With all that needs to get done in the average day, it’s no surprise that many people say they simply don’t have time for themselves. I get this. I’ve definitely gone through periods where I was so overwhelmed with work and other responsibilities that I genuinely didn’t think I had time for self-care. Although it’s still a challenge for me, I’ve realized that taking care of myself needs to be the number one priority. Yes – even more important than work! Think of it this way, if you aren’t healthy you can’t work. So you need to consider your self-care first, before you can accomplish anything else well. If you’re at a loss for how to do this, I’ve compiled a list of suggestions here that may help you squeeze more time out of each day for you and only you:
1 | Give yourself curfews
Have a set “bedtime” and “wake up time” each day, to ensure you’re fully rested with plenty of energy to tackle your day, but also to make certain you’re not wasting precious hours with extraneous sleeping. To make this habit work, you’ll also probably need to set an electronics curfew for yourself – i.e. turning your phone on silent and shutting down your computer about an hour before bed. This would also include stopping any work activities around that time to allow yourself to wind down.
2 | Strip down to the essentials
Make a short list of your major priorities. If an activity does not directly support these, cut it out. This is the simplest but probably the most challenging one to do.
3 | Prioritize "me time"
I love to use author Stephen Covey’s concept from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People of putting the “Big Rocks” in first. A great explanation of this idea can be found in this video from minute 2:27 - 4:27 (but you should watch the whole thing, if you have time!) The best way to prioritize “me time” is to do it first thing in the day so you can't defer it or skip it when something else (inevitably!) comes up. This also gets you started on the right foot. Another way to achieve this is to carve out self-care time on your calendar in advance. The trick is, you have to stick to it!
4 | Get good at saying "no"
Nothing will change unless you do. If you need more time for yourself you must start saying 'no' to other people. This is going to be an important strategy especially for those who LOVE to please others. It will also be challenging. But it’s going to yield amazing results. Need help saying no? My favorite trick is to say "I need to think about it, I'll get back to you. When do you need an answer by?" This way, you’re buying yourself time to decide whether or not you want to or can take on the responsibility. It also affords you the time to build up your courage to say “no,” if that’s the appropriate response.
5 | Plan ahead
Think about how much time we spend grocery shopping and cooking. That's why I meal-plan, batch-cook and pre-prep all my meals. It saves loads of time in the evening that I can then spend rejuvenating instead. Extra tip? Prep water bottles and snacks, too! Read here for some brilliant meal prep ideas.
6 | Exercise in the morning
This kills two birds with one stone – you're getting your "Big Rocks" in early in the day and you need to shower in the morning anyway, so you might as well do it after exercise.
7 | Do chores together
If you have a partner you live with, do your chores (like dish washing, laundry etc.) together to make it go by twice as fast. This has an added bonus of not bickering over who did dishes last!
8 | Learn how to delegate
As tough as it can be to let go of control, find those tasks that are better suited to outsource to someone else. Maybe steaming your work clothes for an hour on the weekend is better spent at a yoga class and the clothes can be dropped at the cleaners'. Your time is valuable! Ask for help. Maybe your sister can pick your kids up from school once a week and give you that chance to go to that therapy session or have that acupuncture appointment. Think about what will work best for you.
9 | Stop multitasking
We are terrible at multitasking. Better to do something right the first time, then to have to waste time correcting it. Stanford research supports this.
10 | Ditch distraction
Try this out. For one week, no Netflix, no T.V., no social media. Just try it out. You'll see how much time you truly have. If you need extra inspiration for this step, check out my 7 Reasons to Break up with Facebook post. If you can’t cut out the distraction quite yet, at least see if you can log how much time you spend engaged in these activities. Then you might be motivated to cut them out!
11 | Set boundaries at work
Don't stay super late or get there super early to finish everything. Actually work the hours you're supposed to work – no more, no less. When asked to take on extra projects, say "no." If this is hard for you to do, refer back to tip #4 on this list.
12 | Turn your commute into "me time"
This may sound tough, but it doesn't have to be. Give yourself plenty of time to get to work so that you can actually drive calmly and – dare I say, enjoy the commute. Use it as an opportunity to practice mindful driving – obviously continue to pay attention to the road, but also bring awareness to your 5 senses (How does the A/C feel on your skin? What sounds do you notice? How does the steering wheel feel in your hands?) Or you can try listening to an inspiring podcast. And of course, don’t succumb to road rage! If you feel yourself becoming agitated, focus on your breath.
13 | Enjoy your grooming
Personal hygiene can feel like a chore if you let it become that. Instead, think of your routine as an opportunity to pamper yourself! Take a bath instead of a shower, light a candle or some incense, get some nice personal care products (they don't have to be expensive.) Turn wash time into "me time."
14 | Double up
Do something rejuvenating with friends. Often as young adults, we think we need to go to a bar or restaurant with friends to socialize. This can unfortunately lead to spending a lot of money and feeling drained afterwards. Mix it up! Invite friends on a morning hike instead. This has multiple benefits – it’s totally free, you've done your self-care activity and you'll have lots of energy for the day. Check out my post about activities that don’t involve drinking.
15 | Be present
When you're engaging with your partner, kids, friends, whomever, prioritize QUALITY of time. This way, you will feel good about taking time for yourself, as opposed to feeling guilty about take time away from these other people. Same goes for work. When you're doing it, do it really well, so when you're not working you're NOT working.
16 | Simplify, organize & streamline
Owning less stuff, having the stuff you own organized and putting systems in place will give you much more "me" time. For example, if you let mail pile up, you might have to spend an hour on a Sunday sorting through it when that time could be spent going for a run. But if you have a system of opening your mail daily, recycling the envelopes and junk, shredding the credit card offers and putting the "keep" mail in a special folder, you can easily make time for that Sunday run!
17 | Expect the unexpected
Free time usually shows up when we least expect it. A friend cancels plans, a meeting gets postponed, you find yourself waiting for 30 minutes because the doctor is running late, etc. Expect that these chunks of time will appear. Instead of using Facebook have a plan! Plan out ideas in advance (you could keep them stored in your notes app) of short “me time” activities that can be accomplished in certain time chunks (15 minutes, 30 minutes, etc.) so that when unexpected time appears, you are prepared! For example, you could listen to a 15-minute meditation, do 30 minutes of stretching, or if you only had 5 minutes, you could call and make a massage appointment. The options are limitless. For more on this, listen to this episode from "The 5 a.m. Miracle" podcast.
Remember that change doesn’t happen overnight. Some of these strategies might be easy to implement, whereas others may be very challenging. Be gentle with yourself. Self-care is supposed to be enjoyable, and not another “to do” on the list. So go slow and enjoy. I hope these recommendations were helpful to you! Do you use any of these strategies? What has worked for you and what hasn’t? I’d love to learn from your successes. Please share in the comments below.
about the author
Hi! I'm Natalie. And my passion is helping people live more peaceful, meaningful lives. Through holistic therapy in Pasadena and here on the blog, my mission is to provide people with the support and tools they need to live their best life.