- The beginning
- Personal Time
“When you respect your time, others will do the same.”
– Nancy B. Urbach
This “leg” of balance, first and foremost, is about you. About the things, you choose to do because you enjoy them. Not for your employer, significant other, children, or your friends – for you. As the saying goes – “If you don’t plan your life, someone will plan it for you.” This is the time you should plan for yourself and by yourself. This includes sports, hobbies, traveling, and reading, so if this encompasses some of the things you mention in the areas of physical fitness or intellectual activity, that’s even better – in a way, that gives you more than 168 hours for your weekly balance sheet. If you want to open a woodwork studio, that’s great. If you can involve your children in these activities – even better because personal life overlaps with family life here. In the same way, traveling or taking walks in nature together with your family overlap. There are couples and families where people take turns planning vacations. Whoever plans it, chooses what they like doing on holidays because, as is often the case, a compromise can be a solution that doesn’t bring happiness to either side.
Does it also include watching TV and scrolling online? As with any other area that is supposed to help you find more balance, the main question should be whether after spending time in this way, do you feel more energised or just more drained and exhausted?
Everyone is limited by commitments – personal, financial, etc. But it is important to remember that we are each a unique person and since there is no second “me” in the world, no one can tell you how much time and how we should spend it. Hobbies won’t bring much joy if your mind is racing about making ends meet, but in the same way, food in a luxurious restaurant can be tasteless after an exhausting week (or even a month) at work. Sometimes even if you don’t feel the need for personal time or don’t have the time for it, you need to take a step back, distance yourself from all the other activities and commitments, and ask yourself if what you currently have makes you happy? Todd Henry, the author of The Accidental Creative, advises to write down everything that runs circles in your head on paper, regardless of whether it’s a work matter or a personal one. So, if you need an hour a week to clear your head of thoughts or fill it with them, take an hour. If you need a full day, take the day. If you don’t spend an hour on yourself now, you may need to spend months or even years on it in the future. When people start meditating, 5 minutes a day is often enough or even too much.
French philosopher Blaise Pascal once said that all human problems stem from a man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone. During one experiment, people locked up alone in a room chose painful electric shock instead of sitting still and quiet for 10 minutes. Even if you don’t know what you’d like to enrich your personal life with, those 10 minutes can be spent writing in a diary (or simply putting your thoughts on paper) or trying to define how you will become more you in the next month, year, or 5 years. For example, you might want to become someone who knows how to play guitar, understands, or speaks Spanish, knows how to stand on your head, runs your first marathon or half marathon, etc. Taking the time to “do nothing” may seem selfish and irrational, but when you turn over the latest studies on happiness, you will discover that spending time on yourself is not at all senseless.
Where do I start?
Write down what you’d like to do, learn, achieve, and experience. Don’t leave it floating around in your head because it will soon drown among other things, and besides, you can (and you should) use the rest of the space on a piece of paper to explore what, when, and how you are going to do to achieve your goals. Maybe you want to spend more time on nutrition, sport, hobbies, sleep – what else?
Reserve time for yourself in your calendar as if it were one of the most important meetings of the week. If you don’t book the time, someone else will. What is more important here?
Dare to take the time for yourself. Karl from the Disney/Pixar film Up took a solo trip after he had been “late” to a trip with a friend. And what a journey it was! And yet, how many things we don’t find the courage to do… We don’t go to see a movie because no one wants to go to movies like that together. We don’t drink a glass of wonderful wine discovered in a shop because “only alcoholics drink alone”, and we don’t travel to our dream country because for our group of friends “this is the last country on earth they would travel to.” Forget all these social norms – be brave, learn to enjoy your own company, and you will never be bored!
Learn to say no. To less pleasant things first and then to those that matter more to others than to you because there won’t be enough time for everything anyway. After crossing the initial barrier of saying no, learn to say no to seemingly nice, cute things. Those could be helping friends out, volunteering, and cultivating hundreds of hobbies, which can mean the constant joy of discovery or that you don’t really know what you really want to do. Learning to play the guitar or piano and barely managing a sequence of three chords is not the same.
Let others know about your needs. A person devoting time to their personal growth is only a step away from being seen as weird or egotistic. No one should feel guilty about spending time on themselves, wanting to have some alone time, because ultimately, that is… time with the coolest person in the world. But others might see that differently. A couple of an extrovert and an introvert will sooner or later realise that as one of them needs social connections to energise, the other one needs to get away from it to recharge. Just as you don’t have to feel bad about taking time for yourself, another person doesn’t have to understand you – it would be enough (and it must be) for them to accept you the way you are, with all your quirks and strengths. Make your needs clear and discuss them with those around you. Talk about your needs with your significant other, children, colleagues, or employer. Communicate clearly: “Now I need … so that I can then …”. We are all human, and all our lives are trade-offs of “a” for “b” and “c” for “d.”
