Although I also want this space to be a break from the countless changes COVID is bringing into our lives and I don’t want to talk about this in every episode, it is particularly helpful for our discussion today. The countless changes that COVID brings about with every week, are actually perfect examples of how we feel, but often don’t acknowledge, during moments of transition in life. Those points of starts and stops, for example, the end of summer and the beginning of school or work in September, a change in your work schedule, a change of job which means different tasks and responsibilities or different times at which you’re at work or the need to do extra work at home. Changes in your energy levels during the winter. Changes after the school year ends and kids spend more time at home, or children suddenly needing online classes from home. Changes in now having to work from home and having that alter your schedule.
As a student, finishing a term or a school year and having to start a new one with a higher difficulty and a higher work load. Having a baby and going through all the changes this brings to our schedules and sleep patterns. Recovering from illness or having to go through treatment. Whatever your situation is, from the simple mundane changes or new challenges to those big life stages or difficult times, they all share something in common, something COVID has brought to the forefront, there is a before and after. Right when we feel we’ve gotten used to one way, when we’ve fit everything into our schedules, it changes up on us and then we feel slightly adrift.
In today’s post and episode I’ll be talking about really looking into the time we have, so that no matter what changes arise, we can find a way to readjust faster, be resilient and compassionate with ourselves, and restructure things so that we can fit in all that self care that makes our days go easier.
Finding the waiting times
One thing you probably know about me is that there are hundreds of things that fill my day. Not only do I have multiple workloads and two jobs that fill my every day, but I also have so many things that go into each of them, and, in addition, I have several self care habits that are a priority for me, AND I have way too many interests outside of work and self care. Just to give you an idea, here’s a little break down:
The actual hours spent at work, both at Brownble and at the school where I teach. This includes my hours filming videos, recording podcasts and writing posts and social media posts, taking photos, writing new courses and answering comments and questions at Brownble, and my actual teaching hours at school, parent-teacher meetings, writing reports, etc.
It also means all the time needed to prepare for all of these things: testing recipes, shopping for ingredients, measuring out ingredients, planning seasons of the podcast, planning and preparing lessons, doing teacher trainings and learning new techniques, getting ready for video shoots and more.
My daily routines: walking the dogs, making our meals at home, doing the grocery shopping, getting ready for work, tidying up, doing laundry, doing dishes.
The quality time spent with loved ones: watching a film or going out to dinner together, making plans with my in-laws or the rest of our family, making plans with friends, taking the dogs to the lake or a new park or trail, cozying up to Netflix.
My self care routines that are SO important to me: including some form of exercise I love, including some form of stretching within exercise especially during the school year where I hold so much tension in my back and muscles (this can be a short yoga class, a ballet class, a stretching or foam roller routine), journaling, sleeping enough, and my favorite anxiety busters: reading and meditating.
Other interests: Listening to podcasts. Writing and developing my writing skills. Researching topics I’m interested in for the podcast. Learning more cooking skills, watching cooking videos and reading cookbooks. Gardening and my -I can’t believe I added another thing to my list guitar lessons-. Oh boy!
It’s a lot, and before you ask me, no, it doesn’t always get done, I would have to be a robot for that, but because I am a teacher and I have lots of starts and stops during the year, I’ve had to quickly learn to adapt to changes in my schedule and routine. One of the greatest helpers has been finding the pockets of time, what I call: waiting times.
Many of the things we aren’t having times for are actually things that can be done in short bursts of time. A meditation can be done in as little as five minutes, a brain dump in a journal can be done in 10 minutes, a quick nap can be re-energizing in just 20 minutes, you can read even if it’s just for 15 minutes. You can put in a laundry load in 2 minutes, and fold it in 10 minutes. These tasks feel overwhelming because we have “look at all that’s left” syndrome, instead of seeing them as small individual tasks that can fit into your day’s waiting times.
Every day I wait for about 20 minutes for my father in law to come pick me up because we carpool to work together, this is perfect for fitting in that meditation time or to read for a tiny bit and relax before I have so many energetic kids in front of me.
Some days I have 30 minutes from the time I finish work until my father in-law does and it makes it the perfect time to journal or catch up with a friend.
Every day I have 20 minutes from the time I get home from work at night until it’s time for the dogs to go for their walk, which means I can grab that guitar and practice for just a bit, or I can start prepping vegetables for dinner or do a quick yoga video or stretching class which I REALLY need after work.
What did I do in these waiting times before I had this realization?
