Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Reclaiming Your Time

A few years ago, I found myself struggling with finding time to work on some important personal goals I had set. Between the responsibilities that came with starting a new career, building a new business, and getting acclimated into a new environment, meeting professional expectations meant putting those personal goals on the backburner. During that time, I never “clocked out.” 

It wasn’t until, while having my regular check-up, my doctor asked, “Are you okay?” and my unsuspecting response, “Yes. Why?” that I found out my blood pressure was elevated. It was time for me to hit “pause” on the way I was going about life and recreate a new way of existing that prioritize my health. 

A critical factor for me to do so, successfully, was managing my time. My dilemma, however, was I had so little of it. 

Most of us have too much to do and not enough time to do it. With the pandemic adding more distractions into the mix, it is easy to overlook the little things that really matter. Things like resting, exercising, connecting socially with people, volunteering, and working on hobbies make a difference in the way we feel about ourselves. Creating time in our daily schedule to do them should be a priority. 

For busy professionals, this can seem easier said than done. But it does not have to be. Mapping out the activities that we pack into a normal day and assessing them is a good start. This gives us a visual of when we are productive and when we are losing time. In reclaiming the lost time, we can bring a healthy balance to our lives.

In mapping out my activities, I saw most of my time was lost early in the day. During that time, I spent more time completing the same tasks that I was able to zip through, easily, in the afternoons. I checked my emails throughout the day and responded immediately to every notification that required my response. I didn’t take breaks. And every day, except on Sundays, I worked until midnight. 

To build my ideal 24-hour day, with a priority on my health, I had to take inventory of myself. Why was I more productive later in the day than in the mornings? The rationale that I’m not a morning person was not enough. A deeper self-assessment brought me new insights. 

  1. I was more creative in the mornings and more intellectual later in the day. 
  2. I carried guilt while working on my professional responsibilities, which required my intellect, instead of pursuing my personal goals, too, which required my creativity. 
  3. The battle between the two, in the mornings, left me unfocused and that slowed me. 

The unattained personal goals, hanging in the back of my mind for years, also had an effect. With negative self-talk, I reminded myself of them constantly. Even though I was meeting the expectations in my professional life, in pushing aside my creative thoughts instead of exploring them, I felt unfulfilled and unaccomplished. Needless to say, living with this conflict within me, unchecked, year after year, impacted my health and my feelings about myself. 

In reclaiming my mornings, I built a 24-hour day that included waking up earlier to focus on me. Incidentally, the creative thoughts I often wake up with, and now embrace instead of push aside, produced the jolt of energy I needed to get out of bed. I suddenly found time to have a healthy breakfast, exercise, and prep a healthy lunch before sitting down to explore my creative ideas- developing plots, characters, and outlining manuscripts- or working on my business; whichever I scheduled. 

By midday, I usually feel accomplished. I take breaks to have lunch and rest before I start the second half of my day, with activities that require my intellect. To restructure that part of my day, I assigned each task a beginning and end time, and scheduled manageable tasks that I can complete way before midnight.

While adherence to the schedule requires self-discipline, mapping out my activities and assessing them was a good start to finding and reclaiming the valuable time I needed to complete the little things that work to improve my health and bring balance to my life.

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