‘I’m almost finished the book, I have a few chapters to go. I just haven’t had the time!’
My mother was complaining over a glass of wine during book club. Literally, 30 seconds ago she just told us all that she’d just finished watching Bridgerton for the second time.
I’m 10/10 going to get an outraged text message from her when she reads this (something along the lines of ‘I’ve been saving a lovely bottle of red wine to share with you and I’m drinking it all myself. Cow.’) but she definitely had time to read the book. She just chose not to use it for that. Not having the time and not using the time are totally different things. It’s perfectly fine to allocate your time to something you find more enjoyable – like multiple viewings of a TV series you love. However, that’s 8 hours allocated to something you’ve already consumed. Which is cool, as long as that’s what you actually want to spend your time doing.
Some people genuinely don’t have the time for things like reading books, watching movies or socialising. They might be working and studying, parenting and caring. Barely having the time to sleep let alone engage in any pleasurable activities. It’s not a competition as to who has the most time or who wastes the most time. I’m just trying to create some awareness about what time looks like and how we use it in different ways and how we can try to reclaim our time.
I’ll be honest here and say I’ve never been much of a relaxer and neither has my partner. Our holidays suck. We’re always hiking up hills, visiting museums and squeezing in everything we can. I really, really want to just lie next to a pool and read a book but I can’t manage more than like an hour before I start getting FOMO about all the things I’m missing out on. That’s not a humble brag by the way, it’s genuinely annoying how garbage we are at relaxing. I think it’s a business owner thing. We’ve never had paid holidays ever so any rest time always feels like it’s costing us money. Which it is. We’re getting slightly better at not being so frantic with our ‘spare’ time but it’s a slow process.
With my inability to sit still you’d think I’d be super productive all the time but that’s a common misconception. I love wasting time on Facebook, particularly arguing with strangers. I’ve lost entire workdays trying to ‘educate’ middle-aged Barry’s about women’s rights. Half cleaning out drawers is another thing I love doing. Writing courses I never launch or sell – sign me up! Productive time-wasting is just as silly as non-productive time-wasting it’s just far less enjoyable. So the next time your brain tries to make you have guilt because you spent an amazing day on the couch binge-watching a show you love, spare a thought for the loose cannons like me. For some strange reason, I think half setting up a new business I’ll never launch on a rare free Saturday is a better use of my time than doing something for leisure. It’s not, my clever little binge-watcher. You win. I lose.
I do admit that since having our kid, our perception of time has changed dramatically. I used to be able to faff around quite a lot during the day and then just make up the time later and now that’s not an option because our kid will be home from daycare and requires attention, food and grooming. This eats up our whole evening, every evening. I don’t even hate it – I actually love it. I want to get all my shit done so I can spend some time with her. It just took a bit of adjusting to squeeze more time out of every day.
Here’s what I’ve been doing to make my time count. This stuff won’t work for everyone but I’m hoping there might be a nugget or two in there that will help you out.
1. I’m on social media on Wednesdays only
I still schedule things to publish but I only give myself access to social media on my phone on Wednesdays, unless I absolutely need it for client work or sponsored content. I was doing Tuesday, Wednesday + Thursday but I recently switched to just Wednesdays and it’s awesome.
Here’s what I do instead.
- I read a book or go for a walk on my lunch break – Here’s a podcast episode How To Get Back into The Habit of Reading that will help you out and 27 of The Best Fiction Books I’ve Ever Read via Patreon
- I read articles via Feedly and Medium when I’m waiting at the post office
- I crochet while watching TV at night instead of scrolling on my phone
- I don’t flop on the couch several times a day to ‘check’ my phone
- I don’t get involved in online arguments or scandals because I’m just not consuming it
- I often leave my phone at home
- I don’t have my phone next to my bed at night – I leave it to charge in the kitchen
I still have Facebook and Instagram on my desktop and I check it quickly in the morning (for myself and/or clients) and then I use Self Control to block it out for the rest of the day. I have Messenger on my phone so if I miss or don’t reply to a daycare/school/parenting thing someone will generally message me in there.
