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Find time for the things you love

OCT 21, 2014
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Society’s schedule tells you when it’s time to work, eat, sleep, and play. It can be difficult to resist pressures to overschedule your life.


When you plan your time according to what you value, you can set goals and use simple time management techniques to find a schedule that gives you time for fun, relaxation, daydreaming, family, friends, and hobbies.


Step 1: Set some goals


Setting these goals will help you to determine how you spend your time. Your goals should influence your daily decisions on how to invest your time and energy.


  • Write down some short-, medium-, and long-term goals.
  • Which of them are you willing to commit a lot of time and effort to?
  • Which ones are realistic and achievable if you plan them carefully and give them the right amount of effort?


As you experiment, you may find yourself rethinking and revising your goals periodically.


Step 2: Find out where your time goes


If you’re like most people, you’re in such a hurry that you don’t really have a good sense about how you’re spending your time. Try keeping a time log for a day or more.


Each hour you’re awake, take a few seconds to record your activities and how much time you spend on each. It helps to have an alarm watch to remind you to make an entry.


Have a look at each entry and add up the amount of time you spent in various categories. Include things like work, phone calls, meetings, socializing, eating cooking, bathing, shopping, commuting, running errands, watching TV, hobbies, exercise, reading, and child care.


Any surprises? Do you spend the most time on activities that reflect your values? Are there things you can cut out or do less of?




Step 3: Make a to-do list


Now that you know where your time really goes, keep a running list of things you need to do. Don’t organize them by deadline or importance. As you look at each entry, ask yourself:


  • What would happen if I didn’t do this?
  • Is this task worth my time?
  • Do I need to do this, or could someone else do it?


Now that you know what you’d like to do, make a to-do list. Break complex tasks into smaller, more manageable steps and put them into the best order to do them, and set a date that gives you a little more time than you think you’ll need to do them, just to be on the safe side. Put these steps and actions into your calendar, so you can do them all on a planned schedule.


Step 4: Check your progress


After about a month, check to see how you’re doing. Ask yourself:


  • Are you accomplishing more?
  • Are you more effective?
  • Do you feel more in control?
  • Are you making progress toward the really important things in your life?
  • Are you happier?


Did you answer no to some of these questions? Make sure you’re spending most of your time on high-priority items.


If you’re doing too many low-priority ones, you’re probably wasting your time, so ask yourself why you’re choosing to do these tasks.


Are things taking longer than expected? Come up with a more realistic schedule.


Step 5: Try, try again


No matter how well organized you are or how well you’ve planned your day, sometimes things just don’t go right — or the way you expected.


That’s ok. Be flexible, let your intuition tell you when to charge ahead and when to back off, and look for ways to be more efficient:


Ask for help. Ask other people to do tasks that aren’t a good use of your time, so you can concentrate on the jobs you really have to do. It’s not a sign of failure to ask for help. It’s a sign of intelligence and good management.


Take breaks. When you run into a roadblock, it’s tempting to get frustrated and lose hope. Take some time out and tell yourself it’s a temporary setback. Set a specific time to come back to the snag, and work on something else in the meantime.


Reduce interruptions. If you’re doing something, ask yourself whether you need to answer every phone call, text, or IM right away. Ask co-workers, family, and friends to respect your time, and thank them when they do.


Cut the clutter. Add goals to get rid of unnecessary papers and things you “might need someday” or “should read,” organize the things you keep to be easier to find and use, create a workable filing system for your papers, and reevaluate your magazine subscriptions.


Source: Adapted with permission from the Healthy Mind, Healthy Body Handbook (as published under the title Mind & Body Health Handbook), David Sobel, MD, and Robert Ornstein, PhD, 1996
Reviewed by: Andrew Bertagnolli, PhD and Craig Robbins, MD, July 2013
Additional Kaiser Permanente reviewers © 2013 Kaiser Permanente

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