How to Make Time for Yourself When You Have Zero Time

Do any of these phrases sound familiar? "I don’t have enough time." "I’m swamped." "Sorry, I’d love to but I can’t." Or, my friend recently said twice to me over the phone, "I just don’t know where I’m supposed to find the time to fit all this stuff in."

Beaten down, battered, and burned out is what many of us affirm we are each day, but it doesn’t have to be this way. You actually can experience your days differently. You can feel like your activities enrich rather than deplete you, and like most of what you do is chosen rather than foisted upon you. Sound impossible? Here are four ways to create more time for yourself during the day — that don't have anything to do with your schedule:

1. Listen to Yourself

Many of us, especially women, grow up thinking we need to take care of everyone else before we tend to ourselves. Women are socialized to be caretakers, to give constantly, no matter the cost to our health. It’s good to give, but not so much that it jeopardizes our health and sanity.By listening to how you feel and acting accordingly, you give your needs the time and attention they deserve. Practice observing, "This feels good to me," and, "This doesn’t." Say, "Yes, I can do that," or, "No, I can’t." You're not being selfish. You're taking care of yourself, doing what’s best for you, so that you can be healthier and happier. “A healthy relationship with oneself is a prerequisite for healthy, compassionate and loving relationships with others,” says New York City-based psychotherapist Susan Solomon. “The word narcissism gets a bad rap! There is pathological narcissism (selfish and grandiose) and there is healthy narcissism (autonomous and self-sufficient). When we live in a place of healthy narcissism, we are open to connection.”

The more you listen to your own wants and needs, the more you affirm what you think and feel is valuable. Once you know what your real priorities are, you're better able to fill our time with what lights you up and not what brings you down.Try It: Ask yourself throughout the day, “What do I need right now?” “What do I want to do now?” “Where do I want to go?” “Who do I want to be with?”

2. Set Boundaries

“Sure, I’ll help you move.” “I’d love to plan your birthday party.” “You need this in twenty minutes? Of course, no problem.” No problem. Of course. I’d love to. Ring a bell? It does for me. I used to spend a lot of time saying yes when I really wanted to say no, which meant I complained to my friends and family about work, then grumbled to my family about my friends, and to my friends I went off about my family. I felt I was being pulled in every direction, sacrificing my plans and wants to please others, then blaming others for hogging of all my time.If you want to create more room for yourself in your days, you have to respect your own time and set boundaries. Solomon says, “Women need to enter the unfamiliar territory of setting boundaries for themselves. If we forget to nurture ourselves, we end up at the bottom of the totem pole enraged, lonely and resentful.” Drawing clear borders will transform the time you’d normally spend annoyed or guilty and turn it into free time to care for yourself.Try It: For the next 48 hours, pay attention to when you say yes, when you want to say no, and when you avoid confrontation or put others needs before your own. These are all instances where you have the opportunity to take control of your time. Finish these sentences: “If I took more responsibility for my time, it would look like ____________.” “If I took more responsibility for my time, my day would look like ________________.”

3. Focus on what you want

Time drags when you think about what you aren’t happy with. The thoughts not only exhaust you, they also lead to more negative thoughts. Pretty soon, you’re wasting your precious time looking at other people’s lives on Facebook or Instagram, wondering why you and your life don't measure up.It's time to retrain your brain to focus on what you want instead of what you don’t. This way, your time is spent moving toward something instead of dwelling on what’s not happening.Try It: For the next 48 hours, notice when you start to get down on yourself. Ask yourself, “What could I be doing right now that would make me feel better?” Maybe it’s going for a walk, reading, drawing, eating almonds, or letting yourself nap on the couch. Anytime you notice yourself allowing in a negative thought, take a deep breath and replace the thought with something that makes you smile.

4. Participate

How many times during the day do you brush your teeth, go to the bathroom, shower, turn a computer on or off, push a chair in, put on a jacket, tie shoes, walk up steps, ride an elevator, or do dishes without even really registering the action? What if, instead of just going through the motions of these everyday activities, you participated in them?Instead of letting time pass us by, we can become active and take advantage of it. Every time I brush my teeth I rattle off what I’m grateful for. Before I turn on my computer I say one thing that I like about myself, and I do the same when I turn it off. When I make my bed I think about what I want my day to look like. These practices haven't shaved minutes, much less hours off of my day, but they have alerted me to whole stretches of time I used to spend in a daze, not participating in my own life. Try It: When you put your socks on in the morning, say two things you like about yourself. When you close your eyes in the shower, say something you’re grateful for. Buy a small whiteboard, put it on your refrigerator, and write yourself a kind or inspiring or thought-provoking note to look at every day. If these small acts feel silly, all the more reason to do them. You give so many other things your attention. Now try giving that level of attention to yourself. Creating more time doesn’t necessarily mean adding more hours to your days. It means changing the way we see time and interact with it. Yes, it’s hard work. It takes practice, because it’s not something many of us have learned. After the above techniques become second nature, though, you start to see that time has been there for you all along.