If you’re struggling with this concept, just try going social media free from Friday night until Sunday night. Be super strict – take it off your phone and don’t use it on a desktop. By Sunday night you will have missed nothing (I promise) and you will have saved probably a good couple of hours.
If you adore your social media time and it lights you up inside – go forth and Facebook. This is just an option if you feel like you want to back away but you might be struggling with how to do it. It’s also not a foolproof plan. Sometimes when I’ve put my Fort Knox social media ban in place and I need a hit of some light garbage I do really dumb shit like Google ‘celebrities you didn’t know had dated’ or I try to track down a blogger I used to follow in 2007 to see what they’re doing now. I’m not infallible, in fact, I’m quite self-sabotaging – that’s why I need these extreme measures in place. I get bored far quicker when I’m just free-range Googling than I do on my highly curated algorithm fed social feeds so it really is the lesser of two evils. I get back to work quicker if I block all my socials.
This is how I found out Fred Armisen and Elizabeth Moss used to be married. And while I was googling this to prove it to you I also found out that Fred Armisen and Natasha Lyonne are now together. Obscure celebrity gossip is very much my kryptonite.
2. My house isn’t pristine
My house is tidy and mostly clean but not Monica Gellar clean. I’d love for it to be Monica Gellar clean but for me, the time cost isn’t worth it. As long as I’m not embarrassed by someone using our toilet, I’m cool with the skirting boards needing a good dust most of the time.
It does reach a point where I go bananas and start scrubbing the front of all the cabinets but most of the time, I’m quite okay with a very standard level of things being clean and tidy. If you’re into a supremely clean house and the time investment is worth it for you, you do your thing babe. I’m just sharing how now that I’ve let go of that dream, I have a lot more spare time. And it’s worth it.
We’re also minimalists so that helps with things not looking like a tornado ripped through our house, just don’t look too closely at the tops of the picture frames or our kid’s grubby high chair with month old yogurt pressed into the corners. The only way that yogurt is coming out is if I scrub it with a toothbrush and that’s Monica Gellar territory and I’ve consciously tapped out of that.
3. I use timers and timings
We live a very scheduled life but it works for us and stops the day slipping away from us. A highly scheduled existence would give some people the heebie-jeebies but it actually allows us more freedom.
Here are some things that happen in our day.
- On Monday, Tues and Thurs I wake up at 6.10 and do a 45-minute gym class from 6.30 and I’m home by 7.30 am
- Kid has to be eating breakfast by 7.15 am (usually not a problem because she’s a toddler so she’s often awake well before this time)
- Kid dressed and ready by 8.15 am
- Kid at school by 8.30 am
- Both of us home and at our desks with a coffee by 9 am (we do drop off together which sounds like such a waste of time but we really like it and it’s our little fake commute ritual)
- Work in 3 x 50 min blocks until midday (I use Pzizz to time this and I start a new block of 50 mins on the hour)
- Eat lunch at midday and go for a 35 min walk around the block
- Back to our desks at 1 pm
- Work in 3 x 50-minute blocks until 4 pm
- Go get the kid from daycare and hang out with her for a few hours
- Bedtime routine – dinner at 6 pm, bath at 6.30 pm, bed for her at 7 pm
- We get a few hours to relax then we get ready for bed at 9.30
- Hopefully asleep by 10 pm
We’re a little looser on the weekends (quite a lot looser!) but we need our weekdays to be as smooth as possible. With a kid, shit happens all the time. She might be sick, she might just decide to be a demon 2-year-old for no apparent reason. We’re also business owners so we often have meetings/extra work at night and on the weekends we have to allow for. I’m sure we’ll relax a little as she gets older but for now, our strict routine is the thing holding us together.
4. I multitask but I do it the smart way
I try not to multitask when I’m sitting at my desk or doing proper work but in everyday life, I’m a full body supporter of multi-tasking. Here are some things you could try.
