The Stress Solution-Body, Mind , Relationships and Purpose

A series of practical solutions and simple interventions to help you de-stress and re-set your life.

Lifestyle

How to Steal Back Some Me-Time

by Dr. Rangan Chatterjee   /  March 13, 2019

Are you overwhelmed with jobs to do? Do you feel like you don’t get any time to yourself to do the things that you want to? Whether it is paying bills, sorting childcare, filling in forms, answering emails, paying parking fines, booking appointments or ordering shopping online – the stuff of life never ends! Let me introduce you to the magic of scheduling. Whilst making a schedule might sound like adding one more task to your already busy day, trust me, it will create time for you.

It’s a practice my wife Vidh adopted when she was first at home with our young son. To counter rising anxiety that there weren’t enough hours in the day, she made a detailed daily schedule that accounted for every minute. ‘Wake up: 6.30, Get ready: 6.45–7.05, Breakfast: 7.05–7.25,’ all the way through until bedtime.

The result? Vidh felt more in control of her life. Each day finished with a satisfyingly ticked to-do list and she was able to enjoy the time she had scheduled for herself, guilt free. Whereas she used to think she wasn’t getting anything done, she would now see a long satisfyingly ticked list in her notebook at the end of every day.

As humans, we are wired to get a little dopamine buzz from completing tasks. We love the feeling of ticking even tiny achievements off, reminding ourselves that we’ve done something. That tick alone gives positive information to the brain: we’re in control of the day and life is good. It shifts us from a stress state into a thrive one. Many top CEOs use scheduling for this reason. It helps them be more productive, while ensuring they have time to pursue hobbies as well as spend with their families

But Vidh’s practice of scheduling had an even bigger impact – she quickly started to find that she had even more gaps opening up in her daily diary that hadn’t been there before. If you are one of the many people who feel there aren’t enough hours in the day and that they never get anything done, take a good hard look at how you spend your day – if you did a brutal analysis of your day, you may be shocked to find how much time you’ve whiled away on social media, email or just prevaricating until you have no choice but to get on with things. Scheduling will address this: it will help you prioritise the most important things that you need to do, improve your efficiency and best of all, help you find time to do the things you love.

How to schedule your day

Think about tomorrow and write down all the places you have to be or jobs you have to do at a specific time (that doctor’s appointment at 10:30am, the 4pm conference call). Then note down all the tasks you’d ideally like to get done, in order .

Next, write down a ‘me time’ activity you’d love to spend time doing but don’t anticipate having enough hours left. It could be a yoga class, a phone catch up with an old friend, a soak in the bath.

Now schedule your entire day, from the moment you wake, including meals, travelling time, everything. Put those fixed appointments in first, then your ‘me time’ (yes, this really does come before the other tasks). Finally, schedule the remaining jobs around these, in order of priority. Those you can’t fit in, don’t forget – you can’t achieve the impossible.

If you finish tasks early, don’t automatically grab your smart phone. Have a mini-moment of calm. Take a walk, do a few minutes’ deep breathing or just linger over a cuppa.

People I recommend this practice to nearly always tell me it enabled them to get more things done than they’d imagined. It may seem prescriptive, but I assure you it will unexpectedly give you much more flexibility to enjoy the things you love.

For more on reducing stress and feeling more productive, year round, order my book The Stress Solution: The 4 Steps to Reset Your Body, Mind, Relationships & Purpose, here.

Enjoyed this blog?  I discuss scheduling and other lifestyle habits to improve your health and wellbeing in The Feel Better Live More podcast – find out more here.

Dr. Rangan Chatterjee MbChB, BSc (Hons), MRCP, MRCGP