You’re busy. You have a schedule that never seems to end, and you are constantly stressed out about the things you need to do. Many people think that they can’t make time for themselves because of their long list of responsibilities, but this doesn’t have to be the case. If you follow these five steps, then it will become much easier for you to make time for yourself on your schedule!
As a mom, I know how hard it is to balance my family’s needs with my own personal goals. It was even harder when I first started back after my maternity leave and was not only working as a teacher but also halfway through my first year in a doctoral program! Talk about being busy, exhausted, and simply trying to make it through the day.
Well through the support of amazing family, friends, teachers, mentors and what must be an unhealthy level of coffee-I made it through. But, I wish that I had known then what I know now about making myself a priority and how to use the limited resource of time to my advantage.
There are many metaphors used to describe how we view time and how limited it is in our culture. We use these ideas and sayings to emphasize how finite time is:
Time is Money
You’re wasting my time.
How do you spend your time these days?
That class cost me an hour.
I don’t have time to spare for that.
You’re running out of time.
Is that worth your while?
Despite the fact that time is limited and we value it greatly, how we spend our time varies. In fact we often spend our time doing things that make us appear to be busy, but actually hold little value to us in our lives.
We have a lot of things to do, but are we spending our time in between doing important things on activities that hold little value to ourselves? Because we’re so exhausted and burned out from what we have to do-that we just check out in our remaining time?
Self care is necessary for us to make the most of the time we have and to be more engaged, connected, and effective. Yet, we don’t always take the time out for ourselves. Self care can become an afterthought and not something that is prioritized above all else.
So how do you go from being busy with work/kids/life in general to taking care of yourself? Here are five steps that you can take to make time for yourself on your schedule.
Step One- Make Self Care a Priority.
Too often we look at self care as a luxury, something that is nice but not necessary or important when there are more pressing things going on in our lives. As busy moms and/or professionals we have many responsibilities, it seems like the to do list just gets longer and longer every day.
Yet, we forget to include ourselves on our to do list. And when we make it on our own to do list-we are often at the very bottom of the list!
We have to put ourselves at the top of our to do list which means doing something that we enjoy first thing in the morning. Self care should start first thing in the day, because if we wait until later to take time out of our day for ourselves, then not only will we run out of time, but will also feel defeated and resentful! Keeping us in the same pattern that has made self care so hard in the past.
So set your alarm for a half hour early (which also means going to be earlier) and make the first half hour of your day about you! Take that half hour to do something you don’t have time for otherwise. Read, journal, write a letter to a friend, meditate, exercise…whatever brings you joy and helps you start your day off feeling energized and connected to yourself.
Step 2 Unplug from Technology
Many of us end the day looking at emails or browsing social media and begin our days the same way. It’s nice to feel in contact and well informed, however when you invite the outside world into your home, mind, and heart it can often eat up so much of your time, keep you from connecting with the people around you, and also affect the quality of your sleep.
Using your phone right before bed or being woken up by notifications is very disruptive to your sleep. More and more research continues to support the value of sleep and how we need to get at least 7-8 hours a night for our physical and mental health.
One simple step to take back your time is to turn on the do not disturb function on your phone for a certain period each day. You will be amazed how much time you have to yourself when you’re not interrupted by outside distractions.
I have my Do Not Disturb set from 9pm to 7am. It has made a world of difference in that I’m not getting texts or any information that could potentially cause stress prior to bed. And it allows me to be present with my family during those hours in the evening without uninvited interruptions.
The added bonus is that when I take time for myself in the morning, I don’t look at my phone and so my day starts off peacefully and where I can truly focus on creating an intention for my day without interruptions from the outside world.
An important note is that this function allows for calls/texts from your emergency contacts. So if like me, you have teens that may need to get in touch with you or family members from afar-you simply add them to your emergency contacts and they can get through anytime.
Step Three-Take Time Throughout the Day
I used to feel guilty when I said that taking time for myself was a priority. The last thing you want to do as a mom and/or professional is leave someone out because of your own needs, but we have seen how this doesn’t work in the long run! There are truly pockets of your day where you can make yourself a priority.
One of my favorite methods for getting started on a project and getting it done is called the Pomodoro Method. Using this method I set a timer for a certain amount of time to work on a task. Then after working on it for 25 minutes-I take a 5 minute break. Or if it’s a longer project, I schedule an hour to work on it (with my email notifications off and phone on silent so I’m not disturbed) and after an hour take a 15 minute break. During those breaks I get up from my desk, stretch, try to go outside and breathe in some fresh air or get a ten minute walk in.
Taking short breaks throughout the day with scheduled tasks help you keep track of where your time is going and keeps you from spending unnecessary time on time fillers like social media or mindlessly scrolling through email. Once you start scheduling in the time you’re going to work on projects, you’ll be amazed at how much you get done while still having energy because you’re giving yourself a much needed break.
Step Four- Be Selfish
If you’re like me, the last thing I want to do is be selfish. But in order to be the best mom, wife, business owner etc. that I can possibly be-I need to put myself first so that I can make others a priority! Selfishness doesn’t have to mean being unkind or neglecting people in your life. It simply means carving out time for yourself so you don’t get overwhelmed by the other people in your life. Selfishness should be a part of everyone’s routine, not just moms!
Each day looks different. There are days I have to put my phone on silent and go for a walk or read a book on my bed in the middle of an afternoon, just to recharge. Each day what we need to feel our best will be different, and that’s okay. Life will continue even if we stop for a bit to take a much needed break.
There are things that need to get done and allow life to go smoothly, it takes some effort on your behalf! Why not set yourself up for success from the beginning of your day to the end of your day to feel good, have energy, and meet the needs of those who depend on you? Taking breaks when you need them during the day may feel selfish, but it’s all part of making yourself a priority.
Step 5: Set Your Priorities and Make Them Doable
We all have 24 hours in our day, no more, no less. It’s up to us how we use those 24 hours. Ideally, 7-8 of those hours are spent sleeping. Then 8 hours for work. So that still leaves 8-9 hours of your life that you have each day to make time for yourself.
The choices you make every day, make your life what it is. Only you have the power through the choices you make-how you spend your time. Your actions repeated over time, become your reality. If you’re considering how you want to spend your time, moving forward, these questions will help.
- Currently, do your days reflect your life priorities?
- What’s working? What needs to be different?
- What do you need to let go of to reflect your life’s priorities today and in the future.
- What small change can you make today to reflect at least one of your life priorities?
Self-care is important for everyone, not just the stressed out mom or professional woman. Follow these steps to make yourself a priority and don’t forget that you can’t pour from an empty cup. Be sure to take care of YOU so that you have what it takes each day to meet your goals and show up fully present-as your best self.