Lord. What is up with so many white men wanting to cut Black women off while they're talking? In the political world, most recently, it was (probably) when Senator (at the time) Kamala Harris was debating with Vice President (at the time) Mike Pence. As he kept interrupting her, she said, firmly, "I'm speaking." (Excellent.) Yet what inspired this particular piece is back in 2017, when Congresswoman Maxine Waters was being questioned by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and he kept speaking over her as well (SMDH). Auntie Maxine's response? "I'm reclaiming my time." Well played. Then multiply it. Then rinse and repeat.
Time. If there is one thing that most of us take for granted that we absolutely can never replace, it's time. I was actually telling someone, not too long ago, that it totally trips me out that this year marks my 20th anniversary of leaving corporate America to write because, in the grand scheme of things, for the most part, two decades went by pretty quickly. And you know what? If I knew then what I know now, I would've been far more responsible with a lot of my days, weeks and months than I actually was 20 years ago (insert another "SMDH" in right here).
That's the bad news. The good news is there are certain practices that I've been implementing that have helped me to reclaim my time in the sense of making the most of each 24-hour day, so that I don't waste any more of my precious time. If that's a goal that you'd like to achieve as we prepare to close out one year and enter into another, I've got 10 helpful ways for you to reclaim (restore) your extremely valuable time too.
1. Create a Morning Ritual and Evening Ritual
Something that I read, a long time ago, is the worst thing that you can do is jerk yourself up in the morning or crash at night. The first increases your chances of starting off your day feeling all jittery and anxious while the latter shows that you are truly exhausted (which usually means that you need to get more rest than you currently do). A way to curb both of these is to create a morning ritual and evening ritual for yourself. The morning could be waking up to a favorite song rather than an annoying alarm and/or praying and/or meditating. Whatever you do, your ritual definitely needs to include not looking at your phone until you get out of the shower before officially starting your day. As far as your evening ritual goes, it could consist of having a glass of wine and/or a bubble bath and/or catching up on a book.
The reality is, once the day officially gets off and running, a lot of us are unable to find time for ourselves (especially if you're married and/or have kids). One way to make sure that doesn't happen (anymore) is to create your own "alpha and omega" (so to speak) rituals; ones that can give you at least an hour of time, completely to yourself.
2. Put No More than Five Things on Your Daily To-Do List
While I know this one might sound crazy, hear me out before you shut the suggestion all the way down. I don't know about you, but the older I get, the more the day seems totally shot after noon creeps up. If you make a point to only put five things on your to-do list and then you're super focused on knocking those things out, depending on what they are, there's a pretty good chance that it'll be between noon and 2pm (give or take a couple of hours) before those tasks are completed. However, since there are less things on your list, you can knock 'em out, create a feeling of accomplishment and have a few more hours towards the end of your day for other activities. Listen, ever since I've shortened my own to-do list, life has slowed down (so that I can enjoy it), exponentially so. If there was ever a "don't knock it until you've tried it" response to a recommendation, this would have to be it.
3. Do Certain Things on Certain Days—ONLY
There are always gonna be clothes to wash. There is always gonna be a need to run to the grocery store. Lord knows that there is always gonna be a bill that needs to be paid. And, if there is one thing that all of these things have in common, it's the fact that it's pretty difficult to do them (well), if you take the "real quick" approach. Shoot, even if you've only got five things to pick up at the store, between driving there, going in and coming back, could still take an hour (or more). That's why it's a good idea to designate certain days for certain activities—and not deviate. Otherwise, you could be like someone in my life who washes clothes around the clock which makes it challenging for her to get other stuff done (because if she's not washing, she's drying; if she's not drying, she's folding). Two wash days could end up helping her to complete other tasks more consistently. It's another cool way to reclaim some time.
4. Set Hours for Social Media
Did you know that, on average, we spend around 2.5 hours on some sort of social media platform a day? That is more than one-fourth of an average work day, y'all. And while I get that the pandemic caused a lot of us to be home more than we ever dreamed that we would be, that statistic actually hasn't changed much from previous years. So yeah, whether you are using social media for work, leisure, or both, if you want to get some of your time back, setting hours for social media engagement (and then honoring the hours that you set) is a surefire way to do it. By the way, this actually applies to all forms of media because I've got a friend who hardly ever watches television, and the amount of stuff that he's able to get done in a day because of it, truly boggles the mind. Definitely something to think about.
5. Actually Take a Lunch Break
There is someone in my world who never—and I do mean, never—takes lunch breaks. I don't get it either because 1) it's the law to have one and 2) once she gets home, she's got a whole 'nother world of stuff on her plate. While it would be awesome if corporate America gave bonus points (in ways of cash) to people who work through the allotted time granted to them to change scenery and cop a meal, the reality is, it doesn't. All ignoring your lunch break is doing is putting you in the position to feel more drained and frazzled. Some folks only really get their 30 minutes to an hour each workday that can be totally to themselves (if they want it). If you fall into this category, you're only hurting yourself by not using your lunch break to temporarily get off of the grid to take care of you, sis.
