I hear it all the time, “Make time to do X today!” There’s all these things we’re told we should be doing: exercising, cooking a home cooked meal, reading more, on and on it goes. The argument typically takes the form of “It’s just an hour a day, which translates to just 4% of your free time. You mean you can’t use just 4% of your time to do something good for yourself?” The problem is, that’s said about a lot of things.
I remember being in my dance class and the instructor was telling us to practice a certain dance move at home. She said “Just do it while you’re brushing your teeth!”. Which sounds reasonable enough, except that she had said that about several other dance moves in various previous classes. You can’t do it all, but the expectation we always hear is that we should.
I’ve had many clients over the years complaining to me that they weren’t doing all those things they should be doing, and actually it was causing them a lot of guilt, anxiety, and feelings of overwhelm. These aren’t exactly good feelings to motivate a person to do more. As we all know, they’re the kinds of feelings that make you just want to sit on the couch and do nothing.
The cure of course is to just prioritize whats important to you and then not feel guilty about the other stuff you’re not doing. I read a lot more books by giving myself permission to only read 10 pages a night (and some days I read zero and that’s okay) rather than if I burdened myself with the expectation to read for a full hour. But what if I did do everything I’m “supposed” to do? Let’s crunch the numbers!
- Read for 1 hour
- Exercise for 1 hour
- Go for a walk every evening (45 minutes)
- Study a foreign language (30 minutes)
- Practice my dance moves (30 minutes)
- Play with the kids (1 hour)
- Spend quality time with my husband (1 hour)
- Home cooked meal from scratch (1 hour)
- Stretch (30 minutes)
- Put in extra time at work to get ahead (1 hour)
- Call my mother (30 minutes)
- Take a long relaxing bubble bath (1 hour)
- Keep abreast on world politics and the local news (1 hour)
- Volunteer (30 minutes, or more depending)
- Get that part-time Masters Degree (2 hours)
The grand total: 13 hours and 15 minutes each and every day!
Now some of you may have even looked at my list and realized that I’m missing a few things. Add to this the strong recommendation that we’re supposed to get a solid 8 hours of sleep a night and it simply can’t be done. So what’s a person to do? Deciding what’s important to you and doing those things and those things only unapologetically is the only cure. Life has too many shoulds, and really, shouldn’t don’t even exist, only preferences. No one’s going to die if you get take-out and don’t practice your French. So ask yourself, what do you prefer to do with your free time? And don’t feel guilty about it. This is your life.