How many days end with you thinking there’s not enough time? You have a huge list of things to accomplish, but the list just seems to laugh at you. But in order to discover your purpose, you must have time to think about it.
Instead of doing what you want to do though, your life is dictated by everything and everyone else. Your dreams, aspirations and goals take a back seat to things far less important to you.
It doesn’t have to be this way. You can find more free time in your schedule to call those family members, go on a hiking trip or play with your kids. And you can do it with the same 24 hours everyone else has.
It’s misleading to think you can simply find secret hours hidden throughout the day. That’s not how it works. Free time is made, not found. It’s unrealistic to think you can keep doing what you’re doing and magically find quiet time throughout the day.
Something has to change. You have to find ways to free up your time in ways that work for you. Here are 10 ideas to get you started.
10 Realistic Ways to Find More Free Time
- Wake up earlier: This is a tough one, but it is possible to start a morning routine you can be proud of. It takes time, practice and a generous amount of grace for yourself, but it can be done. Starting your morning earlier gives you extra time most people don’t get. It’s no surprise that most successful people have usually accomplished a great deal by the time 9am rolls around. Getting things done early in the day also catapults you into the day with more energy and a sense of purpose.
- Make a “Stop Doing List”: This idea came from business writer Jim Collins, and the message is simple: we have plenty of to-do lists, we need more stop doing lists. And it’s true. You don’t have free time because quite frankly you do a lot of things you shouldn’t be doing in the first place. Make a list of things you do throughout the day that add no value to your life or things that keep you from doing what really matters. Stop doing those things. You’ll find you have more time to tackle what really matters.
- Focus on one thing at a time: This seems counter-intuitive, but it works. Focusing on one thing and checking it off your list starts momentum in your life. It greases the wheels, so to speak. And to do this you have to stop letting all the other stuff on your list distract you. Start with the easy stuff and work your way up. You’ll find you’re soon checking off more than you thought was possible in less time than you dreamed of.
- Use your lunch hour: If you are able to leave work for an hour at lunch, use it wisely. If you’re a blogger, like me, you could use it to schedule tweets or posts. If you’re close to a gym, do your workout then. If going on a walk is important, knock it out when everyone else is at Applebee’s. Run errands you don’t want to do after work when traffic is heavy. Your lunch hour can be a glorious time to do what you want to do and escape the demands of work.
- Clean as you go: This has a lot of potential. You might always put off things you want to do because the house, the car or even the dog is dirty and you need to clean them. Believe me, I’m an advocate for cleaning, but you can waste away time doing it. Instead of frequently blocking off large chunks of time to clean, clean as you go in smaller chunks to keep up. Keeping things clean and neat is far easier and takes less time than making them clean and neat.
- Organize your life: How much time do you spend looking for stuff? Whether it’s notes, that Phillips head screw driver or the flash drive you just can’t find, you spend far too much time looking for things that allow you to utilize your time. Wouldn’t it be better if you knew where it was? Some people think you either have this or you don’t. I disagree. I think it’s all about discipline. There’s a business principle called 5S, and part of it is the philosophy of “for everything a place, and everything in its place.” It means everything you need should have a specific place for storage and use, and it should always be found in those place, no exceptions. If you always lose your keys, get a hook to keep them on right by the door. Your stuff needs a place or you’ll never stop looking for it.
- Limit your (and your family’s) activities: Soccer practice, gym, ballet, horse riding, baseball, PTA… Really, the list goes on forever doesn’t it? You want the best for you and your family, and that’s a noble aspiration. But is being exhausted what you or your kids really need? Our culture is one that rewards busyness, and the appearance of it. But being constantly busy only leads to exhaustion and break down. Start limiting the amount of engagements you have so you can start doing what you really want. If the kids want to do a sport, that’s great, but limit them to one per season. If you want to join social groups, that’s awesome, but limit yourself to one at a time.
- Schedule your time: You know making a schedule is important. Maybe you even think it’s a good idea. But do you do it? Most people don’t. Put your daily activities on a schedule, whether it’s an old school planner or the calendar app on your phone. Add everything. Kids’ nap times, your reading time, exercise, etc. You’re much more likely to do something if you write it down. Scheduling also gives you a more realistic view of what you can accomplish today.
- Block off time to do nothing: Sometimes doing more doesn’t get you more. In fact, I would argue you probably reach that point of diminishing returns more often than you think. Block off time throughout the week where you have nothing to do. The constant demands of your schedule drain you. Having a period of time where you can do what you want frees your mind and lifts a weight off you. It can be once a week or every day. You can write, read, watch an episode of that show you love or stare at the wall if you want.
- Pray for help: All 9 of the things above are realistic things for you to do, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be easy. You will need God’s help to succeed in finding more free time. Pray about it. Ask God to help you see what’s truly important in your life and to help you make decisions accordingly. The Bible says in Ephesians to “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” If you don’t take charge of you time, someone else will. And that someone won’t have your bests interests at heart. Don’t leave it up to someone else to live out God’s plan for your life. Pray for help and wisdom. You’re not meant to do this alone.
What ways do you have to find more free time? What works best for you? Leave a comment and let’s talk.
Photo courtesy: anieto2k (Creative Commons)