Getting pulled in all different directions, putting out fires, dealing with one problem after another—pretty soon the day is gone. Many of us can’t find time to work on our own growth and recovery because obligations, decisions, and all kinds of distractions crowd into our awareness and fill up our time before we know it.
Sometimes this is actually an enjoyable escape, an escape into reality, as it were.
But when we can’t make time to attend to things that feed us in deeper ways, things that give us a sense of fulfillment, then we are not really present in our own lives. This is a fancy way of saying that most of us would like more “me” time.
Here are some ways to think about creating more room in your day. They may all sound like “character defects” but I like to see them as secrets of adulthood.
Postponing stuff is in part a spiritual exercise; it involves having the faith that everything I need to get done will get done. Waiting until the last minute to do certain things is not always a good idea. But you can waste a huge amount of time badgering yourself about what you “should” be doing, time you could spend on something else.
I have a kind of loose rule of thumb that if I can’t get myself to do something, if I can’t stand the idea of doing it, then I just don’t do it. Until when? Until I can stand to do it, whenever that is. And I am almost always pleasantly surprised to find that a moment will come when the task seems more do-able.
Putting off decisions is a cousin to procrastination. If you are unsure about a decision it will often become clearer if you can put off deciding. Here again you can waste time obsessing about what you are going to decide. And decision making often requires a lot of mental energy, it is real work. Some situations will resolve themselves if you just stall.
So backing off from the idea that each little decision is earth shaking can be a big time saver. It helps to remember a slogan from the 12-step program Al-Anon: “How important is it?” If someone else is pushing you for a decision you can give yourself permission to put them off. If you don’t know, you don’t know.
This is probably the most underused strategy for carving out time, and yet it can be all important, particularly for people in recovery. Often the most meaningful things we do like journaling, reading, or meditating require some undisturbed solitude. I was amazed to discover that I could say to those around me “I’m going to close the door and be alone for an hour or so.” It took some guts to do it at first, but it was actually quite easy to accomplish. Quiet time alone is essential to my sanity and to anyone’s recovery. It is important not to let yourself be talked out of it.
By this I mean giving yourself permission to change your mind and even to let someone down. We get ourselves locked into things and then feel like we have to follow through, even when it is important to our well-being to change course. This permission to change our mind may not apply in cases where we feel we need to do something because it is our duty, because we want to do the right thing for someone we care about. But in other cases it never hurts to stop and say “do I really feel like doing this?”
This is especially true when we are feeling vulnerable to a guilt trip. You cannot allow someone to commandeer your time if it’s not right for you. It is OK to do something that someone else may not like. It is an important skill to have when you need it.
Being organized is usually a good thing. And indeed, being organized is one of the habits of most successful people. But sometimes people are too organized and this leaves little room for spontaneity and the enjoyment of life. It is important to notice if you are being trapped by your own routine. Being too organized can be a result of being frightened.
For me it was always the fear that if I didn’t do something as soon as I thought of it I would forget to do it entirely. In reality I usually remember eventually. But there is nothing wrong with making to-do lists either. Fear of being wrong can also lead to being trapped into doing everything properly and on time. And here again it is important to be willing to be imperfect. Remember the recovery saying: “I am enough, I have enough, I do enough.”
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Last reviewed: 9 Jun 2014