What you choose to do with scheduled downtime can tell you what you desire most
It’s counterintuitive, but scheduled downtime has helped me focus on one goal and begin transforming my life.
As a wife, mother, manager, educator, and volunteer, most of my life has been a series of obligations to others. Typically, I went to bed knowing there was so much more I needed to do, and I woke up not feeling in control of my schedule. It was damn hard to get going every day. It was even harder to figure out where to focus my energy. That started to change when I began to schedule time each day for myself.
To gain some control over my life this year, the first 2 hours of the day became “me time. “ The time is blocked in writing on my daily planner. It still feels like a luxury to permit me to choose to do anything I want every single day, but control is essential to well-being. The possibilities are many hobbies, self-care, reading, watching the sunrise, or working on my side hustle. But I find that I typically choose my side hustle, writing.
My daily choice has revealed what is most important to me right now. It’s an answer to that cliched career question: “If you didn’t have to worry about money, what would you choose to do with your life?” Being kind to myself turned out to be the best way to identify and work on my dream.
Rising earlier and allowing myself to do whatever I want the first 2 to 3 hours of the day has given me clarity and allowed me to accomplish more. Those hours are precious, so I want to make the most of them. It feels great to put my needs first and validate my dreams by giving them space. This act of self-care has helped me have a more positive attitude and manage stress better. Research shows we also live longer when we have a purpose, and I say yes to that.
At first, my family was not used to this seemingly selfish behavior. I had to protect “me time” by rising earlier, finding a quiet space to be alone, and avoiding everyone, including the dog. I had to make myself unavailable to others to be fully present for myself. Now everyone knows and respects “me time,” and I have established a habit of working on my dream.
After giving myself the gift of “me time” for ten months, the benefits are accruing more rapidly. Scheduling “me time” helped me pick the ONE thing I wanted to work on. Yes, I want to get in better shape, be more organized, and shorten my to-do list, but all of those are coming in second to writing. The compound effects of time and working intensely on one thing mean I am making gains and getting wins more frequently.
What I initially considered just a luxury turned out to be a source of focus and a significant boost to my productivity this year. The success of “me time” means I am excited to get out of bed in the morning. I have committed to rising earlier to get more of it. The earlier I wake, the more room I have in my day for all the other commitments I used to dread because they took away my freedom. In turn, my ability to get things done has improved in all facets of my life.
Morning turned out to be the best time for me to pursue my passion. If rising earlier is not an option, you could turn your lunch break into time for you. Switch off the nightly Netflix and tune into yourself. Save the last hour of the day to unplug. There is no magic time of day, but there must be consistency and a belief that what you want to do matters and deserves dedicated time and focus.
What will you find when you give yourself permission to choose what is most important to you?