For educators (and parents), it’s the end of August and the beginning of September that stirs up all the emotions of a new year, a new beginning, and a new season of change. Whether you’re into electronic calendars, daytimers, or are old fashioned like me (yep, I work in technology and carry a paper calendar – Sssh!), there’s something magical about opening a new, untouched, unmarked school calendar, just waiting to be filled. We are given 1440 minutes in every day. Now, more than ever, it’s important to be mindful of what we fill our time with. Despite the best of intentions, the reality is that for most of us, unless it’s written down, and scheduled in, many things just won’t happen. Have fun with it, draw it out, colour code it, and keep it close by so you always know what’s next. Here are 10 things you should be making time for:
- Things you have to do – start with the non-negotiables. These are your must dos (responsibilities). You might not have a lot of control over the hours of your work day, but with careful planning and structure, you can minimize the amount of time you need to fulfill these priorities. These include both personal and professional obligations. Examples: household duties, family responsibilities, paid work responsibilities, business endeavors, bill paying, grocery shopping, school work, childcare duties… If you’re struggling with an extra long to-do list, try breaking everything down into smaller tasks and knocking off a few of the easy ones first. This will help to motivate you to do more as you see things getting crossed off your list. Don’t forget to circle back and check on your progress. Are the goals you’ve set realistic? Do they still help you to meet your priorities? Don’t be afraid to rewrite, reword, and rework your goals and calendar so that you’re doing things that serve you best, during times of most importance.
- Things you love – commit to activities you enjoy and schedule time to actually do them. Spend time doing things that make you feel really, really good. Introverts already know the importance of solo time, but we all need time to recharge and nourish ourselves. Include time for fitness/workouts, yoga, bubble baths, reading books, writing in journals, going for runs, watching films, gardening, meditation, visiting your favourite parks, window shopping, or just snuggling with a pet. Don’t be afraid of being a little indulgent – massages, wine sipping, and dates at the nail spa are totally legit.
- Things that will help you reach a specific goal –challenge yourself and reinforce personal growth by setting goals on a consistent and timely basis – start with a list of goals (the really big ones, like the new job you’re itching for, next adventure seeking plans, buying a house, or writing your first novel), then work on breaking them down into smaller steps so you can start planning to include steps towards these each and every day.
- Things for others – we all need support. Set aside some time to help those around you. Small gestures count. Offer to help a neighbor with a chore, to pet or child sit, run or walk a race that benefits a cause close to you, cook for your friends or family, or read to a child. Ask someone how their day is going (the grocery store clerk, bank teller, or someone you hold the door open for) and really care about their response. You’ll be amazed at how being kind and loving to others increases your own happiness and appreciation.
- Things that fuel or energize you – I’m not just talking about food here, although taking time to nourish yourself is definitely important. And when you’re fueling up, make sure it’s with the best – think fresh green juices, raw coconut water, or your favourite protein smoothie to energize you throughout the day. Beyond nutrition, add things to your calendar that really light you up – reading your favourite books, dancing, catching a comedy show… Think carefully before adding commitments to your calendar, ask yourself if the activity energizes or drains you; serves you, or helps you grow. Then, do more of them.
- Things that make you go hmm – schedule time for things or activities that fill you with wonder and curiosity. I often get my fill by traveling and exploring far-away places, and meeting new people, but this could also be as simple as trying a new perspective on something familiar, like reading a book outside of your usual genre, shopping at your local farmer’s market instead of a grocery store, or exploring a new yoga pose. Stroll to the park and feed the ducks, or simply take some time to stargaze, people watch, or find cloud animals. Get up early and watch the sunrise. Spark your sense of adventure and ignite your inspiration.
- Things that bring you closer to others – take time to nourish your important relationships and build stronger connections with others – send thanks or show appreciation, make dates with friends, or just reach out and connect. Send birthday cards, postcards, or personal notes, give big hugs, meet up for cocktails. Invest in more friends, more deeply, and create a community of support for yourself.
- Things that make a difference in the world. You don’t have to be Mother Teresa or have a large bank account to make a difference. Taking the time to recycle, compost, or plant a small garden are easy ways to contribute to a healthier world. Volunteer some time at your local animal shelter, participate in a local clean-up initiative, and support community events.
- Things that support a healthier you. Living a health conscious lifestyle takes considerable time and effort. Beyond ensuring that you’re well nourished, exercising, and not sleep deprived, you also need to make time for proper medical attention, dental hygiene, eye care, and other specialty health services. Don’t overlook the services of chiropractors, naturopaths, nutritionists, and massage therapists to complement your health routine.
- Things that give you rest. Our daily lives aren’t very conducive to slowing down, although this is essential to encourage healing and recovery throughout your whole body. This may sound counterintuitive, but instead of being concerned with how to stop overscheduling yourself, schedule your breaks, and build in time to pause. Taking vacations and holidays is important, but if it’s not feasible in your immediate schedule, give yourself permission to schedule in a lazy morning in bed, sip a latte (or my favourite, warm cup of cocoa), wrap yourself in a blanket and browse through a magazine, read a good book, or listen to the rain. Take big, beautiful breaths, tune into yourself, and observe.
I’ve just celebrated my 38th birthday and although I have much to be grateful and appreciative of, I also have a deepening, ever-increasing awareness that time passes quickly. Be intentional about how you spend your time and craft each day. Make every minute count.
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