As people grow older, responsibilities pile up more quickly than they can handle. New tasks and chores will have to get squeezed into your already-tight schedule and oftentimes, you have to let go of some activities you used to do just for the heck of it.
Nobody can live the twenty-something lifestyle forever. Career demands and domestic responsibilities will creep onto your doorstep like a Jehovah’s Witness without you knowing it. However, it doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice your personal time to satisfy your more demanding responsibilities. Letting your career eat up your whole schedule won’t guarantee success and happiness; instead, it will lead to poor health and, potentially, a burnout.
Conversely, people who manage to get their “me time” despite a busy schedule are the ones who lead more successful and contented lives. Their secret? Work-life balance.
The balance between work and play
Like what Jack Nicholson’s character said in “The Shining,” “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
Overwork and no “me time” will make you snap and axe-murder your family. Well… maybe not that extreme, but the wisdom behind it is that it is healthier to get your “me time” than to go without it. Spending time with yourself and your personal activities makes you recharged and refreshed to go and get back into the fray.
Work doesn’t only mean the hours you spend in your job. It also means household chores and family responsibilities. In the same way, “me time” doesn’t mean taking a vacation while still answering emails or calls from work. Spending real “me time” is temporarily disconnecting yourself from work and responsibilities and using that time to relax, have fun, and rediscover yourself.
Tips to get your “me time”
#1 Make it a permanent part of your schedule. A common mistake for busy people is to treat their personal time as optional. When dividing their time, they put work into priority, domestic chores next, and their personal time last on the list. If you do this, what happens is that you only get a small part of your time for yourself—if there’s any left for it, at all.
In setting your daily, weekly, or monthly schedule, make sure that you treat your personal time the same way you treat an important business meeting. It should be a must. This way, you’ll appreciate it more and get used to personal breaks, even if you have a very tight schedule.
#2 Include “me time” in your priorities list. The reason why some people treat their personal time as optional is because they don’t treat it as a priority. If this is the case, you’ll easily be convinced to move, cancel, or spend less time on yourself. If that happens, you’ll easily forget getting your “me time” altogether, which will lead into the inevitable burnout. [Not sure what you want?
Treat your personal time the same way you value eating or breathing. Use it to do something which you’re really interested in, like an old favorite hobby, or something new that you’ve been planning to do. This way, you’ll always look forward to your “me time,” and make it a permanent part of your schedule.
#3 Don’t let work and responsibilities invade your “me time.” As mentioned, you cannot spend “me time” if you’re still worrying and taking on work. Once you pack your bags for a trip out of town, leave your laptop, and turn off your phone. Be firm and make other people understand that you’re taking a day off and they need to lay off of you for the moment. Letting work invade your personal time defeats the purpose and takes the fun out of it.
#4 Schedule your personal activities ahead of time. Your personal time can be spent in any way and by any activity you find enjoyable. It can be something as mundane as taking an hour off to read a book, getting a short nap, or something like a month-long backpacking trip. The trick is to set it in the appropriate time so that work and play won’t interfere with each other.
Activities that can be done in less time can be squeezed in daily, while day-long activities can be done during the weekends. Long vacations can be planned at the start of the year, taking note of holidays and seasonal breaks that can accommodate your plans.
#5 Find ways to make your work more efficient, so that you’ll have more “me time.” If you find yourself swamped with tasks, with no time for your personal activities, you might be doing your work inefficiently. That’s why it takes more time to accomplish than normal. If this is the case, you might need to re-evaluate the way you do your work, and list the ways you’re doing it inefficiently.
Make a list of your usual work or chores, along with the time spent doing them and the way needed to accomplish them. Oftentimes, the problem lies on the time of the day or week the task is scheduled. Try to re-schedule tasks, and find ways you can accomplish multiple tasks in the same time period. This way, you’ll get to free up some time for your personal activities.
#6 Ask for help. If you find that one of your tasks takes too much time to be done alone, you can cut time by asking for help. It can be done in the workplace, but most of the time it is more comfortable to ask for help in doing household chores. Ask a partner, a friend, or a family member for input in a task so that it’ll be easier to do and faster to accomplish. This could also serve as bonding time for the people involved.
#7 Multitask. If you can finish two or more tasks within a single time frame, this can free up more time for your personal activities. Multitasking is a good way to squeeze a few more hours into your free time and get things done quickly. This can also be used to do both work and do fun things at the same moment. For example, listening to your favorite podcast while working, or catching up on your book while waiting for the laundry to finish.
#8 Find a job that gives you work-life balance. In the end, it’s all about how you view your career—preferably as something fulfilling and enjoyable. As the saying goes, “Choose a job you love and you’ll never work a single day in your life.” If your job is aligned to your interests, you won’t see it as something tiresome or stressful. Having a job that you love combines work and play–and you even get paid for it.
A fulfilling life stands on the delicate balance between work and play. While you can go about working all the days in your life, it will amount to nothing if you don’t make time for yourself and your interests. The trick is compromise: to work in order to support your interests, and to have your “me time” to be inspired enough to go back to your job.