10 Tricks for Finding Time

When did the lazy days of watching clouds drift by disappear? When did our values change from experiencing life to accomplishing it? We are, as a society, obsessed with achievement. Hard work. Increasing productivity. Getting shit done. Side hustles. Yet no one ever has enough time.

It makes sense, since there are hundreds of thousands of ways you could spend all your time. Watching videos, pursuing hobbies, reading, traveling, making crafts, reading/watching the news, binging Netflix, diving down wiki holes, making love, cuddling with your pets, reading to your children/grandchildren, cooking, dieting, working out, volunteering, studying, sleeping, drinking, writing, spending time with friends, gardening, learning a new skill.

Each of us crafts our own schedule. Depending on your job, your amount of flexibility may vary dramatically, but even those of us that work the longest hours still make a lot of choices about how we spend our time.

It doesn’t feel that way. Instead, it feels that there’s never enough time in the day. Our perspective is to blame, not the actual number of minutes in the day. Today, things move so very fast. Cars, planes, trains, our own two feet and our overall lives move at a more frenzied pace then ever before. We are bombarded every moment with sounds and sights and movement. There are trillions of Tweets, over a billion websites, thousands of news stations. Our brain tunes out 99% of what it is pummeled with, but that is not nearly for today’s amount of stimulation.

Eleanor Roosevelt wrote in her autobiography that, in her mother’s time, life was slow, steady, and one pursued the same activities day after day, year after year, with a feeling of tranquility and permanence. She felt that in her own time, the world moved so much faster. That the newest thing one day, was the established norm only two years later. She died in 1960, and the world has continued to grow exponentially faster still since this observation.

Our natural reaction to having more options is to take on more activities. Work harder, longer. But this is where our perspective of wanting to take advantage of all of these opportunities doesn’t serve us. Every time we take on a new commitment or additional opportunity, we need to run that much faster and be that much more efficient simply to not lose ground to chaos.

We begin at a very young age to learn this value that “more is most certainly more”. Later, we are pushed to do as much possible to get into a good college — volunteer, get good grades, participate in loads of clubs, sports, and activities to fill out our school application.

Instead, what if we think about our schedule like a favorite room. One we want to keep a safe haven — lovely, simple, and tidy. Put conscious thought into what we want in the room, things that make us feel good and bring us energy, and clean out the rest.

Here are 10 tips for making this happen in your own life. These are things that I do, so I know it’s possible.

  • Hell yes, or Hell no. Instead of taking on more responsibility, goals, and resolutions for the new year, learn the healing art of saying no. Say no to invitations, meetings, or obligations you don’t really really want to do. If it’s not a “Hell yes, I want to do that!” it’s a Hell no. I hate to say no, but it’s so powerful. I get daily invitations for partnerships, opportunities, and meetings, and decline 90% of these. I try to say no with grace and transparency, and often say that my plate is simply too full to take on additional opportunities. People get it! They are sometimes even be inspired to do the same.
  • Whenever you do add something to your plate, take two things off. Perhaps you’re simply dying to learn how to make pottery or blow glass. That’s great! Do it, they are both really fun and enjoyable, and things I’ve taken on myself. But perhaps reduce the number of nights you entertain, as well as the nights that you spend time cooking (unless you love to cook). I decided to spend fewer evenings socializing one-on-one, and instead host 8-person dinner parties to see all the people important to me.
  • Don’t rush. I don’t run for the train, or hurry across the street. If I can’t make it at a comfortable pace I wait for the next light or the next train. And I take those extra moments to notice the lovely things around me. Snatch each chance to notice the blue of the sky, the green of trees, actually take the time to smell the flowers, and pay attention to the cute dogs and children. It is impossible for me to do these things when I am feeling rushed or exhausted, and these little things bring me so much peace and joy.
  • Don’t multitask or even try. I take on one task at a time and work on it either to completion or to a comfortable stopping point. Splitting focus means more stress and less attention to both items.
  • Walk. I walk to work whenever possible. It’s 3.1 miles door to door, and gives me an hour and a half of personal time to listen to audiobooks, particularly autobiographies of female leaders. I also think about the various challenges on my plate, and work on my own writing by voice dictation. In fact, most of this post was written on one of these walks.
  • Drink tea. I nearly always have a cup or pot of tea next to me. This allows me to have long stretches of back to back meetings without feeling that I don’t have time to take care of myself. It does require quite a few bathroom breaks!
  • Get enough sleep. This may be the most valuable of all of my habits. It means that I have the energy and positive mind space to live each day and enjoy each moment. This means that I often go to bed early, and regularly sleep late. Having a two-year old son makes getting enough sleep challenging, as well as traveling for business when flights are often at 6 o’clock in the morning. This is why I also incorporate napping into my schedule, and make no qualms about it to my colleagues or friends. I encourage them to do the same! Sleep is just so important, and so often under-valued.
  • Have a practice. I don’t make time for yoga, though I very much enjoy it, and I don’t meditate because I hate it. I do, however, maintain a gratitude practice for the minutes that I am in the shower, and a self image boosting practice for the minutes I brush my teeth.
  • Take care of your body. I used to believe that chiropractic adjustments, massages, personal trainers, and babysitters were all unnecessary extravagances. I only sprang for a massage when I was in extreme pain. I now believe those expenses are investments in my well-being and overall impact, and do not have the same shameful relationship I had with them prior.
  • Use technology. There are so many time-saving apps and tech today, we can limit the amount of time we spend doing things we don’t enjoy. Lyft for travel, Postmates for food delivery, Target.com for household, Thredup for thrift clothing, Urbansitter for babysitting on demand, the list goes on and on.

Stress is inevitable today, and yet one of the biggest risks to our happiness and health. I recognize that being an entrepreneur and a mother, I actively choose to take on an incredible amount of stress. Being the CEO of a growing company, managing 60,000 ft.² of commercial real estate, thousands of customers, and dozens of employees, means that there is always something urgent that requires my attention. Besides getting enough sleep and making sure that I have a mug of tea by my side, I also take a selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI) called Cymbalta, that is an anti-anxiety pill as well as an antidepressant. This is not something I really like, and would rather not be tied to chemicals, but I recognize that it, along with all of these other self-supportive habits, allows me to live a much larger and yet less stressed life that I would otherwise.

I hope you can take a few minutes and think about how to simplify your own life. There’s so much to be said for tranquility. Yet we rarely hear that word. I believe it is the answer to today’s overstimulation and frenzy, and that even in this crazy world of 2018, we can each be truly balanced and peaceful. It is the greatest gift we can give to ourselves and the world, and leads to our greatest contributions to society.