By now, you’ve heard that I wrote two books. Perhaps, you’ve read them. Or, maybe, you’ve bought them and plan to read them when you have time.
Who knows, maybe hearing about what I’ve accomplished has inspired you to think about doing something – something you’ve always wanted to do. Something just for you. A sideshow project of your own. You know, the one you think about when you are driving. That thing you’re going to do when you have more time.
You wonder how you would carve time out of your busy life to write a book, train for a marathon, take a yoga class, garden, or volunteer more. You dream of what you would do – the vampire series you would write, the bike ride through Napa Valley you’ve dreamed of, learning to crochet, but before the daydream is finished your mind flashes images of work, of you sitting in traffic, of the kids, of family obligations. You remember that you need to stop at the grocery store on the way home. And, all of those images, all of those thoughts leave you too exhausted to think of adding anything else to your plate, even if the addition would make you happier.
I understand. Like most people, I said for years that I was going to write more. But, like you, after driving forty-five minutes through traffic over bridges to work, working all day, driving back home, taking care of the dog, preparing a home-cooked meal, engaging in thoughtful and meaningful time with my family, I was wasted. My tank was empty. There was not enough time left in the day to do what I had wanted to do.
But, all hope is not lost. It can be done. The saying goes, that life is short. I disagree. Life is not short. Life is the longest thing we will ever do. Life is time. There is nothing but time. And, most importantly, there has to be time for yourself. But, first, you have to commit to restructuring and reorganizing your life, your time.
Five Changes to Make Now
#1 – WRITE THINGS DOWN
Our lives are full of responsibilities. The puppy has vet appointment and grooming appointments. The kids have doctor, dental, eye, and orthodontist appointments. Even, the house has appointments for pest control and appliance servicing. There is dinner to cook and groceries to buy. There are bills to pay and birthdays, anniversaries, holidays that need attention. Falling behind on them are detrimental to your time savings. Therefore, you must write these things down. Make use of that calendar in your smart phone.
Plan your meals and buy groceries for an extended period of time. Going to the grocery daily is a time killer. Plan out the week’s meals. Make that menu accessible to the family. Then, purchase what will be needed for those meals in advance. It will be one less thing to worry about each day.
Think of what gifts you plan to give. You know that your mother-in-law’s birthday is this month. There is no reason to wait until the day of the party to buy the gift. Gather ideas all year. Save it to a list. Order it online or pick it up from the store well in advance of the party, so the morning of the party, you can place it in a gift bag and head out the door. Do the same for graduations, anniversaries, Mother’s Day, baby showers, Father’s Day. Prepare for all you can. Few things are truly unexpected.
#2 – KILL PROCRASTINATION
The longer you wait to do something, the longer it will take. Honestly, there is no time like the present. Create a To-Do list for the day. Be honest with what you can accomplish and do those things.
I know you’re tired. I know you planned to clean the kitchen, but doing so after a nap takes more time than powering through it NOW.
#3 – DECLUTTER AND FIND A HOME FOR WHAT REMAINS
More stuff is more clutter. More clutter is a time killer. In order to find what you need, you have to be organized.
You must excavate those drawers, closets, pantries, and garages. Purge the things you do not need or want. Find a home for what remains and label it. Then, hold a family meeting, so that everyone adopts the new strategy. There is no time to stop your sideshow to look for scissors. Scissors need a home that everyone knows.
After the initial declutter occurs, set aside time to purge on a regular basis.
We live in a constant consumptive state. But, how many towels do we need? How many blankets are being used? There are so many shoes in the bottom of that closet that the door won’t close. When was the last time you watched a DVD? Purge them. Purge it all. Life is simpler with less stuff. Donate items that others could use. Take your kids to stores that buyback old, unused electronics for store credit towards purchases they want. Each year when you are buying school clothes or summer clothes or vacation clothes, go through last year’s items.
Start a process whereby the life you lead is simpler and easier.
#4 – DELEGATE
You don’t have time to do it all. Ease the burden on yourself.
I know you’d rather just handle it than beg him, her, or the kids to help. In truth, no one wins in that scenario. While everyone else is decompressing, you are scurrying about adding unnecessary stress to your life. You will be amazed what they can accomplish if it is needed of them.
Let someone else cook one night. Teach older kids to wash their own laundry and take the dog for a walk. Pay bills online rather than driving to each location or setup auto bill pay like you said you were going to do.
Things may not be perfect in the beginning. Resist the urge to fall back into your old routine. Make suggestions and provide guidance. Persevere.
#5 – QUALITY TIME
By far, the hardest lifestyle change is the one that requires that you spend less time with the ones you love.
Take a moment to think about what are the moments that mean the most to the family, the moments that you don’t want to miss. Is it baseball season? Are you and your family are diehard fans who watch all the games? Then, those moments should not be used for your sideshow.
Do you sit on the couch and play on your phone, while the kids watch a reality show? If so, this is not quality time. Go enjoy your sideshow.
Quality time is not about being physically present. It is about time when you are both emotionally and physically present. It is not about quantity. It is about quality. In order to explore your own sideshow, you will lose physical time with your family, but you do not have to lose quality time.
Put the phone down and engage in conversation with the ones who mean the most. Eat your meals at the dinner table. Talk to one another. Plan occasions with just your partner or spouse. Lie in bed and talk about your day after the kids are asleep.
Plan for how long you will be unavailable to the family while working on your sideshow. Allow that time to fluctuate as the day demands, but make them aware of the schedule – an hour on Mondays versus two hours on Friday nights.
People ask me how I found the time to write. I didn’t find the time. The time was always there. I made the time. I carved out thirty minutes here, an hour there, a few hours at night. Don’t let time restrain you from your dreams, your ambitions, your true self.