“Me Time” is important but, unfortunately, making time for yourself is low on the priority list for many busy professionals. Tim Kehl, M.Div., a senior corporate chaplain and work-life balance specialist/speaker based in Madison, Wisconsin, offers a few insights into how to make time for yourself.
How to Make Time for Yourself
Achieving a healthy work-life balance requires managing our professional and personal life in sustainable ways that keep our energy flowing, our minds and bodies healthy and our whole selves happy and content. It means giving due attention to all of the things that enrich and fulfill us: work and career, health and fitness, family and relationships, spirituality, community service, hobbies and passions, intellectual stimulation, rest and recreation.
As much as work, health, and relationships take priority in your life, it is also important to schedule time for your own renewal. Below are eight ways to make time for yourself and lead a well-balanced life both in and out of the workplace.
1. Indulge in some small pleasure daily. Take at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted “me time.” It will do wonders for your well-being, and your relationships and career will benefit too. Take a walk in the park, read a novel, do some gardening, enjoy a long bath and a glass of wine, listen to music, play video games—whatever it takes to clear your mind, relax your body and rejuvenate your spirit. Block this time into your schedule, stick to it, and watch your stress level go down.
2. Take up a Hobby. Schedule a couple hours every week or two for immersing yourself in a particular hobby, sport or special interest. If you don’t have one, get one. Sign up for a class, join a book club, play a round of golf with friends, sing in a choir, or volunteer at a charity. Find something that nourishes you, expands your mind and ignites your passion.
3. Connect with your spiritual source. Belief in God, or a higher power, can be a deep well from which to draw inspiration, guidance, and strength. Whatever your faith background or spiritual orientation, regularly take part in some combination of worship, prayer, meditation, study, and service. Strengthening your spiritual foundation will help you achieve inner balance, a prerequisite to outer balance.
4. Observe a weekly day of rest. What the ancients knew and codified in the fourth commandment, modern science has recently confirmed: the human body has a built-in need to take one regular day of relaxation out of seven. This day of rest allows you to unwind and decompress from the activities of the week, while rejuvenating your mind and body for the week ahead. It also affords you the opportunity to focus on your beyond-work priorities such as family, friends and faith.
5. Rely on coworkers. Develop a network of trusted co-workers who can cover your job responsibilities when a family emergency arises. Create a similar network of family members and friends who will pitch in with child care or household responsibilities when you need to work overtime or travel. Be willing to reciprocate.
6. Find a mentor. Find a mentor, someone you admire for their work-life balance, their accomplishments, and their way of being in the world. Ask him (or her) how he does it. He/she will be flattered that you asked, and you will benefit personally and professionally from their wisdom and example.
7. Outsource Tasks. Outsource some of your time-consuming household chores and errands. The quality time you spend with your partner, family, and friends is more valuable than money. When feasible, hire a house cleaner, nanny/babysitter, lawn maintenance service and/or handyman. Also, use the Internet for grocery shopping, banking and paying bills.
8. Leave Work at Work. Develop a mental on-off switch between work and home. It helps to establish a transitional activity between the two realms. This might consist of listening to music or recorded books during your evening commute, exercising at the fitness center, running errands, or keeping personal appointments (doctor, dentist, hair stylist). Scheduling such activities immediately following your normal work hours also prevents you from spending that extra twenty minutes at the office which then turns into several hours. Additionally, when you arrive at home, turn off your cell phone and put away your laptop computer for a few hours. Set a limit on the amount of time you will discuss job concerns with your spouse, friends or family members. If a work-related idea happens to pop into your head during off hours, simply jot it down, or leave yourself a voice mail at work. Then let it go, and enjoy the rest of your evening.