Time is on My Side
Maxie van Roye
Volume 21 Issue 19 2013-05-24
There are simply not enough hours in the day.
Actually, there probably are enough hours in the day. Twenty-four, to be exact. And although we need to waste around eight of them—give or take—sleeping, that still gives us sixteen solid hours of potential productivity. Even with all our obligations, even with nonessentials like eating and showering, the day should give us enough time to cover all or most of what we want to do, shouldn’t it?
And yet it doesn’t even come close.
Whether it’s a question of too many distractions, too much procrastination, or too much multi-tasking, or whether we’ve once again taken on more than we can handle, it’s increasingly hard to juggle the responsibilities of adult life and stay sane. When you add university studies to the mix, it feels impossible.
So what are we doing wrong?
When there’s a breakdown in scheduling, we usually blame ourselves. We need to limit this, cut out that. We need to set boundaries. But what gets overlooked is an even bigger problem: we’re setting limits on the wrong things.
Let me explain.
A recent New York Times blog post gave me pause. Although it’s specifically aimed at women, I think that in many respects it applies to all of us. According to the author, one of our biggest time management issues is that we don’t know how to spend free time. We know we need to take a break, but it doesn’t seem to materialize.
There’s always something that needs doing. And though we schedule in that relaxation, little jobs and last-minute tasks eat away at it until it’s all but gone.
Yet without that chance to physically and emotionally recharge, we’re unable to really focus on the items on our to-do list. That makes us slower, which makes us fall even further behind—which means it’s even less likely that we’ll take the time out to chill for a while.
And we wonder why we get burned out or unproductive?
Rest and relaxation are so foreign to the fast pace of modern North American living. We’re all about achieving that final product, but how we get there is just as important as getting to our goals. And the only way to reach a goal intact is to learn actually schedule in that personal time—and stick to it.
But wait: Aren’t we always taking a break? Isn’t that the problem? Not really; after all, loafing in front of the TV, or procrastinating on Pinterest or Facebook, aren’t really relaxing because we’re not in the right frame of mind. We’re not working, exactly, but at the back of our minds is the nagging feeling that what we’re supposed to be doing is still waiting for us. And our duties are going to come back to haunt us if we don’t get back to them now.
Self-care isn’t usually high on our list of priorities. It’s an afterthought, a spur-of-the-moment thing. And “scheduling time for yourself” sounds so trite, so checkout-counter-magazine-cover pop psychology. Maybe it’s good in theory. Maybe it works in practice for celebrities, who have nannies and housekeepers and stylists and assistants and enough money to eat out for every meal. But in real life? For real people with jobs and family responsibilities and volunteer commitments and extracurricular activities and homework—it’s just not realistic!
But it has to be.
Every time we allow extra tasks to cut into our planned relaxation space, we’re selling ourselves short. We’re forgetting that taking the time to chill—without physical or mental interruption—is a need, not an option.
I used to have a work-finished policy. After 10:30, the laptop went off, the door shut, and I spent an hour reading and sipping tea. Lately, that’s fallen by the wayside. I’m still finding random things to do as I’m plodding to bed at 12:45. Unsurprisingly, I’m sleeping worse, working more slowly, and stressing abnormally.
Mandated relaxation may sound counterintuitive, but if we don’t force the habit we’ll never squeeze it in. This week, let’s commit to scheduling regular wind-down time, forcing ourselves to turn off all other obligations. Who knows—we might find ourselves so renewed that life is no longer a daily grind.
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