Have you ever felt overwhelmed with your spare time? Or by adjusting to a new life style change? Do you struggle to complete tasks or feel unclear where you are spending your time?
Back in April this year, I sure felt overwhelmed by the huge lifestyle change of being responsible for my own place and living with my partner, Dean. This year, we truly became adults and before we had jobs to settle into and had an apartment to furnish, we were totally freaked at how much needed to be done and the sudden responsibilities which loomed upon us. From living at home, to shared/ university accommodation to our own place, there were many aspects to put in place as to how we were going to run our first home and I felt we needed something on paper to create an image of our ideal routine.
This was when I created the Real-timetable, without realizing it at the time. I figured that if we could discuss what we like to and need to do, then somehow accumulate it into this carefully planned out timetable as a written routine, we could have something to work with; allowing us to identify exactly what we wanted and needed in regards to our usage of time along the way. I felt that, since creating this timetable, even though we haven’t been strictly sticking to it, our routine has naturally adapted this pattern we saw in our original visions.
Benefits associated with this activity include:
Identify a clear vision of exactly what I want to do with my free time.
Clearly identify what tasks are important to me.
Clearly identify what I consider productive and what I consider simply for leisure.
Identify necessary tasks and when they are to be carried out to minimize my stress.
Highlight any methods I’m going to use to ensure tasks are carried out- reality check.
Clearly see a realistic picture of what time I have free to spend with my partner/ family.
Compare my timetable with my partner’s and work together to make healthy compromises.
Questions which came up during this activity:
What is work to me?
What is leisure to me?
What is productive to me?
What is not productive but still important to me?
How can I use this free space to benefit me in terms of: Productivity? Pleasure? or Socially?
Do I spend enough time on everything I need to keep me happy?
How can I compromise with my partner to ensure we are both using our time effectively?
Where can I fit in activities I often neglect, but want to spend time on?
With the Real-timetable, I was able to actually see where I want to spend my time, as well as being completely realistic and specific in the time-frames of my chosen activities. It felt empowering to take control of my own timetable- once working hours were down, spare time was clearly highlighted and because I had already made a list of my leisure activities, it became rather fun, slotting in my chosen activities.
I understand for many people, especially those working full-time or have caring responsibilities, you may find there isn’t as much free time as others. However, you may be surprised as to how much time you do have outside of work. However much spare time you end up with, remember to choose your activities carefully. Think about how that activity is going to benefit you. Also consider your relaxing time! If you work many hours, don’t feel guilty for choosing to watch a movie with your partner on a Saturday afternoon even if you have a lot of important tasks to carry out. Your mental well-being is also important and if we don’t get our chill-time at some point, we will burnout. This activity is designed to promote your well-being and effective time isn’t always about being productive for every hour you are free.
So, I have given you a detailed introduction of the benefits of this activity and why I feel it important to share with you. I intend to use this with my clients in future sessions so please leave your feedback to let me know how this activity has helped you out and if there is anything else I feel I should include in the activity. Below is the steps of the activity; please give it a go if it sounds like a tool you could use in your current situation and you want to experience how it feels to take control of your time! Happy planning 🙂
Make a list of all the activities you have in your life.
Sounds like a mammoth task right? So start by dividing your activities into categories:
Tasks (Household/ Admin etc.)
“Work” could be very simple if you have a regular job that requires you to be at a place of work for a set time in a day. However, you may travel, work freelance or be self-employed and if this is the case then this may require you to break this category down even more to your own specification. This category could even be classed as school, college or university.
“Leisure” Is whatever you consider relaxing or down time. Perhaps if you are an artist, work itself is leisure! It is, however something you choose to do in your own time, with perhaps the exceptions of activity/ social groups, if your chosen activity is perhaps Yoga or Swimming. It can be something you do alone or with others. As you can imagine this will differ between individuals, therefore don’t let others influence what you consider leisure- just because some people don’t find exercise relaxing, doesn’t mean you have to see it as just a necessary task. This section could also be broken down to whichever feels simpler for you to work with. For example, Social Leisure and Individual Leisure.
“Social” is any time you spend with other people- may it be your partner or, if you live with them you may consider this as just meeting up with friends. Family time, partner time, children time etc. This section could also be part of the previous “Leisure” category or you could just choose to keep them separate for simplicity.
