How to Make More Time for You

Raise your hand if you have tons of free time.  You get into the office in the morning and don’t even know what to do with all of the time on your hands.  Anyone?

I’m going to guess your hands are still firmly planted on your mouse and desk.

We’re all busy and short on time.  And too often when our schedules get crazy, the first thing to disappear from the radar screen is one of the most important – time for ourselves.

A recent study by the Meyer Foundation found that a shortage of time (not money) is the biggest hindrance to nonprofit leaders’ professional development and personal well-being. 

Now, here’s where it gets really interesting.  The same survey found that nonprofit leaders recognize that there is a clear link between their development and the effectiveness of their organizations.

So, we know leadership and personal development is critical to our organizations’ success, but we simply don’t have the time to give to it.

If this rings true for you, follow these simple and concrete steps, and make more time for you NOW. Your organization will thank you later.

1. Get better at saying no

Your time is precious, and everyone wants a piece of it.  If you’re not careful, almost all of your time can be spent responding to other people’s demands.  A few minutes writing to a donor who has requested information, several hours talking with a co-worker who wants your advice, or days/months/years taking on a new project that the board suggested at their last meeting.

Sound familiar?

For most of us, saying no to these sorts of requests is not natural.  It feels uncomfortable, rude, or even irresponsible (“isn’t it my job to say yes to these things?”).

Well, not exactly.  Because every time you say yes to something, you say no to something else.  There are only so many hours in a day, and it’s your job to spend them on things that are most critical to your organizations’ success (including your own development).

Give yourself permission to say no, and start practicing now.  It will feel awkward at first, but over time you will find the language that works best for you.  And with every no, you will gain more and more hours to devote to the important stuff.

(WARNING: saying no can be addicting).

2.  Ink it

Telling yourself you’re going to make time for your own development just isn’t enough.  We have this nasty habit of weaseling out of promises we’ve made to ourselves and coming up with great excuses for why we’re letting ourselves down.

The number one way to increase your likelihood to deliver on a promise is to make your promise public.

Hold yourself accountable to your own leadership development by inking it.  Your leadership development is crucial to the organization’s success, so why not build it into your strategic plan?  Or consider making it part of your annual performance goals, which you will be measured against next year.

Whatever sounds best for you, find a way to get your plans in ink, share them with others in your organization, and you will significantly increase your chances at success.

3.  Schedule it

Now that you’ve created more time and committed publicly to your own development, it’s time to get your plans on your calendar.

Start by deciding what you’re going to do.  If your leadership skills are underdeveloped in a certain area (e.g. board development, having difficult conversations, or building strategy), then look for a training program focused on those specific competencies.  Or maybe stress is a major barrier to your leadership effectiveness, and you want to commit to making time for a physical or spiritual practice.  There are many ways that you can spend your time to develop yourself as a leader and improve your personal well-being.  Think about your leadership goals, and craft and plan that’s right for you.

Once you’ve got your plan, get it on your calendar!

Blocking out time on your calendar is where your ideas become reality.  So, block out time each week for the practices you’ve committed to, or sign-up for that training program, and get it scheduled!

I’d love to hear from you in the comments area below.  How do these three steps resonate for you?  What leadership development or personal well-being activities do you practice?  How do you find the time?

Thanks for sharing!

P.S. – I’m sure you know someone who never makes enough time for themself.  Be sure to share this post and help them out!

P.P.S. – Check out the other findings from the Meyer Foundation survey in this easy-to-digest infographic report here.  I promise it won’t take too much of your time 😉