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22 actionable tips to make time for self-care when you have no time

Self-care is one of those things you know you’re supposed to do but when it comes to actually doing it, most of us prioritize everything else on our to-do list.

Because self-care can be done any old time. But any old time never arrives.

Here is the cincher, the busier you are, the more important making time for self-care becomes. If you have ever wondered how to have more time for yourself or wished you could have more hours in the day, this article is for you.

How do you make time for self-care when you have no time? And let’s face it; none of us feel we have time. As it turns out, there are plenty of ways to find time for self-care if you put your mind to it.

Here are some tips to find more time in your busy life.

1. Prioritize what you need to do in the day

Every single person on this earth has the same 24 hours in a day. It might feel like you need to do everything straight away but in reality, most things are not important or urgent.

Do the most important things first. Then if you have time, you can do more. But don’t try to do everything.

Have you ever heard of the Time Dorks, Jake and JZ? They are two tech nerds who wrote a book called Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day after years of experimenting and testing. They came up with a practical plan to redesign your time. In essence, you start each day by choosing your top priority, then you laser focus on it and reflect at the end of the day about how you can tweak your system to make it better. Check out Make Time on Amazon.

I use a mobile app called TickTick. It is an awesome free app that lets you list your tasks by day and category (for example; home, work, shopping etc.). Everything on my to-do list goes in the app. This frees me up from worrying that I’ll forget something.

One of the first things I do in the morning is look through my list for the day and colour code (prioritize) my tasks. As long as I get all my red (urgent and important) tasks and some of my yellow (important but not urgent) tasks done, I’m done for the day.

Take action today: Download TickTick and start listing your tasks by priority now. Make sure a self-care activity or two is high on the list.

2. Organize your daily activities in time blocks

Time blocking is when you dedicate specific time slots for certain tasks. This works because when you plan for something, you will actually do it. It also helps you focus because when you give yourself infinite time to do something, work has a way of expanding to fill the time available for its completion.

Some people find the Pomodoro technique very useful to keep them focused. You basically give yourself 25 minutes to focus wholly on a task then take a short break after. You can read more about the Pomodoro technique here.

This article talks about time-blocking in more depth.

I wouldn’t recommend filling up your whole calendar with activities. You’ll set yourself up for failure. Just make sure you schedule your most important tasks for the day and make sure you have lots of buffer time in between.

Take action now: Download a calendar or Pomodoro app and schedule your most important tasks and self-care activities now.

3. Bulk-tasking

Did I just coin a new word? No, bulk-tasking is a common concept in efficient workplaces but not so much used at home. It takes up less focus, energy and time when you solely focus on one big task for a period of time but do this task less often.

For example, meal planning used to take up a lot of my energy and time on a daily basis but when I started meal planning for the whole week followed by bulk grocery shopping, that freed up a whole week of worry-free meals 🙂

Other home activities you can try to bulk-task are doing the dishes just once or twice a day, tidying up after your kids only after they have gone to bed or replying emails only once a day.

Take action today: Start weekly meal-planning and grocery-shopping. It might take a bit more effort when you are doing it but you will feel so much lighter the rest of the week!

4. Uni-task to get more done in less time

Surprised? Did you know that even though you might feel more productive, multitasking takes you longer and makes you feel more fragmented? Focusing on one task at a time can help you be up to 80% more productive.

Uni-tasking doesn’t only mean working on one task at a time, it also means removing distractions so you don’t jump from one task to another and back again. I switched to uni-tasking a few years ago and have not looked back since. This simple article explains how to implement uni-tasking easily.

Take action now: Stop trying to do a few things at once and focus on one task at a time. This includes not thinking about other stuff while you are in the midst of doing something aka practising mindfulness.

5. Build self-care into your schedule

Be more intentional with your self-care by building a self-care activity or two into your schedule every day.

Setting an hour for self-care can seem impossible, especially when you are a busy woman, but if you schedule short self-care sessions (for example, 10-15 minute sessions), that is entirely possible for most of us and would mean you actually did some self-care instead of none. For example, you could schedule a DIY home laser hair removal session every 2 weeks. It only takes 15 minutes.

Take action now: Schedule 1-2 short self-care activities every day.

6. Make self-care a habit

If you do a self-care activity every day or every week, it becomes a habit and you are much more likely to continue doing it.

