Making the Most of Time

Just a few weeks ago, it hit me: my 20’s are almost over. I will be 29 this year. It was an unsettling few weeks as I processed this reality.

It seems like just yesterday I was turning 21, 22, and 23. When I thought about the future, it never felt close enough to worry about. Adulthood always seemed so far away. I remember thinking, “I’ll have time later to work on my goals. I’m not there yet,” and I’d get back to whatever I was doing, not thinking much about the path I wanted to create for the rest of my life.

The past ten years have been amazing. I’ve learned so much about myself, met great friends, married my husband, and had my beautiful daughter. Closing the book on this decade will be bittersweet.

Growing up and becoming a mother has taught me a lot about time. Time is our most precious resource, and I’ll admit I took it for granted. I didn’t realize how finite it is, and how every moment should be cherished and respected.

This year, I’m making an effort to make better use of my time and appreciate it more. I have always been enthusiastic about life, but I want to push that even farther this year. I want to take more risks and be present in every moment. I want to eliminate fear and become comfortable with uncertainty. There’s no time to waste.

When I came to the unsettling realization that my time is indeed limited, I began reading and reflecting on how to make better use of it. I began auditing my day to see where time was being wasted, how I could better accomplish my goals, and when I should disconnect completely and cherish the present.

I’ve come up with the following techniques to make the most of time, and so far they seem to be working!

Rise early.

Ben Franklin once said, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Sleeping in can be great (and necessary) on occasion, but I feel like I get more out of the day when I wake up early. My current wake up time is 5am.

Utilize your breaks.

Many of us work full time, and it can seem hard to carve out some “me time” during the day. Most workers are entitled to two 15 minute breaks and a lunch break.

I’ve been thinking about how I spend these valuable breaks. Often, I worked through them, which I realized left me feeling slightly brain-drained and lethargic.

Now, I try to take a walk or briefly work on a creative project. During my 15 minute break, I take a walk around my office. I spend about 20 minutes during lunch doodling or outlining ideas for new blog posts. Although they are short stretches of time, getting active and creative energizes my brain and makes me more productive for the second half of the work day.

Know when to disconnect.

We’re always connected, but should we be? I’ve been thinking lately about how much time I spent on my phone, email, and computer.

Technology is an amazing thing, but it can be distracting and take away time from the people close to you in real life.

I’ve made a pledge to go “phone free” from 5pm – 9pm on weeknights, and I’m trying to implement a “scroll-free Sunday” as well.

Say no to obligations sometimes.

Since time is so precious, I really believe it’s your right to spend it how you want.

Our main obligations in life are work and family. Anything outside of that time should be spent doing what makes you happy.

If you’d rather spend a quiet afternoon reading than going to a lunch with friends, don’t feel guilty for declining the invitation.

Spend your time how you wish to spend it, and don’t fall into the guilt trap of attending events out of pure obligation.

Live in the present.

Too often we find ourselves thinking, “I’ll be happy later,” or “I’ll be happy when X, Y, and Z happens.” This is a flawed mindset, in my opinion.

The best time to be happy is right now. You’ll never get another chance to be in this exact moment again. If you’re always waiting for the perfect time to be happy, you’ll never find it.

Show gratitude.

I am a firm believer in the power of gratitude. When you are in a moment you enjoy, really take it in. If you’re in a moment you don’t enjoy, appreciate the valuable lesson you’re learning.

Be grateful a moment is happening. When my daughter smiles at me, or my husband and I enjoy a nice dinner after a long day, I soak in the moment. I try to remember each detail and reflect upon the feelings I feel.

When I truly appreciate the time, the moment feels longer.

Add variety.

Our brains are wired to adapt to routine. When we complete routine tasks regularly, our brains switch to “auto pilot” mode. This is wonderful for productivity (after all, who wants to re-learn how to make coffee every single day?) but it can cause time to feel like it’s moving really fast.

Adding variety to your day tricks your brain into paying attention. Do you always park on the left side of the parking lot? Try parking on the right. Do you always buy vanilla ice cream? Go for the mint chocolate chip. Take a new route to work. Rearrange your desk or living room. These changes will help keep your brain energized and guessing, which makes time appear to slow down.

We can’t make more time, but we can make better use of the precious hours that we’ve been given. One of my goals for 2019 is to finally make things happen and treasure every moment while I can.

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