By Francis Wade
Tuesday, August 18, 2015.
As a knowledge worker, you aren’t alone if
you find yourself running out of “me-time” – the time you need to spend taking
care of yourself. If the amount is far below your expectations, here’s why.
Back when you completed your tertiary studies or
apprenticeship, finding “me-time” probably wasn’t an issue. However, as you
assumed greater commitments over the years, you probably started to feel a
squeeze. Today, if you are an ambitious, Type A individual, you may have an
acute problem. Your high energy levels and competitive spirit have made it easy
to create more time demands than other people. This has had a positive effect –
more recognition and promotions – but also an expensive, accumulated toll.
kind of toll?
Well, if you define “me-time” as the discretionary hours
spent each away from work, community obligations and church responsibilities,
then it covers the following:
– Opportunities to recharge between intense projects
– Date nights with a spouse
– Play-time with your kids
– Long chats engaging your parents
– Hanging out with friends
– Daily devotions and/or planning
When you allocate time away from these activities, it takes
In an earlier article (August 31, 2014) I mentioned the need
to spend 15 hours with your spouse per week if you hope to maintain the
relationship. Recent research backs this up, showing a direct, negative
correlation between time spent together and the probability of one day being divorced.
Some adults fail to see the need to spend quality time with
their children. When I was a teen, a friend shared that one of the worst days
in her life was when her parents forgot her birthday. Perhaps they just weren’t
spending enough “me-time.”
Most articles that address this problem focus on the need to
make explicit, written schedules that produce the desired balance. “What gets
scheduled gets done” is more than a cliche. It’s backed up by researchers like
NYU’s Peter Gollwitzer, who coined the term “implementation intention.
It describes a time demand that also specifies a specific start time, duration
and location. Data shows that implementation intentions dramatically increase
the odds that a task will be completed.
It follows therefore that if you want more “me-time” all you
need do is schedule it. Unfortunately, this particular time demand is one of
many which each deserve an equal commitment. Why not schedule them all? If you
have ever tried this technique, you know that there are some major obstacles.
One obstacle is a misconception. Too many of us believe that
becoming a better time manager involves discovering a single method and
applying it diligently for the rest of our careers. This is incorrect. Instead,
if you hope to survive the inevitable increase in time that life brings, you
must evolve your behaviour.
Fortunately, my research shows that there is a standard
track for knowledge workers to follow in their development in this area.
Success relies on your ability to make the right shifts at the right time from
one method to another. Here are five examples that can help you retain all the
me-time you need. Each of them involves picking up a new practice, as stated,
and they are listed here in approximate order of complexity.
Change 1 – From mental calendar
to paper calendar
New practice – Carrying a printed calendar everywhere. Back
in the 1990’s, toting around a leather notebook-planner was a sure sign of
being a serious professional. Taking the extra step of converting a time demand
from a mere thought into a written object transforms it.
Change 2 – From paper calendar
to digital calendar
New practice – Managing an electronic device. It is all too
easy to use a smartphone without mastering the necessary skills. They include
keeping it charged, backing it up to the cloud and making its calendar
available on multiple platforms.
Change 3 – From only scheduling
meetings to scheduling all major tasks
New practice – Placing all your tasks straight into your
calendar as soon as they are confirmed. Eschew To-Do lists.
Change 4 – From manually
juggling your schedule to using software
New practice – Obtaining and using some of the most recent
software like Timeful or SkedPal. (I play an advisory role in the latter.) Both
use artificial intelligence to produce an optimized, custom calendar with the
press of a button.
Change 5 – From doing your own
scheduling to trusting an executive assistant
New practice – Training and trusting someone else to manage
your schedule. Share your priorities so they are never violated.
While most people find themselves stuck at Change 1, there
are knowledge workers at every level here in Jamaica. The reason so few are
able to progress, is that five changes are to make. But they are the only way to
keep finding the “me-time” you need to function. For those who are successful,
“me-time” is not an afterthought, but a matter of consciously refining hard-won
Francis Wade is the author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity
and a management consultant. To receive a free Summary of each of his past
articles, send email to email@example.com