When I left my previous career, I expected to suddenly have all the time I needed. All the time for me that I’d been craving. I planned to take long walks and spend hours just reading. I had a vision in mind of me with a blissful expression on my face, meandering through life as sunlight poured down upon me!

Guess what? It didn’t happen

My to-do list didn’t magically get done, my inbox was still receiving mail at a furious pace and the daily grind of housework still remained. Time for me was still as elusive as when I was working full-time.

Time: It is what it is

Time is what it is. Each day has 24 hours. We can’t generate more hours in the day. We can’t ‘manage’ our time so that we have more hours in the morning and less in the afternoon. What we can manage is our approach to time, how we think about time and how we choose to use our time.

If…then thinking

I am great at what is often called ‘If…then’ thinking.

When I became aware of my If…then habit, I saw that my day was full of them:

  • If I can clear my to-do list, then I’ll have time to read.
  • If I can get ahead on my writing, then I can enjoy a movie with a friend.
  • If I can get these dishes done and a load of washing in, I can take the dogs for a walk at the beach.

I noticed three things that changed the way I do things:

  1. The ‘If’s’ are never-ending.
  2. The ‘Then’s’ are the things that nourish me, that make me feel alive, that bring me joy
  3. I very rarely got around to doing the ‘Then’s’

After lots of research, planning and reflection I tried something radical

I prioritised the ‘Then’s’. I started to make time for doing the things that bring me joy and a deep sense of peace and achievement. I turned my days upside down. I began my day with reading, writing, meditation, walking.

I learned that I can’t do everything!

I still have the housework, the to-do list, the emails but I try to break it all down into chunks I can manage. I prioritise two or three things that are really important to get done that day and I do them.

The best thing is, I really enjoy the time spent doing the things I love because I’m not worrying so much about all there still is to do. I know I’ve prioritised and will do what needs to be done.

It’s not that easy

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t always easy. I often feel the urge to lock myself in my office and take on my to-do list. Or I give in to my inner mean girl who tells me I don’t deserve to have coffee with a friend until I’ve done some ‘real work’.

Knowing that we can’t do everything is sometimes hard to live with. I’m still working on it and I invite you to do the same.