Tips to make your 168 hours a week work for you!

by Chad E Cooper

Let’s start off by using the example of a single parent who has 4 children, and works full time. The children are in gymnastics, softball and all kinds of different activities. What would I tell this person who just has so much on their plate every day and thinks they have so little time to get it all done? How do they make this a fulfilling life and not a survival-life?

Well, there’s a couple of pieces that come to mind…

First understand that there are only 168 hours per week and those that know how to master that time are the masters of their life. They have lifestyles that other people would say are legendary. The first thing I would like you to do is look at what are you choosing to do in that one week worth of time. Because you, me, and even the richest people in the world can’t buy another minute of time. How we use that time is what separates us.

Only after you have completed the breakdown of your time, look at where can you leverage your time? Leveraging can be using technology, it can be hiring other people, it can be finding resources like friends and family to help you out.

If you’re a single parent with 4 children and you’re working full time and your physical health is important to you, are you able to do your workout while your children are at soccer practice or in school. Or if they are at ballet, can you go and do something that allows you to work out and still observe your child in dance class? Maybe you have time to work out but you’re trying to advance your knowledge. Can you listen to an audio book while you’re driving, or take an online class while your children are doing homework at night? Easy no, but courageous yes and worth the results.

You may not find the perfect solution, but what is a practical solution that gets you closer to your goals is the start?

I always invite people to ask themselves what they are willing to give in return? What are you willing to give, to get what you want? Are you willing or able to pay somebody else to do a few things you don’t have time for? If you can’t afford to pay them are you willing to barter with someone else? Perhaps you can have one of your child babysit for them in return for helping you? Maybe your one of those people who feels they can’t ask for help. Start by asking another parent to carpool for school or after school events. You may find there are many other parents in the same situation and would be thrilled to open up one of those little hours in their week too.

I feel like I can only give you some small golden nuggets here to try, because I actually teach a 12 week course on managing your time. But, if you’re really committed to having more time, then you need to look at a behavior you might change and look at the skill set your working with.

One of the things I teach is to start by blocking out one, 168 hour week. Put down on paper or your computer calendar everything you do and the time needed to do it. Get it in front of you so you can see it. So often what we do is we try to make huge changes; the goal here is not to get too far out of your comfort zone. Start small with just looking at one week. You want to make little changes like skipping a pebble. Like the old-adage, how do you eat an elephant? A bite at a time. How do you move a mountain? One pebble at a time. And so often what we do is we think, “oh I have to do it all right now.” When the truth is, you need to look at what are the next 2 things that you need to do today or in the next hour? You may find you have some little extra hours running around on your calendar that you never even noticed existed. Maybe now you have time for a date on Friday night, or to work out before you take your children to school. Maybe you have a hobby you didn’t think you had time for? Well how about setting up an area in your home just for you, and if you get that extra 30 min. instead of collapsing on the couch, go work on a hobby that brings you joy and relaxation.

You might start to say, ok fine, I’m going to choose to get up 30 minutes earlier 2 days this week, and then maybe next week you get up 3 days earlier, and the 3rd week you get up 2 days again. Maybe you say, I’m going to cut an hour, maybe 15 minutes a day out of my social media browsing or my TV watching. Look at where you are willing to make small changes in 1 week that over time will add up fast?

One important thing a client told me they got from my class was the following… “I was so overwhelmed by how much I had to do. I learned how to quit looking at the whole picture. Instead I looked at my 168 hour week like a pie. Cut it up and saw what things I didn’t need to be doing at all. I was feeling so tired that I just flopped down on the couch for 4 hours every night thinking I was relaxing.” She told me that instead of TV, once the children were down for the night she went and took a warm bubble bath. She said she enjoyed it more because it was her own quiet time. She was not so stressed out and truly was relaxing. And the best part for her was the bath was just 1 hour, so she still had 3 more to enjoy in other ways.

Understanding your purpose is a very important skill, so start small. Ask yourself why are you doing something? What is your purpose? Look at 2 of the happiest moments of your life and write down everything that you can recall about those 2 experiences. Write it down and then circle all the feelings and emotions and verbs that were part of that experience. (Joy, happiness, competition, acclimation, fulfillment, etc.) The more that you can recall of the happiest moments of your life will show you your core values which are really your purpose. So often we think our purpose it to attain something material like buying your own home, raising your childs right, impressing someone you believe has influence in your life. You know, it’s one thing and the reality your purpose is not one thing, it’s a feeling. What do you do now that brings in the same feelings and do you stop and feel them or are you just moving through the motions trying to get through every day?

When you start making changes, ask yourself are those core values showing up in those activities that you’re committed to. When you take your child to soccer practice are you watching your child waiting for practice to be over? Or are you watching you child with pride and joy for what they are accomplishing on the field. On the other hand, when you’re doing things and you feel bad about, or they’re not helping you move forward in life ask yourself, if those core values aren’t there, then maybe you should be doing something else with your time. If you really don’t like being at the practices and could run to the gym instead, maybe you could find a nanny to take your child to the field. I can guarantee that if you feel this activity is a waste of your time the child is going to feel it too.

The people around you will always feel what is going on with you. If your stressed out you may have a shorter temper, or lack of energy. This is the time to turn around incorrect perceptions and readjust your calendar to feed your soul and propel you into a successful life with time for everyone including yourself.

Use colors for different items

Please look at the sample calendar I have created for a mini guide to finding where your 168 hours live. Give your activities happy inspired names instead of “go to work”. How about “going to be the best employee ever” or instead of, take Joey to soccer, “I am going to enjoy watching my son grow and prosper”. Words do make a difference in your approach to anything.

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