Got Time for Yourself? Here’s How I Do It.

I’ve always been a bit of a loner. Before I got married, I enjoyed going to restaurants to eat by myself, taking trips by myself, and going to movies by myself. It never really bothered me.

Then I met my wife twenty years ago, and that changed. We dated for about a year and a half before we married in 2001. Although I love going out and doing things with my wife, I still appreciate my own time, as I’m sure many of you do as well.

Sneaking in time for myself is a challenge, especially now that I have children. Here’s how I do it and hopefully you will get some ideas on how you can do it. Of course, this article is mostly for parents with children.

I Embrace Sports Practice Schedules

I have children who play club sports. Between them, we used to have a practice every evening of the week, which lasts ninety minutes. Their schedules are on the same evening now. A lot of people ask why we want such a busy schedule, and I tell them that it keeps my kids off the television, internet, and electronic devices; they get a great workout twice a week; and they learn discipline through sports.

But another reason I have always liked to take my children is that staying there is my time. I used to take a book, my laptop, or just my phone, and I get to do something senseless such as browse the internet or something constructive such as write an article. I sometimes socialize as well with the other parents, but a lot of times, I liked to be alone. I’m actually involved in the practices now for my daughter giving me fulfillment on a different level.

So instead of dropping your children off, then going home or running an errand, consider staying at the practice and doing something senseless or constructive for you. If you can complete the chore with your child in the car afterward, then do that.

I Wake Up Early Every Day

I’ve woken up every workday at 4:30 am for the last 13 years. I have to be at my day job by 6 am. Waking up early is excellent on weekdays, but usually, on weekends, I’ll wake up at 5:30 or 6 am. I used to get mad when I woke up that early because, on weekends, we all like to sleep in late. But lately, I realize that waking up that early allows me about ninety minutes of me-time before the family all wake up.

I have embraced waking up early. I highly encourage it. Granted, I have to wake up early for my job, so it is a forced circumstance to some degree, but it allows me some time to myself on the weekends.

You Can Wake Up Early Too

If you are interested in waking up early, then I recommend figuring out how early works for you. The main thing is what time do go to bed. If you have young children who go to bed around 7 to 8 pm, then you have time in the evenings to do things. But if your spouse is also up, then you may want to spend time with him or her.

But if your children go to bed now at 8 or 9 pm, unless you like to stay up until 11 or 12 pm, then perhaps you should consider going to sleep after they do and then wake up earlier. Going to sleep at 9:30 pm then waking up at 5:30 am, gives you seven to eight hours of sleep. If your children sleep in on the weekend, say until 7 or 8 pm, then if you wakeup by 5:30 to 6 am, you have a good hour or two to get some things done, assuming your spouse sleeps in as well.

I Have Mondays Off

Fortunately, I have a three day weekend, which gives me a day to myself. I know that not everyone can do this; however, if you get a lot of vacation time, then perhaps take a day off on Monday or Friday while leaving enough time to spend a vacation with family.

Better yet, if your business model allows it, ask your boss if you can work four ten-hour days. Before asking, consider advantages to it, such as you would have to come in early so you can take early sales calls or get a head start on stock warehouse work.

Of course, this only works if your spouse can take the kids to school, or you can make other arrangements. But if they already take them, then why not?

Best for Starting a Side Business

If you’ve ever thought about starting a side business while having kids, then trying to make Mondays off at your day job is another advantage. Pitch that to your spouse and see what they think. Just don’t mention it to your boss. Remember that businesses are only going to let you do something beneficial to the company, so work it that way with your day job employer.

You Have to Be Creative

I am good at taking the shortest amount of time and making it “me time.” But not everyone is as lucky as I am to have my schedule. I get that. But I can say that by looking for options such as waking up early, children’s activity practices, or work schedule changes, you can get more time to yourself. You just have to be creative.

Fixing Bridges Left to Deteriorate

Originally published on Medium under my name in October, 2019. Publishing here with some minor edits.

I’m talking about personal bridges that we haven’t burned but that we let deteriorate because of our failure to act on an opportunity. It isn’t quite the same thing as burning them because you didn’t necessarily do something intentionally or malicious. However, cleaning them up and making them passable again may take some time.

We’ve all let opportunities pass us over. I’m talking about friends or co-workers that offered to help you in some way and you didn’t seize the gift they offered. It may be a business opportunity, investment opportunity, or personal event. Whatever it is, not seizing on it can cause people to lose faith or trust in you. That bleeds over into other aspects of those relationships as well.

There may have been good reasons you didn’t take the opportunity such as health, money, major life change, or other issues. Whatever the reason, unless you’re close enough to the person and told them what was going on, then all they saw was a lack of appreciation for what they gave you.

The good thing is that most friends are still just that, friends. They still care about you. They haven’t given up on you and still want to see you succeed. But if they gave you opportunities in the past and you didn’t jump on it, then naturally they’ll be hesitant to do it again because it was a gift they offered you that you didn’t nurture it. It wouldn’t have mattered whether you were successful or not, it’s just the fact that you didn’t try.

So how do you rebuild that bridge? I can’t say that I am an expert at it, but here is how I am approaching rebuilding my bridges.

