I've noticed something. More and more over the last few years, we (the collective society, we) are giving away our time quite freely, but not in ways that feel valuable or valued. Picking up the phone to email someone back about an appointment, I find myself aimlessly wondering through Facebook only to realize that I have forgotten why I picked my phone up in the first place. Many of us spend much more time on the internet and social media than we realize.
And yet, there are many times throughout the day and week when I feel I don't have enough time to accomplish the things I need and want to do - cook, exercise, sleep, meditate, work, play, yoga.
Enter time-blocking. A few years ago, my now-husband introduced me to this concept. Time-blocking is the practice of scheduling chunks of time for everything in your day. Yes EVERYTHING. Lunch. Dinner. Sleep. Walking the dog. Yoga. If you want or need to do it, it's on the schedule.
At first I thought this was a bit overkill. Then I started paying attention and realized how a meeting went over time and ate into my lunch plans, only to feel rushed as I flew out the door to get to acupuncture and arrive 5 minutes late.
But with practice and time, I realized sometime huge. I actually have a better, calmer, easier time trying to get to all the things I want and need to do when it's on my schedule.
I know. It sounds strange. How can scheduling myself down to the minute everyday feel relaxing? But it's true. First, I had a much higher chance of actually making it to all the yoga classes and gym sessions that I had set out in my mind to do each week. And those things make me a better, happier person. It also encouraged me to focus on only that one thing for the hour that I blocked for it. I am now less prone to doddle on my phone. (It helps to keep it out of reach when I'm working on things that need my focus, like writing this blog, for example.)
Part of the practice is being gentle with myself when things don't go as planned. One secret is to schedule time in my day when I don't have anything scheduled. And then not fill it with anything. (It's also a good idea to schedule a good chunk of a day or a whole day when nothing is scheduled. This is called a day off.) These buffer times help me stay fluid when the unexpected arises. The dog took longer to pee. A glass crashed to the kitchen floor right before I wanted to leave. No matter my best efforts, sometimes life happens, and I'm late.
At least with time-blocking, I'm giving myself the best possible chance to get to the people and activities I value most. Time-blocking has actually helped me value myself more, and my time is valuable.
Give it a try. Sit down and schedule out your day tomorrow. I promise you'll forget a few things, but with practice you can adjust and figure out how long things really take.
One more secret. This one is from my first ever yoga teacher, Priti Robyn Ross. She advised, "Schedule your life around your nurturing activities. Not the other way around." So when you sit down to time-block your day or week, start by putting in the things that nourish you most. The walk in the woods with a friend. Yoga time. Meditation. Gardening. You'll be so grateful to get the calendar reminder for those activities.