I’m trying to break the habit of saying “I don’t have time for ______” (fill in the blank). My head knows what I really mean is “I must make more time for _____”. At the start of the month, I look at my calendar and see that the time is there, yet if I’m not careful, one day at a time, that time can slip through my fingers, leaving many important things undone. Meanwhile, all the Facebook posts have been read, the emails have been replied to within an hour, and the good movies have been watched or too many not-so-good books have been read.
‘Making more time’ does not necessarily adding to your life more things to do. You may want to make more time for quiet time – doing nothing – or savoring a sunset.
For most of my adult life, I’ve started the day having a cup of coffee and doing nothing – just staring out the window – a time to center myself. When our daughter was around 5 years old, she’d get out of bed and wordlessly snuggle in my lap – she somehow knew this was a time to be quiet. I got out of that habit many years ago, when I put wifi in our home, and started reading the newspaper online with that coffee (our daughter had long since grown out of her habit). I finally realized a few years ago that I was missing that quiet time, and restored my old routine.
Another example of my making more time: my wife and I started this past year marking off on our calendar every Friday evening as ‘date night’, which creates the opportunity for some quality one-on-one conversation, really nurturing the relationship, not just catching up on the events of the week. Having this blocked off on the calendar weeks in advance helps to keep other things from creeping in (though, inevitably, out-of-town visitors come, work trips intervene, etc)
Marking one’s calendar months in advance of things you are really interested in devoting time to is a simple way to help make time for important things. For example, many of us schedule our annual physical a year out, as we wrap up this year’s. That appointment may get bumped as the time approaches, but one rarely forgets it completely.
But you might say “I already have too many things to do – I can’t put more things on my schedule”. This simple approach of marking your calendar in advance at least let’s you make a conscious choice – when that party invitation comes for next Friday night, you can ask “what’s more important – our relationship or that party?”. This doesn’t mean you should become a hermit, and avoid all parties – it gives you a chance to consciously balance the need to nurture one’s spousal relationship and the relationships with friends.
Similarly, if your New Year’s resolution is to hit the gym at least one hour a day, if you leave it to the end of the day, after everything is “out of the way”, odds are good it ain’t gonna happen. Make it a regular time, e.g. before breakfast or during the lunch break, if not on your calendar then in your routine.
Making time for important things is a much deeper thing, too. I’m always amazed to learn about authors with day-jobs, kids, etc. who succeed in writing a book during the first hour of each day, the calm before the storm of everyday life. A friend of mine recently blocked out the entire month of December, to wrap up a book project that had been languishing. Hemingway wrote his first novel in the afternoons, after spending the morning filing stories for the Kansas City Star.
I’ve known people who, really committed to a career switch, studied for a new degree at night, while keeping their current job going. For example, two of my friends each decided to go to law school, while maintaining a day-job in a low-level position in a legal department, becoming full-fledged lawyers after graduation (by the way, at the time, neither of them seemed time-crunched or stressed-out). Scott Adams, the Dilbert cartoonist, first started drawing his comic strip at night while maintaining a full-time job in IT at Pacific Bell (which provided endless material for his first strips).
The first step to creating space in your life for new things is to take control of how you spend your time. Time is the one resource that is non-renewable. Make it count.