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How to gain control of your free time [video]

Posted by Annemie Burger on April 20, 2017 at 8:00 PM
Annemie Burger
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With a simple shift in mindset, Laura Vanderkam shows us where we’ll find that illusive time to do all the things that make us happy.

Between being a model employee, super-parent and the perfect partner, life can get hectic. When you find yourself fighting the traffic after that late client meeting, to fetch your daughter from ballet, it’s hard to imagine finding time to take that yoga class you’ve been talking about for years.

Sometimes we get so caught up in our responsibilities that we forget to consciously make time for ourselves. It’s important for both our health and happiness that we learn to shuffle our priorities in a way that allows us to occasionally put our needs at top of our to-do list.

Laura Vanderkam, author and time management guru, gave a TED Talk on How to gain control of your free time in which she redefined the concept of “time”. In her talk, Laura explained that we need to shift our mindset from “I don’t have time to do x, y, z” to “I don’t do x, y, z because it’s not a priority”.

When we’re faced with an emergency situation, like our geyser bursting, whether we have the time or not we make it our priority to rush home and call the plumber. Laura uses this analogy to illustrate the elastic nature of time. She explains that even though we still need to fit in a full week’s worth of work, we would make the time to spend seven hours getting our geyser repaired. This is how we need to start approaching our personal goals - as if they were “an emergency”, forcing ourselves to consciously make time for the things we love or want to achieve.

Striking that work-life balance is a difficult task.

After a long day in the office, all we really feel like doing is switching on Netflix and zoning out to our favourite series. Life can feel a little daunting when all we seem to do is eat, sleep, clean and work. However, Laura shows us that we’re not truly as busy as we think. She points out “there are 168 hours in a week”, so even if you’re working a 40 to 50 hour week and sleeping the recommended eight hours per night, that still leaves 62 to 72 hours of free time. 

When you look at it this way, that’s nearly three full days to find time to accomplish your personal goals and do things that make you happy.



Here are a few time management tips to help you get started on your pathway to self-fulfillment.

  • Commit to your plan to do something. If you want to go to the gym on Wednesday evenings, pencil it into your diary and treat this time as you would any important business meeting - show up and get it done. You’ll feel great after you’ve begun ticking off your personal goals.
  • Take ten minutes to breathe. Find somewhere quiet where you can be alone for ten minutes each day. Clear your mind, pour a cup of tea and focus on your breathing. Being present in that moment, and taking the time to slow down will help ease stress and anxiety, allowing you to feel focused and ready to tackle the next task when you’re done.
  • Stop trying to multitask. Concentrate on one thing at a time and when you’re done, take a short break before moving on to the next item on your list. You’ll be amazed by what you can achieve when you focus your energy like this. This is the basic principle behind time management methods like the Pomodoro technique. The Pomodoro technique breaks up your time into highly focused, 25 minute segments followed by a five minute break to help eliminate burnout.
  • Set yourself deadlines.  If you leave your goals too open ended, there’s a tendency to procrastinate. If you’re wanting learn to play the guitar, give yourself a timeline to work with, for example, “I’d like to learn to play Amazing Grace by the 6th June”. Using SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and Timely) like this, you’ll be motivated stick to your timeline.
  • Set aside “device-free” time. Even if you start small, create a rule in your home that for 30 minutes the family switches off their phones, TV, games or laptop and spends that time doing something else they enjoy - swimming, playing a board game together or baking cupcakes. Becoming conscious of the amount of time we spend glued to our electronics will help you to start using that time to do things that make you happy. The more you do these things, the less you’ll want to feel like wasting that time in front of the TV.

Remember that taking time out of your busy schedule to spend an hour a day doing yoga, reading or just having a latte with a friend can make a huge difference to your general wellbeing and happiness levels.


If you’d like to learn more about time management, productivity and other business related advice, subscribe to the Penquin blog. Our dedicated team of experts regularly update our blog with the latest industry news to help you stay ahead of the trends.  


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