Have you ever wondered why it feels so hard to take time for yourself? Even when you promise yourself a bit of TLC, there’s often something — another task, request or responsibility — that snatches your time away.
Our modern lives — our work and responsibilities —don’t always leave us with much breathing space, yet some people always seem to have more time than others. What’s their secret, these women who have time to sit down and enjoy a cup of tea? The answer is less about the way they DO things, and more with how they THINK about things.
Today’s exercise will explore how your attitude towards time is preventing you from keeping it, and why you rarely feel satisfied with what you’ve achieved at the end of the day.
This exercise comes from my three-part audio series: Take Back Your Time: Practical Lessons In Creating Time Freedom For A Healthy, Happy Life. Download the full series here.
“Should,” “Could” & “Get To”
How often do you catch yourself saying or thinking the words: I should…
“Should” is an expression of something that you think you have to do. It’s a self-imposed expectation that you need to meet to view yourself as successful, generous, useful, important, etc.
I should fold laundry while I’m sitting on the couch…
I should get a head start on dinner to make things easier later on…
“Could,” on the other hand, expresses a conscious choice. It’s the start of a dialogue about how you spend your time.
I could go for a walk…
I could try a new recipe…
A “could” sentence gives you options. “Could” is a word that implies positivity and choice; you’ll even notice a difference in the inflection of your voice when you say it compared to “should.”
Compare these sentences:
I should go for a walk.
Golly, even writing this makes my feet feel heavy. It makes me wonder why I should go for a walk, which leads to me listing off all those unhealthy habits that I need to rectify with exercise. Yuck!
I could go for a walk.
Yep, definitely more inspirational. That could fit into this sentence: It’s a lovely day, I could go for a walk! Or this one: I’m going to exercise tomorrow morning, I could go for a walk, or I could go for a swim.
In example number two, the walk becomes the reward and not the punishment. This sentence also reminds me that I’m the decision maker, and it gives me an option for how I spend my time.
Becoming A Could Person Means You’ll Have More Time:
If you’re a high-achiever, it’s likely that you have a LOT of should’s floating around in your mind at any one time. I can hardly sit on my couch without thinking I should: water the plants, get rid of that cobweb, organize the DVR recordings, send an email, file my fingernails, plan a vacation, fold laundry, book a dentist appointment… relaxing at my house is exhausting!
But just because should ’s could be done doesn’t mean you have to do them. Filling your day to the brim with “should” tasks won’t necessarily:
- Move you closer to your three key life priorities (learn about these by downloading the full series here)
- Create free time for the future (there will always be more should’s)
- Make you more important/interesting/useful. It just makes you tired.
You Need To Shelve Some Shoulds:
Look at your current To-Do list, or think about all of those odds and ends floating around in your brain. How many of these tasks made it on to that list because of the sentence: I should do…?
- “I should clean out the linen cupboard.”
- “I should sort the winter clothing.”
- “I should get a head start on Christmas presents.”
- “I should attend that community meeting.”
While you may like to cross these arbitrary items off your list, they’re also not critical to the functioning of your day-to-day life. In fact, spending time on these “should” tasks could actually be taking you further away from reaching your healthy living goals.
Can you guess my simple solution? Cross them off your list…right now. Liberation!
The remaining obligations on your list are those necessary for the functioning of your day-to-day life. Once they’re complete, you can celebrate what you’ve already achieved, and choose how to spend the next chunk of your time. But sometimes even these essential tasks can get us feeling overwhelmed or down in the dumps. I have a trick for that too!
Adopt A “Get To” Mindset
Look at the following sentences:
- I have to go to work —> I get to go to work
- I have to meet (name) for a coffee —> I get to meet (name) for a coffee
- I have to workout with my personal trainer —> I get to workout with my trainer
While this positive language trick won’t necessarily buy you more time, it will help you feel more enthusiastic about the way you’re spending that time. And when you couple this simple language reframe with a could opportunity, your whole outlook on the day can change.
Try this one on for size: I get to workout with my personal trainer and then I could have a relaxing bath or read a book! Sounds great to me!
Let’s summarize today’s exercise!
- Use the word “could” to remind yourself that you do have a choice in how you spend your time
- Cross off all the non-essential “should” tasks on your to-do list
- Add a positive spin to your language by saying what you “get” to do, rather than what you “have” to do
A thought to ponder as you move throughout your week: WHY you do something is more important than WHAT you do. What’s the reason behind your should’s, could’s and get to’s? If the answer doesn’t move you, consider letting them go.