There is a feeling of discomfort that often follows free time. Many times, we’ll try to fill our free time with activities, and then later resent the busy schedule we’ve created for ourselves. What if we made it a point to create some unscheduled time to just breathe?
And I’m not necessarily talking about using the time to practice breathing techniques — although that would be a fantastic use of our time. I’m talking about scheduling the padding into our lives that allows us to linger over our morning coffee or tea a little longer. Time to go for a walk or simply sit and look out the window.
How many times have you come to the end of a hurried day and felt that everything you experienced was a total blur? How present can we really be when we’re rushing from one activity to the next from sun up to sun down?
Like the pants I wear, I’ve found that I’m happiest and most content when my life has some breathing room built in. On the days when it is necessary that I go, go, go all day, I feel more anxious then on the days where my time isn’t as pinched. When I prioritize my free time, I’m actually prioritizing my own happiness.
Today was one of those crazy busy days. It was my son’s last day of first grade and I volunteered to help with the party that spanned the entire second half of the day. It was a memorable, wonderful day, but I’m looking forward to tomorrow being a low-key day.
And life is like that. Some days will be busier than others — and that’s all part of the fun. It becomes a problem when you’re constantly feeling overextended and tapped out.
I’ve felt overwhelmed by all of my commitments several times throughout my life. Especially since two kids have entered my day-to-day world.
When I overcommit, I try to remain true to my commitments, and then scale back as soon as possibile. This goes for my personal commitments, as well as commitments that my oldest son may be involved in. After all, a seven-year old isn’t exactly taking himself to baseball practice.
And even though I know that I don’t like my commitments to match near the number of waking hours I have in my day, at times I overcommit and have to revisit how I’m prioritizing my time.
Here are some questions I try to ask myself before deciding whether to take on a new time commitment:
- How much time will this commitment truly take? For example, if it’s a committee that meets once per month, how much time is spent planning and preparing for the monthly meeting? What about traveling to and from the meeting?
- How much do I want to participate in this commitment? Am I considering it because I feel obligated, or because I care about the commitment and value the outcome or the cause?
- What is the opportunity cost of trading my time to fulfill his commitment? In other words, what will I be giving up by taking on this new commitment?
I’ve found that by taking the time to answer the above three questions, I’ll usually be able to fully commit, or politely decline new commitment requests that come my way.
We only have a certain number of hours to spend on this planet and it’s our responsibility to choose how we spend those hours. We can waste our time on things we feel we should be doing but don’t really care about. Or we can choose to spend our time in ways that align with our values and goals, while realizing that keeping a chunk of that time for doing absolutely nothing is an investment in our own happiness.
What about you? How do you handle the ever growing demands on your time?