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How to make time for what really matters

Liz ODonnell

Between work and family obligations, it may feel impossible to find time for you and your personal interests. But you don’t need to put yourself last just because you’re a mother. Follow four simple steps to make time for what matters in your life.

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t Between work and family, it can feel almost impossible for a mother to find time for anything else. It may feel like you never have enough time for exercise, friends, volunteering or any of the other things you love.

t But you don’t need to put your personal interests on hold just because you’re a working mother. While researching my book, Mogul, Mom, & Maid: The Balancing Act of the Modern Woman, I talked to hundreds of women and identified what the happiest among them do in order to make time for the priorities in their life. Based on what they taught me, I’ve identified four simple steps for making the time for what truly matters in your life.

Determine what really matters

t The first step to freeing up time in your schedule is figuring out what truly matters to you. Make a list of all the things that are important to you. Your list might include career, a hobby like painting or writing, volunteering at your child’s school, earning a degree or redecorating your house. Make your list as inclusive as possible.

Pace yourself

t Now that you’ve identified what matters, you need to prioritize. We can have it all, but we can’t necessarily have it all at the same time. Maybe you want to run for office or perhaps run a marathon. Is this the right time? What can you realistically focus on now, and what might you decide to achieve later? Women are doing great things at all the different stages of their lives. Let them be an inspiration to you. Madeline Albright wasn’t sworn in as secretary of state until she was 60 years old, and her career continues to flourish. Know that you don’t need to do everything right now — you have time.

Lose the “shoulds”

t Now, list all of the things you think you should be doing, either because your peers are, your mother told you to or the media says you ought to. Make the list as exhaustive as possible. Do you think you should visit your parents more often, that you should be a size 6 or that your house should look like a page in Better Homes and Gardens? Maybe you think you should volunteer for the PTO. Once you’ve listed all of your shoulds, say goodbye to them. Be bold and cross them off your list. Shoulds are usually based on other people’s value systems. Let them go.

Define your non-negotiables

t Take your remaining list, free of the shoulds, and make a list of what things are non-negotiable in your life. Perhaps the list includes spending time with your kids, taking care of an elderly or sick friend, striving for a fitness goal or pursuing a hobby or your career. Make sure this list is based only on what you want, not what anyone else thinks you should do. Once you’ve defined your non-negotiables, display the list somewhere you will see it every day and share it with your closest friends and family. This is the list you say yes to — everything else is optional. For example, if Friday family game night is a non-negotiable, then the next time you’re invited somewhere else on Friday, you’ll say yes to the family, and saying no to the invitation will be easy.

t And guess what? Once you become clear about your non-negotiables, you’ll find that some of your “shoulds” have become wants — and you’ll actually have time for them.

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