Recently one of my readers Kath, asked this question:

“I was hoping for an insight in how to make personal time a priority without feeling guilty. I find family, work and starting up my own business eats all my waking hours and with an equally busy partner asking for “me” seems so hard!”.

Great question Kath.

There are 2 parts to this – the first is to understand the emotion ‘guilt’ and the second is to break down your goal to ‘make personal time a priority’.

Understanding guilt

‘Guilt’ is an interesting one. Of all the emotions – I think this one is the most complex because often we feel that ‘guilt’ is necessary in order to be a ‘good person’.

It’s almost like, if we ‘feel bad’ about something then this means we have a conscience, which on some level is true, however ‘guilt’ as an emotion doesn’t really help us in any way.

The way I look at emotions is to identify if they are ‘useful’ or not – if they are, then I allow myself to experience them, if they are not, I make a concerted effort to ‘move on’.

I think emotions can be appropriate at different times in our lives – such as sadness can be a great way to ‘release’ pent up emotions and to move on in life. However there are also times where we can over-indulge in an emotion such as ‘sadness’ when it’s not really helping us anymore – we just seem to be ‘stuck in it’.

The trick is to identify when the emotion is necessary and when it has ‘taken over’ so to speak.

In my experience, out of all the emotions, guilt really isn’t that helpful.

Let’s break it down:

When you feel guilty this usually turns into some kind of negative self-talk – we will mentally say things like ‘I feel bad about doing this’, ‘oh I feel terrible I don’t have time to see my partner tonight! I hope he won’t get mad at me!’

This negative mental chatter in its-self is harmful – especially when we start to repeat it over and over again. Don’t get me wrong – at times it can be useful to acknowledge that you have a conscience, however it should be a singular thought that leads you to an action point, rather than a thought on repeat that leaves you feeling like bad person.

What I find interesting about guilt is that usually the person you are feeling ‘guilty’ about usually doesn’t even know you are having these feelings and so you’re not in anyway helping that person anyway! You’d be better off offering them some kind of tangible ‘help’ instead of just ‘feeling guilty’!

Think about it:

Let’s say I’m feeling guilty about not having enough time to go to a friend’s birthday party.

I feel terrible about it. I keep thinking over and over what a bad friend I am. In some way I feel like I must be a good person because I am considering the friend, plus I’m putting myself through hell mentally!

Is my friend in any way aware that I’m having any of these thoughts?

Absolutely not! Unless I’ve told her about it, that is.

So in this situation it would actually be better for me to:

1) acknowledge the guilt feelings and
2) use this emotion as a trigger to an action point – so tell my friend that I feel terrible about missing her party and can I make it up to her by taking her out for dinner another night next week.

This way I am at least offering a solution, plus my friend is aware that her birthday really was important to me, I just was not able to attend it for other reasons.

Once you start to realise how detrimental ‘guilt’ is, as an emotion you really will decide to let it go.

Emotions are necessary, because they are a way of forcing us to think about something that on a deeper level does not ‘feel right’ within us. However, we don’t have to be a slave to our emotions. Acknowledge them, try and figure out what you need to learn from them, take action in some way and then let them go.

Kath, in your case, you may want to talk to your partner about how you genuinely have the ‘desire’ to spend time with him, yet you’re finding it difficult to prioritise and this is something you’re working on. You could suggest putting aside an hour one night just for the 2 of you.

The important thing is to get the guilty thoughts out of the head, and to take some action.

Making personal time a priority

Secondly, I would look at your goal to ‘make personal time a priority’.

The first thing to do is to look at how important this is to you really, right now. Sometimes we set goals for ourselves, when really, they actually aren’t that important to us. We just ‘feel’ like we should. Usually because someone has told us they are doing it, or because it’s been important to a family member. Either way – the goal often is not our own – it’s someone else’s, and if this is ever the case the best thing you can do is remove the goal. It’s not worth your time and energy.

If you’re certain this is important to you right now, you’ll need to prioritise the other things that are getting in the way.

You mentioned that you’re getting distracted by setting up your own business and your partner and your family. Now these all sound like equally important priorities to me.  So in this instance, I’m guessing you value these in the same way.  This means it’s more about ‘getting organised’ with your time.

The truth is, unless we plan to have ‘personal time’, then the likelihood is, it won’t happen. So I expect you’re finding that by the time you’ve finished all of your priorities there’s no time left for you!

So it’s essential you plan ahead and let those around you know when you will be taking some ‘me time’. Organise to remove all distractions for this time, so you have no excuses for it not to happen. And make sure you’re 100% ‘present’ when you do have the ‘me time’. There really is not point in spending your ‘me time’ thinking and worrying about what else you could/should be doing.

What people don’t realise is that personal time or ‘down time’ is actually crucial if we want to achieve and live life successfully. We need rest to feel our best, so by taking some personal time you’re actually inadvertently ‘helping’ those around you as-well as yourself because a) you’ll be a lot happier and more fun to be around from a moment’s rest and b) you’ll have more energy to focus productively on those other tasks such as your business and the people around you.

Lets’ face it – no one wants to hang out with a frazzled, stressed out person.

This leads me onto the topic of productivity. The easiest way to ‘create time’ is to cut out the ‘unimportant’ things. It’s insane how much time we spend doing things that really don’t make that much difference to what we’re trying to achieve. So I would recommend assessing everything you’re doing when you work on your business and removing those things that are not really that important. You can read an article I wrote about productivity a while back as this goes into more depth about specific techniques to ‘save time’.

The other key thing to note when it comes to productivity is ‘focus’. You would not believe how much time we waste with distractions. I find I can achieve three times as much as I used to, just be focussing on what I’m doing.

If you can arrange a time where you have solid uninterrupted time to focus then this will buy you more time to use for yourself. And I would even recommend an hour of uninterrupted time over 2 hours of time where you know you’ll get distracted. It’s just not worth it.

Lastly I would look at what else is ‘stopping you’ from taking the ‘personal time’.

You deserve to have time to yourself. In my opinion you owe it to yourself to make personal time a priority – it is your life after all.

And really, setting aside an hour or two each week for some ‘me time’ should be possible. It’s just a case of ‘making time’ for it and ‘saving time’ elsewhere.

Simple Life Strategy: How to Enjoy ‘Me Time’ without Feeling Guilty

1. Acknowledge any feelings of ‘guilt’ when they pop up

2. Learn from the emotion – what action could you take so you can move on?

3. Know that ‘ repeated guilty feelings’ are not helping anyone!

4. Take action and then let the guilt go

5. Make sure that ‘me time’ is really important to you right now (if it’s not ditch this goal & focus on something that is important)

6. Make time by cutting out the unimportant things (get productive!)

7. Take time to eliminate distractions so you can ‘focus’

8. Know that you deserve ‘me time’ – it is your life after-all!

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