This isn’t just second conditional practice, but a genuine question- what would you do if you had more time?

For many of us, time is always in short supply, or at least time to do things we really want to. So, what would you do? Travel more, read more, learn a new language, learn to draw (that’s one of mine)?

Make a list- go on, actually do it- then ask yourself how important these things are to you. If they are important, why aren’t you doing them?

You’re probably saying, ‘because I have to earn a living/look after my family’ or something similar, but, in fact, that probably doesn’t take up all your waking hours. Chances are that you are spending a fair amount of time doing things that don’t particularly give you pleasure just out of habit. For example, scrolling through social media, or watching TV. If you love doing those things, great, but how intentional are you about how you spend your free time?

Could you have more free time if you were better organised?

Oliver Burkeman once wrote an article memorably entitled, ‘Why time management is ruining our lives.’ His point was that we can use productivity hacks to get obsessive and to try and cram in more and more work. But I think that’s missing the point. Being more productive should mean that you actually have time for a lunchbreak, or a quick chat, and never have to take work home with you. Again, it’s about being more intentional about how you spend the time you have available.

If you always feel that there is never enough time, you are either trying to fit far too much into the time available, or you are not making the best use of your time. To find out which it is, try keeping a detailed record for a few (typical) days of what you are doing in each 30 minute slot. Try not to change your usual behaviour just because you are becoming aware of it.

Then take a long, hard look and decide whether there are things you need to be saying ‘no’ to, or whether you need to change your habits. A client I spoke to recently had added up the hours they had spent on Netflix last year, and it was sobering. (I haven’t dared do mine yet!).

Each day, decide what your priorities are (no more than 3-5 and be realistic), and block out exactly when you will do them, allowing time for lunch, exercise and so on. If you have the luxury of managing your own schedule, most people work best in the morning, so put your MIT (most important task) in then, and look at email etc a bit later- I like to do it before lunch.

Prioritise your pleasures too

Finally, make sure that you are also prioritising those things you tell yourself you’d like to do if you had more time: a dance class, more time with friends, learning a new skill etc. They may not be urgent, but they are important to you, and if you don’t plan them into your schedule, they will never happen.