How to Find More Time For Yourself

I won’t remind you that airlines tell you to fit your oxygen mask before helping others. You already know that, and you know how the analogy goes.

I won’t waste your time patiently explaining why it’s important to have time for yourself, as though it’s something that only really matters because it lets you help others.

You have the right to private time to play, relax, goof off, or do whatever the heck you want. I don’t need to explain that to you, and no-one needs to give you permission.

The problem that you face isn’t knowing why time to yourself is important. It’s finding ways to get that time on a regular basis.

Here are four things to try:

#1: Block Out Time in Advance

Ever marvel at how you can keep a couple of days free in your calendar when you know you’ll be travelling?

The rest of the time, it seems like every day is packed full: you can’t imagine just having a whole free day open up in the middle of the week.

When you’ve got a meeting, a long trip or a vacation, your calendar stays clear. You’ve blocked out that time in advance, so you don’t fill it up with work or other commitments.

To get more time for yourself, do exactly the same thing. Figure it out in advance:

  • Plan a “weekend off” several months ahead, so that you don’t end up filling it with the usual social obligations, chores and so on.
  • Find an afternoon once or twice a month where you can escape to the theatre, to a gallery or out into the countryside – whatever makes you feel re-energised and alive.
  • At the start of each day, pick half an hour when you get to do whatever you want: maybe reading a chapter or two of a novel, taking a bath, or going for a jog. You can find half an hour if you look ahead.

#2: Get Your Own Space

Ever settle down for some quality time on your own, only to get interrupted by a housemate or family member? Perhaps you’d just poured yourself a glass of wine and settled down with a magazine when your spouse came in to switch the television on, or maybe you were listening to an audio book when your kids started a screaming competition.

It’s hard to recharge your batteries when you’re surrounded by other people: even if they don’t mean to interrupt you, they often do. Find somewhere you can close the door and get away from it all. (If you’ve got children, that might mean escaping to a coffee shop or somewhere else out of the house.)

#3: Say What You Need

It’s absolutely okay to say to a friend I’m not coming out tonight. I need some time by myself. Sure, some extroverts may be puzzled – but they’ll soon get used to it.

Similarly, it’s fine to tell your partner, kids or housemates that you want some quiet time. Obviously you can’t enforce constant silence – but you can ask them to keep it down for an hour while you read or take a nap.

Be clear and assertive (not aggressive) about what you need, and encourage others to behave the same towards you.

#4: Experiment With Different Times of Day

Not all hours in the day are equal. You might find that it’s easiest for you to get some peaceful time on your own before the rest of the household is awake: perhaps you get up early to meditate, exercise or read.

Alternatively, you may be barely human until your third coffee of the morning. Perhaps your best time to focus on yourself is in the evening, once the kids are in bed.

Other options are:

  • Your lunch hour (get out of the office if you can; if you stay at your desk, you’ll still have your mind on work)
  • Stopping at a cafe on the way home from work
  • Taking some time for yourself while your partner or flatmate cooks dinner
  • Swapping childcare with a friend at weekends, so you both get some time to relax

What other tips do you have for getting enough time to yourself? Share them with us in the comments.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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