How to protect your time for more energy, vitality and joy - Part 3
The first 2 parts of this blog series were about laying foundations for doing the practical stuff that I’m going to share with you today. So far I’ve described
- that you can choose how you use your time,
- that setting boundaries and saying “no” is healthy and essential
- that connecting to your intuition and getting intentional helps guide your choices
In this final Part 3, I’ll show you how all of that works together to help you cultivate self-discipline, so you can follow-through with tangible actions.
Get honest about where you’re wasting time.
Once you’ve contacted your intuition, and connected to what’s important, you might start catching yourself wasting time on things that aren’t. Here’s a short list of the usual suspects (I’m talking from my own experience here!)
… Social media, checking emails, binge watching Netflix, online shopping, chores, snacking, smoking, drinking tea, drinking alcohol (or other substances), fantasising about that Bali holiday/project/relationship, napping, _______, _______, _______.
Most of these things make you feel good for a while, but can fade quickly and we’re then left maybe a little dull and depleted. I’m afraid there’s no way out, but to practice self-discipline.
This becomes easier when you’ve already gotten clear on how you DO want to spend your time doing things that are meaningful, rewarding and bring you energy.
Here’s what I do when I know I’m dilly-dallying:
I stop, name, and refocus, then reorient to what is important. I did this several times writing the last part of this blog! (which I’ve posted later than I wanted to).
- Get to know and name your vice. I would suggest making a list!
- Catch yourself blowing time – and call yourself out (be kind and light!)
“ … oh, there I go again, picking up my phone, and checking Instagram, because I’m bored/nervous/avoiding that thing …”
- Get back to whatever it is you’re avoiding “Ok, let’s remember what we were doing …[INSERT YOUR INTENTION HERE} …”
- Repeat … until …
I promise you! your efficiency will improve out-of-sight, and swathes of time will open up to you. Every single time you catch yourself and re-right yourself, you’re re-wiring your brain to prioritise what’s best for you and the greater good.
Let’s get practical
Now, these final suggestions can meet with real resistance, especially if you hold freedom, creativity and ideas in the highest (ME!!). It’s the pragmatic act of blocking time. Freedom is great of course, but you need discipline to make sure ideas and passions become manifest and expressed, right? I’ll share with you some ways I block time across my day, week, and year. These frames work for me, but you could easily consider what works for you across a ½ day, fortnight, month, or a longer 2/3/5-year vision.
Across all frames keep these things in mind:
- it’s a process of consolidating, re-organising, and deleting
- it’s a process of deciding what’s important and essential, and what’s not
- when you start making adjustments across 1 frame, it’ll naturally open possibilities in others
- start wherever makes sense for you
- know you can tweak again and again if it’s not quite right – think of it as experimenting and exploring a new paradigm so you mightn’t get it right for a while
- use a calendar of some sort that works for you. Google Calendar, I-Cal, a productivity app, good old-fashioned diary or weekly desk planner, your family blackboard wall … whatever helps you and is useful
Ok, let’s begin
Picture your week.
This is the bigger picture of how your week looks and feels. I like to start with the week, because its broad but not too broad. For instance, for the last 2 years I've given myself a day off every Thursday (ONLY for creative work, nourishment, self-care, nature and joy - so no chores or errands unless it meets that criteria). Unless I’m running a workshop, weekends are strictly family, social and me time. This isn’t selfish, it’s for the greater good. I make sure other essential personal, family and social commitments, dates and responsibilities are locked in.
I get that not everyone has the luxury of making radical adjustments to their weekly schedule. But honestly, time and again I’ve seen clients ask bosses for a 9 day fortnight/ to work from home/more flexible hours and gotten what they’ve wanted! Or if not, realised that job isn’t for them and made the necessary change. Beyond asking an employer for what your need, start negotiations with (or just announce to) your partner, parents, friends, employees, your kids the adjustments you need. You might just start being firm with yourself about finishing work on time or committing to that weekly book club/dance class/meet up/hour to yourself to read. Ask a friend or relative to collect children from school on one day so you can do that thing. Remember, open up to the possibility that things can be different. Start to create the conditions for that by asking, “what’s essential, what’s not?” and consolidate, re-organise, and delete.
