How time management can help you live well and age well.
Updated: Oct 1, 2019
Aging well and living well is more than nutrition. It’s about a balance between mind body and soul. Stress can affect all of these things. We all have things in our lives that drive stress. From a never ending list of to do’s, to work, relationships, and simply general responsibilities in life. I read an article a while back about stress and stress management, on one of my favorite sites “Mind, Body, Green”. The author points out that packing too much into a day is extremely stressful, as stress causes a physiological response in the human body. Revealing itself in many different forms.
Often times, the stress we feel is self imposed, due to a lack of prioritization and perhaps poor time management habits. This can be eliminated by taking a step back to examine your priorities. Then implementing boundaries and time management techniques that will alleviate stress. For example: Steve Jobs and Barack Obama took time spent on decision making of their clothing choices out of their days, by wearing the same (or similar) ensembles every day. Another example is saying ‘no’ to things, and prioritizing your extra curricular commitments. Let’s say you are involved in multiple professional organizations, perhaps a better approach is to focus your time on one or two, whichever organization(s) is important to you to stay involved in. Giving more, by committing to less.
There was a time I didn’t say no to anything. Committing to things after work, I’d get home from work after 9 most nights. I started resenting the things I was attending. Sometimes work things, sometimes things with friends. Sometimes errands.
One day at work, a friend/colleague helped me through a minor melt down! I don’t exactly recall how it started, but I’m sure I was upset about not having enough time for some reason. She pulled me into a conference room and said, “Let me show you something”. She took a marker and on the white board listed 24 hours in the day starting with 12 a.m. Top to bottom ending at 12 a.m. (See table below of my current 24 hour day of activity).
She then told me to fill in the blanks next to each hour with what I would be doing in that time period. So, I drew a line from 12 - 6(ish), indicating sleep. 6 - 6:45 getting ready for work. 6:45 - 8, driving to work. 8 - 6 work. 6 - 7:15 driving home from work. Bed at 10 p.m. - midnight. Which left approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes of my day for something that I wanted to commit myself to. Keep in mind this needed to include dinner, time with my spouse, and anything else I needed to do (working out, etc).
Hour of Day Activity
12 a.m. Sleep
1 a.m. Sleep
2 a.m. Sleep
3 a.m. Sleep
4 a.m. Sleep
5 a.m. Sleep
6 a.m. Wake up, morning mediation and routine begin workout
7 a.m. Walk Dog and continue getting ready for day
8 a.m. Leave for work
9 a.m. Work
10 a.m. Work
11 a.m. Work
12 p.m. Lunch (possibly a working lunch if I need to leave on time)
1 p.m. Work
2 p.m. Work
3 p.m. Work
4 p.m. Work
5 p.m. Work and finish day, may leave by 5:30 or 6 p.m.
6 p.m. Dinner and settling in
7 p.m. My time at home!
8 p.m. My time at home!
9 p.m. My time at home!
10 p.m. Off to bed
11 p.m. Sleep
This was GLARING to me, that I had very little time, to actually just ‘be’. What would take priority? Dinner? Working out? Where could I squeeze more time? I had never looked at my day this way before. Other than my work day by the hour, I hadn’t looked at the rest of the day and how I spent the time I wasn’t at work, in a more prioritized way. I realized, with this visual, I needed to take a serious look at my lifestyle if I was going to stay committed to what was really important in my life.
As the years went on and my life evolved, I completely changed my lifestyle. I moved to a new city, rarely go out after work, make exercise a daily priority, and time with my spouse became my top priority. Also, truly engaging with and enjoying my pets and the stress relief they offer. My evenings have become my respite. This time is so precious to me. My husband, cooks wonderful meals every night, and it’s my time after dinner to just ‘be’. In my space, my favorite place!
When I decided to make working out regularly a priority, many things had to change. I needed enough sleep, for instance. This means other things had to give way. My mindset is completely different when I work out, as well as my physical well being, so it’s a mandatory for me. I sleep better, which makes everything function better, I have much more confidence, and my perspective on life is better. My workout time was in the middle of the day when I had access to a corporate gym. If you have a Corporate gym, take advantage of it. It’s an amazing benefit. It allowed me to workout in the middle of the day taking a much needed break during lunch. No one was looking for me, and several colleagues also participated. It was a great mental break and allowed me to recharge and be more productive in the afternoon. Currently, I’m prioritizing my workouts early in the morning, and I’ve added walking the dog as the first 30 minutes of my workout.
I resented being a slave to retail. With the advent of online ordering and establishing the patience for the delivery, it completely changed my world! When I do need to run errands I made a decision to do it strategically. Where is the retailer? Close to home or work? Most efficient time to go? For example: I don’t go to Costco on the weekends. I try to go right after work, and get in and out. Less people, less lines and something that would take 2 hours out of my weekend with drive time, takes less than 45 incremental time after work. Convenience wins. I have colleagues that take full advantage of grocery pre-order and pick up to make their lives more convenient. It’s another great example of how to take advantage of technology to enjoy more of the time you have with the things that matter most to you, instead of spending it shopping and standing in line to check out.
I’ve found sticking to a schedule puts me at peak performance for everything in my life. Going to bed, and waking up, at the same time everyday, even on the weekends, keeps me balanced. My life just feels like it works better. Working out promotes sleeping better, confidence and a better mindset overall. I feel accomplished when I complete a workout. I eat better. I’m much more mindful of the time spent exercising and not sabotaging the effort. When I need to attend something in the evenings, or commit to dinner with friends, it’s planned and doesn’t add stress any longer. It’s also enjoyable because I don’t feel stressed. This also means (per my earlier comment about some things had to give), I drink less because it impacts my sleep, we leave events early (much to the chagrin of my friends and colleagues), and I eat dinner early so my body is more efficient burning energy.
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and lacking ‘free time’, my recommendation to you is, go through the same exercise with the 24-hours you have in a day. Really think about how you want to spend that time. If you only have 3 hours after work before everyone heads off to bed, what is the best way to spend that time? Find ways to take advantage of technology to save time. It takes some effort, but once you have it in place it’s well worth it. Saying no and having focused time for your family and/or yourself, can feel ‘selfish’. I’ve found self care and focusing on priorities is not selfish, it’s imperative. It allows you to be present in all of the moments you deem important. You will feel less overwhelmed, more productive. Your family will thank you for it in the long run.
One last thought, as we see article after article and Pinterest pins about minimalism … Less is more. The time management version of reducing things in your life, to actually have more time to do what you want to do. While some things will be cut out or paired back, you likely won’t miss them, and in the long run you will be the best version of “You”.