During college, I spent a lot of time with friends “just hanging out.” Even during our busiest semesters we made the time to enjoy ourselves and each other. Then many of us got married or moved away for jobs, or both. Getting together with old friends after college is a challenge because of distance alone, but what I found was that even those nearby were still too busy to get together for a dinner, game night, or simple frozen yogurt. How come my husband and I had time outside of work but our friends didn’t?
Because of this, for a long time, I thought we were doing something wrong: we weren’t active enough in the community or our church; our house wasn’t getting cleaned often enough; we were too rested. But now I see things differently.
Rai and I have each consistently worked two jobs since the beginning of our marriage, and we have also consistently had enough time in the evenings and weekends to watch TV (of which I’m not proud, but that’s beside the point), play card games, take the dog for a walk (we may be lazy, but we’ve got the time, anyway), and just relax. Maybe we’re not doing anything wrong. Perhaps we’re actually doing something right.
Here are six ways that you, too, could make more time for fun and relaxation, even though you think you’re too busy (and even if you have kids).
1. Cut out the “unnecessaries.”
This is the simplest answer I have for you, yet you’re probably thinking, “I have nothing I can cut out of my schedule at the moment.” But I challenge you to make a list of all the tasks and responsibilities assigned to you, and then I challenge you to strongly consider that one or two of those could take a trip to the bottom of your priority list in order for you to get some RnR. Self-care is important, and we all need to make the time to enjoy life a little—it’ll make all those other responsibilities more bearable. And parents, your kids don’t need every hour full from dawn till dusk. They need quality time with you. I hope you believe me.
2. Delegate tasks.
This may be easier at work than at home, but it can be done anywhere. In an article on forbes.com, “The Muse” wrote, ” At the end of your day—every day!—write down two things that you did that someone else could have done for you. They might be administrative tasks, housework, or simply to-do items that someone else could have accomplished just as easily.”
The writer then suggests acting the next day by delegating those tasks. This might mean giving up control and risking perfectionism, but wouldn’t you like to go to bed without thoughts racing through your mind about what didn’t get done and what all you have to do the next day? Simply assign certain tasks to different people, and then let them handle it. Period.
3. Ask for help.
Along the same lines, whether at work or not, many of us have a hard time asking for help. However, I want you to imagine that someone has just asked you to help them with a simple task (running an errand, watering their plants while they’re away, feeding their dog, printing copies, etc.). Imagine this person isn’t just asking because he’s too lazy to do it himself; it’s a genuine favor. How do you feel? Are you annoyed that a friend or family asked a favor? If you’re like me, you feel needed. And it’s nice to feel needed. My husband hates asking me to help with anything around the house. He will emphatically apologize if he didn’t have time to cook dinner and needs me to do it for him. But to be honest, I don’t mind (don’t tell him that). Sometimes we feel like freeloaders because we ask our friends to take care of our pets when we’re gone, but we rarely get asked to do things for them. Honestly, we would be honored if someone trusted us enough to ask a favor every once in a while. Maybe that’s just us.
4. Make a point to do something fun everyday.
Fun? Who’s got time for fun? Exactly. It’s a problem. If you’re in the habit of only having fun once every few weeks or months, it’s not because you don’t have the time; it’s because your priorities are out of order. Work hard; play hard only works if you make time for both. What’s more, self-care involves relaxing periodically, enjoying friendship and family, date nights with your spouse, quality alone time. If you’ve got a bible, turn to Ecclesiastes, and read about how we are supposed to spend our time outside of work. Then do it. Start with ten minutes a day–play a game, go for a leisurely walk, swim, chat with an old friend on the phone. But designate that time for just what you want to do. No multi-tasking. No taking calls from work.
5. Say “no” (politely and without shame).
Those of you who have so much on your plates as it is, quit taking on more! If you’re someone that people often come to for help, congratulations: you’re considered dependable. But if someone can’t understand that you have needs of your own, then they’re probably taking advantage of you, or at least taking you for granted. Develop a way, or ways, to let people down gently, but tell the truth: “I’ve been on my feet all day, and I just need to relax for a little while;” “My husband/wife and I haven’t seen much of each other this week. We really just need to reconnect tonight;” “I’ve already got plans tonight, but I can help you tomorrow morning;” “You can have me for 30 minutes, but then I’ve got to get home (to play Battleship).”
Think of it this way: if you give in, later on you’ll wish you had used your time more wisely (that has nothing to do with efficiency here). But if you set boundaries and organize your priorities, you’ll make time for what matter most to you. You won’t regret that.
6. Get up earlier. (And go to bed earlier.)
If you’re simply not a morning person, then this doesn’t apply to you, and it’s okay. But if you’re not 100% opposed to revising your routine, then this may be a good change to implement. I find it easier to be productive when each of my tasks has its own time slot. So, I get up at 5am to write for a couple of hours, go to work, come home and work out, then the rest of the evening is up to me. My days and weeks vary in levels of chaos as much as the next person’s, but this is my general routine for now. If I were to get up at seven, my evenings would be booked with writing and workouts, and then it’s time for bed. Also, getting up earlier is energizing. I feel more productive, even though I may go to bed earlier to make up for lost sleep.
There are only 24 hours in a day, and you choose how you spend them. How is your lifestyle working out for you? How is it affecting your family and friendships? What can you do to improve? The answers are probably much simpler than you realize. They just take action.