People who mostly know me on Facebook often ask, “How do you have so much time to go hiking and traveling? Don’t you work?”
This question both amuses and saddens me. It’s a great example of how social media totally distorts reality and makes everyone else’s life seem so much more exciting than it is.
The truth is, I do get to hike quite a lot (2–3 days a week in the summer).
But believe me, I also have a lot of shit to do.
Yes, I’m living proof that you can work a job (or three) and still make time for fun.
I rolled into 2017 working a day job, freelancing on the side, and starting a blogging business.
To help speed up the blogging part, I joined a business accelerator. Which honestly felt like getting another master’s degree. A few times, I bolted upright in the middle of the night, convinced I’d just missed a final.
And on top of all that, I had three high-altitude trips planned, which meant training 5–6 days a week. And when you’re training that much, you also need to sleep more.
So this has been, hands down, the busiest year of my life. A true work-life balance nightmare. And you know what?
It forced me to take a brutal look at what really matters in life.
I realized there was a ton of pointless shit I was doing out of guilt, cheapness, and sheer force of habit.
And once I let it go, I felt a million times lighter and shinier.
I was still really effing busy, but I felt less stressed and more authentic than I had in years!
So no matter how busy you are right now, I believe that you can still reclaim some hours for the fun stuff you enjoy.
Here are some steps to try.
1. Be blunt
One of the great curses of being a woman is the need to be likable every goddamn minute.
Sara Tasker (whose awesome podcast #Hashtag Authentic changes my life a little every week) recently tweeted about how hard it is for her to write an email.
Basically, it takes her a minute to write the message and 20 minutes of tweaking to make sure it’s sufficiently warm and friendly.
Oh, Sara, I have so been there. And let me tell you, it’s lame.
Lately I’ve been challenging myself to send one-sentence emails and texts that are purely informational (as is appropriate in 85 percent of human communications).
At first, I struggled. It all felt so blunt! (The horror.)
But you know what? I think people actually appreciated it. I actually started to get more replies.
Maybe my message was clearer. Or maybe the less-emotional tone freed the responder to actually respond (instead of trying to make me feel good).
2. Restructure your social life
For the longest time, I ran myself ragged trying to be a BFF to everyone.
Then in June, I went home to visit my parents. I made exactly one social visit to a family friend with a new baby. The rest of the time, I mostly hung out with my mom at the pool, who is one of my fav people ever.
At one point, mom asked if I was going to call my cousin, who I was once very close with, but honestly struggle to relate to as an adult.
My knee-jerk reaction was, “Of course!”
But then I thought about it, and forced myself to say no.
I felt totally cold hearted. But it was honestly a choice between driving up to my cousin’s for half a day (and resenting it) or hanging out with my mom (and enjoying it).
Here’s the thing. No matter how popular you are, you can probably count the people you’re truly intimate with on one hand. How would your life change if you put 80 percent of your energy into those people instead of spreading yourself all over the place?
This doesn’t mean you’re letting everyone else go forever. The great thing about true friends is that you can always pick up where you left off.
But if you want to have more time for fun, focus on nurturing the few precious people who sustain you from day to day. Give the rest to the universe (or Facebook). Let joy, not guilt, dictate when you call, text, and hang out.
3. Set a sacred planning hour
I’m not organized by nature. In fourth grade, I was always in for “lunch bunch” during recess because I’d forgotten my homework. Clearly Mr. Myers didn’t recognize or make allowances for my uncontainable creative brilliance.
But somewhere along the line, I realized that an hour of planning probably saves me five of screwing around!
So at the start of every week, usually on Sunday night, I schedule in some mandatory planning time.
It’s when I go through my “weekly tasks” checklist in Evernote (e.g., proof the blog post, schedule a cooking night). I also have a monthly checklist for the first Sunday of the month.
That first Sunday is also where I do a bit of reflection. I run through all my analytics and think about what’s working (and not) in my business and life.
4. Batch everything
I used to update my business finances every week. (Stuff like logging receipts into Quickbooks and recording mileage. Real exciting, right?)
Then I realized that doing the books just once a month was way more efficient.
That’s because like every activity, bookkeeping has a startup cost.
It starts with working up the energy to do something I hate.
Then I have to open Quickbooks and Evernote and dig receipts out of my wallet and email.
I can grind out this startup dance every week (ugh). Or I can jam it all out in a single painful session once a month without sacrificing accuracy or quality.
Since Tim Ferriss’ book introduced me to the idea of batching last year, it’s become a bit of a lifestyle for me. Here are just a few of the things I now save up and do in one huge push:
- Responding to emails and texts
- Running errands by bike or car
- Grocery shopping
- Editing photos
- Gym workouts
- SEO research
- Posting on social media (using a scheduler)
5. Hire a housekeeper
This was a hard one. Because honestly, I’m pretty cheap.
