Almost half of Americans make New Year's Resolutions. Resolutions in line with the goals of this blog (to decrease stress and enhance sex) have been the topic of prior blogs and include making time to work out and to have trysts, even when not in the mood for sex ("If It's Fun, It's Not Duty Sex"). The problem with these resolutions is that they take time-and for most Americans, time is in short supply. This may be one of the reasons that only 46% of New Year's Resolutions are maintained by the time July rolls around.
In A Tired Woman's Guide to Passionate Sex, I present a four-step approach to finding time for life priorities. This approach is summarized below, in hopes it will get you to next New Year's Eve with this year's resolutions intact.
Step #1: Set Your Priorities. Take out a piece of paper. Record today's date. Then, write "This Year's Life Priorities" at the top. Write down your top three to five priorities for this year. These can be something you are already doing and want to keep doing, or they can entail something you would like to do that you are not currently doing. These goals can revolve around people or groups of people. An example of a goal in this category would be "Be a good mother." Goals can be work-related, such as "Become a partner in my law firm" or "Open my own clothing alteration business." Goals can be about your health and well-being, such as "Exercise daily" or "Lose fifteen pounds." After you have written your list, look at each of the items. For those priorities that are vague, list two to five concrete behaviors by which you can measure this goal. For example, if one of your goals is to "Be a Good Parent," you might write: do not raise my voice and spend time each day with my children.
Step #2: Assess Your Current Time. Time spent on activities can be categorized as inflexible and flexible. Inflexible activities can be those you choose to do or those dictated by others. The best example of the latter is a job with set hours. Self-imposed inflexible time includes things that you make time for that you are rigid about. I have a friend who sets her alarm for 5:30 a.m. each day and meditates for fifteen minutes. Nothing but an emergency or serious illness gets in her way. Flexible time, on the other hand, includes those activities that you choose to do. It also includes activities that you must engage in that can vary in how much time you spend on them. Examples of chosen activities include surfing the web for enjoyment and watching television. Examples of those things you must do but can adjust the time you spend doing them include such activities as cooking and grooming. You have to eat, but you can spend twenty minutes to two or more hours on food preparation. You have to wash your hair, but you can spend an hour styling it or you get a lower maintenance hair cut that takes less time to style. Take a moment to examine your time in accordance with these categories; consider the ways you spend your time that are inflexible, either because they are self or other-imposed. Then, think of all the ways that you spend your time that have some flexibility to them, either because you can vary the time you spend on them or because you are engaging in these activities by choice. You may even want to take a week keeping a time log. One reader of this blog recently discovered that an surprising amount of her time and energy was being sucked up by the internet. She proposed an experiment: "Do nothing different from what you normally do in a regular workweek. But keep track of the amount of time that you are engaged with your computer for non-specific-work purposes, whether it's watching HOMELAND, reading Huffpost or PT (Yes, this website counts..), goofing around at miniclips with your kids, Facebooking, or whatever." In other words, this reader proposed tracking one type of flexible time: internet use by choice. I am advocating a more complete time tracking to see just how you spend your hours-so you can shift time around for your life priorities.
Step #3: Creative Time Shifting. Think about the priorities you set and the notion that if something is a life priority, you must dedicate time to it. Successful exercisers don't schedule anything during their exercise hours. People who get enough sleep don't stay up late, even when they have something left undone. If something is a priority, you must not consider it as something that you can let go of when other things interfere. Life priorities must translate into time that you spend that is non-negotiable. Still, the problem of finding such time in an already busy life remains. One obvious place is to take the time spent on an activity that you are choosing that doesn't coincide with your life priorities. One example is trading Facebook time for time with one's spouse. Another option is to use less time doing those activities that you have to do, but for which the time spent is not set in stone. My friend Kathleen used to spend thirty minutes a day putting on makeup. She now spends ten minutes and uses the other twenty for exercise. Take some time to think about creative ways that you could shift your time around to make time for your life priorities.
Step #4: Live the Commitment. The last step is to put your time where your priorities are. Some also advocate telling others about your resolutions to hold yourself even more accountable.
New Year's Resolutions are helpful. Those who make them are more likely to attain their goals than those who don't.
Still, reaching one's goals involves more than just making resolutions. It takes the action steps of prioritizing what is important, closely examining how you are currently spending time, and then finding ways to re-arrange your time to make room for priorities. The final step entails making this commitment to yourself (and others) and then sticking to it. Underlying this way of proceeding is the idea that if something is a priority you need to make time for it. A life priority (or New Year's Resolution) can't be something you give lip-service to. It has to be something you spend time on.
This year, don't just make resolutions---make time for them.