Claiming time for yourself

Oct 10, 2008 at 11:01 a.m. ET

How many times have you complained about not having enough time for yourself? How many times have you wished aloud that you had just an hour to read or try something new or do something truly for yourself? And how many times have you actually had an hour in front of you - and done the laundry instead?

Woman Doing Laundry
I'm guilty of this. I know I need to take time as it presents itself for reading or knitting or making progress on other goals, but the never ending list of household and family tasks keeps me from that. At least that's what I tell myself. I think, really, it's just an excuse.

No more excuses

But that's the bugaboo, isn't it? Not just identifying that which we need to feel balanced, but actually claiming the time to address that need. Doing the grocery shopping alone - much as it is easier than shopping with the kids - does not count as your alone, self-building time. It doesn't.

Setting priorities for yourself amid all the demands of your family and work life can be hard. It can seem selfish. It's not. Taking time to recharge yourself whether by a simple act or reading or trying something new is a gift to your family. When you are balanced and happy, your family is happier. Truly.

It's also scary, though, especially if your personal goals involve something new and different. I'm trying to get back into printmaking myself, something I did in college and loved. A year ago - a year ago! - I learned about a printmaking technique I could do at home without a major equipment investment. I have no excuses now, not to do this thing that I so loved, but I am scared. I've become a little complacent in my life, and change - even change I claim I want! - can be difficult.

The laundry can wait

I can just about guarantee that if you put off time you need for yourself to do the laundry, there will be more laundry to do by the time you are done with the first round. Some household and family tasks are never-ending, so stop trying to get to that end point and let them be. I've been putting off actually doing my printmaking with just these excuses. And it has to stop.

You may need to get buy-in from your family to make this happen; they may not understand at first that you really mean it. If you need to get out of the house to get your time - and if you need help with the kids - trade time with a friend who needs the same time for herself. But do it. Get the buy-in and make the time. Claim it. Do it.

I'm taking my own advice here. Just as soon as this load of laundry is done.

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