3 Ways to Find More Free Time (Without Quitting Your Job)

May 20, 2016

Have you ever heard of a little thing called “burnout”? “Burnout” happens when we work ourselves too hard and don’t make time for the things that our mind and body need (such as a good night’s sleep, a day off, or a lunch break). We answer all of our e-mails, respond to every single text, stay at work late, go in early, and then all of a sudden your body says “ENOUGH!” We crash and burn. Simple tasks begin to feel like huge hurdles. You may feel tired, irritable, or even get sick. Then we spend the next few days in bed, or going to the doctor, and then we repeat the cycle.

What if we were more proactive with taking breaks? We always make time for the things that have to get done, so what if we treated our own physical and mental health as one of those things? If we don’t wait until the inevitable burnout, then we can choose how we spend our free time and lead a more enjoyable life full of the things we love and the people we love to spend time with.

Prioritizing yourself may seem like a no-brainer. It can actually be really hard to do, and takes practice. To help you along, here are some pointers on how you can begin to decrease stress and make the best possible use of your free time.

1. Plan ahead. For this, Google Calendar is my best friend. I sync it up to my computer, iPad, and iPhone. Whenever I plan anything, whether it’s an appointment with a client, a social event, a gym class, etc. it goes into my calendar ASAP. If I have something the same time every week, I set it up to show up every week on my calendar. That way I can look ahead and see what days are busy and what days are free. I won’t forget and I won’t overextend myself. You may prefer to go with an old-school weekly/daily planner, but creating a visual for yourself makes carving out time for yourself so much easier.

2. Prioritize. Create a list of errands and tasks you need to get done in the near future. (Wunderlist is a great app for this). See that one phone call you’ve been avoiding? Do that first and get it out of the way. Then figure out what needs to get done soon and what can wait. After the first thing you tackled, the rest will seem like a breeze. Oh, and if one of the things on your to-do list is to take a quick walk and you can do it right away, then do it right away.

3. Unplug. We are always looking at screens. If you asked yourself right now, “how many screens have I looked at in the last 24 hours?” you might be surprised by the amount of electronics you depend on every day. This can be a slippery slope for those of us who receive work emails, texts, and calls on our cell phones. When people know you are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on your cell phone or computer, they will try to contact you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is up to you to set boundaries and let your coworkers, family members, etc. know that you will not be answering messages or calls after a certain hour of the day. Then put your phone onto its “Do Not Disturb” setting, throw it in a drawer, and don’t look at it until the next morning.

These three small tips can make BIG difference once you put them into practice. Remember that some of us need more down time than others. Ask yourself what you need in order to feel content and in control. When it comes to your health and happiness, there is no need to compare yourself to others. Put yourself first (it’s OK, I promise!) and the less hectic lifestyle will follow. Now the next question is, what are you going to do with all of this new found time?

Julia Tsakalis, LCSW // Psychotherapist
18 Sycamore Avenue, 2nd floor // Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ 07423