When is the last time you gave yourself a planning period for your evenings and weekends?
More weeks than not, I don’t spend dedicated time planning my evenings or weekends. Often they are full to the brim anyway – carting teens to and fro, running errands, and trying to squeeze in time for myself. This month was especially full: I had two birthdays, two soccer tournaments, an international trip, and Thanksgiving dinner all within two weeks! During such busy times, planning and asking for help are critically important. But planning is also critical when we have free time.
It might seem counter-intuitive to plan your free time. After all, a lot of our time is planned for us by our jobs and our kid’s activities, and we need time off. But occasionally, a weeknight or a Saturday will feel like a blank slate. Then we’re left with the question… what do I do? Often when we do have windows of unstructured time, that time can slip away from us unless we have a plan.
The reality is that things don’t happen by themselves. Have you ever gotten up Saturday morning, knowing there are tons of things you want to do or places you want to go, but ended up doing… nothing? It’s not a great feeling. On the other hand, when I spend time intentionally planning my time with things that will bring me joy and reduce my stress, I get to Sunday evening feeling accomplished and happy.
5 Reasons To Plan Your Free Time
1) Get the time off you need
We have so many responsibilities that it’s critical to have time truly OFF – when you don’t have to be anywhere or do anything. As a busy parent, such times rarely happen without planning our boundaries. Block time in the evening or weekend to have no responsibilities. Shut off your phone or leave your house! Plan to rejuvenate yourself by reading a book, getting a massage, or going for a long walk. By designating time for these self-nourishing activities, you will feel better and be more productive.
2) Make progress on your bucket list
Have you been meaning to visit a museum, go for a hike, or attend wine tasting? Planning these activities in advance will ensure that you actually do them, instead of intending to do them indefinitely. The feeling of accomplishment that comes from doing something you’ve been meaning to is an extra reward!
3) Allot your time fairly
As our kids grow older and get busier, sometimes one child needs more attention than the others – and it can make us worry that our other kids feel neglected. Planning to spend time with each child will save you guilt and worry, and ensure that your kids are getting the attention they need. It could be as simple as a Starbucks date, or as involved as a weekend trip to visit a college.
4) Complete chores consistently
Do household chores and errands hang over your head and cause you stress? Because they are repetitive, getting them done can feel like being on a hamster wheel! Planning time exclusively for chores and errands not only ensures that they get done consistently, but frees your mind from having to wonder when they’ll get done. Enlist your kids and partner to help: as long as expectations are clear (in your mind and within your family) and a plan is in place, no one has an excuse for not doing their part!
5) Give your brain a break
Does your mind feel fatigued? It could be because you’re using your brain to remember the things you want to do, whether it’s self-care, a bucket list item, or an errand. Give your brain a break by getting these items out of your head and on to a to-do list – or better yet, on to your calendar! By planning when and how things get done, your brain can relax from expending energy to remember them.
This week, I challenge you to spend some time – say 30 minutes – thoughtfully planning your free time. Consult your bucket list (if you don’t have one, make one!) and choose 1-2 places you want to go and activities you want to do. And be sure to plan some time for you to do something for yourself: get a pedicure, watch a movie, or go for a long walk.
Will you do it!?
(Image by Alisa Anton)