- Andy Steele
Don't make time, break time
I’d be very surprised to find anyone reading this who hasn’t ever told themselves or been told to “Make time for ourselves”. It's said with the best of intentions but it's often misused. We’re forever being told or telling ourselves we’re going to “make the time up”, until something else comes along; that’s fine “I’ll make time for that too”, and the next thing, and the next thing, until one of the things that we said we’d make time to do is actually picking the kids up from school and it's half past five [no, this hasn't happened to me.... yet.].
“Making time” is a phrase that too often results in burning ourselves out and it’s often said in haste without a clear plan of how the heck we’re going to fit in all the other things we need to do too. Although it happens to everyone, it’s increasingly likely and acute if you have ADHD. I never knew that before I was diagnosed with it and now I do; I not only see how I've done it my whole life, I'm having to learn to be especially strict with myself in finding ways to manage my time better.
Here are some of the things I'm finding help and I hope they help someone else.
1. What am I going to relinquish or prioritise to make sure the stuff that matters most to me happens first?
What are the things that MUST happen? What are the things that NEED to happen? What are the things that I WANT to happen? The MUSTs come first (some time for yourself is in this category), then your NEEDs until you end up with the WANTs.
It doesn’t have to be giving up on something entirely; it just means learning how to strike a balance.
2. If I'm going to take on something new and my life is already full I ask; do I need it? Is it worth it? Then work out how I can fit it in, without burning myself out. Can I delegate some tasks to someone else? How am I going to keep myself healthy (diet, exercise, mindfulness, partner/family)?
3. Can I adjust/create a routine to make sure things happen when I want them to happen. Routines also help if you suffer from anxiety because they might help take away some of the apprehension that comes when you have something in particular that you have to do, but you worry about when.
4. Try the Pomodoro method to break work/study down into 30 minute chunks, where you work for 25 minutes then take a 5 minute break. This helps you stay focused on the things that matter to you and avoids you get sucked into something longer than you wanted (like your favourite social media platform!) It's a bit like interval training for the mind!
There are a lot of apps out there that will help you track your activities but always check the data privacy sections in the likes of Google Play as more than a few will be quietly sharing your activity and personal details with other third parties. "Milki - Pomodoro Study Timer" is a great example of such an app that'll help you study or work without sharing your activities with third parties. There is a free version with ads, or it's £7.99 annually without.
Of course, none of this is "making" time. If anything we're "breaking" time down into smaller chunks or prioritising the things that matter most and making the most of the time available to us with simple techniques.
I hope this helps someone else and if you have any tips of ways to manage your time, then I'd love to hear from you in the comments below, or feel free to contact me by email if you prefer.