Last February, I reset my life and went through a lifestyle cleanse of sorts. Going to bed earlier, studying with more purpose, working better, doing more of the things I love, etc. With going to bed earlier, I also started waking up earlier (6 AM, but currently working on 5:30) and with that came the realisation that I struggle to get up early if I don’t have something to do. I just didn’t think I had enough time in the morning to do anything meaningful and worthy of getting up for, other than going to work. I also felt like I was busy all the time, running everywhere to do this and that and never catching a break.

Right around that time, I happened to watch a little video on YouTube, a TED Talk called “How to gain control of your free time” by Laura Vanderkam. I’ll leave the link here if you decide you want to watch it too. Mostly, it was about prioritization. I already knew time management revolved more around priority than time itself, but what this video made me fully realize is that I have 168 hours in a week. And that’s a lot of time!

Now, I already hear you say, “Yes, but I have to work 40 hours a week! And I have to eat and sleep too!”. I thought the same. That was all covered in the TED Talk, don’t worry, but here’s how I approached this personally. I took a sheet of paper, and at the very top of it, I wrote “168 hours”, minus 40 hours of work, minus 8 hours of sleep per night, 7 days a week. That left me with 72 hours. That’s still a hell of a lot of time!

Next, I wrote down all the other constants in my life. The things I know I have to do every week or day. Eating, showering, doing the dishes, going to work, Korean practice, Swedish practice, aerobics, etc. Then I wrote down how much time these tasks take me and removed it from the 72 hours. I was left with 40 hours. 40 hours of free time, to do whatever I want. And I’m the kind of person who always wants to do All The Things™. So, if I’m being honest, I was amazed at how much time I had left once I removed all the necessities. All this time I was wasting browsing on my phone, watching YouTube videos or Netflix.

So I decided to make a list of all the other extra activities I wanted to do or was currently doing in my leisure time. Studying, painting, reading, bullet journaling, extra Korean learning. Then I thought about how much time I wanted to save for those activities. But before doing that, I wanted a better idea of my schedule and where my free time was. I needed a visual. So, what I did was I put my entire schedule in my Google Calendar. Working, sleeping, eating, getting ready, practicing, all of it. Then one by one, depending on my priorities, I added my leisure activities to the calendar. And once I had added everything I wanted, I still had 18 hours left! That’s massive!

With those 18 hours, I started thinking a bit outside the box. What were the things I always told myself I should do, but never had the time to? For me, that was more wellness activities. Working out, meditating and stretching morning and night. I designated a time for those, and to this day, I still have 9 hours left in my week. I’m planning on leaving this time free for now. I still like to have a bit of time for browsing my phone, watching videos and playing games, after all. I just do whatever I feel like in these truly free bits of time.

One thing I learned through all this is that I was really not as busy as I thought I was, and that “not having time” was not an excuse not to do things anymore. I will say this though, it takes a bit of self-discipline, and also the ability to listen to yourself and to your needs. Whenever study time comes, I’ll be honest, it’s always a bit difficult to get to it. Because I don’t want to. But I have to. So I have to give myself a little push and ask myself  “Does watching videos on YouTube have a higher priority in my life than studying?” The answer is usually no, and so I get to it and study. But sometimes, sometimes I’ve had a long day and neither my brain nor my mood is really there anymore. On those occasions, the answer is yes. Yes, YouTube is more important than studying right now. Because I know I need a break just for this one time. And it’s okay. I cannot stress this enough. Following a tight schedule is important to me, but listening to my body is even more important. It’s crucial to know your limits and respect them. Otherwise you’ll burn the candle at both ends and be done with this schedule real quick, and then you’ll be back to square one.

If you’re struggling with time management yourself, I truly hope I was able to help at least a little bit.

Until next time,

Emilie