Determine How Much Free Time You Really Have
Sometimes we delude ourselves into thinking that we can do everything, but that usually backfires in an ugly way. Here is a good example: accepting invitations to two parties on the same night, which are being held on opposite ends of town.
We think we can manage to drop into the first party, say hello, quickly nibble something, and be on our way. Well, invariably something will cause a delay. A long lost acquaintance will be in attendance (and how can you leave with all that catching up to do), the hostess will ask for help, traffic will be bad, or one of about a hundred other scenarios will play out. Instead of enjoying party number one, you’ll find yourself worrying about getting to party number two. The hostess at party number two is expecting you, and now you are disappointing her. You are sure to be feeling stressed and probably wondering what on earth compelled you to think that you could stretch time to suit your needs.
Most likely you thought you could manage two parties. In our heads time seems fluid and malleable. We think we can manipulate it to our liking. Unfortunately, time is not like that, it is definite. Every hour has just 60 minutes, with a fixed start and a fixed end. How many free hours do you have each week? By free, I mean truly uncommitted, where you don’t 'have' to do anything.
When I ask that question to my time management clients they start by subtracting work hours, commute times and maybe sleep from their day. Usually these clients have contacted me because they feel like they should be accomplishing much more than they are. They think they have more time than they do and they wonder where it goes. It’s my job to break the news that they have been unrealistic in their thinking, and clue them into the fact they don’t have as nearly as much time available as they think they do.
Over committing ourselves seems to be a national past time. Which is ironic because most of us feel like we have no free time at all. One would think the rational person would just start saying no. But because we don’t like to disappoint people, we say yes far too often. We figure somehow we’ll fit it all in.
And maybe we could fit it all in, if we didn’t have to sleep, eat, shower, go to the gym, pick up kids at daycare, shop for household necessities, or do any of the things I consider acts of daily living. Most acts of daily living are critical to keeping the metaphorical home fires burning. Some aren’t critical, but they add to the quality of our life in a way that nothing else can, like keeping up with friends or enjoying date night with our partner.
Almost everyone keeps a calendar of sorts. For the most part we only log time sensitive appointments. We may pencil in reminders as well. But with only those things written down, you cannot expect to have a realistic idea about the amount of time you actually have available. This is where the trouble starts. We see open time slots, so we think we have open time.
When was the last time you accounted for an entire 24 hours or a whole week? By accounted, I mean looked at where your time goes hour by hour. How long does it take to put dinner on the table, how much time do you need to unwind before you actually go to sleep, how much sleep do you need? How much time does it take to do laundry, shop for groceries, sort mail, pay bills, run errands and clean house?
If you want to avoid over committing you need know how much time you actually have available. Think about what you do from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to sleep. Account for all those activities, no matter how mundane. Fixing breakfast, doing laundry, walking pets, childcare drop off/pick up, transporting kids, exercise class, shopping, errands, family time, etc.
This activity is guaranteed to be an eye opener. You will see how full an average week of your life really is. Consider this a reality check. You will know definitively how much you can say yes to without becoming over scheduled.
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