Time Pressures? How to Take Control of Your Time

If you feel you are one of those people who have little free time and what little you have is continually interrupted, you may need to get active in order to carve out a little more time for yourself.
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Do you find that you have little free time? In a recent survey of women, Real Simple magazine found that one-half of American women feel they don't have enough free time and what little free time they do have is constantly interrupted. Although the survey focused on women, men are also facing more and more demands on their time than ever before.

When you're drained and frazzled you may not feel you have the time or resolve to cope in healthy ways. Unending expectations and continual interruptions contribute to out-of-control feelings and an inability to ever fully relax.

That feeling of not having control over your time is, itself, problematic. One study found that people who were under time pressure and felt they had control over their time had greater life satisfaction, felt less overloaded, and had less tension than those who were equally busy, but felt they had little or no control over their time.

We may love and cherish our children, parents and partners, but many people find they infringe on what little free time they have. For our own well-being it's essential that we have some time to care for ourselves and recharge.

If you feel you are one of those people who have little free time and what little you have is continually interrupted, you may need to get active in order to carve out a little more time for yourself.

Demands -- those things you must do, which can include watching the children, managing household finances, cooking, grocery shopping and going to work -- are expectations of those people around you. They can eat up a lot of our time, leaving little for rest and leisure. But our own internal shoulds also contribute to our sense of having little time to spare.

You may also carry around a long list of expectations that you place on yourself -- shoulds. For example: "I should clean the house myself, even if I work long hours and can afford household help," or "I should not hire extra child care, even if I can afford it," or "I should host a family gathering, be available to everyone who needs my attention, cook homemade meals... "

These internal myths perpetuate our cycle of busyness and out-of-control of how we spend our time. Other thoughts that contribute to internal pressures include:

• "I can't ask my partner for help with chores because they won't get done the way I like them."

• "If I did less around the house everyone would feel like I wasn't taking care of it."

• "If I don't clean up messes immediately, I am a bad housekeeper."

• "I do not deserve time off to take care of myself."

• "Others (e.g., my partner or children) should notice how much I do and offer to help."

• "I can't stand it if someone is unhappy with me -- I have to smooth over problems."

• "Asking for help means I'm weak or incompetent"

• "It's selfish to focus on my wants."

• "The problem is in my head; I just need to change the way I think."

If you relate to these statements, it may be time for you to reevaluate all those things you feel you "ought" to do. A healthy lifestyle requires some level of balance between what you want to do and what you are doing out of a sense of obligation. Letting go of some of those internal obligations can allow you to care for yourself and in the long-run have more energy as you care for others.

5-Minute Exercise

1. Take five minutes and with a pencil and paper make two lists. The first list is demands placed on you by others, and the second list is of your own internal obligations. In the "demands" list, write down anything that you do during the course of the day that is expected of you. If it didn't get done by you, others would notice. In the "internal obligations" list, write down your own expectations of yourself. You might relate to some of the thoughts and statements in this post or have some of your own. These are the things you feel you "ought" to do.

2. Now circle the 3-5 "demands" and "internal obligations" on your lists that are least important. For the demands, identify someone that can do the task other than yourself and commit to asking that person for help today. For the "internal obligations" challenge your own expectations. Tell yourself that, "it's okay to let things slide a bit," or "I don't have to please people all the time," or "saying 'no' doesn't make me selfish."

See if taking a few of the "to-dos" off of your list leaves you feeling more in control of your day, less pressured and happier.