People blame the lack of me-time in their lives on their circumstances and in this article I try to show that it has more to do with a lack of personal skill.
Why You Have So Little “Me-Time”
As a knowledge worker, you aren’t alone if you find yourself running out of “me-time” – the time you need to spend taking care of yourself. If the amount is far below your expectations, here’s why.
Back when you completed your tertiary studies or apprenticeship, finding “me-time” probably wasn’t an issue. However, as you assumed greater commitments over the years, you probably started to feel a squeeze. Today, if you are an ambitious, Type A individual, you may have an acute problem. Your high energy levels and competitive spirit have made it easy to create more time demands than other people. This has had a positive effect – more recognition and promotions – but also an expensive, accumulated toll.
What kind of toll?
Well, if you define “me-time” as the discretionary hours spent each away from work, community obligations and church responsibilities, then it covers the following:
– Opportunities to recharge between intense projects
– Date nights with a spouse
– Play-time with your kids
– Long chats engaging your parents
– Hanging out with friends
– Daily devotions and/or planning
When you allocate time away from these activities, it takes a toll.
In an earlier article (August 31, 2014) I mentioned the need to spend 15 hours with your spouse per week if you hope to maintain the relationship. Recent research backs this up, showing a direct, negative correlation between time spent together and the probability of one day being divorced.
Some adults fail to see the need to spend quality time with their children. When I was a teen, a friend shared that one of the worst days in her life was when her parents forgot her birthday. Perhaps they just weren’t spending enough “me-time.”
Most articles that address this problem focus on the need to make explicit, written schedules that produce the desired balance. “What gets scheduled gets done” is more than a cliche. It’s backed up by researchers like NYU’s Peter Gollwitzer, who coined the term “implementation intention.
It describes a time demand that also specifies a specific start time, duration and location. Data shows that implementation intentions dramatically increase the odds that a task will be completed.
It follows therefore that if you want more “me-time” all you need do is schedule it. Unfortunately, this particular time demand is one of many which each deserve an equal commitment. Why not schedule them all? If you have ever tried this technique, you know that there are some major obstacles.
One obstacle is a misconception. Too many of us believe that becoming a better time manager involves discovering a single method and applying it diligently for the rest of our careers. This is incorrect. Instead, if you hope to survive the inevitable increase in time that life brings, you must evolve your behaviour.
Fortunately, my research shows that there is a standard track for knowledge workers to follow in their development in this area. Success relies on your ability to make the right shifts at the right time from one method to another. Here are five examples that can help you retain all the me-time you need. Each of them involves picking up a new practice, as stated, and they are listed here in approximate order of complexity.
Change 1 – From mental calendar to paper calendar
New practice – Carrying a printed calendar everywhere. Back in the 1990’s, toting around a leather notebook-planner was a sure sign of being a serious professional. Taking the extra step of converting a time demand from a mere thought into a written object transforms it.
Change 2 – From paper calendar to digital calendar
New practice – Managing an electronic device. It is all too easy to use a smartphone without mastering the necessary skills. They include keeping it charged, backing it up to the cloud and making its calendar available on multiple platforms.
Change 3 – From only scheduling meetings to scheduling all major tasks
New practice – Placing all your tasks straight into your calendar as soon as they are confirmed. Eschew To-Do lists.
Change 4 – From manually juggling your schedule to using software
New practice – Obtaining and using some of the most recent software like Timeful or SkedPal. (I play an advisory role in the latter.) Both use artificial intelligence to produce an optimized, custom calendar with the press of a button.
Change 5 – From doing your own scheduling to trusting an executive assistant
New practice – Training and trusting someone else to manage your schedule. Share your priorities so they are never violated.
While most people find themselves stuck at Change 1, there are knowledge workers at every level here in Jamaica. The reason so few are able to progress, is that five changes are to make. But they are the only way to keep finding the “me-time” you need to function. For those who are successful, “me-time” is not an afterthought, but a matter of consciously refining hard-won scheduling skills.
Francis Wade is the author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity and a management consultant. To receive a free Summary of each of his past articles, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org