You need to schedule self-care in before anything else, make it an ‘untouchable’ time and make sure everyone in your family knows that. Most importantly, make sure you stop yourself from rescheduling your self-care activity to make time for something else.

7. Make evenings your zone-out time

Between the kids going to bed at last, clearing the house and spending time with your partner, most moms fall into bed exhausted. But what if you prioritize time before bed for ‘me-time’? The house doesn’t have to be spotless and e-mails can wait until tomorrow. Spend some self-care time instead.

Take action now: Set a pre-bed alarm, whether it is 1 hour or 15 minutes before bed, to wind down and do whatever it is you want. You could read a book, reflect, journal, moisturize, meditate or even self-pleasure *wink*.

8. Take advantage of a busy work schedule

Anyone who is not a parent would go WTF but any mom or dad will tell you no matter how busy work is, it’s easier to find a few minutes of ‘me-time’ than when you’re home with your kids.

Some ideas for taking advantage of your work-time are listening to your favourite song list on the way to and from work or scheduling time away from your desk to have lunch with a friend. When travelling alone for work, instead of booking out every evening, take advantage of the peace for some alone time.

Take action now: When you are at work, make a conscious effort to have lunch outside, either alone or with a friend, for some fresh air and sunlight.

9. Take advantage of time gaps between tasks

No matter if you are at work or at home, most times there are gaps between tasks. Even being stuck at a traffic light can be an opportunity for some deep-breathing exercises.

Take the chance to squeeze in a bit of self-care. You could have a short meditation session, moisturize your hands or go for a walk in the fresh air.

Take action now: Notice the time gaps you have in your day and squeeze some self-care in.

10. Have a list of self-care activities ready

This brings me to my next point. Make sure you have a short list of quick self-care activities on hand so that when you find yourself with some free time, you don’t waste it thinking of how you should spend it.

Take action now: Write a short list of quick self-care activities for when you get the opportunity to squeeze in some ‘me-time’ between tasks. Don’t list more than 5 favourite activities as too many options would give you decision paralysis.

11. Intertwine self-care into your everyday life

This is my favourite tip. The definition of self-care has sometimes been twisted into activities that people can make money off; like spa sessions, massage therapy and gym time. But true self-care really is anything that nourishes you.

Who said self-care has to be just ‘me-time’? Self-care can happen while playing with your kids or cooking a nourishing meal. Make tweaks to your everyday activities so that rather than rushing through one task after another, you are ‘nourished’ as you go.

Listen to uplifting music as you get ready in the morning, light a candle when you are showering so that the whole bathroom is filled with a beautiful scent, practise deep breathing when you are stopped at a red light, or enjoy the moment when you are cuddled up on the couch with your sick toddler watching cartoons.

Take action now: Think of how you can tweak your everyday ‘mundane’ activities to make it enjoyable and nourishing.

12. Be intentional with your time

Being intentional with your time means aiming to do everything consciously and on purpose. Many of us run on auto-pilot and at the end of the day, wonder where our time went.

Being mindful of how you spend your time will help you make better choices about your daily activities and priorities.

Take action now: To start with, practise mindfulness so that you are aware of how you spend your days. Then cut out those activities that don’t bring you any benefits.

13. Learn to say no

Setting boundaries in every aspect of your life, especially when it comes to your most precious resource, your time, is important. Let go of your fear of disappointing others. They will get over it. And if they don’t, do you really need somebody like that in your life?

You will never please everyone, no matter how many times you say yes. Remember that when you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else. Unfortunately that ‘something else’ is often you.

Take action now: Think of a few ways you can say no the next time someone asks you a favour you don’t really have the time for. For example, you could say ‘I’m very sorry, I would love to help but I already have plans for the day which I can’t get out off.’

14. Buy someone else’s time

This is by far the easiest way to gain more time for yourself if you have the extra cash to spare. Pay for things that can be outsourced, especially if you don’t like to do it. Housework is a common one. Some people outsource cooking or shopping.

Take action now: Sign up on Airtasker to find a freelancer to do anything you can think of.

15. Disconnect from technology. In other words, spend less time on social media

Stop mindlessly scrolling through your social media feed every chance you get. It’s a rabbit warren and before you know it, you would have frittered your precious time away.