Picture your day
You don’t have to account for every minute of each day. But daily rituals and compartments of time can have a grounding and soothing effect and be energising and motivating at the same time.
Think of the natural boundaries across your day as little containers. These are things like:
- a regular wake-up and sleep time
- consistent meal times
- work start and finish times / school drop off and pick up times
Use these little containers of time, and arrange other containers within and around them. Use your calendar and colour-code your containers.
For instance, everyday I wake between 5 and 6am and try to be in bed and sleeping by 10pm. Mornings I meditate, chant, yoga for 20-60 minutes (yep, everyday). If I’m counselling, I see an absolute max of 5 people each day (ok 6 on some Tuesdays) and have 1 hour off for lunch. My counselling and class schedule is set in my calendar at the same time-slots every week. I make sure I have 15 minutes between each client. I’m home by 4pm most days, 5:30pm on occasion. Dinner is usually on the table between 6:30-7pm no matter who’s cooking. Lately, I’ve been blocking out 2-3 hours on Mondays and Thursdays to blog. As I become more disciplined and more tech savvy I expect I’ll need less time for this.
Reading back over this I know it sounds kind of robotic, but it has a relaxing effect. If I didn’t hold myself to these I would literally leak all over the place, flap about, rush. I’d feel unconsolidated. and I’d achieve less of what I wanted in the way I wanted, ie. calmly, clearly, and compassionately.
And notice how I give myself some flexibility. The container has some give, like a silicone mould, not like concrete. I also sometimes lapse, but because the container is there, like a firm hug, I quickly forgive myself, and get back on it. I hold these times lightly, but I still hold them. It’s also taken me about 6 years to get this right. That’s the tweaking, adjusting part. So start, play, re-organise, and hold yourself gently to your own daily schedule.
Picture your year
This is one I’m still working on as I’ve never been a big forward planner (I tend to be impulsive and phobic … “what if I don’t feeeeel like doing that in 6 months time …”). Remember in Part 1 where I talked about working with the seasons / school terms. These, like months and moon cycles across the year, are natural containers too. While I still have a kid in school, sticking to school breaks is working for me, but I’m starting to experiment with flowing in rhythm with my body, nature, and lunar and seasonal changes. This is aligned with my principles of nurturing and trusting my intuition. I use these boundaries to pause step back, re-group, reorganise and re-energise.
When you’re looking at a longer expanse of time, this is where the vision for your future self, and intentions become important. That is knowing what’s essential and what’s not. Ask yourself,
“What are some of the longer term things I can commit to that are in line with my intentions?”
And as much as you can, lock those in. Get a little organised. For instance, as I see myself in my future sharing and integrating what I know to groups, I’m using my principle of creative expression, to teach more workshops (and write blogs). So I’ve been blocking out dates to run these. The principle of learning means I explore what trainings and workshops are on offer to attend, and if not book them straight away, I certainly block that time out in my calendar. I’m also blocking out days for “holiday” across the year. That might mean going away, but also might just mean time to potter, get massage, and be a little in silence. Lately, these “holidays” are more seasonal in nature and act as little transition points between one cycle and the next.
So experiment with creating containers that work for you across this greater expanse of time. As blocking time across your day and week helps channel your energy, marking points across the year can help keep your oriented and on track.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this blog series. I’ve certainly enjoyed writing it. Remember those pointers from earlier, because I’m aware that I’ve shared a lot of information. Just begin, start small, keep tinkering, be kind, and keep coming back if you’ve gone off track. Keep returning to and refining that vision of your future self. Consolidate, re-organise, delete. I’ve been steadily crafting my time in this intentional way for only a few year, so I’ve seen how it’s a process and it evolves, and will continue to evolve as my needs do. I hope you find as I have, that when you’re intentional with your time in this way, energy, inspiration and vitality flow more freely, leaving you with joy, gratitude and contentment.