Personal free time is important. But that doesn’t stop many of us from saying “yes” to things that we aren’t crazy about doing—be they invitations, projects, volunteer tasks, or family gatherings. How can we start saying “yes” to fewer obligations and more to the things that we really want to do? While some things are inevitable and inescapable, like important work deadlines and your sister’s wedding, you can practice the following nine tips to be more in control of how you spend your free time for your own personal happiness.
1. Know thyself. What’s the best use of your very limited free time? Working on the business plan for your next amazing company or non-profit? Spending time with family? Do you absolutely love staying at home reading fashion magazines instead of getting drinks at a big club? Know what makes you absolutely the happiest and you’ll be much firmer in saying “no” to things that aren’t the best use of your time.
2. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. You can’t get everything done. But if you really absolutely want to, you can get the super-important, super-awesome-activities-that-make you-happy stuff done. It’s okay if some weeks your kitchen is a little messier than usual, your laundry is still a big pile on your bedroom floor, and you’re eating lots more take-out than you’d like if you’re moving forward with your dreams and making quality time with the important people in your life.
3. Be proactive with scheduling things ahead of time. Got a volunteer event you absolutely want to help with? Schedule it in your planner. Need to use your weekend time to get ahead on a creative project? Schedule it ahead of time. Knowing exactly what chunks of your time are negotiable and non-negotiable for hangouts will keep you as the main driver of your life direction, not other people.
4. Say you’ll come back with an answer later. If you’re like me, and you find it hard to immediately say “no” in person to something you know you can’t do or want to do, say instead that you’ll get back to the person later. It will delay and restrain your knee-jerk reaction to immediately saying “yes” and regretting it later.
5. Offer an alternative solution. Maybe you can’t attend the all-weekend, camp-in-the-mountains hangout with your friends ... but you can catch up with them later in the week during a less crazy day.
6. Take advantage of the morning hours. Sometimes, waking up a little extra early makes your day feel longer and more productive and gives you more time to do the things you truly enjoy. While the rest of the world is sleeping, jam to your favorite music, cook up some amazing breakfast, and get the blueprint for your exciting life plans going.
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