“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
An unalterable fact of life is that there are only 24 hours in a day. Despite wishing time could be extended, go slower or faster, or be reversed, the physics involved in the construct of time do not allow such self-driven navigation. Whether you’re overwhelmed at work, home, school or elsewhere, trying to fit too many tasks and to-dos in an already full schedule, or so dismayed at your lack of progress that you want to give up, you can reclaim more time and put breathing room back in your life. Here’s how.
It’s a Matter of Reorganization
While you can’t add or subtract a few hours in your day, you can determine what’s necessary, desirable, advances your goals, or not. Once you figure out the projects, tasks, obligations and activities that are essential, do-able, help you be the best you can be and allow for spiritual, if not emotional, psychological and career growth, you can discover a spare hour or two you didn’t think you had. It all boils down to reorganization.
The core of reorganization involves prioritization, the deliberate and conscious act of assigning everything a place in the echelon of what must be done, what should be done, what can wait until later, what you want to do, and what you may need assistance to complete.
Map Out a Strategy
If there’s an overarching goal you want to achieve, or several, along with reorganizing what’s on your daily to-do list, you’ll benefit from taking the time to map out a strategy for how to get what you want. Look at all those items you’ve spent time putting higher or lower on your reorganization list and determine where, if at all, they fit in your long-term planning. Do they help you get closer to realizing your goal? Are they filler material, busywork, something that’s accumulated over time and now you’re expected to do? Or, do they challenge you to step up and go beyond your comfort zone, present you with opportunities to learn and gain or perfect a skill?
If your list of tasks, chores, projects and activities includes some that do nothing for your strategy to achieve your goal(s), eliminate them. You’ve automatically carved out some breathing room – assuming you aren’t pressured or forced to do some of those items by your boss, family obligations, or other outside influences.
Give Yourself a Day When You Schedule Nothing
Then, see where the day takes you. Granted, taking a day off and having absolutely nothing planned seems like the height of self-indulgence. Frankly, if you’re reaching the point of work burnout or are so in over your head that you’re not very effective at all, a day that’s a blank slate is probably just what you need. So, the day starts off with no activities planned. See how you feel. What do you want to do today? And, while you’re at it, contemplate when, if ever, you’ve given yourself such total freedom to do whatever you want? What you’ll find is that you’ll gravitate toward some nourishing and life-affirming activities, maybe engaging in long-unattended-to self-care, spending a few hours at a hobby you enjoy but haven’t had time to devote to, going for a walk, taking in a movie, visiting a café or coffeeshop with friends, planning a holiday vacation, even making yourself a meal that only you like.
Time is like water. It will find a way around whatever you put in its path and fill up any void. By making time when you’ve got nothing on your schedule, you’ll feel energized and fulfilled doing whatever it is that makes you feel good. And that’s reclaiming time in the best possible way.
Create Nurturing Morning and Evening Routines
How you start and end each day should be an essential part of the day itself. Indeed, one of the easiest to accomplish and most likely to succeed ways to greet and release the day is to create nurturing routines for the morning and night. Having your morning coffee routine situated so it’s a no-brainer when you wake up will give you the caffeine head-start you need without troubling yourself over the task. To do this, lay out the coffee mug, spoon, sugar, pre-fill the coffee pot or put on the timer so it makes itself according to your schedule. If you’re not a coffee drinker, but prefer tea instead, the same pre-planning holds true. Note that this is just one example many can relate to, yet it works for other comforting morning rituals as well.
Equally important, however, is the thought you put into what you do before retiring for the evening. Now is the time when you want to unwind and allow your mind to drift, not tax it with an unrelenting list of what you must tackle tomorrow. Take a leisurely soaking bath, meditate, relax with an engrossing book, listen to soothing music — you get the idea. Laying out your wardrobe for the morning, tending to your grooming basics and getting into your comfortable go-to-sleep environment is both nurturing and nourishing. It also primes your subconscious and your body to recharge and rebuild.
Your Journey Is Your Own, So Avoid Comparisons
So what if your brother-in-law has become a millionaire and he’s not yet 30? What difference does it make if your co-worker seems to breeze through assignments and has a tendency to lord it over you? Shortcuts and quick routes to success may seem ideal, yet you know that earning the prize, securing the promotion, achieving the earnestly desired goal requires that you put in the effort to do it right. Only then will you feel like you’ve really accomplished what you set out to do. Comparing your progress to others is an exercise in futility. It also wastes precious time and does nothing to assist you in making strides toward what matters most to you.
In line with this, do celebrate your small wins by taking the time to appreciate the victories. This serves as a kind of self-affirmation and motivates you to continue. It also helps put time in perspective. You have one life to live, and it’s your life, not anyone else’s. Keep this foremost in your mind and you’ll find you have more breathing room in your life, naturally.