Think back to a recent time you were intentionally alone, where you planned a quiet walk through the park or a morning meditation.
How long ago was that? The sad truth is that we don’t often make time for meetings with ourselves. Instead, we try to pack our days to the brim with endless to-do lists, brainstorming new projects, family time, social interactions, and anything else we might feel must be done in order to be effective and successful.
Scheduling personal time doesn’t come easy because we don’t make time for ourselves a priority. But science tells us that carving out “you” time makes the rest of our lives better, both in the office and outside of it.
- It boosts creativity. Some time by yourself, away from work can actually be an investment when you need it most. Studies show that brainstorming on your own can result in more focused ideas because you’re not distracted and at the mercy of the group’s conversation flow.
- It’s good for your emotional health. Don’t believe it? Try spending an afternoon without social media or a phone. A 2014 study found that children who attended a camp without electronic devices could better read emotions and facial expressions after five days.
- You’ll think more deeply. Just like brainstorming, being able to let your mind wander without the pressure of another person or group is important in developing solid thoughts and ideas, whether that be about a personal problem or a bigger societal issue.
Time with yourself, when you’re not used to it, can seem selfish. But there are so many benefits that it should take more importance in our lives. Here are some tips for how to carve out time just for you in the midst of your busy schedule:
When to schedule personal time
No matter whether you have a very regimented schedule or a lighter week, there are likely a few minutes you can spare for yourself. Personal time doesn’t have to be a huge time investment, like taking yourself to a movie or going on a meditation retreat. (Though those activities are great, too!) Adding even 10 minutes of personal time into your schedule can still have really great benefits.
Schedule 10 minutes of morning meditation or go for a short walk after work to clear your head. You can also turn things that are already on your to-do list into “you time.” Heading to the farmer’s market? Go solo! Instead of working through your lunch break, get away from your desk and do a short, guided meditation. Brainstorm some new project ideas while you’re getting a pedicure.
There’s no one right way to spend your personal time — it can be as creative or as mellow as you need it to be.
I like to think of personal time as either restorative or active depending on what challenges I’m facing or what stress level I’m experiencing at the time. If you’re not sure what you need, consider these questions:
- Are you on track to meet a weekly goal you’ve set for yourself?
- Do you have a lot of pressing deadlines?
- Are you feeling inspired?
- Do you feel overwhelmed?
Think of active personal time as organizing all of your racing thoughts. Sit down with a planner or a notepad like the Ink+Volt Today Organizer Pad and really hash out all of your ideas, deadlines, and plans. Doing so helps you move forward and do better work.
On the other hand, you may want to spend restorative personal time clearing your head with a solo workout, or doing another activity you enjoy, like cooking a meal or gardening. The point of this time is to really re-inspire yourself, which can help if you’re facing some kind of creative block or personal problem you can’t seem to resolve.
Once you’ve figured out what you need, follow through with it. Knowing that making an investment in yourself is also making an investment into your success and work is the first step.
Personal time hacks
So you’ve committed to carving out some personal time. Now what? Make it a priority to check in with yourself every day or plan a weekly review session each week. I like to sit down with the Ink+Volt Today Organizer Pad each morning to plan out my day — including when, where, and how I’m going to be taking some personal time.
Here are some ways to make personal time happen, even if you’re super busy:
Set a personal intention for the day. Taking just a few minutes to reflect and set a daily intention can keep you grounded all day because you’ve thought about what you need for yourself by yourself. For example, if your daily intention is to meet people where they are, you are mentally preparing yourself to go into every interaction that day from a place of understanding and acceptance. (And look at that — already the personal time you’ve spent is benefiting the people around you!)
Make personal time a routine. Just like packing a lunch in the morning or checking emails when you get to the office, personal time can quickly become part of your routine if you commit to the practice. Think of it as something you need in your schedule, whether that’s a few quiet moments before bed, a solo coffee run in the afternoon, or a weekly brainstorming session in a creative environment. It will become something you look forward to.
Write it down. Take control of your schedule and use a planner or notepad like the Ink+Volt Today Organizer Pad to plan out your day — including your personal time! If you’re planning a morning meditation, label your alarm “morning meditation” so it’s the first thing you see when you wake up. If it’s an evening stroll through the neighborhood, add it to your calendar so it’s a visible part of your schedule for the day.
Don’t skip it. Really make an effort to prioritize yourself and your personal time. Treat it just like you would a meeting with a coworker, where saying, “I don’t have time,” would be unacceptable. You give so much to your work and other people, it’s okay (and beneficial!) to set a boundary and work on yourself, even if it requires a little bit of flexibility on your part.
Once you start treating your personal time as an important part of your daily schedule, you’ll start seeing the benefits in your mental health, emotional wellbeing, *and* in your work. We can’t wait to see how much you accomplish.