I reached recently the age of 35 and on that day I had a longer moment to think about myself. It started innocently. I thought about things I’ve always wanted to learn and what I actually had done during this, let’s say, 15 years of adult life. Years! What I realized terrified and got me down — there were lots of things that I had started but never finished for millions of reasons.
How could I find time to learn all these things for self-development, to allow me to raise my qualifications and achieve my career goals, and also keep the work-life balance we all hear about so much? My first thought was: I’m a mom of three kids (7, 4 and 2½), I’m working a full time job that I love, I’m a wife and a person who takes care mostly of our family household…Get real! No way! You don’t have time!
But my second thought flew towards my work mate who used to read about successful people’s habits and discovered 5 a.m. as a time for self-development and a way of biting his TODO list. I tried a few times to implement this method into my own life. Sadly in my case it was simply a disaster. I got up at 5 a.m. and 30 minutes later my cute 2½ daughter did too. At that moment my productive time ended and my career goals were chuckling quietly behind my ear.
I started to wonder how the hell extremely busy people are able to do all they want to do? Why can’t I?! What’s wrong with my everyday schedules? I started to dig, and eventually found Laura Vanderkam’s TED talk.
That was it! That was the spark, my inspiration. To explain the idea briefly — we have 168 hours in a week. Even if we work a full time job and sleep eight hours a night we still have 72 waking hours a week. We just need to fill these with our priorities, whatever they are. I absolutely adore this sentence from Laura’s talk:
“ ‘I don’t have time’ often means it’s not a priority.”
I was excited. Finally I found a solution. I printed a day log with 15 minute ranges and got down to fill it as often as possible and track my days. I wanted to check how much time I really need for certain things. Here the first trouble occurred — it was pretty hard to track how long it takes to clean the bathroom between one “mummy I want to drink”, “mummy I would like pee” — and this one is really urgent!, “mummy help me to find my fluffy dog” or “mummy I’m hungry”. But despite this and the hours I lost in a time vortex that appeared on my time logs, it helped me to get a better insight into my everyday life. I realized and admitted in front of myself that:
- Though I would love to, I can’t learn everything simultaneously. I need to pick just 2 or 3 goals to achieve a year, not more because then I’ll fail.
- I need to divide them into doable steps.
- I need to think about and arrange my time weekly.
- There’s no way I can do anything that requires focusing in the morning (unless I will wake at 4 a.m. by accident). I need to get up at 5:30 a.m. from Monday to Friday to prepare for work, get the kids to school, kindergarten and nursery and start work at 8 a.m. I can’t focus in the late evening either. After 10 p.m. I’m simply too tired.
- Between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. (except one day a week) is when I take care of kids, home and cooking. No way to find a stretch of time to focus on anything.
- I realized that I’m spending too long to put my kids to bed. It lasts sometimes two hours or more. Here I found my self-development time from around 8–10 p.m.
- As well once a week after work I have a day off from home duties, taking care of kids. I can go to the fitness club, meet with a friend or write (like at this moment ☺). My beloved husband takes care of the kids on that day. Here I found time that I might fill with my career priorities or bite into my TODO list.
- Weekend: time for cleaning, cooking and getting together with family and friends.
“We don’t build the lives we want by saving time. We build the lives we want, and then time saves itself.” Laura Vanderkam
I’ve made my 35th birthday resolutions and I hope I manage to realize them before I reach 36. It’s my personal deadline ☺. I want to be fluent in English — this is my first career goal. I want to lose weight. And because I love reading I would love to read more than one book a year. Don’t laugh — if you have three kids you’ll see it’s not so easy to grab a book.
I’m still figuring out how my perfect schedule should look. I need to work on these “disappearing time periods” when I’m not sure what actually I had been doing. But I think it’s a good start. I found time to exercise at least three times a week as well as review for English classes. I recognize the times of day when there’s no chance to focus. This is priceless, because I stopped pretending that it’s possible.
If you think you don’t have time for activities that you’d like to do you should try Laura Vanderkam’s method. Here’s the link to her blog, where you can find the time logs and use them to check if you are really as busy as you think: http://lauravanderkam.com/books/168-hours/manage-your-time/.
The time we save can be used for our priorities, whether they are career, personal or family goals.
We have time.