How many times do we find ourselves saying, “I would love to do that, but I just don’t have the time?” Whether it’s spending more time with your kids, enjoying that date night, learning a new skill, or even exercising more, there never seems to be enough hours in the week. We live busy lives. We may have a demanding job (or two) that takes up 40, 50, 60 hours of our week and that can seem to leave little time for much else.

We may have tried tips and tricks to shave time off daily activities so we’ll have time for the fun stuff however that can seem futile. Time is highly elastic. We cannot create more time however time will stretch to accommodate what we choose to put into it. The key to time management is knowing our priorities and treating them as such. Everything we do is by choice, so instead of saying “I don’t have time to do something” the more accurate way of stating it is “I don’t do something because it’s not a priority.”

Using this verbiage reminds us that time is a choice and while there could be terrible consequences for making different choices, in the long run we have the power to fill our lives with the things that deserve to be there.

Here are 3 tips, according to author Laura Vanderkam, to incorporate your priorities into your busy schedule:

  1. Determine what your priorities are. It’s important to not only look at these priorities from a professional level, but also a personal level. Make a list of 3-5 things that would make it a great year for you professionally and personally
  2. Break down your priorities into doable steps. Sometimes when we look at a goal it may seem unachievable or overwhelming. Breaking it down into doable steps can make it seem easier to achieve and less stressful. For example, want to train for a marathon? First step may be to just find a good pair of running shoes.
  3. Put your priorities into your schedule first. Ever notice how quickly our schedules fill up? To ensure our priorities remain priorities put them on your schedule first. We can do this by thinking through our weeks before we are in them. Make a three category list consisting of Career, Relationships, and Self with 2-3 items each. Then look throughout the next week and see where you can plan them in.

There are 168 hours in a week. If you are working a 40 hour a week job and sleeping 8 hours a night that leaves 72 hours for other things. Some peoples lives are much harder than others, however when most of us have free time, what do we do?… We pull out the phone, start deleting emails, scrolling through social media, or watching television.

“We can use bits of time for bits of joy; looking at the whole of one’s time and seeing where the good stuff can go. There is time. Even if we are busy, we have time for what matters and when we focus on what matters we can build the lives we want in the time we’ve got.“ – Laura Vanderkam

It is important to remember there are always options and choices to improve your life no matter how stuck you may feel.  If you are having difficulties seeing the possible options, consider contacting a trusted professional. You can take steps to creating a life that you enjoy.

NOTE: You can freely redistribute this resource, electronically or in print, provided you leave the authors contact information below intact.

Author: Stephanie Booth, MS a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern at Total Life Counseling Center in Orlando where our experts specialize in depression & anxiety and our experts can be reached at (407) 248-0030.