I’m not here to convince all of us on why we parents need ‘Me’ time. Instead, I’m here to discuss the Secret to Finding More Time so that we get our fill of it. Like discussed in ‘To Those Who Said, “Good Luck With That.”‘ people would tell me, before I became a parent, that I was going to have to say goodbye to doing the things I personally enjoyed after having kids. I can attest to that not being completely true because nearly every day I have to force myself to buck that trend. However, on the journey to solving how to exactly do that, I’ve come across a few secrets that seemed to open up opportunities for myself and I thought this would be the perfect forum to share those.
Ultimately it doesn’t come down to mastering Jedi mind tricks, or turning to the dark side in any way, it actually comes down to us having to honestly admit to ourselves that there IS time in our schedule. It may not seem like it right now but let’s give the below points some thought and see if we feel differently when we come out the other end.
We Can’t Make Excuses Anymore
MOST everyone has time they can find in their schedule to do some of the things they WANT to do. Notice I said, “most” and “want” so let’s talk about why that is.
First, I say “most” everyone because we do need to be realistic and acknowledge the world we live in where there are many individuals, like single parents for example, who are stretched so thin, raising multiple kids on their own, working several jobs, and trying to take online courses to further their education. So after all that, having five minutes alone and taking a hot, relaxing shower seems like a Price Is Right Showcase Showdown vacation. However, I will say that particular example closely resembles my own mother, when she was raising me and my siblings, but even she had spare time to leisurely read books, volunteer being my Boy Scouts den mother, go on dates, and do some light traveling. With that said, I would venture to guess that if we’re taking the time to read this article, we probably don’t fall into the ‘exception’ category.
We May Need to Shift Our Priorities
Then there’s the “want” that becomes key. Even the businessperson who works 60-80 hour work-weeks and complains that they only have time to go out to a nice dinner once a week needs to admit one thing…they WANT to work that many hours. How so? Because that person has done a family cost/benefit analysis (CBA), either consciously or subconsciously, that says, “I like having the money I’m making so I’m OK with working longer hours,” or maybe they’re thinking, “I’m better at working longer hours than I am at being a present parent,” and that’s their choice but ultimately that is still a choice.
Another, more practical, example of “want” is the person who says, “I’d LOVE to [Insert Hobby Here] but it’s been such a stressful day and I just NEED to not think…so I’ll [Insert Watch Netflix/ Browse Facebook/Surf the Internet Here].” If this one is more you, I would suggest reading Digital Detox Day: How to Unplug from Technology as a great start.
There’s not necessarily anything wrong with being this last example but we just have to get to the point where we’re admitting to ourselves that we’re putting something, or multiple something’s, in the place of what we feel we would truly love to be doing instead.
Complaining Doesn’t Help Anyone
A huge waste of time and energy is complaining. The definition of the word ‘complain’ is to “express dissatisfaction or annoyance about a state of affairs or an event.” We’re not changing things. Not solving things. Not making things better. The irony here is that we’re using our oh-so valuable time and energy to just put into words our annoyance with not having actual time. I don’t know about you but that in and of itself is probably something we should be more annoyed by when it comes to wasting time. Remember, in the wise words of Master Yoda, “Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.“
Plus, let’s be honest, no one wants to hear us complain. Especially our spouses, who probably feel the same way and who probably also need help getting pulled out of the routine, time-suck funk. So, let’s be a positive force in our relationship and spread positivity in place of negativity.
Think About Our Average Days
Where do we start then? I would say, to get a really accurate idea of where we can make room in our schedule, we should log our hours each day for a week but you and I both know that’s probably not going to happen. We might go to start doing it but then forget and then we already feel like we’re failing so we just quit altogether and go back to doing the same old routine that involves not doing the things we WANT to do while complaining about it instead (and remember what we think about complaining).
Alternatively, what works for me isn’t trying to log every hour while we live in it, instead sitting down and writing out how we spend our average weekdays (using a few different days), and both weekend days. Use this to help pinpoint what the reoccurring themes are and where the time is actually going. Have your spouse or partner look at it and fill in anything that seems to be missing that you might not have prioritized to make the list but that definitely should. What are you finding?
Are you finding that you need too much sleep every night and that if you either stayed up later, or woke up earlier, by one extra hour you could find that much needed time? “But Mark, I need that sleep,” you say. Have you ever thought maybe our bodies are just conditioned to that amount of sleep and like any (bad) habit we may need to recondition it?
Are you finding that during certain parts of the year television is getting too much of your attention? “But Mark, I love these shows,” you say. Have you ever thought that you could accumulate all the shows and instead of spending a little bit of a lot of nights watching them you pick a weekend night to binge and free up the other nights?
What I’m getting at is this. With a little bit of observation and retooling we may find ways to open up that time we’re constantly searching for.
Don’t Blame the Kids
Maybe our kids do have a lot of projects, events, and activities but if they have so much going on that it doesn’t leave us time, especially in the evenings and weekends, then maybe we need to reevaluate how much our kids are doing. Think about it, something not ok is going on here in this situation, especially if nights and weekends are spent completely on the kids’ to-do’s. Either WE are doing too much of THEIR work for them or they have so much going on that we are blatantly enabling them to become used to living a life where it’s a necessity to have such a full schedule of ‘things’ if they want to be “successful”. If the problem is the latter, then make a list of all the things that is on their schedule, assess what is necessary (book reports, science projects, tutoring, etc.) and what is extra (sports, clubs, scouts, etc.) and either figure out how to whittle down some of the time or potentially eliminate something(s) to help free up more time for them and you. Who knows, maybe we can find more time to spend together as a family this way. How novel!
So, What is the Secret to Finding More Time?
I hate to admit this but doing the things we want to do takes being honest to ourselves that we do have the time and if we want to take advantage of that time we need to fight for it. If we don’t want to fight for it, then we just don’t want it bad enough, and if we don’t want it bad enough then we need to do ourselves a favor and just accept that the current state of affairs is our choice and that we’re not victims but instead culprits.