Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about freedom and the way we live our lives. You might, to all appearances, have plenty of freedom – you can live where you wish, with the people you choose and move about freely.
But what about the more subtle nuances?
You can live wherever you like, sure; but unless you have a certain amount of financial freedom there are places you probably can’t afford to live or even to vacation.
What about time freedom? I’ve been hearing from a lot of people – especially women raising families – about not having any time to do what they love most.
Living your entire life, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, without getting to do anything that lights you up – that doesn’t sound much like freedom to me, even if you do have a roof over your head and plenty to eat.
At our core, we all long to be free. We each came here to this Earth plane on a mission and our passions and preferences point the way toward that calling. If you’re feeling confined by obligations, expectations and eking out a living, you’re most likely not pursuing the experiences that your soul had intended.
In my opinion, a certain amount of time freedom is crucial to living a meaningful life. Here are five ways to reclaim some of your time for the things that matter to you, deep in your heart:
1. Reduce your screen time. One of the most common refrains I hear is that screen time is distracting us and eating up our time. Things like Netflix and Candy Crush are supposed to be relaxing, but they end up consuming your time beyond what you’d intended. I’m not saying that you should give up screen time entirely but set limits for yourself. Watch two episodes of your favorite series instead of four and use the reclaimed time to start a new creative project or go for a walk by yourself. Allow yourself time to sit and ponder or daydream without automatically reaching for your phone to check your notifications. Freedom means having space to breathe, to be idle and to allow inspiration to arise from deep within.
2. Use timers for time-sink tasks. Some tasks that we need to do can become bigger than they really need to be. Going on Facebook to check on your Aunt Vivian becomes an hour of mindless scrolling. Tidying up the house evolves into reorganizing the bookshelves and vacuuming under the couch. Doing a few necessary errands turns into an afternoon in strip-mall land. Make a plan for those tasks that can take on lives of their own. Set a timer, and when the time is up move on to something that actually feeds your soul.
3. Ask for help. A friend of mine who does house-cleaning and de-cluttering work for others recently pointed out that the modern expectation that we handle all of our own housework is relatively new. In times past, a busy household would get someone from the community to come and clean, cook or watch the young children, often in return for room and board. Our notion that only the wealthy deserve to have household assistance is false. If you can’t afford to pay for assistance, barter with a friend or neighbor. Keep an eye on a group of children for the afternoon – they’ll love having other kids to play with. When it’s someone else’s turn to do the same, you have an afternoon to yourself. Use it wisely.
4. Take your time first. It sounds a bit strange, but it’s true – when you take time for self-care it actually makes you more productive in all areas of your life. That’s because when you’re getting your needs met your attitude is better. When you’re feeling yucky and full of complaints for all the things on your to-do list, your resistance to doing them slows you down. By taking time to paint, meditate, journal or go to yoga class first, the rest of your chores or work will pass more quickly – and you’ll feel better in the process. Take care of yourself as a priority in your day, and then do the other things.
5. Re-prioritize doing what you love. Face it – some of the things that you feel you must do are actually choices you’ve made. Think about your weekends. How many of the things you schedule are actually obligations that you could most likely do without? Choose a few and let them go. You don’t have to cook for that bake sale. Make a donation instead and save your time for your own projects. Does having coffee with a certain friend or attending the book club meeting make you groan and wish you had an excuse to get out of it and go outside instead? Well then, cancel the plans. You don’t need an excuse. This is your life. Maybe your friends would rather go paddle-boarding, too, and by suggesting it, you’re uplifting everyone involved. Your time is actually your own, whether or not you feel like it is. Granted, you have to make a living, feed your family and raise your children. But there are still many hours in the day when you can carve out time to do things that light you up.
Don’t get to the end of your life and regret all the things you never got to do. Make time to do them, starting today. Reclaim your time and follow your joy!
That’s my story, and now I’m going swimming.