Also, the idea of having a housekeeper just seemed so snobbish and braggy.
But this year, out of pure desperation, I started having Miracle Maids come over twice a month. And you know what? It’s awesome.
Here’s the thing. If I really rush, I can clean my whole condo in about four hours. So by hiring a housekeeper, I’m reclaiming eight hours a month to hike (or just sit on my ass if I want).
And when I compare my own hourly business rates to cleaning rates, there’s no question that it’s worth it. Who wouldn’t pay $50 for a cleaning when it frees you up to earn $300?
Plus, the cleaners do it better. Thanks to them, my porcelain sink is white again.
6. Shop online
I am so in love with Amazon Prime. Seriously, if it had lips, we’d make out.
Packing for the Bolivia trip was insane. Here’s a partial list of what I ordered from Prime in the final week:
- Dental floss in single serving packets
- Extra tent stakes
- A giant blackhole duffle bag
- A few meters of paracord
- Extra GoPro batteries
- A solar phone charger
- Sunscreen in travel sizes
I could have driven around town with my hair on fire trying to buy all that crap. Instead it came to my door courtesy of free 2-day shipping.
(And I even got free movie and music streaming and Thursday night football out of the deal.)
Another problem with being so busy is barely having time to update my wardrobe. That’s why I’m in love with thredUP, which is an online consignment store. The prices are reasonable, they send coupons constantly, and returns are easy. Plus, by shopping #secondhandfirst, you’re being good to the planet.
Want to give thredUP a try? Enter the coupon code MISSADVENTUREPANTS and get 50 percent off your first order. (This is for the first 100 users only, so try it today.)
Some links to check out:
7. Saying no
“Thank you, but no.” Four little words. So painful to say sometimes.
Often, when someone hits me with a surprise request, my brain does a blue screen. I know I should say no. But my default response is always, “Yes! Of course!”
To make the process more clear cut, I made a list of things I’ve definitely decided to say no to.
- Volunteering (other than a couple of firm commitments I made at the beginning of the year)
- Second dates when there’s just no spark
- International trips that aren’t on my bucket list
- Invitations from distant acquaintances who are probably distant for a reason
- Freelance assignments from pain-in-the-ass clients
- Basically, anything that doesn’t fill me with FY enthusiasm
This process has in fact taught me how rare true FY enthusiasm is! And why it’s a good reason to drop everything and go for it when you see it.
But you won’t be able to do that if you say yes to everything. So start putting some discipline around your refusals.
8. Let go of your own rules
“Sorry, I can’t do battle ropes with you because I need to run long intervals today.”
“Bummer, I can’t hike in the foothills with you because I need 3,000 feet of gain this weekend.”
“No love, I can’t eat out with you, because I’m trying to lose my endurance 15.”
Ugh, these are all thoughts thunk by me this year. Just writing them feels gross.
Now don’t get me wrong. Getting your shit together and creating some structure is good. It’s one way you can reclaim some hours and make time for fun.
But don’t become such a slave to your new schedule that life passes you by.
If you need some inspiration, here’s a really great video by fitness coach SoHee Lee.
SoHee has a body-building competition in three days. She actually needs to lose three pounds before weigh-in.
But is she going to hide in her condo and eat egg whites? No way. She’s going to her friend’s cookout.
She’s even planning to eat cookies. (She made some.)
Anyway, I’ll let you watch for yourself. And if you want some help with intuitive eating, I recommend her writing and videos!
9. Embrace imperfection
My favorite blogging coach Kate McKibben recently sent out an email with the subject line: “Here’s how I REALLY do it all.”
Seriously, I have never opened an email faster. (Because Kate is seriously a get-shit-done kind of girl.)
And surprise: the whole email was about how she doesn’t do it all. It’s a confessional along the lines of, “Yeah, some days I don’t post an Instagram story. Hell, some days I don’t work at all! And look, the world doesn’t end.”
Now like many of you, I’ve been conditioned by decades of school, college, and grad school to chase gold stars and meet deadlines. So adult life has been a long and painful process of deprogramming.
I’m slowly accepting that an age of darkness won’t descend if I:
- Forget to respond to a blog comment
- Skip a workout
- Sleep in on Saturday and go to brunch
- Eat a donut
- Rerun a blog post so I can take a writing break
- Blow off the occasional business accelerator meeting or live chat
- Record an entire Facebook live with no sound (I’ve even done it twice!)
So there you have ’em. Nine simple (but not necessarily easy) ways to make more time for fun in your life! I hope they help you hike more, kick ass more, and get laser focused on what really matters.
How do you make time for fun and improve your work-life balance? Share your tips below! I, for one, could use them.
Originally published Nov. 13, 2017.