Create Free Time: Planning to Make the Most of Your Time

Time; a lot of people want it, and many say they don’t have enough of it. Time affects us whether we want it to or not. We are all subject to the same 24 hours in a day, and 7 days in a week.  So how do we make the most of our time? How do we squeeze more out of the time we have? How do we make more time?  The solution is to figure out how much free time you have in a given day or week. You can then begin planning for the things you really want to start doing like working out or reading that book you received for Christmas 3 years ago. I have compiled a few tips you can use to create more free time for yourself. The first step is to change your outlook on free time itself.

Change Your Perception of Time                                     

We all have 24 hours in a day, EVERYONE. As far as I know, time travel, including the ability to stop time has not been invented, so until then we all have the same 24 hours in a day. Of those hours, most of us get anywhere from 6-8 hours of sleep. If you are not getting this, you need to start because without proper sleep, you will not be able to effectively utilize your time. Taking sleep out of your day leaves 16 hours. 8 hours is dedicated to work, and I will throw in 1 hour for commuting. You now have 7 hours left in your day. Take an hour for eating dinner with your family, and you’re down to 6 hours. Getting scared yet? If you have kids, you spend time with them outside of dinner, and I am not going to put a time limit on this because I think family is the most important part of our lives. What I will say is make sure you take some time for yourself to do the things you want to do that will benefit your life. Many people often put themselves last, and by doing this, they never are able to do the things important to themselves or for themselves. Make sure to squeeze in your own individual free time somewhere in your day.

Let’s assume that after all of this you have 2-3 hours a day of free time. You have a choice as to how you want to look at these 2-3 hours. It can be either good or bad; maybe you are horrified that out of 24 hours a day, you have only 2-3 hours to yourself. This is horrible! 2-3 measly hours per day? That’s it?! Yes, it is, and it’s amazing! If you do not have this time available to you, I suggest looking at everything you do in a day, and writing it out to figure where all of your time is going.

I am an optimist, so I look excitedly at the thought of having three hours a day of free time. Everyone has a different situation, but you can modify this to your amount of time available to you. Over an entire week, 3 hours a day is 21 hours. This takes into account that you probably have errands and other activities on weekends that are obligations (If you don’t have anything going on for a weekend, your free time has expanded to about 33 hours). This is almost one full day of free time! What do you think you could get done if you had one full day of time available to you every week? Well you do! Your next step, now that you know how much time is available to you, is to utilize this time to the fullest.

Take Care of Yourself First

I am by no means going to plan your entire 21 hours for you, but one thing you should plan into your free time is some exercise to keep you healthy and physically ready to handle life. It is the old airplane analogy; if you are on a plane and it loses cabin pressure, put on your own mask first. If you don’t put on your own mask, then you can’t begin to help others around you. Take some time each day to exercise and take care of your body. I suggest at least 20 minutes to 1 hour of exercise a day. This is not too much time that you will feel like you can’t complete the exercise, but it is also not too little where you won’t see the point of doing it. So out of your 21 hour, if you devote the max of 1 hour per day, you take off 7 hours for the week. You now have 14 hours left of free time, and you have worked out 7 days in the week. Beach season is right around the corner!

Plan your Free Time

Planning your free time will give you more time because you will be utilizing said time in the most efficient way. Once you begin planning your free time, you will begin to see how much you really have, or maybe that you have too much on your plate, and will have to make the difficult decision to start saying “no”.

Continue to look at your free time as a whole. If you have 14 hours of “I can do anything” time what would you want to do so you can get the most out of it? Here are some suggestions to get you started. This is just a list of things I do in my free time, but it is up to you to decide what is important. There are also some suggestions of what you can stop doing to not waste away the 14 hours you have available.

Use your Calendar (Share is with your Spouse)

This kind of fits in with the planning section, but it has absolutely changed how I look at my time. Knowing what you are doing after work without having to ask someone (usually I ask my wife) can save you loads of mental effort and time. You can also focus more at work knowing you are not forgetting something. So start putting everything onto your calendar. I mean everything down to “watching the hockey game”, and the time frame you expect it to take. This will allow you to really see the free time you have left in a given day at a glance because everything will be there. Using your calendar for both work and play, will optimize your time.

On top of using your calendar, ask your spouse to share his/her calendar with you. My wife and I both use Google Calendar, and it makes things really easy because there is the option to display multiple calendars at once. This allows me to see what she is doing so I don’t need to constantly ask. This works for knowing what she is doing and vice versa for me, but it also helps me to not be the stereotypical, forgetful husband. I now know where I have free time to be doing things before I get the idea to even do them because I can see where the gaps in my calendar are. I always make sure to look at my calendar when I am planning to do something to see if it is possible. If I don’t have the time, I will schedule the event for a later date, or I may need to say “no” to not overbook myself.

