How Managing Your Free Time Can Improve Your Career
Focus your priorities, schedule your time, and build the career you want
Believe it or not, you have free time. While the everyday hustle and bustle of your career and family would have you think otherwise, it actually exists right under your nose. There are 168 hours in a week, so even when we are working full time (40 hours) and getting a full night’s sleep (8 hours), we’re still left with 72 hours or 43% of free time per week. That’s a lot of time for other things.
All too often we find ourselves saying that we don’t have enough time and are too busy to do the things we want to do. Yes, it’s true our days are jam-packed; however, in reality, each of us is filling our free time in different ways. With a mere thought of spare minutes, most of us pull out our phones and check e-mail and/or social media. Some of us use that time to spend with family and friends. Others enrich their lives in other ways. And somehow, we always find the time if we need it. The point is: We can choose what we do with our free time!
To gain control of your free time, it’s best to plan for it, because even small shifts in schedules can make a big difference. Laura Vanderkam, author of I Know How She Does It, says time can easily be separated into three key areas: relationships, career, and self.* By identifying your priorities in each of these areas, you can then add them to the breaks in your schedule. It’s important to physically place prioritized items in your weekly calendar so you can responsibly manage your time. By doing so you are more likely to do the things you want to do.
You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish with time you didn’t know existed. While there are many things you can do with your spare time, here are three ways you can focus on your priorities while keeping your heart, mind, and body active:
Relationships: Volunteer. Making time to help others is beneficial to you and your community. Volunteers are in demand. If you’re serious about effecting positive social change, commit to an ongoing volunteer opportunity and add it to your schedule so you can look forward to it. In addition to improving the lives of others, volunteering is also a great networking opportunity so you can build key professional relationships with other like-minded social change agents.
Career: Go back to school. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world are earning bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees by taking online classes during their free time. Earning a degree or even a certificate can help you advance or change your career, and you can do it while you work full time. The key is to schedule your study time. Accredited online universities offer flexible and convenient learning options for working professionals, such as asynchronistic learning and competency-based education. Earning a degree online is ideal if you want to improve your career prospects but cannot afford to stop working to pursue an education.
Self: Exercise. Exercise is a key driver for physical and mental health. Not only will it help you feel better, it is scientifically proven to make you happier.† Exercise is often the easiest thing to cancel or dismiss, even though it remains an important part of your overall well-being. By scheduling time and being disciplined about it, exercise can help you release built-up stress and give you more energy. It’s a great way to focus on yourself, and in the long run it can have a positive effect on your professional career as well as personal relationships.
In the end, it’s your choice how you use your free time. Determine what’s most important to you, then schedule your time and activities. Even the smallest moments can yield big returns and help you build the life you want.