Finding time, losing time, losing track of time, not having enough time… These are all themes I hear on a daily basis from the people around me. Today let’s identify another way to reclaim your time; identifying time leeches, vampires and black holes. I know it sounds a little sci-fi but bear with me.
Time Leeches- these are the little moments of our day that get almost imperceptibly sucked away. For me it starts with the snooze alarm. Five minutes, ten minutes, uh oh I REALLY need to get up now- it’s been 30 minutes! Other leeches include finding something to wear, deciding what to pack for lunch for myself and my son, looking at email at work, looking at catalogs from the mail, following a vaguely interesting link online, even reading the newspaper. The ways that I’ve started avoiding time leeches is first to identify them and then to consciously choose not to engage. Getting up 30 minutes earlier was a conscious choice (and very unpopular with my non-morning person self). Getting dressed was simplified by reducing my wardrobe to jeans and t-shirts with Fridays being the only day I wear a skirt. I have a list of lunches my son will eat. It changes occasionally but is pretty standard most weeks. I try to make enough food the night before to pack left-overs for myself or make a big batch of Nom Nom Paleo meatballs on the weekend and eat those with frozen veggies during the week. I stopped looking at catalogs and have reduced my newspaper intake to the weekends and the cooking section on Thursdays. Identify your leeches and get rid of them. They add up over the course of a day and you could use that time for something you really value.
Time Vampires -These are bigger chunks of time that go missing. For me it’s primarily internet related as I lost the television habit years ago and have freakishly avoided Facebook, Twitter and other social media like the plague. I’ve seen what it can do! For a lot of people TV, internet and social media can suck the hours away with no effort at all. If that includes you and you want to reclaim some of that time limit yourself. Set a timer for 30 minutes or whatever you feel is doable and stick with it. If you cheat, you’re cheating yourself. Doing homework with my son used to be an unpleasant Dracula experience for me. Now I reward him for doing his homework in aftercare on his own and review it with him if he feels he needs it. That 45 minutes to an hour is now spent writing for me and on the computer doing fun stuff for him. It works for us. Think about what will work for you.
Black Holes- When a whole day or even both days of your weekend are lost you know you’ve encountered a Black Hole. For some of my friends it’s sports. Practice two to four times during the week after school, games on the weekends, and suddenly the idea of having an uninterrupted, unscheduled two days seems like Heaven on Earth. For others it may be birthday parties, “required” family events, or even housecleaning. As a family we have decided to forgo sports. It’s not important to my son and he gets his exercise in other ways. We’re really choosy about which birthday parties we go to and we schedule short and sweet play dates once a month or so. If your child can’t live without play dates make sure they’re as low stress as possible for you and don’t require your constant supervision. Housecleaning? Not my favorite. We divide up some chores and others go undone. I have yet to be arrested for my messy house. Besides it gives the other moms who bring their kids over for play dates something to feel good about. I like to help other people feel good 🙂 “Required” family gatherings? Politely decline if you don’t want to go or suggest that maybe you could just drop off your little ones for an hour or two and then go do something good for yourself. If this won’t work you may have to get a little creative. No one knows what a migraine headache looks like and maybe you have one right now. Locking yourself in a darkened room and insisting on quiet is the right thing to do if you need it.
Take a close look at your own busy schedule and identify the baby bear, mama bear and papa bear ways that your time is being stolen from you. Then resolve to TAKE IT BACK and guard it like Goldilocks would if someone tried to take away her just right oatmeal. See, it’s not really science fiction, it’s actually a fairy tale!
Happy early Mothers’ Day to all and enjoy your time.