If you want to surf the internet mindlessly for 15 minutes a day as zone-out time, go ahead. Just make sure it rejuvenates you rather than make you feel worse about yourself. Once you cut down on social media time, you will find plenty of time for self-care. I know I did 😛

Take action now: Delete your social media apps or turn your phone off during downtime (too harsh? :D)

16. Stop comparing your life to others in the ‘fake world’

Stop comparing your life to the air-brushed lives displayed on social media. If you think self-care is having a luxurious hour-long spa treatment or going on a Mediterranean holiday, think again.

You might think you don’t have time or money for ‘self-care’ but real self-care is very different and the most ‘mundane’ activity that nourishes you is self-care. I spent 15 minutes hiding behind the curtains with my daughter today. She cuddled into me and we looked out the window at the rain. That nourished me more than any 5-star massage ever could.

Take action now: If you have been comparing your self-care to others on social media and found it lacking, stop it! Make your own self-care rules.

17. Be a ‘minimalist’ and spend less

You don’t have to be fanatic about minimalism. Most of us have in excess of what we truly need. Just take a look at your overflowing wardrobe.

If you start saying no to anything that doesn’t add joy or benefit to your life, you will spend less and not be in debt. You will also clear the clutter in your home, simplify your life and create more space for what truly matters.

And guess what? If you spend less, you don’t have to work as much. Instead you’ll get to enjoy something more precious than a new pair of boots – more free time.

Take action now: Cut up your credit cards and only buy what you need or really want.

18. Stop worrying and ruminating

Did you ever stop to think how much time you spend lost in thought instead of enjoying the moment?

We waste so much of our life worrying about the past or the future rather than living in the moment. When you stop to ‘smell the flowers’, you will find time was right there waiting for you all along.

Take action now: Whenever you find yourself not being able to let go of a worry, write it down. Reframe it. If you need help with that, read 7 steps to reframing your life story.

19. Go with the flow

Feeling angry and frustrated when something doesn’t go your way takes up too much precious energy and time.  Remember Murphy’s law – anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

The better plan would be to go with the flow and make the best of a situation. This way you don’t waste time whining about it.

Take action now: When something doesn’t go as you initially plan, take a deep breath and go along for the ride. You might be pleasantly surprised 🙂

20. Living mindfully

Many of us sprint through life. We are always thinking of the next thing and not noticing life as it passes us by. But life is lived moment by moment.

Being mindful makes time go slower and is the ultimate self-care practice. Imagine really tasting your coffee today and enjoying it, or savouring that one square of dark chocolate. Priceless.

Take action now: STOP and savour the moment! Do this multiple times a day until it is a habit you don’t even have to think about. Read more about how mindfulness helps you find time.

21. Set a goal

What?! How is that relaxing?

When you commit to something or aim for an outcome, it gives you the motivation to prioritize it. For example, signing up for a race will give you the motivation to schedule a daily morning run.

Don’t set a goal that is too high or one that would be stressful to achieve, just one that is enough to give you a push in the right direction.

If you find it hard to summon up the energy to set some goals, here are 12 ways to rediscover your zest for life.

Take action now: Set a self-care goal today and make a plan for how you can achieve it.

22. Rethink your perception of time

Modern society is a pressure cooker. We are constantly running around, never having enough time to get everything done. Or do we?

We have more time-saving devices than ever. And believe it or not, our work hours are actually declining, not increasing.

We live in a culture of ‘not enough’. We feel pressed for time due to our perception that we don’t have enough time. As this article succinctly concludes, time pressure is the uncomfortable gap between how we wish we spent our time, how we think that would make us feel, and how we are spending it and feeling now.

Take action now: Stop thinking you have no time. You have enough time to do everything that is truly important to you. Now go tell yourself that every day.

To wrap up

Even if you take a few minutes a day or an hour or two on the weekend, good self-care is key to living sensually . Taking time out for self-care builds up to huge results over time and avoids burn out.

Hopefully my tips on how to make time for yourself has given you a few ways to reclaim your time and find more time in your day.

Remember that life is a marathon, not a sprint. Stop rushing through life. It will be over before you know it. Focus on the important things – like yourself and your loved ones.

Who would have thought there were so many ways to make time for self-care?! You have no excuse now. Are you going to take action to make some time for yourself? Let me know in the comments.

Sharon James

3 thoughts on “22 actionable tips to make time for self-care when you have no time”

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  2. Pingback: 12 ways to rediscover your zest for life

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