Free Time? What Free Time?

If you're anything like me, there is so much you'd like to get done in this life, you can't possibly do it all! You also hold yourself to a high standard so you spend extra time perfecting things, or chastise yourself when you don't do everything you think you should do. There's also that pesky matter of getting distracted from the thing you are doing and making it take WAY longer than it could. Add to that our culture's glorification of busy, and who exactly is it that has this mythical "free time"?

Why do I need free time anyway? 

Since I hit puberty, every spring I'd go through a bout of fatigue/depression at the end of each school year. I've known from an early age that I needed my summer breaks to recoup for the new year. My answer to this was to work in schools. The problem is though I would be so exhausted at the end of the school year that it would take me most of the 2-3 months of summer break to recover! Once the pressure stopped, I'd wake up light headed and it would take me hours to properly function each day. Even then I was not very productive on the things I wanted to spend my time on. I was eventually diagnosed with adrenal fatigue and realized that I've been beating up my adrenals for over 25 years.

It may be tempting to push yourself to be as productive as possible because you know when you stop you won't be much good to anybody, but if you push yourself a little less, you will have a little more to give when the pressure is off. He are some things that have helped me find a little more time for myself:

Cut yourself some slack. I know you are capable many great things - and you will do them - just not all at once, and maybe not quite ALL of them. Your high standards will help you with quality work, but don't let perfectionism keep you from what's really important. Before you take on one more thing or get too bogged down by the details, ask yourself, "is this important? Is this fun? Do I have the time and energy?"

Listen to your body. You may think you have the energy if you tune out your body until you crash. Usually though, your body has a habit of screaming back at you eventually. You may not always connect it with how you've treated it in the past but if you really start to listen, you can stop before you crash. One of the best things I ever did for my body was when I had chronic headaches and I was told to set an alarm every hour and rate my pain and tension. It taught me to feel the tension creep up my neck and if I could catch it there I could prevent a debilitating headache. Now regular check ins with my body can tell me when I'm pushing it before it goes too far. I still get caught up in things and forget to check in, but I'm getting better.

Avoid contaminated time. Brigid Schulte describes contaminated time as the "mental tape-loop" that runs through so many women's minds of everything they need to do even when they aren't doing them. When you are taking time out for yourself, make an effort to focus on the moment and not all of the other things you think you should be doing. For me this also involves not clearly delineating between free time and work time at home so that I can be fully present with my partner.

Schedule your free time. In order to be more present in the moment, I've had to get better at setting time aside for work and time aside for play. Some of it I need to mark in my calendar to make sure I take it. Other things I try to work into my daily or weekly routine. I've been trying to get in a 10 minute walk around my work regularly in the mornings and when I manage to do it consistently, I'm always more productive when I get back. It's also a way for me to work in mindfulness as I pay attention to my surroundings instead of the chatter of my mind.

What will you do this week to make time for yourself?