14 Jan Imagine 10 extra hours a week. Here are 18 ways working women can make time for self
What would you do if someone gave you 10 extra hours this week? Would you take that time so you could feel better and enjoy your life? What if I said you could do it every week?
I can tell you from personal experience that creating more time for yourself is possible even when life’s demands are significant. I felt that most intensely after the birth of my daughter and I had a full-time job. At that time, I felt powerless over my own life. But after digging in and doing some of the things on the list below, I made some significant shifts (both in my life and mentally) that changed my entire relationship with time.
What’s the secret sauce? Well, it isn’t very secret! Working women everywhere have shared their tips. So I took the best of my own experience and combined it with some of the best of the best advice I could find out there and created this list just for you.
18 ways working women can make more ME time (plus 3 pro-tips!)
- Plan your time to save time. Set aside time to plan out your day including scheduling your time – not just writing out a task list. Planning professionals say that planning every day will allow you make the time you want.
- Get up earlier (and go to bed earlier). This has been my essential “go to” solution that gives me an extra 60-90 minute each day. When my daughter was younger and getting up WAY earlier, that wasn’t possible. But now my mornings give me time for myself. And instead of staying up late and watching TV or scanning the internet, I go to bed.
- Morning routine: This is a biggy. Make your mornings work for you so run as smooth as possible. Can you get you and your family’s outfits set out? Can the breakfast be prepped? Can the lunches be packed in advance? Can backpacks be organized in advance?
- Limit your consumption of social media and TV. Did you know Americans spend more than 2.4 hours a day in front of the TV? And globally people spend 118 minutes a day on social media? Be conscious about what you really want with screen time and reclaim time for you.
- Schedule “me” time on your calendar. This tip is the holy grail. It’s surprising what happens when you actually schedule something on your calendar. When I began to schedule me time, it happened. (Reality check: the “me” time doesn’t always happen as I hope. Life sometimes gets derailed but I achieve it most of the time.)
- Stop multi-tasking: When you are on your computer, do you start a task but then an email comes in so you open that, and get distracted so you open your web browser to do another project? And then by noon you are “working” on 5 different projects at once? The science is there: multi-tasking is a time waster. When you are focused on one given task, you will move through it much more quickly. Be more productive and reclaim some time.
- Start your work day with the most important items: Pick 1-2 important items on your list, and do those first. By addressing what’s most important first (and not multi-tasking!) you will feel that sense of productivity and achievement. That feeling will allow yourself the freedom to make time for yourself.
- Convert a slice of your work time to ME time. Take 30-60 minutes at work and convert it into “me” time? For example, use your lunch break to take an actual break. I don’t know how many moms I know that work through lunch. I did too until I remembered: Hey wait, this is a time I have child care.
- Say no more often. Do you feel everyone needs your time? Sure, you want to be generous to those who want and need it. But only YOU know the full range of demands on your time. And so therefore you are the best judge of when to say no. So start to use that two-letter word NO more than you do now. I used to be a people pleaser and said yes to a lot. Then I started to say no and guess what? Everyone still liked me.
- Establish boundaries at work. How much does your work life bleed into your evenings and weekends? For me, it used to happen all of the time. Why did I do that? Guilt. But when I set up a couple of rules around my availability both for meetings and by email, people adapted far more easily than I would have imagined.
- Turn off your email for most of your work day. Change how you interact with email. In a brutal way. Most people leave their email on all day long. In truth, you have created a distracted work environment. Turn off the email and get things done. Create times for when you open, read, and respond to emails. And then take that time you saved and do something for yourself.
- Change your commute. Look at how you could reduce your commute time. Ask yourself these questions: Could you work from home 1-2 days a week? Could you leave work earlier and avoid rush hour commute? Could you go into work ultra-early (avoiding the rush hour commute) and leave early? Could you adapt your commute so you spend less time doing it.
- Outsource: Before I became a parent, I did everything in my life. It wasn’t until only very recently that I dropped my attitude that I needed to “do it all” and started to rely on things like sitters, a cleaning service, and grocery deliver. If your budget allows for some help, invest it so you can “buy” a little time back for yourself.
- Examine flexible work options: Work flexibility especially for working moms can be essential for better life balance. But so many women never ask assuming it isn’t possible. Learn about asking for a flexible work schedule. Could you tele-commute 1 or 2 days a week? Could you work a compressed work week and get Fridays off? Investigate and explore.
- Stagger the parenting load. My husband and I used to a ton of parenting together. But then we started an approach where one parent spent quality one-to-one time with our daughter while the other did what they needed for themselves. Each parent gets their own kid “shift” so the other parent gets 2-3 hours blocks to themselves. Ah ha!
- Consider meal planning. You can find considerable time savings with meal planning and preparation. This probably deserves its own blog post but the big opportunity is to plan in advance, shop in advance, and meal prep in advance (like the night before or over the weekend) so that your evenings open up. My experience is this can give you hours back in any given week.
- Lower your expectations. You will always find obligations to fill your day. I can guarantee you the to-do list will always be there. But to make time for yourself, you will sometimes need to lower your expectations and just focus on yourself. That might not mean not doing the dishes one night, or waiting until some laundry piles up. But a perfect house is secondary to a happy self.
- Change your attitude toward time. Do you think, “I have no time!”? For years, I treated time as a scarce commodity. But then I changed my thinking and saw that I had a lot of choices about how I spent my day. I went from feeling I had no time to feeling excited about how to spend it. What we think about time heavily shapes our attitude. When you choose to think you have plenty of time, you may notice you will start to feel like there is plenty of it.
Here is my challenge to you: Pick 3 things from this list and start them this week. Try them out. Experiment. See what works. You may be surprised how quickly you can have that 10 hours a week to yourself.
P.S. Here are 3 pro-tips to help you be successful!
- Pro tip 1: Do you really know where your time is going? Really, truly? Think twice if you said yes. I thought I did until I actually logged my time. Once you see where your time goes, you will see opportunities to make the best use of your day.
- Pro tip 2: Every morning, be intentional about how you want your day to go. When I begin my day without a plan or a focus, the day flies by in a dysfunctional blur. But when I begin my day with clarity and a clear plan, the day goes more smoothly.
- Pro tip 3: Be ultra-protective about your “me time.” How often do you get through an entire day and the one small thing you put on there for yourself never happened? This happened because you didn’t create the habit to adhering to your me time. Learn how to make “me” time a habit.