Monday, January 12, 2015

How to get more free time

I don't get much free time, not really. I imagine most of you are the same: after all of the minutiae of every day life has been and gone, there isn't much time at the end of it to do something purely for leisure. 

This year, though, my resolution was to change that, inspired by an excellent article [pay wall] I read over the Christmas break. It's only been 13 days so far, but already I'm seeing a difference. What is this magic machine have I used to create free-time from nothing? I hear you ask. What strange manner of alchemy is this? And where can I get it? Here's the thing, though. I don't actually have more free time, I've just figured out how to make it feel like more free time. And it's awesome. Here's how:

1. Stop multi-tasking. I'm sure you know the feeling: you want to watch something on the telly, surf the internet, and chat to your mum online. So, given you're so busy, you decide to do it all at once. Problem is, I've realised that when I do that, I don't end up really enjoying any of those things as I'm not really paying attention to any of them. And afterward, I'm not any happier or more relaxed: if anything, frantic multi-tasking in your leisure time can leave you feeling even more stressed. Leisure time is for leisure, not ticking 'to-do' boxes. I've found that when I only do one thing at I time, I really do enjoy myself much more. 

2. Beware of online FOMO. I get terrible FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) sometimes. I think the main reason I check Facebook as often as I do is due to a fear of missing out on some really important bit of news if I don't. But then, I remembered that checking Facebook all of the time still didn't stop me from missing the news that a friend had died. And while Facebook and other social media is a great way of keeping in touch, when used too often it's just a giant black hole into which free time is thrown, never to be seen again. Restricting my use of social media really has left me feeling like I have more free time. 

3. Stop doing thing for "fun" that aren't fun. I'm never going to be a musical maestro on the ukelele I bought last year and don't get much joy from learning, so have decided to let it slide. I've also had a think about all of the other things I do in my free time, and tried to be honest with myself about how much joy I actually get from them. When you get so little free time, it's a no-brainer that spending that time doing things we feel we ought to do rather than want to do is a poor choice. Yet why do we continue to do it? We need to stop putting pressure on ourselves to do things that are worthy, unless we truly enjoy them. If lying in front of trashy television in my PJs eating ice-cream leaves me feeling more energized for my kids and for my job, then it is a worthy use of time in my book. 

4. When you're somewhere, be there. As in, be there in body and in mind. This in many ways has been the hardest thing for me to implement, especially as it means putting down my phone. But, it really does make interpersonal interactions infinitely more pleasant when you pay attention to the people that you're with. Especially my kids. And I know that many people may beg to differ, but surely taking the time out of something to post online about what you're doing (Having a great time at a party right now! Out at dinner with my honey-bunny man friend, so much fun!) detracts from the experience? If a tree falls in a forest and no-one posts on Facebook about it, it's still fallen. Not sharing something with hundreds of people doesn't mean that whatever you're doing doesn't have any importance to you or isn't worthy. And being somewhere in body and mind makes it so much more rewarding, not to mention is much more respectful to whoever you are with. 

5. Daydream. Now I am slowly training myself not to check my phone or email every time I have a spare few minutes I'm reminded of how restful a good old daydream is every now and then. It's much nicer than spending that two minutes while waiting for the bus logging into Facebook to see what the person I sat beside in science class and not seen since is eating for dinner.

6. Reassess your goals. This one is hard, but something I found I had to do to reclaim my free time.  I was simply trying to achieve too much: I don't have time to pen the great unwritten novel, blog, train for a run, sew some dresses, and watch all seven seasons of Mad Men. Something had to give, and I had to decide which of those things I really wanted to do. If you have too many hobbies, they just start to feel like extra chores, and who needs more of those?

For me, doing these things really has made me feel like I have more free time. Of course it won't work for everyone, but I've been surprised by how a few little tweaks here and there have left me feeling like I have more time to myself. After all, free time is such a treat when we're busy. It seems such a shame to spend it on things that don't leave us feeling better in the end.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely post. It's amazing how much time is wasted on FB. I'm trying to cut back as well. It's hard, but I've gone to checking my email twice a day. I think I can do the same for social media :) Hopefully! x