How to Find Time for Yourself

A woman sitting down and reading a book.

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How many times have you thought about something you'd like to do, but then thought that you don't have time for it? Many of us spend so much time doing what we feel we must do that we don't have enough time for what we would love to do.

You may feel that you don't have enough quality time for your family or solitary activities. The trouble is that not having time for those things can leave you feeling stressed and unhappy.

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The Benefits of Down Time

The ability to find time in a busy schedule is important for a few reasons. Having enough time for leisure activities, time alone, and simple do-nothing time is vital for maintaining balance.  

When you have time for yourself, you can:

  • Explore your creativity
  • Develop and explore your interests
  • Build mental strength
  • Plan for your future
  • Relax
  • Learn more about yourself
  • Improve emotional regulation

People, particularly introverts, need time to rest and regroup, and the amount of necessary downtime increases during times of stress.  In other words, the more stressed you are, the more you need that downtime.

If you would like to increase your level of happiness and life satisfaction this year, one of the best changes you can make is to find more time in your schedule for a life that reflects what you'd really like to be doing.

De-Clutter Your Schedule

Take a hard look at how you spend your days, and see what can be cut. Some questions you might ask yourself include:

  • Are you watching several hours of TV per day?
  • Could you be more efficient at work?
  • Are there things on your schedule that could be dropped without serious ramifications?
  • Could you delegate some responsibilities to free up more time?

This can be a bit tricky because you may need to have some of that extra time just to decompress. You don't want to force yourself to be operating at full capacity 24 hours a day when you may need to relax with a rerun now and then. 

You might also find that you are spending time on things like social media out of habit rather than out of a need for a break. Or you might be wasting time in ways that you don't actually enjoy without realizing it. Dropping some of these time-wasters can yield you some extra time that can be used in better ways.

You may not think that a few minutes will make a difference but carving out a little time here and there can add up to a greater feeling of personal freedom to do what you'd really enjoy.

Learn to Delegate

Are there responsibilities that you have at home or at work that could be delegated to assistants, family members, or others? Some possible ways to delegate include:

Allowing someone else to take over a task can bring added benefits. They may find that they're better at it than they thought they would be (or than you thought they would be). They may also enjoy the feeling of helping out. At the very least, it could bring a sense of teamwork.

  • Re-assigning cleaning responsibilities to children, for example, can free up time normally spend on housework and foster a sense of responsibility in your kids at the same time. 
  • Hiring help with tasks that really drain you can often leave you with enough extra time and energy that it's more than worth the expenditure. 

Learn to Say "No" With Minimal Stress

Before you take on any new responsibilities, carefully think about how these activities would impact your life, both in a positive way and negatively. Think also about your motivations for possibly saying "yes."

  • Do you just want to avoid feeling like you're letting someone else down?
  • Do you tend to convince yourself that you have limitless time in your schedule, then find yourself with time for everyone else but you?

Decline requests may bring some fallout, but it's often worth it. Saying no becomes much easier with practice.

"I like to remind people that sometimes saying no also means saying yes to you, or those activities you want to do, " explains Rachel Goldman, PhD, a psychologist and clinical assistant professor at the NYU School of Medicine.

When you know how to say no without inviting unnecessary scrutiny or sparking hard feelings, it becomes even easier.  

Plan Your Downtime

One way to make sure that you get at least a little time to yourself each day is to plan for some "non-negotiable" downtime activities. For example, if you'd like to start exercising more, plan which days you plan to work out and then schedule the rest of your day around those things.

Some ways to carve out time for yourself (even when you are busy):

  • Set boundaries and make sure that other people know they are not allowed to interrupt during your downtime.
  • Prioritize and get the "must do" tasks done early so that you have more free time to work with.
  • Work on creating a tranquil space that you can enjoy, whether it involves making a playlist of your favorite songs or de-cluttering a room to make space for your hobbies.
  • Work on turning your "me time" into a habit, and make it part of your regular routine.

Incorporating your downtime activities into your day means you are more likely to actually have time for them.

Try Mini-Breaks

Taking time for yourself doesn't always have to involve clearing a big chunk of free time in your schedule. In fact, it is important to take small breaks periodically to recharge and refresh.

Some ideas for a quick break include:

  • Practice deep breathing
  • Do a short meditation
  • Stretch
  • Do some challenging brain games
  • Have a healthy snack
  • Write in a gratitude journal
  • Read a book or magazine article
  • Chat with a friend

Don't wait until you reach the point where you feel like you simply cannot take it anymore. When you feel like you need a break, walk away for a few moments to clear your head, even if it's just to relax a few minutes with a cup of coffee or enjoy a stroll around the block.

Goldman also suggests considering what are known as micro-practices. "If someone truly doesn't think they have time to take these mini-breaks they can start by doing them while they are doing something else. For example, while washing your hands or cooking, take some deep breaths," she explains.

Rachel Goldman, PhD

These micro-practices and small breaks really start to add up. It's about finding those pockets of time throughout the day for you.

— Rachel Goldman, PhD

A Word From Verywell

Carving out time for yourself in a busy world can be a challenge. However, it is essential for your sense of balance and mental well-being. Finding time for yourself can be looked at as a form of preventative care, Goldman notes.

"We want to make this part of our lifestyle so we don't get burnt-out. Practicing some me-time and self-care can help prevent the stress from getting to a place that is unmanageable," she suggests.

The key is to prioritize your downtime. Don't leave it as something that might happen if you are able to accomplish everything else on your busy schedule. Instead, intentionally set aside some time each week to do the things that you want to do.

1 Source
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Nguyen TT, Ryan RM, Deci EL. Solitude as an approach to affective self-regulationPers Soc Psychol Bull. 2018;44(1):92-106. doi:10.1177/0146167217733073

By Elizabeth Scott, PhD
Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.