Everyone is busy nowadays. Even children as young as 8 years old are busy trying to balance school work, CCAs and family time, and they don’t even have to worry about earning a living yet. So it’s really no wonder that many adults find that they just don’t have enough time for love.
But making time to find love and keep that love is crucially important. In a series of studies run by the Harvard Medical School which followed the lives of 824 men and women from their teens until their deaths over the course of some 75 years, it was found that men who ranked higher in terms of warm relationships were happier and earned higher incomes than those who did not. Interestingly, a good marriage at the age of 50 was a better predictor of positive aging than something more medically concrete such as a good cholesterol reading1.
So what are some of the things which busy people do make time for love in their lives?
1. Keep Work and Leisure Time Separate
Keep the lines between work and leisure clearly defined. Decide what parts of your day you want to keep for work and what not to and don’t allow work to seep into those times which you’ve decided to set aside for leisure. It’s fine to take work home or plan for it over the weekends, as long as you and your spouse or partner both understand when those times will be and that you will also make time for each other.
2. Make Time for Each Other
Create space to be together. If you are in a relationship decide that you will have dinner together a few times a week, set aside weekends for each other. Try to keep a balance between time you will spend at work and time you earmark for each other.
3. Avoid the Fragmentation Trap
Multi-tasking does not actually result in better productivity. Instead of being more efficient, studies have shown that multi-tasking actually results in lower productivity and damages relationships both at work and at home2.
Multi-tasking usually leads you into a time fragmentation trap. What does this mean? It means that instead of focusing on a task and completing it in 1 session, you have split it up into many pieces which you return to pick up in between doing other tasks. Whilst you might think you are now doing 3 things in the same amount of time, the likelihood is that you are doing 3 things in 4 times the amount of time. Each time you return to a task, you need to remember where you left off and set it up again to continue.
Trying to multi-task your work and your relationship are also impossible. Telling your partner that you “just need to step outside to take this call for 10 minutes” in the middle of what was supposed to be a romantic dinner is a disaster in the making.
4. Prioritise, Delegate and Automate
You need to know that you are not a super hero. You cannot possibly be a perfect partner, the best person at work, have the cleanest house, train for the triathlon, wash your own car, cook all your meals by yourself and save the world from an evil alien all at the same time.
At some point, you need to prioritise what you need to do. Then you need to figure out what has to be done by you, and what can be done by someone else. At work, figure out what you need to do and what your team and colleagues can do. If you really are too busy to do your own laundry, consider getting a laundry service to take care of the shirts you wear to work. If constant meetings mean you can’t get home in time to put together a decent meal, don’t try to cook every meal on your own. Simplify your meals, make sandwiches, or buy food home a few times a week.
Use as many productivity tools as you can. Put your laundry in the wash the night before and program it to start and finish the cycle just when you want dry it. Use the slow cooker to start meals in the morning so they’ll be done just in time for when you get home. Buy a phone with a bigger screen so that you can effectively do email and work on the train to and from work.
Most of all, remember to prioritise your relationship. When you do that, you will find it easy to decide what needs your attention the most and what you can delegate, postpone or automate
5. Make Lists
Productive people are often compulsive list makers. A list allows you to see everything you have on your plate at one go. It gives you a chance to prioritise and schedule the things you need to get done, it helps to ensure that you won’t forget something that you need to do. So boring as it might sound, lists can actually be a life saver when you are busy and overloaded.
6. Build Routines
If there are certain mundane tasks that need to be done, build them into a routine. This way, you don’t need to spend a lot of time and energy thinking about how to do them.
One example would be an exercise routine. Decide on what type of exercise you need to do and how often and just stick to it until you feel that you have mastered it and need to change it. Another example is one where your mornings are very busy and you have trouble getting to work. In this case, create a routine where you lay out all your work clothes the night before, and once you get up, dress, get ready for work, maybe even eat the same kind of breakfast at the same place and time each day and catch the same bus to work. You’d be surprised at how much stress a routine like this can remove on a daily basis.
7. Set Leisure Goals
This might sound strange, but just as you set goals for yourself at work, you should set goals for your leisure time too. Decide how much time you want to spend with your partner, agree on what activities you want to do together, trips you want to make, friends you want to see regularly. Having leisure goals ensures that this aspect of your life continues to be prioritised, thought about, anticipated and planned for.
1. Vaillant, George E. Aging well: Surprising guideposts to a happier life from the landmark study of adult development. Little, Brown, 2008.
2. Crenshaw, Dave. The Myth of Multitasking: How" Doing It All" Gets Nothing Done. John Wiley & Sons, 2008.