- Listening to a podcast when exercising
- Calling a friend/loved one (hands-free of course!) when you’re driving to work
- Cleaning/tidying the bathroom while your kid has a bath
- Doing a quick workout when your kid is at the park (just a few sneaky squats, chin-ups, lunges that kind of thing)
- Colouring in/knitting/crocheting/sewing/drawing while you’re watching TV (or rewatching – if I want to re-watch something I always do something soul-feedy and creative while I’m doing it)
- Socialise and exercise at the same time by going for a walk with a mate
- Try to batch your tasks – I will always book appointments for directly after daycare drop off or directly before pick up so I can do all my erranding in a single trip
- Cook dinner with your kids – we got our 2-year-old this little safety knife and peeler and she helps cook dinner most nights
- Catch up in groups if you don’t have time for several coffee dates per week
These things only happen on days when I’m really feeling it. On days that I’m not I’ll often just sit down exhausted and stare at my kid while she kicks her toys around because she’s too ratty to play with anything properly. The above suggestions are for days when you feel like you might be slightly on top of things. Don’t bother on bad days. Just make it through.
5. I say no… a lot
I like helping but I have to say no to things quite often so I can maintain my sanity.
Here’s a list of things I don’t generally do (and I mean generally, I sometimes do all of these things just not often enough for them to become expected).
- Cook a special dinner to leave for my family if I’m not going to be home
- Buy presents/remember birthdays for my partner’s family
- Pack our kids bag if I’m not the one taking her out for the day
- Let people ‘pick my brains’ about my business – I’m totally cool if we already know each other or we’ve been interacting online but out of the blue ‘Hey can you help me start a podcast?’ inquires get deleted immediately
- Cook/shop/prepare for my partner’s friends and family when they visit – I absolutely contribute to these activities but we have an unofficial agreement that if it’s his people, he’s in charge, if it’s mine, I’m in charge
- Pretty much anything at all on a weeknight (I’m sure this will change but as full time working parents of a toddler the answer to ‘Are you free on Wednesday night?’ is invariably ‘No’)
- Attend meetings I don’t need to be at. I have several clients at any given time and before I sign on with them I make it clear that it’s a waste of my time (and their money) to be at meetings I don’t need to attend and they generally all agree – if you’re wondering if you can do this in your workplace, you can. I negotiated with a boss of mine in my early 20s to not attend the weekly team meeting by showing her how much it cost to have me there VS how irrelevant the meeting was to me. She couldn’t argue with the data and let me work instead of attending the meeting. I was 23 years old – how’s the moxy? I’d be thoroughly amused if a 23-year-old tried that on me. Ah the folly of youth.
Here’s a list of things I often do.
- Look after my friend’s kids
- Cook for my friends if they’ve had a bad week/baby/injury
- Organise things – books tickets/restaurants/collect money for things
- Volunteer for community events/communities
- Lay out our kid’s PJs and books to make bath time easier if I’m going to be out
- Support my friends’ businesses
It’s all about deciding what you’re comfortable with and what deserves your time. I also fall off the wagon constantly, but I have these parameters in place to remind me what it is that I actually want and to keep striving for that. So when I waste 30 minutes on Facebook I have a system for ensuring I don’t do that again. For a while at least.
And yeah we absolutely fall off the wagon often. Sometimes our towels get way danker than I’m comfortable with and I’ve definitely given my eggs on toast for dinner three nights in a row. It’s cool. Back on the bandwagon tomorrow.
I hope this has helpful and not too preachy. I really don’t want to sound like a dick, it’s just that I’m weirdly passionate about time management. Want to know something I’m really shit at? I leave dirty knives glued to the kitchen counters several times a day. Like a poorly trained teenager who made themselves a sandwich. I don’t know why I do it and I’m often the one cleaning up my own mess but it doesn’t stop me.
It’s been a while since I’ve written a straight-up blog post so here are a few other things you might like.
Last 5 Episodes of Very Excellent Habits
You can follow me on Instagram (I’m mainly on there on Wednesdays)
Where I’m shopping (I usually include links to stuff I buy in my newsletter but I figured I’d pop them here too!)
Email newsletter – I send this out on Wednesdays and it’s full of links, recommendations, thoughts and cool stuff
I’ve recently changed the pricing structure of CC so it’s no longer subscription. If you’re keen to learn, you can grab the course here.
And that’s about it. Hope you have a fab day!