Take a moment to make a small list of hobbies or activities you would accomplish if you had an extra day every weekend. Does it include things like reading, crafts, or even chores? Consider why these may be the first choices that come to mind: are they things you already spend your free time doing or are they options you would get into if you had the extra time?
Either way, these are things you would presumably like to spend more time doing. However, life has a way of filling up a schedule with both pressing and monotonous tasks. In order to reduce stress and anxiety, it’s crucial to find moments where you can take time to work on your personal projects. Whether you’ve already made as many changes as possible or you’re just getting started in shifting around your timetables, here are some helpful ways to make more time for pastimes. For more information on reducing stress, click here.
1. Bring It to Work
Your hobbies may have more mobility than you realize. Instead of browsing social media or pacing the office when you need a brief break, dive into your To-Do folder. Even if the hobby itself can’t be brought along – like gardening or painting – you can use that downtime to research, find inspiration, or build out a plan.
If your work allows and you can bring a smaller pastime – knitting, reading, etc. – you can take occasional 10 to 15-minute breaks to catch up. For programs, like photo editing or art, you may be able to work on these in the background. While this shouldn’t distract you from your work and pressing projects, it could help you maintain focus to give your brain a break every hour or two.
2. Put Them on Your Calendar
Never underestimate the power of a schedule set in ink. Officially setting aside time for personal activities puts an official block on the time, giving you a mental persuasion. You’re less likely to go out, spend extra time on work, or waste the evening on your phone if you’ve reserved a spot for this moment.
3. Reorganize Your Space
For a lot of DIY and hands-on projects, much of the time is spent on setting up, picking up where you left off, and finding any displaced items. To cut out a majority of this process, have designated, maybe even labeled, areas for your supplies and a regular system to follow. Compare the situation to preparing for a board game. If you had to read the rules, reorganize, and set up the bulk of the pieces before every match, you’d have much less time to play. You may even decide, at the end of all that, you’re no longer in the mood to play and you don’t find it as enjoyable.
While it may seem counterintuitive to spend your extra time reorganizing instead of actually getting started, you can take a few minutes before and after each session getting your space more put together. This way, when you need to leave the space in the middle of a project, you’re not leaving behind as much mess. In Step 8, you’ll learn more about why you don’t always have to worry about cleaning up.
4. Mix Business with Pleasure
Certain meetings and unavoidable events can be combined with one of your favorite activities. Some people may agree to a coffee shop or hiking on-the-go meeting; sometimes an excuse to get out of the office can double as a chance to visit one of your favorite places. If you’re having a casual meet-up, perhaps with an organization or team, you could do a group activity like knitting or board games.
When people think of things they would like to do in their free time, their first few ideas generally center around personal or individual tasks. It may not often cross your mind that you could incorporate a work or volunteer meeting with something or someplace you enjoy. You may not always be able to convince your boss to have the afternoon meeting at the nearby arcade, but you may be able to think of other enjoyable combinations.
5. Mornings and Commutes
If you have a goal to read more, learn new things, or practice a different language, don’t feel like these should all be done within the studious environment of a desk area. Instead, there are thousands of audiobooks and podcasts that can accompany you throughout a majority of your daily tasks.
Even if you’re not good with focusing on another person’s voice while you work, you can play an inspirational audiobook while you get ready for your day, practice with a listen-and-repeat language track on the way to work, and catch up on news and informative podcasts on your way home. Doing chores or running errands can also be great times to take advantage of this multitasking habit.
6. Reduce Screen Time
In your phone’s settings, you have the ability to check how often you use your phone and on what apps. With this data, are you spending most of your free time scrolling through videos or your news feed? Remove distracting devices to give yourself a better opportunity to focus on your personal projects. Leaving your phone in another room is a better idea than just turning it on silent.
7. Delay Other Tasks
When you have the opportunity, it’s not always a bad idea to delay other chores or tasks that aren’t urgent. While it’s not always the first or best option available, this is a manageable tactic if you’re struggling to find a few extra hours. If you live with roommates or family members, it’s important to communicate your plans so you’re not dropping the ball on your share of responsibilities.
8. Don’t Clean Up
While this may seem like another strange option, this isn’t suggesting you leave open paint cans or spare fabric strewn across your workbench. Sometimes, cleaning up your workspace can tack on an additional half-hour to an hour you’ll need to account for in your planning. If you have the ability to (such as if you live alone or can guarantee your workstation won’t be disturbed), leaving significant portions of your work as they are when you’re done can serve multiple purposes.
First, it reduces the time it would take for you to drag everything out again. Also, if things are left out, you’ll spend less additional time figuring out where you were in the project. Finally, you’re more likely to come back to an existing project if it’s in the way. It’s not the best if you have others that need to get around a mess, but if you have your own area, it could be a motivating factor for you.
9. Work Together
Many of your pastimes may be activities you’d like to do alone for stress relief and some personal relaxation time. However, when you add in another person, it can encourage you to make more time for the activity. If your best friend, partner, or a group of people are also dedicating their mornings or afternoons to the project or activity, you’re more inclined to keep the appointment. Similar to how it’s helpful to allot time on your calendar, the support of another person’s reminder works as an accountability partner to make time for yourself.
About Author: Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with MyTherapist.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.