"What's the one moment of every day that you look forward to most?" It seems like a simple question, and yet, there I was, sitting in a swanky suite on a high floor of the London Hotel, racking my brain desperately for an obvious answer while life coach Christine Hassler sat across from me, smiling. "Don't overthink it," she said as I looked at her wide-eyed, hoping an answer — any answer — would magically materialize in brain. Why was I struggling so much with this? I had always wondered what it's like to meet with a life coach, or if there's truly something to be gained from sitting down with a complete stranger and spilling your guts. But after a few seconds of humming and hawwing and "I don't even know"-ing, I was starting to panic. Within just minutes of meeting her, Hassler had made me realize that when it comes to making time for myself... well, I suck at it. And apparently, that's more of a problem than I previously realized.
There are, obviously, benefits to carving out a chunk of time each day to call your own. According to a recent survey by T.J. Maxx, 58 percent of women between the ages of 25 and 60 say they try to make time for the things that matter most to them at least once a day, be it spending time with loved ones, going for a run, or simply enjoying an hour alone. And while it might not be possible to indulge in a little "me time" every single day, 93 percent of women said they felt happy, balanced, and more relaxed when they managed to squeeze in at least a few minutes of doing what they love best.
Which all sounds great — if you're lucky enough to belong to that 58 percent. Don't get me wrong — my life is busy, but not unbearably so. However, stepping back to just decompress has, unfortunately, never been a priority of mine. I usually find myself constantly racing from one obligation to the next, and my most valuable stolen moments of "me time" usually happen when I'm in transit — reading a book underground on the subway in the morning where I can't check my email even if I want to, or listening to a podcast uninterrupted for 10 whole minutes while I walk to my office. But those hardly seemed like moments so much as they were just parts of my daily routine. Was I just doing this whole "life" thing all wrong? I was about to find out.
93 percent of women said they felt happy, balanced, and more relaxed when they managed to squeeze in at least a few minutes of doing what they love best
T.J. Maxx is celebrating how women are making time for the moments that matter to them on their own terms, which is why they offered to set me up with Hassler, a former Hollywood agent turned life coach who specializes in giving advice to millennials. The plan was to sit down with her to chat about making the most of those moments that make me happy — even if they do happen on the subway. And while I was initially skeptical that spending a few minutes with a life coach would suddenly force me to prioritize an hour of free time every single day, Hassler's advice turned out to be pretty insightful. I discovered that talking to a life coach is a lot like talking to your best friend... a best friend who only wants to hear about you, and isn't afraid of long, slightly awkward silences while you think. Here were my top five takeaways from our session.
1. Anything can be a moment
Hassler was right — I was overthinking my "moment." As I awkwardly explained to her, "Um, well, I'm not sure, I guess, you know, grabbing my morning coffee?" was a thing I looked forward to every single day, she immediately latched on. "I like walking through the grass barefoot," she explained. Making time for yourself doesn't have to be some huge grand gesture. It just needs to be something that you enjoy doing. That first sip of a piping hot coffee you pick up on your way to the office? Totally a moment. But if what you look forward to most is meeting up with your friends for a drink after work at your go-to bar, or heading to an early morning hot yoga class, or spending an evening baking chocolate chip sea salt cookies, those are moments too. And you can have more than one!
2. Figure out what makes that moment so special, and find ways to apply that to other parts of your week
"So you're telling me getting coffee on my way to work is seriously a moment?" I asked. Hassler explained that of course it was — but she wanted to know what it was about that moment I liked so much. I had to think about this for a second. Other than the obvious — hello, caffeine — I realized I just kind of enjoyed talking with my favorite coffee cart lady every morning as I ordered my plain black cup of joe. It's always a brief exchange, the two of us smiling hello to each other as she hands me my usual order, but it's also the first interaction I have with a human for that day. I began to wonder out loud what would happen if I made more of an effort to start all of my mornings chatting with people I love, even if that just means shooting a quick text to friends. "Yes!" Hassler said. That would be a moment, too.
3. Say no
"People are more likely to do things because they think they're supposed to — not because they want to," Hassler says. And she's right — how often do you find yourself hitting up happy hours after a long day at work because you promised you would go... even though you're exhausted and would much rather be home in your pajamas? If you truly don't want to do something, just don't do it. There's no need to give an excuse why. If it's not a moment that truly matters to you and you can get away with skipping it... then skip it.
4. Oh, and get off of Instagram already
Look I'm not saying that Instagram is ruining your life — and neither is Hassler. There's lots of fun to be had choosing the perfect filter to use on your perfectly composed photo of the waffles you just made for breakfast. But FOMO is a very real and very stressful thing, and spending more than 10 minutes scrolling through your feed to see what everyone else is doing can detract from the moment you've set aside for yourself. Go ahead and hand out a few likes to photos that deserve them, but save your true appreciation for what's happening around you in real time instead.
5. Take up journaling
When Hassler told me it might be a good idea to keep a moments journal, I have to admit I wasn't immediately sold on the idea. But after spending a few days jotting down a list on my phone of the moments that made me the most happy during that day, I realized she was definitely onto something. Even if it's just a few quick bullet points typed in your Notes app, writing down the parts of your day that matter most to you immediately helps you see what you should be prioritizing. Plus, after a busy day, it's kind of amazing to see what stands out to you.
So what did I do in the days after my session with Hassler? I went out and got coffee, duh! And I made sure to bring along with me photographer Danielle Guenther, who helped me capture my favorite moment in all its early morning, caffeinated glory, so I would have something to remind me that this is not something to blow off. Oh, and I grabbed a few donuts to go, too.
I told you — my coffee lady is amazing, and she was totally down to let me mix up my morning routing by raiding her cart. Just don't tell anyone I snuck out the back... I wouldn't want anyone stealing my moment, you know?
At the end of the day, we're all crazy busy. And while Hassler's advice was great, you don't need a life coach to know that making time for yourself should always be on the top of your list... after all, why wouldn't you want to spend time with your amazing self? But it does help to have someone remind you that you are the person most worthy of your time... and you know what? That feeling really is the best.
Images: Fotolia; Giphy; Danielle Guenther