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21 Days of Self-Care: Day 16 – Time is On Your Side (Yes, it is)

During this self-care project, we’ve spent some time evaluating our mental and physical state with our mind/body scan, and our nutritional state with our food journal. Now we’ll do another evaluation, to see how we live our priorities through our schedule, by making a time diary.

Our priorities and our sense of time have probably changed a lot over the last few months. Where before we felt we never had enough time, now we may have all kinds of time on our hand because of our shifting job responsibilities. Maybe you’re working from home, or maybe your job disappeared as businesses shut down. Maybe you’re working harder than ever because you are an essential front-line worker. Maybe you’re spending your time being a full-time parent and a part-time educator. In any event, the way you’re spending your time has probably shifted. And your opinion of what’s the best use of your time probably has too.

A lot of us have probably uttered some variation of the phrase “Don’t ask me what I did today!” “How did it get to be 5 o’clock?” “I was so busy today but I didn’t accomplish anything!” Our time diary will give us some clarity. Pick some method to record how you spend your time on a particular day. Keep it close by, so you can track your time as you go through your day; as with our food journal, we don’t want to rely on memory.

In 15-minute increments, track how you spend your time. For example, as “normal” working day might go something like:

6:30 Woke up; 6:45 Shower, get dressed; 7:00 Breakfast; 7:30 Leave for work; 7:30 – 8:45 Commuting; 9:00 At work; 9:00 – 10:15 Working; 10:15 Coffee break; Etc.

As with our food log, we then need to analyze our data. Once you’ve finished your time diary, take a look at it. Add up the time spent on various tasks. For example:

9 hours – at work (total); 4 hours – at work, actually working; 2.5 hours – at work, cruising Facebook; 30 minutes – at work, hanging out with coworkers talking about last night’s TV viewing; 2 hours – at work, in meetings; 2.5 hours – commuting; 1.5 hours – TV; 1 hour – workout; etc.

Then, ask yourself:

  1. How am I spending my time? Look at the time spent on all tasks.

  2. What are my top priorities in life? What is important to me — what brings me joy? If you aren’t sure what your life priorities are, this is a good time to think about them.

  3. How much time am I spending on my top life priorities? Does your schedule reflect your values?

  4. What are my “time-suckers”? Time-suckers are things that take up time, but don’t really benefit you. This could be standing in line, watching TV, cruising the internet, being physically at work but not doing anything productive, etc.

  5. Given this, what could I change about my schedule so that my time reflects my top life priorities? What might you need to change or adjust? How could you do more of what you love in life?

Could you…

Do fewer things, but with more focus? Creating a priority list will help you decide what to do first.

Cut down one “time sucker”? If necessary, use a timer. 30 minutes of baby animal videos is plenty.

Ask for help? (Oh, no! Anything but that! Believe me, I know how hard that can be.)

Uni-task instead of multi-task? Studies show that contrary to what you might expect, doing ONE thing at a time, with your full attention, works much better than trying to juggle a bunch of stuff at once.

Plan and prepare more effectively? Check back on Day 17 for more on this!

Let one small responsibility or task go?

Find one small way to chase your joy? How could you juggle your schedule to do more of something you love?

Now may be a great time for you to re-evaluate your priorities and how you spend your time. As with our other lessons, it’s about adding value. Can you add 15 minutes of something important and valuable, by removing 15 minutes of something unimportant, a time-sucker? Make your time diary, analyze your time diary, and think about how to improve your schedule just a little bit, so your time spent reflects what’s truly important to you.

Information in this post is sourced from my nutrition coaching program, powered by Precision Nutrition's ProCoach platform.

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