Finding ways to squeeze more into your day can leave you feeling stressed out. Try our experts’ clever tips to become rich in time and fill your life with what counts…
Slow the clock
We all know how a great holiday races by, yet the moment you arrive home it feels as though you’ve been away for ages. This is because our brain uses different ways to measure time passing. Learning to manipulate your perception of time helps avoid that feeling of time whizzing by.
Time cheat one: On holiday, fresh experiences constantly create new memories and, looking back, this is what gives you the sense that you’ve been away for a while. The same principle will work on a day-to-day basis if you break or change routines to create more new memories. An easy one in summer is to walk to work or just change your route slightly to stop the autopilot where you can’t even recall parts of the journey. Although trying something new may mean more effort initially, the payback is that you’ll feel refreshed and reinvigorated.
Time cheat two: It’s possible to create loopholes in time. Try setting your alarm clock earlier, but instead of using it as a summons to get up, let it signal the start of a slow awakening where you can enjoy the luxury of your toasty bed and help start the day in a state of calm.
Time cheat three: Spending hours in front of the TV or browsing online tends to switch off the part of your brain that helps you form memories, making time seem to vanish too quickly. Cut your screen time and feel richer in time for other activities that matter, such as talking to friends or indulging a passion.
Connect with your senses
Getting in touch with your senses is always an effective way to slow your mind.
Time stretcher: Try walking outside, somewhere natural that’s beautiful or wild… trees, water and even the weather can act as a distraction. Not an option? Remember that simplest of all sensory treats – a long soak in a scented bath. Even locking the bathroom door acts as a mental switch-off, a ‘Do Not Disturb’ note.
The words we use are more powerful than we imagine. By saying, “I’ll exercise if I have time,” you’re already setting yourself up not to find the time. But by training yourself to say, “I’m going to the gym after work,” you reinforce the intention to make that happen.
Time stretcher How we phrase things can also help us feel more entitled to time for us. Instead of saying “I never have a spare minute,” try saying “I’m going to have a lovely 15 minutes to myself now.”
Be in the now
Stop rushing and discover that the way to stop being overwhelmed by the pressure of time is to step outside it and halt the moment. Try mindfulness meditation to experience more of life and value the time we have.
Time stretcher: It’s easy to be ‘in our heads’, thinking about events rather than focusing on our sensations and surroundings. Try taking a walk and notice what you see, hear and sense, including the movements of your feet, legs and body. Look at your surroundings and notice details of the sky, buildings or plants. Thoughts will continuously intrude, but you can just notice them, and then bring your attention back to walking. You can try the same technique with everyday activities, such as gardening, or even chores like washing-up. When your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the present moment. As you focus on the moment, you’ll stop stressing that you don’t have time
to get everything done and find your time expands.
Claw back time
Think back to when life seemed less frenzied, before you took on extra responsibility at work or at home. Or remember how relaxed you felt on a recent holiday. Recall in as much detail as possible what you enjoyed doing. Was it taking time out to read a book cover to cover or listening to a favourite piece of music? Or going to the theatre with friends? Or simply getting up in your own time and having a leisurely breakfast?
Time stretcher: Choose one of these activities and plan to do it today or over this weekend. Don’t wait until you feel you have time, just do it. You’ll reconnect with the less frantic you.
Reclaim free time
Often, when women take time out for ourselves, we tend to do things that are useful or necessary. For example, when we play tennis or go to a yoga class, we’re mentally ticking the ‘exercise’ box. When we have our hair done, we’re ticking the ‘self-maintenance’ box. Always looking for results can stop us from having a good time. Yet doing something for sheer pleasure can enhance creativity, boost the immune system, improve memory and protect against depression.
Once a week: Book yourself a day or portion of a day when you do something purely for enjoyment, no strings attached – wander round your local art gallery, join a yoga or Pilates class, or get some friends over for a game of poker.
Once a month: Make a list of things you used to love doing or always intended to try, be it joining a choir, making a stained-glass window or having a beauty treatment. Choose an item from your list and book time in the coming month to do it.
Rethink your perceptions
If someone offered you a 10-minute break in the middle of a busy working day, you’d welcome it. Yet when we’re forced into inactivity, for example, when we’re waiting at the doctor’s rooms, we don’t see it as a period of time we can call our own. Researchers found we judge the time spent waiting to be longer than it actually is because we get stressed as we’re in anticipatory mode, putting ourselves mentally into the next event.
Time stretcher: Next time you have a period of enforced waiting time, whether it’s at the airport, at the bank or in a doctor’s rooms, crank up your Kindle, do the crossword or just be mindful.
If time feels scarce, choose to give it to two sets of people – those who gain the most from spending time with you and those whom you most want to see.
Time stretcher: Visit a friend in hospital or pop in to see an elderly relative. Force yourself to turn down invitations that seem more of an obligation than a pleasure.