Don’t Ask, Just Do

Asking them for the opportunity again may not be best. If they are very close friends, then perhaps you can, but they already offered it to you once and you let it go. Instead, if the opportunity is still something you want to take grasp of, see if you can still make it work and make it successful. Don’t talk about it, just do it.

If you are successful at accomplishing what they originally gifted you, then tell them that although it wasn’t the right time then, it was the right time now and that you are grateful for their gift. Thank them for that opportunity or advice they gave and how it helped you. Don’t expect anything else from them but if they do offer to help more, then don’t let them down again.

Do What You Can, Then Ask

If you can’t complete the task without their direct involvement, then try and break it down and see what you can accomplish without them. It should be something visual and that produces some type of result. Then show it to them and tell them that you would like to complete the task but need their help.

They may be wary, but be honest with them. Tell them why it took you so long to make it happen. This is especially difficult with co-workers because personal issues should not bleed into the workplace. Keep in mind that there are no excuses for not doing it the first time, but we are all human and feelings interfere with our actions. The best leaders understand this.

Just Let It Go

If they aren’t willing to give you another chance, then don’t get upset or hold a grudge. After all, the relationship is the most important thing especially if it’s a friend. Just thank them for discussing it and let it go. You can’t be mad with someone else for your failures or inattention.

The best you can hope for is to build yourself back up, perform awesomely, and show them who you really are. Then maybe they will offer you an opportunity again in the future.

Words of Wisdom?

Friends aren’t obligated in any way, shape, or form to help you. They do it because of the connection they feel with you. Whether it’s similar hobbies, beliefs, or simply business opportunities, they choose to be around you.

But we all get focused on other aspects of our lives. Whether it is children, our health, our marriage, or our career, we will let opportunities go unanswered. Do it too many times and the bridges that connect you to your friends will slowly deteriorate and rebuilding them may be a challenge.

But just remember that friends are there for each other and if you approach it properly, then rebuilding those bridges will be a simple task.

I Recovered an Email When My Brain Told Me What It Said

I was checking my email on my iPhone this morning when I deleted something. A second later, the contents of the email clicked in my brain, and I immediately undeleted it.

Does this often happen to you? You are cleaning out your email, and a second after you delete something, the words click with you? It happens to me all of the time.

This email was a Groupon email, and what clicked in my mind were the words “Free HBO.” I recovered this email, read it, and still deleted it.

I’m one of those people who often leave emails in my email box and end up cleaning it out once a week. I don’t mean to, and I’ve tried to develop a set system for maintaining my email box, but I still let bad habits sneak back into my actions.

Hopefully my mistakes will help you evaluate your email management system and tweak it to best work for you.

Email Systems I Tried

The first system I tried was just checking my email three to four times a day. This was great when we didn’t have phones that could receive our email. I would log onto the computer a couple of times a day and read my email and handled it.

Then I tried to get into the habit of just checking email hourly. One of the rules is that I don’t check my email until I’m ready to read them AND dispose of it. It’s essential to have a final disposition whether you reply to the email, turn it into a flagged task, delete it, or save it. This technique has stuck in that I check email hourly, but I’m not so great as disposing of emails.

The Winning System

As it turns out, it’s good that I don’t just delete emails. So, I have a new rule. Instead of deleting each message immediately, I read all of my emails, reply as necessary, move them into another folder, and delete the remaining emails. This gives my brain time to process everything before I delete it.

Three Essential Folders

I don’t keep emails in my Inbox when I finally get around to cleaning it. I have three folders that I created for managing my emails. The first is labeled “Short-Term Follow-up.” I put items into this that need further review or filing at a later time.

I then have a folder labeled “Flagged” for emails that I flagged as a task. This creates a Task in Outlook, which pops up on the Microsoft To-Do app.

The last folder I have is a “Knowledge Base” folder. These are emails that are educational and instructional in nature, such as company policy or procedure or necessary for retention. Within the Knowledge Base folder, I have subfolders of various topics.

Of course, I don’t have just three folders. I actually have about 30 folders that I actively copy things into. When I have a client or project, I will create a folder and add it to my Favorites in Outlook for easy access.

Use Sent Emails as a Record

Another thing that I do is that I keep all of my sent emails. My day job in the Public Service sector, so it’s essential to keep a record of everything. Our ITS department does backups for retention periods, so I know that if there is an open records request, we can retrieve the data in the future. But I still practice the habit of saving my sent emails and other emails relevant to my work.

To do this, I use my sent folder as my record. Whenever I receive an email that is directed at me even if it to multiple people, I will reply, writing “received.” It’s clean and straightforward. I make sure the reply has the original email text in it. If there are attachments, I will save them appropriately or move the email to the proper folder.

By replying to each email, I am keeping a record since I don’t delete my sent emails. If the email isn’t something I need to keep in my Knowledge Base, Short-Term Follow-up, or Flagged as a task, I can delete it still having a copy in my sent folder.

There are many systems for managing email. Each person has to develop their own system based on their habits and ability to comprehend things. My system of reading everything first, replying to received emails for my records, moving them to the appropriate folder, and deleting the remaining email works for me.

If your system doesn’t work or you don’t have a system, then making a conscious effort will help you develop one. Read articles on email management and take bits and pieces from different processes. Hopefully, my experience will help you get started.