6. Set Boundaries
It's pretty hard to do any kind of self-care article (and believe you me, reclaiming your time is most definitely an act of self-care) without mentioning how important it is to set boundaries for yourself. Boundaries are limits and, when it comes to both your personal and professional life, it's OK to let people know what you are willing and not willing to do. For instance, salaried workers tend to get taken advantage of a lot because, since they aren't paid by the hour, employers will sometimes feel like they can use their employees for whatever they need, damn near 24 hours a day.
I've got a friend right now who was clear upon hiring that she couldn't do more than nine-hour days. Fast forward to five years later and she's basically on-call, including weekends, with no increase in pay. When I ask her why she doesn't speak with her boss about how she's being taken advantage of, she says she doesn't wanna "rock the boat".
Y'all, human nature can oftentimes lean towards being pretty self-consumed when there aren't limits put into place. In other words, you can easily find yourself out here getting worn out by folks who will sleep like a baby every night, if you don't learn how to draw lines and also say "no" sometimes. "No" is actually one of the most effective ways to reclaim your time. For the sake of your overall health and well-being, don't be afraid to use it sometimes, OK?
7. Schedule in “Me Date” Moments
When's the last time you took yourself on a date? After all, a date should be about spending quality time with someone in order to get to know themselves better, and hear me when I say that many married folks can attest to the fact that, just because you live with someone, that doesn't mean you know them as well as you might think that you do. This is why being proactive about becoming as self-aware as possible is key and one way to do that is by setting aside regular and consistent time, to just…BE with yourself. Watch a movie. Enjoy a meal alone. Take yourself shopping. Go on a hike. Have a spa day. Spend a night in a hotel. Do things that express that you believe, that out of all of the people in your life who should make you a top priority, YOU should top the list. Cherished moments alone are some of the best times that you will ever spend. I can promise you that, a thousand times over.
8. Figure Out What Is a Complete Waste of Your Time
Because I strive to be as word-specific as possible, something that irks me to no end is when people say, "Nothing is a waste of time." Are you kidding me? There are all kinds of people, places, things, and ideas that directly result in definitions like "to consume, spend, or employ uselessly or without adequate return" and "to be consumed, spent, or employed uselessly or without giving full value or being fully utilized or appreciated". Just because you may have learned something from it/them, it doesn't mean that you didn't receive the same return for the effort that you gave or that you didn't go unappreciated for all that you did.
That's why I'm a firm believer that it is a complete act of disrespect to be out here doing things that you know are gonna waste someone else's time; time that they can never get back. That's why I'm such a fan of the Bob Marley quote that says, "The biggest coward of a man is to awaken the love of a woman without the intention of loving her." You know what makes this kind of man a coward? It's the fact that he goes into something, something that he knows that he's either not ready for or interested in, which ends up hurting the woman and totally wasting her time.
So yeah, seriously pondering what or who in your life is causing you to give more than you get is worth exploring. It could be Instagram or a guy that you're seeing. There's a Chinese proverb that says something along the lines of, "It's shorter than you think." Whatever is wasting your time, shift it out of your space—so that you can put that time to far better use.
9. Forgive Others. And Yourself.
I strive to be a Bible follower and when it comes to the topic of forgiveness, its stance is pretty crystal clear. Matthew 6:14-15(NKJV) says, "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." This is saying that if you want God to forgive you for what you do wrong (and we all do wrong), we must forgive others. Honestly, it's a great way to remain humble in this walk called life.
Besides, not forgiving others is such a colossal waste of time. Most people who choose not to forgive, they typically tend to do so because they think it's some kind of form of punishment towards the "offender" when the reality is, more times than not, while they're out here not forgiving a person, that individual is somewhere frolicking through life and sleeping like a baby at night. I say all of the time that in order for reconciliation to transpire, the "victim" should forgive AND the victimizer should repent; not either or—both. However, in order to release feelings of bitterness, in order to heal and stay open to other people coming into your life (ones who you won't give hell to because you are still mad at someone from your past), in order to move forward, "accepting that the past can't change" (which is a definition of forgiveness that I think best-selling author Gary Zukav came up with) is paramount.
Forgiveness helps to stop reliving the past as you take in the lessons that you need from it in order to move on with your future as a healthier and wiser individual; not a resentful and fear-filled one. That's why, while you're at it, you should make sure to forgive yourself too. Amen? Amen.
Clutter can definitely take up your time. A messy bedroom tends to make it harder to sleep. A messy office makes it challenging to complete tasks efficiently. A messy relationship can have your emotions all over the place. That's why I thought it would be best to close this article out with a call to make sure that you organize, as much of your life as possible. Clean your house. Set personal and professional goals. Get clear on what you want in your relationships with others, convey those points, to make sure that everyone is on the same page. The sooner you get yourself organized, the easier it will be to make the absolute most of your time. It's one of the best "reclaimers" there is.
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