Saturday, November 10, 2012

Making Time | For Yourself

As a student paying my own way through college, I've been forced to learn a thing or two about time management. It's always a struggle to balance work, classes, homework, activities, and time for friends & family. Even with a busy schedule though, I have found that I must always make time for certain things - things like eating well, exercising, and relaxing. Though I've learned a few things that work well for me, I know that my advice might not work for everyone and so, over the next few weeks, on Saturdays, I will be hosting a series called "Making Time". With holiday season approaching (quickly!), balancing a busy schedule is bound to become even more difficult and so, I thought now would be the perfect time for a few friends of mine to tell you about their own balancing acts. If you have a topic that you think would fit into the series, please let me know - I'd love to feature your contributions! 

This week's post is all about making time for yourself - perhaps the topic that I struggle with most! 

[clock via urban outfitters]

Hello sweet Live Beautifully readers! I’m Sam from Samantha J. Bird and I’m so happy Jen asked me to guest post for her (it’s my first time). I’m going to talk about how I make time for ‘me time’ - those little moments where I get to be with myself and recharge. Most people benefit from spending some time alone or at the very least doing something that is just for ourselves rather than considering what others may want to do. It’s so important that I was actually ‘prescribed’ it by a therapist earlier this year as a way of managing anxiety and depression. It’s been incredibly helpful for treating those issues and it helps keep me in a good place mentally and emotionally. Time for ourselves can give us a sense of calm, relaxation, joy, bliss. It can help us to feel cared for, pampered and lucky, among other things. These positive effects are ones that we could all do with and are worth making time for. I can be pretty busy though, so finding time to fit in this me-time can be challenging. Today I’m going to share what I do, in four steps, and I hope it can be useful for you, too!

Firstly, letting go of any guilt you might have over taking time for yourself is really important. I don’t know about you, but I get terribly influenced by things I think I have to or should be doing, like studying, housework or doing things for others. Those activities seem to have found their way to the top of my priority list and me-time can seem like a ‘waste’. That’s ridiculous though, because if we don’t look after ourselves then we can get burned out (see: me, earlier this year). If that happens, it becomes really difficult to do anything at all, for ourselves or others. When guilt and worrying about other tasks are present during me-time, you can be sure they will put a downer on the whole experience. So, kiss your guilt goodbye. Or kick it in the pants, whatever works for you!

Secondly, work out what me-time looks like for you. What activities would you like to do? Very occasionally, when my bank account permits, I like to get a 30 minute massage or my nails done (especially the latter because I absolutely hate doing my own). If I don’t have much money to play with but want to get out of the house, I like window shopping with a giant cup of something delicious. Other favourite things include reading, practising relaxation techniques, watching a favourite show snuggled in bed and sometimes just sitting doing absolutely nothing at all. The possibilities are endless, really, as long as whatever you are doing - or not doing as the case may be - is something you find enjoyment in and doesn’t really involve other people. The point is to be with yourself and focus on what you want in those moments, but if you have a friend gabbing to you then you will probably get distracted. Another thing I find really nice sometimes is to make the activity a really special one, like those massages, because it feels a lot less ordinary and that can amplify the positive effects of me-time.

Thirdly, work out how long your activity will take. I let whatever I want to do dictate how long me-time is going to take. So, for a 30-minute massage, it’s about 30 minutes; reading might be an hour. I try to fit me-time in every day, but most of the time the activities are really basic like drinking a cup of tea while catching up on blogs for 20 minutes, or blogging. If you have a really busy schedule then you might like to aim for 1-2 times a week instead, or do something daily that doesn’t take lots of time, like a 10-15 minute meditation. If you won’t being engaging in me-time as often (say, a couple of times a month), then take longer. If you need to, set a timer or an alarm to remind yourself when the time it up and you need to get back to ‘reality’. It’s really easy for 20 minutes of blog reading to turn into 3 hours of Pinterest which isn’t very helpful for my to-do list!

Finally, figure out when you’re going to be having time to yourself. The key here is that you have to the make time. I have to consciously decide that I’m going to have some me-time and then find a way to make that time available, like I would when hanging out with a friend. Other activities might need to be sacrificed or cut short. I’m not a very strict schedule person and prefer to have general windows of time when I tend to do certain things, but which can be easily shuffled around if necessary. I often find myself with unexpected plans or things to do, so flexibility is key. I schedule all my classes, appointments and regular things I have to do in my Google calendar and everything else goes on to-do lists. That way I know what I have to do on any given day and I can create a mental outline of how much time I’ll need for each item. The most useful thing for me is to schedule in me-time like I do with appointments and classes - it becomes more of a non-negotiable activity. Then, I prioritise the to-do list items from most to least important. If I end up cutting a least-important task some days then it’s not the end of the world.

So, there you have it, my four-step guide to creating time for myself. I hope it helps you to see how you might be able to fit time for yourself into your busy life. I would absolutely love to hear about any other ideas you might have, too. I am by no means an expert at fitting in time for myself, so tips are always welcome! xo

Thank you Sam for taking the time to share your advice with my readers! 
Like Sam, I find that using a calendar and lists to record all of my activities and to-do's helps me to stay on task. This way, I can get all of the things I need done so that I can have some much needed time for myself.

How do you find time for yourself? What are your favorite activities that make up "me-time"? 
For my busy week days, "me-time" usually consists of staying snuggled in bed for an extra fifteen minutes in the morning. I use the time to check my e-mail, catch up on my favorite blogs and if I'm lucky, to snuggle my boys.

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