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    Shifting Priorities: The Importance of Scheduling Nature & “Me” Time

    “Time is Money.”

    “You have as many hours in a day as Beyonce.” 

    “There are 168 hours in a week.”

    Time catchphrases appear in our lexicon, motivational speeches, and memes. In this nonstop, digital world, it’s easy to feel like there’s never enough time.

    Even though I work for myself, I still get caught up in work cliches. I find myself at the office at 6:30 trying to get more done. Sometimes I catch myself falling down the social media rabbit hole, waking up on a random opinion piece to realize I don’t even care about the topic. HOW did I end up here?

    As I’ve strived to become a smarter entrepreneur, the importance of prioritizing and planning has become more apparent. During the PA Conference for Women, Michelle Obama talked about preparing her calendar in order of her priorities: First her kids’ activities, then what she wants to do, then everything else. When I asked my mentor what I need to focus on, his #1 piece of advice? Time. Meticulously planning it. Many therapy sessions have focused on setting boundaries, saying no and how to balance what I need/want with other people’s demands.

    Since I recently hit the reset button and been more cognizant of my time, I’ve been happier. I’ve biked and hiked in the Wissahickon three times since I returned from my cross-country trip. Last weekend, I saw my first meteor shower with a campfire, s’mores and caught up with friends I used to see weekly.

    With an influx of digital and social demands, it’s easy to feel burnt out and overwhelmed. But that also prevents us from doing what we want to do – volunteer, learn or improve ourselves. (Sustainability is worth nothing if we’re not self-sustaining, eh?) 

    Want to get better at time management? Here are a few helpful hints.

    9 tips to Reset Your Schedule & be happier

    1. Plan an ideal week. Set a timer for 15 minutes and brainstorm what a perfect week looks like for you. How much time do you want to work out? Spend at work? See family or your partner? List your priorities for an ideal week (swapping out monthly wants) and amount of time.
    2. Schedule time for things that make you happy. Does hiking bring you joy? How much alone/decompress time do you need? Have you been talking about taking an art class for three years? Set some personal goals to add to your calendar. (Keep in mind at least one night without plans – and getting home at a decent hour – is a gamechanger.)
    3. Plan your week ahead of time. I highly recommend a planner that breaks down your time in 30-minute increments. Add any meetings, doctor appointments, classes or obligations first. Then look at your ideal week and add the elements in there.
    4. Note any differences between ideal and actual. Did your Thursday end up with too many meetings? Set limits and make it a priority to place boundaries for the week. For example, once you hit 3 coffee meetings in a week, schedule new requests for the following week. Another hint? Scheduling meetings or distractions back-to-back to limit efficiency resets.
    5. Turn off email. The bane of our existence eh? I purposely plan 1-2 hours of email each day, at the beginning or end of my day. If I have to schedule a meeting/get in email, I’m more mindful to hop in, accomplish my task, and get back to the primary planned responsibility quickly.
    6. Turn off social media. One of the main reasons I wanted to deprioritize social media consulting was the unhappiness that social media brings. Even the creators of the Like button regret their role in making social media so addictive. Although there are tech tools that can put limits on your social media use, I’ve been more conscious about posting what I need to (#workobligations) and signing out. When I find myself scrolling, I take that as a cue to take a walk or read a book for 15-20 minutes instead.
    7. Schedule time outside. Whether you’re into camping, biking or napping on a blanket, get outside. It’s science that nature makes us happier. Just make sure to turn your phone off (OR to Airplane mode) to limit real-world distractions.
    8. Turn the phone off. It’s been three years since I demanded that people put the phone down and yet here we are. Make a conscious decision to have times where you’re not digitally available. Remember the good ol’ days when we had a landline and parents said “no she’s eating dinner” or “studying homework” and restricted phone time? Determine a few times you’re off limits – and keep them.
    9. Say No. This is one of the hardest parts. Determine how much time you have for everything else and make choices. Maybe you limit yourself to one panel each week or one night to hang with friends? Although saying no is difficult, training those around you to schedule more in advance will give you space to focus on what you want – and need.


    Readers, any recommendations to unplug and prioritize? Share them in the comments.

    Julie Hancher

    About Julie Hancher

    Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake.

    Your thoughts . . .

    • Nicole Matthesen

      Great advice Julie. This is the kind of information we all need to be reminded of in our fast paced lives. Feeling constantly busy has become apart of our culture but it doesn’t need to control us. I’ve found I’m much more in tune with time spent when I’m able to get very clear on my values and prioritize around them. Also experimenting with a digital free day can be very refreshing. I’d start with Sunday. And often last on our list but should be first is remembering to schedule yourself some personal time. That can look different for everyone, find out how you recharge – taking a walk, meditation, deep breathing or anything that helps you re-center. We can only give our best selves when we fist serve our self.

    • Great insight. Glad this resonated with you, Nicole! I’m trying to make “busy” one of my swear words to avoid using it. (After all, we have the same time — it’s more about priorities.)