The time seemed to just disappear. I would spend it scrolling through social media (more on this time robber in a bit), opening what’s app to see if I had any messages, look at the watch and see that I only had 5 minutes left, then 0. This is how it goes for so many of us, and when we’re trying to fit in some more space for our mental health, for exercise, for rest, these little bursts of time really add up. Note that I’m not saying use these moments to add more work and stress. Use these moments to add what I call the “bring me back down to Earth moments”, the mindfulness moments, the “what will make my life easier and calmer” moments. These actually help us stretch time, because we’re more present, living fully, experiencing more in the same amount of time as before. These are not times for more work, these are times for the things that will make you live a better and happier life.
Action item: Look at your schedule and use a highlighter to find these pockets of waiting times during every day of your week and color them in. See if there are many that repeat throughout the week, see what self care routine you can fit in them. By repetition you’ll be reinforcing a new habit, one firmly grounded in kindness, mental health and self care, and it’s what you’ll go to when you find yourself in this waiting time again.
Quit the all or nothing mindset
I’ve talked about this mindset so many times before so for now I’ll talk about it in this context: start dismantling the belief that if you don’t have a full hour for an activity it needs to be postponed until you have the perfect uninterrupted time. I’ve mastered this for meditation where some days I only have 5 minutes and I do it on my own just focusing on the breath for 5 minutes when I’m lying down in my bed, but I have yet to learn this when it comes to my guitar lessons, where I think 10 minutes will be too little but if I had added that up Monday through Saturday I’d have the hour I was looking for that never ever happened otherwise, and I ended up not practicing. I’ve learned it with some quality time with my dogs but I have yet to remember that some days a simple sandwich that takes 5 minutes to assemble is enough for lunch, and the extra time I can spend doing something else that day. You get the gist, small bursts add up, and we don’t have to do it for long for it to count.
Action item: Find the belief you have in relation to an activity and the time you need to do it. Write about this from the opposite perspective. Imagine you’re an expert that has proven that small bursts of activity make you do more in the long term. Write from their perspective a list of all the benefits and reasons why just dedicating a few minutes to x (the activity you’re using in the exercise) is even more helpful than having a full hour to do it.
Say goodbye to perfectionism
Especially during times when your schedule is changing or something new has popped up in your routine and you’re readjusting and re-configurating like I talked about at the top of the post, say goodbye to perfection.
You won’t be able to fit everything in at once, some things will have to go for a while and can be put back into your routine later on, some things won’t get done perfectly. It might take weeks until we observe our days and understand where our new pockets of time and our waiting times are. Be patient with yourself, there is always a period of time in which we’re readjusting to changes and it seems like nothing is getting done and we’ll never have time for things again, trust the process, it will settle down and you’ll find the empty spaces soon enough.
Action item: This week, stop mid project, mid email, mid report, mid exercise. Teach yourself that it isn’t the end of the world to not complete a task, and how you will get back to it and there were no major consequences. Do only one load of laundry when you know there’s enough time for three. Stop mid chapter when reading a book, reply to just 2 emails of the 4 you need to reply to. If you feel you won’t remember, make a list of the things that you’ll pick up again tomorrow. This is a tough exercise, especially for perfectionists like me, but it’s so so helpful to realize that you’ll always get back to it, and it will give you proof that time is more flexible and malleable than you previously imagined.
Get real about your time robbers
Start by doing this exercise: Think of your social media use in a usual day. Write down the amount of time you think you’re spending on social media. Then go into the settings on your phone and check the amount of time you actually spend on social media and compare the two.
I know, you can close your mouth now.
Is it two hours, three, four, six? Even if it was just one hour a day (which I bet it isn’t), that’s 7 full hours a week. That’s almost a full extra workday that you can spend learning something new, writing the book you’ve always wanted to write, adding more downtime, reading more books, going on walks. I don’t think you need to say goodbye to social media if it’s also empowering and it brings you joy to connect with others or you’re using it as inspiration, or to learn new things, but with the increase of social media there has been a parallel increase of depression, anxiety, body image concerns, body dismorphia and a generalized sense of unworthiness and shame. It’s not the healthiest place to spend all your time in, and of course, it is time you could spend doing so many things that bring more joy and self compassion to your life, so use it with care. If you need a little inspiration to decrease your social media use, please watch The Social Dilemma, now on Netflix, it will blow your mind.
Action item: Do the previously stated exercise on social media time and use the tools that already come with your phone to manually select a social media time limit. Then, write down the time you spend on there currently, and what that adds up to in a week. Below it, make a list of all the things you could fit in this time, not work related things, rest and enjoyment related things, self care things. Stick the list where you can see it. In your day planner, on your fridge, mirror, in your journal. This will be your reminder of just how much time there can be for YOU.
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