By Tracy Henderson
I’m amazed at the choreography that takes place between partners when they describe a day in the life. From 3:45 am wake-up calls to 11:00 pm conference calls there are many furious details that take place in between. On top of a full schedule for two working adults when kids are involved the madness of the day tends to become a cyclone of activity involving breakfast, lunches, school drop-off/pick-up, before/after school care, doctors’ appointments, music lessons, team sports, PTA, homework, play-dates, tutoring, etc.
Commonly lost in the fury of the day is personal time as individuals and as a couple.
In my experience working with both individuals and couples, I have found that a common theme that occurs for both of them is the lack of personal time that otherwise can be known as self-care. In many instances, when I have discussed the concept of self-care with both individuals and couples, I typically experience blank stares in return.
Upon further discussion about self-care the notion of time enters the conversation which typically brings about the comment “I don’t have time…”
Time is a valuable and scarce commodity and it can be extremely scarce if we don’t manage it. More often than not, the results from 3:45 am wake-up calls and 11:00 pm conference calls eventually translate into burnout, stress, anxiety, irritability, sadness, difficulty sleeping, and depression to name a few.
As individuals, partners, and caregivers if we don’t experience personal time then our ability to function, interact in healthy ways, and hold compassion for others begins to fatigue. Individuals who are able to meet their own needs are typically better equipped to care and provide for others. If we cannot take care of ourselves then how can we care for others?
Which leads me to a common suggestion I offer my clients. The goal involves doing things to take back some of your time. Note that I didn’t say all of your time. Rather, I believe in taking small steps which can lead to much bigger steps. Therefore, let’s start with “some” of your time.
The first step involves taking a self-inventory of how you are spending your time. Start with a day. Pick your busiest day and document what you did and how long it takes you from the moment you wake up until the time your head hits the pillow. Keep it simple or as detailed as you like.
The objective is to document where you are spending your time and how long your investing in that activity. Once you’ve captured the busiest day then move on and capture the rest of the week.
The outcome will provide you a rich amount of data to step back and review how much time you are spending across all the activities you experience. Once you’ve captured this information take time to review it, much like how you might review your household financial budget. Where are you investing your time and energy the most? What parts of the day or week are you over-investing and getting little in return? What “other” activities have you given up that you’d like to find time for?
Once you find the opportunities in your day or week that you are over-investing in, try swapping those activities for others that you “don’t have time for.” With that said, I want to acknowledge that the “urge” to fall back into the routine will be an overwhelming feeling. It is a challenge to shift from a current habit to a new habit, which means you may want to incorporate the buddy system. When you find the time you want to incorporate a new activity into your schedule find a partner who can enjoy that experience with you, as well as, hold you accountable for following through. Schedule the time for both of you to participate in the activity.
This commitment to both the activity and to your partner will help you overcome the desire to just fall back into the thought of “I don’t have time….”