When you’re a kid, you imagine adulthood as one long summer vacation. You’ll have the money and time to do whatever you want whenever you want to, and no mean parents or teachers will be there to tell you otherwise.
Unfortunately, as you’ve no doubt already realized, being an adult means having even less time for your favorite activities. Between work, family obligations, exercise and household chores, you might be struggling to find even an hour or two every week to devote to yourself.
However, that doesn’t have to be the case. With a bit of prioritizing and planning, you can restructure your schedule and find more free time. Here’s how.
Identify What You Like to Do
When confronted with the question “What do you want to do more of?” most adults will immediately respond “Sleep.” While sleep is inarguably important — you need to get at least seven hours per day to ensure proper brain and body function — you also need to consider what waking activities bring you joy.
You can start by outlining a typical week or by looking at your planner to see your normal schedule. Then, you can mark which activities you enjoy doing and which you would rather avoid. Many activities will fall in the middle; for instance, you might not outright hate your job, but you certainly don’t want to quit and start a different career. You might create a ranking system, putting your most prized activities at the top — perhaps time with friends or time spent on hobbies — and your most loathed activities down below — like yard work or laundry. From there, you can start eliminating the worst ways to spend your time, to free up your schedule and squeeze more enjoyment from your days.
Eliminate Dreaded Activities
It’s easier than you might think to stop doing the things you don’t like to do. Most chores, for example, can be outsourced to professionals: House cleaners, yard and lawn services, wash-and-fold laundry and more abound. You can order almost anything online if shopping isn’t your favorite activity, and you can use apps like TaskRabbit to get other odd jobs done. Admittedly, you will pay for other people to do these things for you — but often, the free time you enjoy is well worth the cost. That’s because your dislike for a particular chore usually means you don’t put as much time and effort into doing things right. Plus, professionals have more experience and the proper tools for the job, so they can ensure a better outcome in less time.
Some dreaded activities are a little more difficult to get rid of. For example, if you truly do hate your job, you should seriously consider quitting — but not before you are prepared to launch yourself into a different career that provides greater satisfaction. You might devote any of your newly gained free time to earning appropriate credentials or participating in internships. You don’t have to love what you do, but if you can’t stand the thought of going to work in the morning, it’s worth your time and energy to pivot into something more enjoyable.
Consolidate Your Schedule
You waste time shifting your focus from one type of activity to another type of activity. This is a well-known truth of economics, and it is why division of labor is such an important element of successful enterprises. Thus, to optimize your time, you should try to consolidate like tasks in your schedule.
A good example of this is running errands: If you need to go grocery shopping, you should try to use the same trip to pick up your kids from school, grab your prescription from the pharmacy and return that ill-fitting sweater to the department store. Then, you aren’t wasting time driving to and from your house for each individual errand.
You can do the same thing with nearly every responsibility in your week. Instead of making special time for each individual friend, you might host a weekly get-together. Instead of reading and responding to emails throughout the day, batch-process your digital communication in the morning or the night. Looking at your schedule, you should group your different activities into a few categories, so you can save time overall.
Cut Back on the Fat
Finally, there is one last thing to wring out just a little more free time: quit social media. Estimates suggest that the average American adult spends 11 hours per day on social media — which means you are wasting time on Instagram or Facebook nearly every waking minute. By cutting out this part of your life, or at least by cutting down in it, you can enjoy more free time to do more of what you love.