4 Ways to Take Back Your Time

4min read
desk and clock on a wall
Multi-passionate Creative

Ever have one of those “I’ve had it!” moments about your time? If you’re like me at times, you may have experienced being on an overcommitment road for a long time, juggling more work and projects than you can handle on top of doing regular adult responsibilities. The adulting thing is real tough, I’m telling ya!

Day by day, you’ve sacrificed a lot of break opportunities with fillings of more work and the doing of just-one-more-thing. Your 24-hour days somehow turn into the next day quickly, and when you look up at the clock you feel like you’ve got nothing accomplished. The burnout comes, and at some point you say “I’ve had it!” Then you start being serious about how you spend your time, hopefully before the burnout gets too deep. Have you been here before?

People often tell me in amazement that I do so much! And this is true. I’m always doing many things at concurrent times, but there’s a difference between being busy and doing. While it’s easy for me to get lost in the busy often, I prefer the doing.

Staying busy can keep you static. The doing of executing tasks moves the needle forward. When I do things, I do so with intention. I don’t have a special equation for doing many things concurrently. I simply make choices of how I want to spend my time.

“Lost time is never found again.”

Benjamin Franklin

How much do you value your time?

If you were to come up to me and say “Maria, tell me how do you do all the things you do.”, I would flip the question back at you and ask, “How do you spend your time?” You can learn a lot about someone simply by understanding how they use their time.

Take a reflection minute here. Look at your days this past week, and identify how you spent every minute. You may surprise yourself if you’re answering honestly.

I will follow up with a second question, “How much do you value your time?”

I value my time—a lot. And this is because I have so many things I want to do—want is a keyword. These are things like goals I want to accomplish and personal projects I want to explore. I also have things I have to do, such as work projects to finish and regular daily life stuff to manage. It’s never about “time management.” There’s no real such thing as “managing time” as people often say. It’s about managing your priorities.

But if you’re looking for some literal examples, here’s how I personally get more time back into my day and get things done:

1. Limit Social Media

I hardly spend little time these days browsing social media for leisure; and if I’m being honest, I don’t gain value by watching people live on it. It’s a time sucker—and you know what I’m talking about. You watch one short video and soon 3 hours have gone by! You can’t get that time back.

If I do spend time on Facebook or other channels, it’s because it’s part of my actual business work, or I’m touching base with distant family and friends. When I do drastically cut back on social media I notice that my emotional well-being is far better. Humans are meant to connect with others, but it doesn’t have to be online.

2. Keep Away from TV’s and Movies

I don’t watch much tv or movies. I cannot tell you what the latest tv shows are, what movies are hits at the box office, and I can’t name off actors for the life of me. If I do watch tv, it’s generally a documentary to learn about something new and view perspectives outside of my own. I crave this type of educational video learning, and I don’t get this from the average sitcom or Hollywood film.

When I first moved out on my own, I couldn’t afford cable, and this was the best thing that could have happened to me because I gained a habit of not leaning on the tv for a “relaxing” escape. I don’t own a subscription service like Netflix either. TV’s are expensive literally, but more importantly they’re expensive in taking my time.

3. Utilize Your Driving Commutes

I utilize my long driving commutes in many ways. In fact, I absolutely love driving, especially long commutes. When I drive, I am doing one of four things:

  1. I’m listening to a very specific Spotify music playlists that helps me recharge my energy to stay productive and focused;
  2. I’m listening to a podcast or audiobook to get better at what I do;
  3. I catch up on my phone calls;
  4. I think deeply. I utilize my time in the car to plan my days, strategize my work, role play in my head talking points for meetings, problem solve, and reflect on what I can do better. Perhaps this classifies me as an introvert, but I’m a very deep thinker.

My best ideas, reflections, aha’s, and solutions come from my driving commutes. I do consider my drives as being very meditative, and on some days it is the best break I’ll get.

I set my driving experience to be enjoyable. Because of this I have also practiced and learned to not be phased by road rage or other driving annoyances. Get some zen into your commute, and take advantage of these time slots.

4. Do Things that Align with Your Personal Values

I prioritize things that align with my personal values. If you haven’t taken time to reflect and discover what your personal values are, do take time to do this.

We all know what it’s like to do work that’s not enjoyable. Unenjoyable work often occurs because it doesn’t line up with your core. Maybe your core values are based around doing work that makes a difference or in doing things with your hands. In these scenarios doing something that doesn’t have an aspirational mission or has you sitting behind an office desk is going to clash with your core and cause emotional tension—and this is a time waster.

Of course not all days are going to be jolly and fun. Some work days are going to be challenging and difficult to get through. It’s important to understand the difference between the present moment and the broad perspective of the long-term. If you’re spending tremendous time doing things over and over that make you feeling ill with dread you’re not only wasting your time doing that work, but you too are decreasing your energy to do something else that you would enjoy around this.

Don’t live in regret. Do things that align with the core of who you are.

In Conclusion: You Make Choices

How to spend your time is a daily choice. The beauty of this choice is that we can reset our decision each day to make better choices.

Believe me when I say I’m still learning how to make best choices in my life. I don’t claim to be some time management guru. I’m far from it most of the time, and I fail at aligning my time to my values often. However, I’m open to recognizing where I truly spend my time by consciously studying myself, and I’m willing to make sacrifices in order to prioritize the things that are important to me. I reset—a lot.

When I observe how people spend their time, I’m really observing their values and priorities. It tells a great story about yourself. What are your values and priorities? The answer to this question will tell you how to improve the use of your time.

Reflect, make a plan, and make conscious choices.

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Maria Gosur is a multi-passionate creative who loves to learn, design, make a difference and inspire others to do the same. With education and experience in all areas of creative work, Maria is passionate about sharing her knowledge and encouragement to others who are trying to expand their skills, pursue big goals, and be a resilient creative.