How frequently do the words “I don’t have time” pass your lips? Quite often, I’ll bet.
But here’s some news for you: It’s a lie. We all have 24 hours in each day—you, me, Oprah. If you are alive, you have time. But how to allocate your time on this opportunity-rich Earth is up to you.
Every time we say “I don’t have time,” it makes us feel weak and out of control. We buy into the myth of the rush against the hourglass—the daily race we’re all losing to get it all done.
The truth is, you are in control of your hours and your life. And hate to break it to you, but you are likely wasting a lot of it! According to Nielsen, the average American watches about five hours of TV per day.
But I know it’s not as easy as simply turning off the TV. Here are four concrete steps that’ll help you take back control and get time on your side.
Take Back Your Time!
1. Ask yourself: What activities really, really matter to me?
Some popular responses I hear (outside of our jobs): cooking, yoga, date nights, side-hustling, watching House of Cards, Skyping family, reading, taking bubble baths, hanging out with friends, going to sporting events, and catching up on sleep on Sundays.
These are all awesome and important things—if they make you happy! And all of these can be done over the course of a week. Think about it: If you work eight hours per day and sleep eight hours per day, you have eight hours per day for everything else.
Depending on your job, it could be a little less—maybe four or five hours per day. But that’s still plenty of time to whip up a nice dinner, enjoy some social time with people you love, hit the gym, kick back with a podcast, and even catch up with President Underwood for an episode or two.
These hours exist. Acknowledge them! They can add up to a solid good chunk per week, not including the jackpot of extra hours: the weekend!
2. Identify your blocks.
Be honest: Do you spend an hour or two scrolling through Facebook and Instagram every day? Are you a little too hungover on Saturday mornings to work out or run some necessary errands, which eats into your time to chill or read? Are you spending time with people that you don’t really like just to please them? Are there meetings you attend that you can politely decline?
It’s time to get real about the hours in your week that add up to a whole lot of dissatisfying nothing. Think instead of how you can eliminate daily activites that are not useful and replace them with things that satisfy you. I love nothing more than saying no to a boring brunch date to sit with a book for two hours. Bliss!
3. Set an agenda.
People tell me how they have no time to read or will start their blog/yoga teacher training/closet clean-out when they “have the time.” Well, the time is now, my friend. But like planning for a nice meal or a job interview, you have to prepare a little.
The solution: Put it on your calendar! My calendar includes mani-pedi dates (a great two-in-one activity to catch up with a friend), researching books, coaching clients, writing, checking out a new eatery or two each week, meditation slots, calling my best friend in Australia, updating my software skills, walking my dog, and even going to the bank. This stuff doesn’t just happen. You’ve got to schedule it.
Plus, I have a blast planning. On Sunday nights, I love to sit down with a glass of chianti or a cup of tea, light a candle, and get excited about the week ahead. I always lock in the fun stuff first! I block off social stuff in purple, creative work in pink, workouts in turquoise, and business projects in blue. My calendar feels fun and vibrant. It’s like my trusty assistant—not my domineering boss!
4. Change your language.
Words matter. They have power. And let’s be honest: Saying “I don’t have time” is a bullsh*t excuse for not wanting to do something. Here are some awesome, empowering alternatives:
- “I choose not to start that project until next year.”
- “I’d love to read that book—I’ll get to it after my home renovations are complete!”
- “CrossFit sounds fun, but I love my current cycling and Pilates mix.”
- “I’d love to party this weekend but have a work deadline I need to prioritize.”
As Steven Covey, the late, best-selling author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, wrote, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
So for the love of all things holy—get better at saying no. Turn off all those distracting notifications on your phone. Use little pockets of time the universe gives us (friend running late, cab stuck in traffic, meeting ending 10 minutes early) to squeeze in some productive thinking or action—and meditation totally counts. All these things can add up over time more than you believe!
Yes, it might feel strange at first. You’re seizing your power. But when you don’t have a plan for your life, someone else will plan it for you. But it’s your life. And your precious hours on planet Earth. They’re all you’ve got!
Susie Moore is Greatist’s life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for her free Side Hustle Prep School and check back every Tuesday for her latest No Regrets column!