Watch Less TV

This can be difficult for some because TV is awesome, and addicting. You can easily go through a whole evening binge watching a Netflix series, but what does it do for you? An average Netflix show lasts about 45 minutes. If you watch only 2 episodes, if you can stop after two, that is an hour and a half. Think of all of the things you can do with an extra hour and a half. So, stop binge watching, and watch less TV in general. If you are a person who watches a lot of TV, you will notice almost immediately how much more free time you have. I am by no means saying to not watch TV at all. I like watching TV myself, but at the same time I am aware of how much I watch.

To help with watching less TV, you can schedule your TV watching. For instance, not watching TV past 8 pm. I suggest this because it will give you a limit to when you can watch TV, as well as allow your body to gradually get ready for bed with less blue light. To schedule your TV time, look at your week ahead, and see where you would want to watch TV. If there is a sports game on Wednesday, or every day because of the playoffs, and you have to watch it, then schedule it in. When I say schedule it in, I mean put it into your calendar so you know you are unavailable for other things at this time. Scheduling your TV watching will also help you see how much TV you currently watch, and help you reduce this if need be.

Read

Reading stimulates growth of the mind, and the more you read the more knowledge you have. Read something you enjoy. If you are not sure what you would like to read, go to goodreads.com. You can input your interests and the site/app will find books you may enjoy. Reading can be as little as 30 minutes before bed. If you do read before bed you will also be helping your body relax and get ready to go to sleep. I always get tired when reading, and it is a great way to fall asleep if I’m having trouble.

I also suggest reading something that will help you improve yourself and your life. There are countless blogs, books, and magazines that are completely focused on self-improvement. Read an inspirational quote a day, or a blog article like this one each week. It doesn’t take long, but it will focus your mind on how you can improve yourself and your life. Find a book or some blogs online that you will look forward to reading, and plan it into your day and your week.

Reflect in a Journal

This can literally take 5 minutes or less. Reflecting at the end of your day can help you understand everything that happened during the day. Reflecting on all the good that happened to you, as well as where you could have improved during the day will help you feel empowered for all you have done. Make sure to keep the journal positive. Keeping positive thoughts helps to attract more positivity. Don’t make your journal your personal nagging spot where you can vent. This will only breed more negativity, and negate the purpose of the reflection. Some questions you can ask yourself are: What 3 things can I do to make today great? What am I grateful for? What can I do better tomorrow?

Plan your Tomorrow

If you already do this for work, all I am suggesting here is to extend what you do at work into your free time planning. Take a look at your calendar, and your spouse’s calendar to see what the next evening’s plans are. See if you have spare free time where you can plan to do something fun like a date night or rock climbing. Maybe plan to take your kids to the park. Whatever you do, just make a plan for it so you can hit the ground running after work. Do your best not to leave your free time unplanned because you will be surprised how easy time will fly by with errands and other things you really don’t want to be doing.

Meal Plan and Prep

Preparing meals in one fell swoop can save you an enormous amount of time each morning. I usually meal prep on Sunday’s when making my lunch. I only meal prep lunches because those are the meals I am not usually home for. A word of caution, you will need quite a bit of Tupperware depending on the size of your family. Once you have enough Tupperware, meal prep becomes a breeze. I make sure to always cut enough vegetables for the week, prepare my yogurt, cottage cheese, and put almonds in a small container. I don’t prep a main meal because we usually have leftovers from dinner, so I just take those the next day. Each morning, all I need to do is grab all these things and go. Once you begin to meal prep, you will really notice the weeks that you don’t because you will be frantically running around each morning.

Focus on one Task

Stop multitasking. We suck at it. Science has proven it. So Stop. Be in the moment when you are doing something. This will help you enjoy the things you are doing more as well as reduce stress. When you leave work, mentally leave it too. Enjoy the time you have with your family and friends because these are the moments you work for. Make sure you give your full attention to a conversation or a task you are doing.

Meditate

Young Woman Meditating on the Floor
Young Woman Meditating on the Floor — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Meditation can be done in as little as 5-10 minutes a day, and is probably the most influential thing you can do to better yourself. This gives you a chance to breathe, which is one of the most important things in the crazy paced world we live in. I meditate in the morning and sometimes after work if I did not have a great day. This gives my mind the downtime it needs to recharge. Meditation has a lot of positive effects!

We all want more time to do what is most important to us. Changing your perception of time, and realizing you do have free time available to you is the first step to making more time for yourself. We only get 24 hours in a day, unless you did end up inventing that time machine (if so, please email me so we can talk about it). So make the most of your time, and begin living your life the way you want to live it.

What do you do in your free time? Leave some comments below to share and help others with activities they can do in their free time or ways they can make more free time.

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