Yes, You Can Find Time in Your Day to Read

For the past few months I’ve been listening to myself grouse about not having enough time.  I feel my stomach clinch every time the words come out of my mouth.

Inevitably the person with whom I’m speaking heartily agrees and we begin comparing notes on how little time each of us has — sometimes it becomes a competition to see who has the least amount of time in their lives….

— I’ve got 5 meetings today and a report due to my boss by tomorrow morning.

— After work I’ve got to run to the grocery, make dinner, get the kids to bed, then do more work.

— I want to read;  but I just don’t have the time. 

It’s a dumb competition to try to win but we get sucked into the one-upmanship when we get talking with friends. 

So how do we unhInge and reframe the “I don’t have enough time in my day” conundrum and get a better daily life set up?

Here’s how I unhinged my thoughts and set up a few reframes that allowed me to take some different actions: 

#1 — Realizing we all get the same amount of time in our days. We get the same amount as Elon Musk and Oprah Winfrey.  No more.  No less.

#2 — Understanding where my day really goes.  Until I started tracking my time, I had no idea where my day really went. Do you know exactly how much time you’re spending on any given task — like email, Facebook, checking the news?  Do you tell  yourself — I’ll just check Facebook?  But how much time does that really take?  2 minutes or 20 minutes? 

#3 — Acknowledging that I have more control over my schedule than I think — I can set up different routines and maximize my day.  Sure, there are times when others determined my schedule — but there are plenty of hours in my day that are mine to call my own — if I want.   I can carve out time for what’s important to me — if I want to make the commitment. 

So how can you  begin your reframe? 

  • Know where your day goes.   Most of us don’t actually have a clue how we spend our day.  Track your days for 1 week in half hour increments.  You’ll be stunned when you go back and review how you spent your day.  Here’s a spreadsheet to help you track your time:   Weeklong Daily Schedule
  • Take a look at your tasks — can you combine any of them to be more effective and less wasteful with time?  One of the things that’s important to me is to stay in touch with my 85 year old mother.  Twenty years ago when my Dad was ill, I made a decision to call my parents daily.   I didn’t want to be sitting at their funeral thinking, “I wish I’d call them yesterday.”   It’s important to me.  My Dad passed away several years ago — and I’m glad I called every day.  My Mom is still alive — and I still call every day. But this task sometimes felt onerous on day’s when I was stressed or rushing around — until I decided that I could call her while walking to and from work. 
  • What tasks align with your goals and will move you forward to your next chapter?  Put those tasks first.  As great as your brain is — it can get overloaded.  It’s important to know when your brain is at its best.  For most of us its in the morning — before we get caught up in our day and the agenda of others.  So I try to schedule the tasks that require more of my brain power  — like writing and focused reading — in the morning — when I’m freshest and have the most brain fire power.
  • Put your phone away.   Ok — recently, this has become one of my biggest rants.  Several years ago I got into the habit of checking my phone first thing in the morning — even before I hit the loo —  I told myself I had to know if my boss was looking for me.  He wasn’t.  Several months ago I added to my phone habit and started checking my emails in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep — only increasing my poor sleep!   

After a particularly bad week feeling like my life was totally out of my control — I decided  I needed to do something different — I started small.   I stopped checking my phone.  I didn’t check email till I got to the office & sat down at my desk.  This is sacrilege I know for many of you — but its made a huge difference in my creative output and my daily happiness.

I can’t say this enough — not checking my phone first thing in the morning was like some magic potion for a better life.   It opened up so much extra time & better brain space.  I actually started to look forward to getting up in the morning. 

All those emails I used to read that distracted me or pissed me off — don’t get to me until later in the day after I’ve gotten something accomplished. And, taking control of my phone & email habit has given me back a sense of control in the rest of my life.  I no longer start the day with other people’s agendas.

Not grabbing my phone first thing in the morning was not an easy habit to break.  That little hit of dopamine we get when we see email from someone has a powerful pull on our brains — but  developing a new habit of waiting to read email — has yielded the sweet rewards of more control of my day, less anxiety and stress about the day’s activities and an increased sense of general happiness — not to mention that I now use that time to read a few pages!

If you doubt how often you’re checking your phone — Here’s an UnHinge Tip and Exercise: 

1.  Set up a notes page on your phone called  UnHinge Tip #1. 

2.  Add today’s date in the note. 

3.  Every time you pick up your phone today — add a hashtag “I” on that notes page.

4.  At the end of the day, count them up.  Do this for a week. Add your hashtag counts to your Weekly Tracking Schedule —  I guarantee you’ll be surprised.

We know from science that every time you interrupt a task (there is no such thing as multi-tasking — that’s another post)  you lose momentum on that task for 10 to 20 minutes — so please put your phone away if you really want to focus on a task — like reading with purpose. 

Do you have any schedule tips?  Send an email and let me know ~ .    

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