How to make time in your life for what matters most


“I always feel that I don’t have time to sit and do anything, but I suspect that my phone is the mysterious time gobbler. Perhaps if I had a good book of these (adult coloring books) I’d even put down my phone for it. I’m certain it would be healthier than following the “news”. My daughter has 3-4 she got as gifts and I actual feel wistful when I look at them.”

I really understand the hidden time suck that can pull our time and attention away from things we care about most!

For a long time when people would make recommendations of things they thought I’d enjoy – books, activities, etc – I’d often think to myself, ‘it sounds nice but I just don’t have the time’.

Of course, if I would tell the person this, they would usually agree that I really was busy.  No one is going to tell someone with ten children that she’s not really that busy!  And to be fair to myself, my life is full of good things.  But it doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for something else.

I passionately believe in the ability of a person to choose and proactively create the life he wants to have.  Yet when I used ‘busyness’ as an excuse,  I was denying my own power of choice about how my time was being spent.

Everyone is given the same 24 hours every day.  No one has more time than anyone else. At some point, I began to ask myself, am I really as busy as I think I am?  Where is my time going and am I happy about where I’m investing my life energy?

Asking myself this question wasn’t easy, because it meant being willing to hear the answers.  I had to acknowledge to myself that I spent too much time online and stop justifying to myself that this was appropriate downtime at the end of a full and busy day.   Even though much of my ‘relaxation’ was productive (blogging, researching), too much of it wasn’t.  For example, I didn’t need to read news articles about how the world is falling apart.  It gave me a false sense of connection or influence, a sense that somehow I was doing something by reading the article and feeling outraged.

Once I did this exercise in honesty, I decided it was time to shift this pattern and use that time in a way that was more in line with my goals.

But it’s not so simple to change a long standing habit.  Not at all.  Especially when that habit provided me with my only quiet time during the day without children around.

I began increasing my boundaries around my computer time by thinking of it as an act of self-love.  Had I tried to shame myself into change by lambasting myself for being lazy or undisciplined, it never would have worked!  At some point I made my computer my ally instead of my temptation by setting it to shut down by 10:30 or 11 pm.  That took away some of the struggle to discipline myself to be time-conscious when I was so tired.

Bit by bit, I made time for other things in my life by using this same process – honestly assessing how much time was being spent on various activities, was it time well spent, and considering how I could use the time differently in a way I would feel good about.

It’s not easy to do this. As I’ve changed my use of time to reflect my higher values, it’s increased my sense of well-being and balance.  And perhaps ironically, I’ve been able to be of more service to others because I made taking care of myself more of a priority.


7 thoughts on “How to make time in your life for what matters most

  1. Avivah, I so agree with you. While this may not be true for someone with very small children, especially several (when you can really spend your day going from one urgent task to another), once children are a little older, however busy you are, it is up to you to make priorities.
    I used to think I don’t have time for x (whatever that x may be). Now I believe that isn’t true – the vast majority of things we do are a choice, and it is up to us to prioritize our time even with a large family.
    The things we feel are most important in life will get done. Even if that leaves some other things undone.
    And, yes, undefined things on the computer are a big time waster.

    1. Miriam, I think even when you have very small children that you choose what is most important to you. You have less discretionary time but there are still choices to make.

  2. Hi Avivah,

    Do you think this applies to activities that require total concentration and no interruptions? My kids are not so little (youngest is 6), and I don’t have a huge family, but I still feel torn between being available to my family and working on my novel (which I have a very hard time doing when I keep getting interrupted by some kid who urgently needs to tell me something or ask me something, though the urgency might be caused by the fact that I had told the kids that I wasn’t going to be available for the next couple of hours). So what usually ends up happening is either I don’t get much done or I yell at the kid for disturbing me when I had clearly asked them not to disturb me. And I feel guilty and frustrated.

    Do you ever tell your kids not to disturb you? Or should I just forget about working on my novel when the kids are around and only do it late at night or when my husband takes them out somewhere on Sunday afternoons?


    1. I do tell my kids sometimes not to disturb me – if I’m with clients, if I’m preparing a class or if I want to make a private call. I try to organize my schedule around when an older child is around (age 13 and up) to keep an eye on things if it’s during the day and definitely use the time in the evenings that my husband is around. If I do something that takes uninterrupted focus when my kids are around, I end up feeling frustrated and that’s not fair to my kids because of course they want to interact with me!

      So I’ve found it important to be realistic about what I need, and it’s appropriate to set up boundaries to be respectful of those needs.

    2. I think you are referring to not having “flow”, which is different from not having time. Creative process like novel writing requires immersion without interruption.
      I can make 10 minutes of time to make a phone call to schedule an appointment. I cannot will creativity to flourish on a schedule and in a tight-fitting time frame. What I find with small kids is that I can have as many creative ideas as I want, but trying to implement them late at night, when everyone is finally in bed ( and I’m neglecting household tasks) is not a good fit. Those coloring books are a great way to unwind, but you are really not creating, you are relaxing.

  3. Thanks Avivah! That makes me feel better :).

    Ilana, I agree — I can’t work on my novel in ten minute increments. I need at least an hour at a time. That’s why I didn’t even attempt to write novels when my children were younger. I did write short stories though. But a novel is more fun — you get to really develop your characters.

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