“Tasks” are necessary, important “adult” tasks which need to be done whether you enjoy them or not. This could include organizing, scheduling, housework, household admin, paying bills etc. “Tasks” may also include homework, if you are a student/ at school or coursework if you are completing training with work or an adult education program. You may even choose to put such activities in “Work” category. This is your timetable, modify it for your own simplicity and perspectives.
Productive or Not Productive?
Once you are happy with your list and have spent a considerable amount of time, ensuring you have everything you do in your lifestyle written down, you can proceed to this next step. (A good way on ensuring you have everything down, is to go through your typical week, day by day and list your daily activities from your current timetable).
Go through your list, looking at each activity and decide whether it is productive or not productive IN YOUR OPINION. I can’t stress this enough- you would be surprised what others consider productive, but each has their own reasons. Consider your own reasons while you carry out this stage. Mark each activity with a “P” (productive) or a “NP” (not productive).
Consider asking yourself:
What do I get from this activity? What are the benefits? How does this benefit me?
How does this benefit my partner and I as a couple?
What is productive about this activity to me?/ What is not productive about this activity to me?
Make a note of what other questions come up for you and write down your answers.
Now have a think: what is there, that you wish to spend time on, which you haven’t already got on your list? Will you mark this “P” or “NP”? What reasons have you for including this activity in your lifestyle?
I feel it is important to take time to complete this stage, so that you know exactly what you are gaining from the activities in your lifestyle and consider anything that is missing and could benefit you. Everything you include will benefit you in some way. Even our mundane tasks like laundry; if we didn’t do it, our clothes would always be dirty etc. Likewise, non-productive activities serve us some purpose; playing video games gives us pleasure and a break from reality- something which benefits us all in moderation, even though it isn’t particularly productive. Depending on who we are, we may feel guilty for spending time in such “NP” activities- but remember everything is OK if it is in balance in our own perspectives. If you are working on this with your partner, be conscious of your judgement on your other half. Allow them to explain their reasons for doing particular activities before giving your own opinion as to whether you feel it is “P” or “NP”. If you are curious about the key difference between “P” and “NP” activities, I guess you could say that “P”activities are necessary. What is important to us, is all based on our individual values.
Note: All of our timetables will be as unique as the individuals we are. Therefore our opinions and reasons will only be inspired from within ourselves- if you know that you are fairly passive by nature, consider completing this activity independently so that you are honest with yourself. The idea of this activity is to empower you and take control of your own time.
Creating your Real-Timetable:
As you can see, with my screen shots below, this is an example of a “typical” working day and below is an example of a typical “day-off”. My own timetable is not really typical as I have days off through the week and work weekends, but I also do my own work when I’m not at my job, so I thought I’d use weekdays and weekends as an example.
If these images are unclear, I have attached the handout file for you to download for absolutely free, so you can have a better look and perhaps use the template for yourself. As you can see, I have labelled the activities to show their relevance in the actual timetable and the point to all those lists. Think of how you choose to spread your activities throughout the week. Obviously weeks change and events happen, however, if you have a clear idea on paper (or document), how you want your schedule to look and you feel good about it, then the chances of it shaping into that way are much greater than if you just keep saying to yourself on a daily basis “I want to do that sometime” or “Oh that needs to be done soon”. The key is to be SPECIFIC. If you don’t have a clear target to aim for, then you will never hit your bulls eye!
So that’s my Real-Timetable. It was originally going to be called the “Ideal” Timetable, however, after talking through the concept with my own life coach, I figured that it could be perceived as fantasy- like “in an ideal world”. This needs to be something real, on paper that will enable you to take effective action. This is where the phrase “Real-time” came into mind; because time is real, things need to be planned in real-time to be most effective.
Thank you so much for taking time to check out my “tool” for planning and making the most of your time. It’s very early days for me as a coach, so any constructive feedback would be much appreciated. This is just something which I tried out for myself and it worked well. I’m sure there are similar tools out there which people put across slightly differently, but trust me when I say that I have come up with these explanations in my own words and with my own experience.
Please have a go and see how helpful this is for you and do let me know how you get on!
All the best,