plenty of hours open for relaxing and enjoying how much time you really have.
Want more information?
How to find more time for exercise? Here's how.