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Unpacking the “comfort foods” of free time — how to take control of your life

Updated: Mar 18, 2023



An introduction to advanced time management skills — Discover strategies to tactfully rewire your sub-conscious from mindless scrolling to purposeful activities.
 

At this moment, you are the youngest you are ever going to be.


We all have different ways of interpreting this statement — some may read this and think “well, that’s depressing.” While others may read it and take it as an astounding wake-up call. No matter what your reaction is to that statement, it remains true. Time waits for nobody and is simultaneously the most precious resource we have. So, how do we choose to spend our time and why?


Time is a limited resource

As humans in the twenty-first century, most of us spend our time awake either in school or at work. This, of course, is for good reason. Time spent in school prepares us for the workforce, and the workforce gives us money to provide for ourselves. We also strive to sleep for a healthy eight-hours a night. With seven days in a week and twenty-four hours in a day, this gives us a total of one-hundred and sixty-eight hours per week — ninety-six of which, on average, are eaten up by a combination of sleep, work, and/or school. This leaves a grand total of seventy-two “free-hours.”

Please note that the amount of “free-hours” a person has will vary by individual. Everyone has different responsibilities and life situations.

As children, it is easy to feel like we have all of the time in the world. I’d like you to take a moment to think about some goals you’ve set for yourself in the past. Pull up your new year’s resolutions from the prior year. Maybe your goal was to read a book a month or to walk thirty-minutes a day on the treadmill. Did you achieve your goals? Now let’s think larger — what other goals do you have for yourself — what do you want to be doing in the next year? How about five or ten years from now? Now, let’s think about how we’re spending our time today. How are we using our time to actively work toward these goals and dreams? Are we taking measurable steps toward these goals each day? If not, what is stopping us?


Throughout the remainder of this blog, I’d like to discuss the importance of these “free-hours” in relation to your habits and how you consciously and sub-consciously spend your time. I’d be willing to bet that there are areas you can improve. Nobody is perfect — but we can all take bite-sized steps each day toward becoming the person we want to be.






Understanding your habits and avoiding comforts

If you don’t develop a framework for your life, someone or something else will. Let’s unpack this statement for a moment. What I am referring to here simply comes down to how you budget your time each day. Keep in mind — days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months, and well — you get the picture. Are you consciously formulating a framework or itinerary for how you spend your time — or are you rooted in old habits and sub-consciously following them without a second-thought?


Let’s dive into some common sub-conscious habits. For years, we’ve been exposed to addictive social media applications, binge-worthy TV shows, and video games that are strategically designed to keep us staring at the screen and rooted on the couch. While there is of course a place for these activities in your life (yes, I also enjoy all of these), it is not an activity that to me personally, is worth allotting a significant portion of my “free-hours.” These activities do not contribute to my goals, nor will they assist me in becoming the person I want to be. They, among many other culprits, are the “comfort foods” of free time. Don’t let these activities run your life.


Let’s assume you don’t use social media, you don’t play video games, and you don’t watch TV. Great! Are you progressing on your goals? How are you choosing to spend your free time? If you want to lose weight, become an author, learn how to invest in stocks, buy your first home, or whatever it may be — are you actively taking steps toward these goals each day? These goals may seem overwhelming at first, but I have a few strategies you can utilize to help get the ball rolling — many of which I will explore in future posts.




Building a framework to regain control

For starters, instead of only identifying one seemingly distant goal, such as losing fifty pounds — let’s start by setting smaller goals that can help you achieve your larger one. By achieving these small goals, you will feel a sense of pride and accomplishment — which will help motivate you to push onward and work even harder. Don’t underestimate the power of momentum. For our weight loss example, let’s consider setting a smaller goal of walking outside for thirty minutes a day. Still unreasonable? Lower it to a duration that works for you and gradually build up over time — the key is getting started.

But how do we get started if we already have busy schedules?

Let’s begin with a simple exercise — outlining your own scheduling itinerary for a given weekday. I challenge you to write this down — grab a pen and paper (or open Microsoft Excel), and write out how you spend your time. Be sure to include the time you wake up, and feel free to include small details of your morning routine, all the way down to your nighttime routine and bedtime. I’ve included a sample figure below for reference:


Sample scheduling itinerary based on my current time allocation for a given weekday. Please use this for reference when building your own! Note: FT denotes free-time and has been defined as any time not spent working or sleeping.





Once completed, tell me what you see — chances are, there is some time spent on comfort related activities that can slowly be mended and molded into productive, bite-sized activities, that lead toward the achievement of your larger goal. When I first completed this exercise, I found that my weakness lied in the time spent in bed prior to actually falling asleep. I would wake-up, make breakfast, go to work, come home, go to the gym, shower, make dinner — realize it’s almost my bedtime, then go to bed. Once in bed however, I’d go on my phone and scroll for upwards of one to two hours. My solution? I started going to the gym in the morning! This forced my body to be sleepier when it was actually time for bed — therefore, forcing me to eliminate the comfort time. Granted, I still scroll on social media — it’s perfectly acceptable in small amounts. However, by making this small shift, I’ve noticed tremendous growth in my overall productivity.


The point is — small changes and activities like this can go a long way. You don’t need to fully eradicate these “comfort food” activities — but


you should be aware of them and how much time you’re dedicating to them.






Above all else, I’d like to leave you with a few closing thoughts. First, is that we only have one life and we never know when it will come to an end. If you were to die tomorrow — would you be proud of the life you lived or would you regret not stepping out of your comfort zone more? Take a moment and think — what more would you have wanted to do and why? Did you realize your full potential or did you foil your metaphorical poker game by folding pocket aces without looking?


I’d like to gently remind you that this is your life. It is not your mother or father’s life. It is not your employer’s life — it is yours.


This realization, while seemingly obvious, comes with empowerment. I am here to remind you that if you want to do something, you have the autonomy to do it. If you want to achieve something, you have the ability to work toward it.




The only person stopping you from achieving greatness is you. Set aside your fear of failure. Set aside your feelings of doubt. Forget what your friends and family will think — this is not their life.


If you want to lose fifty-pounds — start today. If you don’t have time in your busy schedule — make time. Prioritize the things that are most important to you — not anyone else. Take your first step forward and be proud of it — own it. At the end of the day, I can promise that you will look back at yourself in the mirror and be proud of the person staring back.

 

As we know — time is precious. That said, I want to personally thank you for choosing to read this post. Please consider sharing with a friend or following me on Medium for more!










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