When we start to feel that our life is all about running from task to task and an endless struggle to cope with ever-increasing demands, it’s natural to experience high levels of stress. We know that we need to relax more, as everyone keeps telling us. But there’s simply never enough time.
Why not make 2021 the year when things get back to how you want them to be? Here are some simple tips as to how to get back into control of your leisure time, and enjoy a more balanced lifestyle.
1. Carry out a time audit
Before you start making any changes, it’s a great idea to carry out a ‘time audit’. Make a chart, with a column to track how you spend your time, for each of 14 days. Then, create rows dividing each 24 hour day into 15-minute segments. Take this with you everywhere you go for 2 weeks, and mark each activity, so you can see exactly how much time you spend on each one: sleep, work, travelling, shopping, leisure, family, exercise, etc. Use emojis or symbols to save time when writing.
At the end of the two weeks, you’ll have a much more realistic picture of how you’re really spending your time, and where you’d like to and can, make changes. Many people find this such an eye-opening exercise that they expand the audit to cover other areas of their life.
2. Rationalize your shopping habits
While it’s great to shop frequently for fresh food items, if you’re calling in at the supermarket every evening on your way home from work, just think how much time this takes up each week. Not only inside the store, but parking, loading, and unloading your purchases.
As an alternative, why not spend some time planning what you’re typically going to need for the following week, make your list, and order groceries online? It’ll take you no time to fill your cart with what you need, then just sit back and wait for the delivery at your door. Picking up the fresh items you want during the week, will be that much less of a chore.
3. Digital Detox
It’s a cliche to say that we’re all on our phones too much, and spend a great part of our time staring at a screen. Although this could be counted as a ‘leisure’ activity, how much do we really enjoy it? How satisfied do we feel after a couple of hours aimlessly surfing the net?
So, here’s the test. Choose one day, when you’re not at work, switch off all your devices and if possible, hide them out of your sight. Warn your friends and family, so they don’t panic when you don’t respond to them. Next, spend the day doing whatever you want, or whatever you have to do. When you have the urge to hold something in your hand and read, pick up a book – may be one you enjoyed years ago, and rediscover the pleasure of reading. The day will seem endless.
4. Walking meditation
Remember the days when you had time to walk aimlessly and enjoy the sense of freedom? Whether you work in a busy city centre, or are at home all day in an apartment, getting some fresh air is vital to a sense of well-being. Walking not only has a whole range of proven health benefits, but it is also one of the best ways to clear your mind so you can think more clearly.
So, here’s the task. You have to find 30 minutes every day – to walk. Before work, during your lunch break, after dropping the kids off at school – it doesn’t matter. Then, you’re going to walk for at least 15 of the 30 minutes. No phones. Pay attention to everything around you – the beautiful, the mundane, the ugly. It’s your choice whether you spend the remaining 15 minutes sitting down somewhere, or keep walking. Within a few days, this will become a valuable breathing space in a hectic schedule.
5. Make bedtime enjoyable
More and more studies are proving the importance of adequate sleep. Even if your evenings are hectic, giving yourself time to wind down before you go to bed will help to improve your sleep quality. Soaking in a perfumed bath, listening to some of your favourite music, ensuring the lighting isn’t too bright – all of this help to prepare you. You’re far more likely to wake up refreshed, ready to plan the day ahead and make sure you find time for the activities that make you feel happy and fulfilled.