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How to Find Time for Everything

By Sheryl Kraft

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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?
. 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?
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.

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That certainly puts it in perspective! I didn't realize I had so much time to play with. She's right though - it gets sucked away by things like TV, email, paperwork, etc. This has inspired me to find more time for myself!

Another way is to spend/consume less, so you require less money to live and can therefore work less and have more time to "live". Not always easy, but more and more people are starting to see the virtues of a simpler life.

Ah, yes, the simple life. Paring down is a great way to find more time to do the things you want. I like that.

I've learned over the years, not to do too much. It doesnt mean I sit around my house and watch tv all day, it just means I dont overload myself. I learned the hard way to do this after taking care of my mom who was ill. I did everything for her, and after she passed away, I realized how important it was to take care of myself and slow down.
I am not one of these people who needs to be on the phone all day , who needs to text people or who spends alot of time on the computer. Being a child of the 50's, I see that life has gotten too fast and my parents and their friends enjoyed their lives because they had free time to do things they enjoyed.

You are a wise one, Sherry. Sounds like you really know how to make the best use of your time. I think not over-scheduling is a big key.

I am in the process of reading Laura's book. It's crazy how it has found time for me already. Today I accomplished all of my goals and I now have an hour to spare. So I'm going to relax and read!

Reaching your goals and an hour to spare? Sounds like the plan is working in a big way, Alisa.

This post comes at the perfect time for me as I look, yet again, at how to gain balance in my life. I especially like the advice to spend the last 30 minutes of the day conversing with your spouse. My husband will especially appreciate that idea. I find that when my life becomes too busy, the first thing to go is exercise and taking care of me. This time, I'm determined to fix that.

I like that one too, Donna - a nice way to end the day, I think.

We don't have a TV but reading blogs and Internet articles is one thing that sucks a lot of time out of my day. I like the idea of re-prioritizing and MAKING time to do things that make you healthier and that matter more: like talking to your spouse and exercising. After reading Alisa's blog post about the book I turned OFF the computer and went to the park with my son and daughter to play soccer. That was a wonderful way to spend some time. But then I had to play catch up after they went to bed. Clearly I need to read Laura's book!

Wow, you work fast, Jennifer. Glad the comment prodded you to get out to the park. But alas, catching up comes around the corner...not sure how to handle that one. Need to make time all over again, I fear.

I find that I'm better at scheduling my time when I have a lot going on--in other words, when I have to use my time wisely, I do and when I have lots of get-this-done-whenever things piled up on my list, I tend to procrastinate more. I like Frugal Kiwi's plan...

Kristen, It's so true, give a busy person something to do, and they'll get it done! Time to get bus(ier)...

Thanks for calming me down on the subject. I'm overwhelmed by everything I need to do over the next two weeks -- write, pack for trip, pack to go back to Texas, take care of the "business" of my father's death. Too, too much.

I'm excited to know about this book! The, ahem, older I get the faster time seems to move :)

It's incredible how many of those things ARE big time-sucks, MandMe. Glad you're inspired~

We try to walk at the beach several times a week. The exercise and sea air never fails to make me return refreshed.

Turning off the TV also is a way I've discovered more time for other things like reading ...

Wow, just seeing the math in action helped me chill out a bit. There is time to do it all. What I need more of? Sleep. So, good night!

"We live in a distracted society, where lots of things -- email, TV, web-surfing, housework, errands, puttering around -- expand to fill the available space."

YES YES YES! I know this all too well. I've tried to create some space between my computer and I, for this very reason. I get so tired and drained after staring into a soulless monitor for hours on end...


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