Feeling over-extended is pretty much a normal day-to-day experience for most of us. It's why learning how to make time for yourself and for the things you actually want to be doing is so very important if we want to feel like we're living meaningful lives.
According to psychotherapist Atalanta Beaumont in a piece for Psychology Today, setting boundaries and carving out time for ourselves can be a big struggle because most of us were raised to be accommodating, helpful people who don't like letting others down. This can mean that before you know it, your schedule is packed with things you feel like you should do, and not necessarily the things that make you happy.
Beaumont goes on to say that when we don't have time for ourselves or when we say yes to something out of guilt, we often just end up feeling resentment for the person or thing to which we've committed our time. And resentment, she wrote, is like "swallowing poison and waiting for the other person do die. It's highly corrosive, but only to you."
If you're starting to feel like all of your time goes to things you don't actually feel invested in, then it just might be time to make a change. Here are seven tips to help you make time for the things in life you truly care about.
1. Get Specific About What You Want
In a piece for Real Simple, David Allen, a productivity expert and the author of the bestseller Getting Things Done, said to get specific about what you want more time for. Do you feel like you never get to see friends and loved ones, like you always are putting off that painting class, or like you just never get to sit and relax? He said you'll be more motivated to change if you define a specific goal.
2. Figure Out How You Currently Spend Your Time
And according to productivity writer Leslie Moser in a piece featured on Forbes about how to actually make time for yourself even when your schedule is crazy, you must also assess how you're currently spending your time. Take a few minutes to write down where your time goes each day, including things like commuting and web-surfing. Identifying where your time goes can help you see things that you can swap or cut out completely.
3. Give Something Up
This might not sound ideal, but the truth of the matter is if you want to make more time for some things, you'll have to spend less time doing something else. And in that same Real Simple piece, Neil Fiore, Ph.D., a psychologist in Berkeley, California said, "Research shows that to be productive and creative, you must make time for recreation and relaxation. Trying to skimp on them hurts your motivation and often leads you to procrastinate.” So put less pressure on yourself to do everything and remind yourself that if it doesn't make you happy, what's the point anyway?
4. Map It Out
In a piece for MindBodyGreen, lifestyle blogger Sarah Von Bergen said it's important to map out specifically how you will achieve what you want to be doing, whether it's taking piano lessons or finally traveling to Europe. "Map out your end game and work backward from there, breaking your big, huge goal down into teeny, tiny steps attached to a timeline," she wrote. "If you want to own a home, [...] what do you need to have done at the nine-month point? The six-month point? The three-month point?"
5. Learn To Say No
Saying no can be really, really hard for some of us, but it's an incredibly necessary skill for keeping balance in our lives. In an article on ways to say no for Forbes, productivity writer Frances Booth recommended thinking about all of the things you'll be saying no to if you say yes to the request in front of you. "Look at what or who you’re saying yes to at the minute. What or who (including yourself) does that mean you are then saying no to," she asked. Does it mean you'll have to miss out on that dinner with friends? Or an evening spent giving yourself some much needed relaxation time? Sometimes when we think of what saying yes will mean in terms of other things we'll have to give up, saying no becomes easier to do.
And don't forget — saying no is like a muscle — the more you do it (and the more you realize nothing bad will end up happening when you do), the easier it gets!
6. Treat It Like A Real "To Do"
Moser also stressed the importance of actually scheduling in the thing or things you want to make time for — even if it's just "take a bubble bath." She wrote, "When you plan your week, treat your downtime activities as some of your major to-dos, setting aside time for them in the same way you would set aside time for a big meeting or a project you need to work on," and that by doing this you'll find yourself more accountable to it.
7. Make It Irreversible
And finally, Bergen recommended making the thing you want to do irreversible. Buy a one-way, non-refundable ticket, or put in a deposit on that improv class. Once you've committed yourself you will be forced to make time for it, as opposed to simply saying you'll do it "some day."
One of the scariest things about life is that time goes by so fast — and when we're constantly over-scheduled and over-extended it can be easy to come to realize that we're not actually spending our precious time on the things we love. So take a few minutes to figure out what you really want to be doing, make a concrete plan of action, and do it!