Buy time. It is a lie that you cannot buy time. Most people know their hourly or monthly salary rates, but what they do after work mystically becomes free labour. Washing, vacuuming, childcare – everything can be assessed monetarily. Cleaning the house for the entire weekend or staying outdoors or exercising after hiring a housekeeper? Going on a cheaper trip with three transfers, or taking a more expensive but direct flight? Making your own food or ordering takeaway? The answers depend on how much you appreciate your time. Another approach to buying time would be answering these questions: how much money you would want to earn if someone asked you to clean up their homes or make their food? Would that earn you more or less than your job? Would that bring you more or less pleasure than your job? After all, we need money to meet our needs and do something enjoyable. So, if cooking brings you joy, why pay the money for it to others? And if you hate annual tire changes, parking problems, and idiots on the road, why don’t you read a magazine on public transport or a taxi?
Adopt the “Please do not disturb” philosophy for your phone, computer, and life. Lock your FOMO (fear of missing out) up in another room for a moment and immerse yourself in gratifying, enjoyable activities with all your mind and heart without worrying about what others think about it. As someone said, “Live your life because the lives of others are already taken.”
Have an hour (or more) without the Internet every day. Or a whole day without the Internet. Get away and disconnect. Not that the Internet is evil, but it always carries the risk of drowning you in an endless stream of news and messages.
Reduce information consumption. It’s a time-consuming activity that has very few calories for the brain. News will always self-claim to be very important, but could you recall at least one “undoubtedly” important piece of news from yesterday, the day before yesterday, or last week? Give it a definite, limited time. In the morning (if you follow the news from Asia), at lunch, or in the evening. Try to detox for a week and don’t watch or read any news. Then, ask yourself if you missed out on anything in the meantime and how you feel about it? Spend the time you saved for yourself.
Start your day early. For some, this might seem impossible, but it is worth trying. The time until 8:00, when the avalanche of work letters and expectations begins, is an opportunity for peace and personal time. For some, this may be the time before children get up. In either case, this is the time when no one expects anything from you, and you can do whatever you want – exercise, write, read.
Stop striving for perfection. First, stop buying one book after another about personal development, productivity, etc. Reading about how you can improve won’t magically and immediately change your life. People who constantly read self-help books can often give great advice, but they find it a lot harder to follow the tips themselves. When would you find the time to live by the advice, when you still have so many more books lined up to read about self-growth!!! People who do this understand that something needs to change in their lives, but they don’t dare start yet. Choose one self-improvement book and live with its advice for a month, maybe 3 or 6 months, perhaps even a year. If it doesn’t fit you, you’ll soon understand, but at least give it a chance. At the same time, lower the bar in your everyday activities. Unanswered emails, dust, or unwashed dishes won’t run away from you; they can wait for you in the morning, after you allow yourself to read a book before bedtime.
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, 2021). Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s investigations of “optimal experience” have revealed that what makes an experience genuinely satisfying is a state of consciousness called flow. During flow, people typically experience deep enjoyment, creativity, and a total involvement with life. Csikszentmihalyi demonstrates the ways this positive state can be controlled, not just left to chance. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience teaches how, by ordering the information that enters our consciousness, we can discover true happiness, unlock our potential, and greatly improve the quality of our lives.
Finding Your Element: How to Discover Your Talents and Passions and Transform Your Life (Ken Robinson, Lou Aronica, 2018). Our heads are filled to the brim with questions about finding our true calling. If you have unrealised dreams, you are haunted by questions of self-growth, or you don’t feel happy, this book will help you take the first steps towards a better life. The author of the book, Ken Robinson, invites you to look at your skills and qualities anew. This book is a practical guide filled with advice that will help you to get to know yourself, understand your own leanings and those of others.
The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything (Ken Robinson, 2019). The element is the point at which natural talent meets personal passion. When people arrive at the element, they feel most themselves and most inspired and achieve at their highest levels. With a sense of humour, Ken Robinson looks at the conditions that enable us to find ourselves in the element and those that stifle that possibility. He shows that age and occupation are no barrier, and proves that with stories of Paul McCartney, Matt Groening, Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, Bart Conner, and others.
Time Smart: How to Reclaim Your Time and Live a Happier Life (Ashley Whillans, 2020). Four out of five adults report having too much to do and not enough time to do it. These time-poor people experience less joy each day. They laugh less. They are less healthy, less productive, and more likely to divorce. In one study, time stress produced a stronger negative effect on happiness than unemployment. How can we escape the time traps that make us feel this way and keep us from living our best lives? The techniques Whillans provides will free up seconds, minutes, and hours that, over the long term, become weeks and months that you can reinvest in positive, healthy activities.
Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives (Gretchen Rubin, 2016). Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life. It takes work to make a habit, but once that habit is set, we can harness the energy of habits to build happier, stronger, more productive lives. If the book “Atomic Habits” is the No. 1 recommendation in the topic of changing habits, this book by Gretchen Rubin is for those who try applying the advice for the media and magazines and nothing seems to work. The author describes four personality types, each of which needs a different approach to turn changes into habits.
https://www.ted.com/, whose slogan reads “Ideas worth spreading”, update their library with new speakers and topics regularly.