Friday, January 1, 2016

How to have more time for the fun things in life

Image from

A chic reader wrote to me explaining how she has a busy job and a long commute to work and simply wants more time to create and enjoy her chic life.  She doesn’t want to outsource food/ cooking and cleaning a) because of the expense and b) because she enjoys doing both herself.  

I can relate to this.  I like to make my own food because I feel in control of what goes into it (more so now that I am celiac) and even though I don’t much enjoy doing housework, I know it’s a state of mind and that I’d rather learn to enjoy the process than have someone else come in - I really like my privacy.  In addition, it’s very satisfying to finish a day of industry with a clean and welcoming home.

But you also want time to rest and have fun in your life as well, and sometimes it seems that that’s the part which is squeezed out.  Our chic reader mentions the types of things she’d like to do are going for a stroll after dinner, time for hobbies, reading a book and going to the pub or movies with her husband.

I’m no expert on anyone else’s life so I can only say what has worked for me, but I find that when we share information there’s often something in it that can help someone else see things in a different way.  Sometimes when reading a book or blog I pick up a single sentence that inspires me and sets me off in a new and fruitful direction, or at least gets me out of an unmotivated rut.

That’s why I love writing and reading; words strung together in a certain way can have so much effect on us, it almost seems miraculous at times.  To start the ball rolling, here are my ideas on creating more time to enjoy living a chic life (and I’d love to you to add thoughts of your own in the comments if you have anything to share).

Planning ahead.  I know it sounds obvious and possibly cliched, but when I plan ahead it makes the world of difference.  Thinking at the beginning of the week what we’re going to be doing (if we have any after-work engagements etc) and making sure we have ingredients for meals is important.  For me, more so at lunch otherwise I can be tempted by easy options which aren't as healthy; and now that I'm strictly gluten-free there often isn't another option and I end up hungry and grumpy if I'm trying to cobble something together at the last minute.  

In the winter I need to make sure we have something warming to heat up for lunch such as soup or a pasta bake which is served with a side salad.  In the summer a big salad with protein is the main.  For dinner, if we’re both working that day we’ll have a ‘readymade’ (by us) meal which we just add fresh vegetables to. Even if we have to cook from scratch, knowing what we're having and that we already have the ingredients is a big help. Having to stop at the supermarket when you're already hungry and tired is quite depressing to me.

Tidying up.  Keeping the house relatively clean and tidy means that when we get home after work we can put dinner on straight away and have some relaxing time (me with a book and my husband with the tv) while our dinner cooks.  That’s why we’re such fans of oven-baked meals - ease and time to ourselves.  I do sometimes put a load of washing on that needs to be hung out or bring a load in, but that’s the only housework-type things we’ll do when we’re both working that day.

Cleaning gets done once a week when either of us is home.  I’d love to be more spick and span and Martha Stewart, but at this stage of our lives when we’re both working a lot I’m content for things to be basically clean.  I don’t change our decorative displays around as much as I used to but it won’t be forever.  I’m working full-time and doing a lot of writing so there's not a lot of time for frills and I am content to keep life simple.  In the next year or two I hope not to be working full-time (or at all) and be an at-home writer with time to love our home to bits and be a very happy perfect housewife.

Having a routine.  Probably not everyone visits the library as regularly as we do, but we always pick up and drop off our books (and cds and dvds) on a Friday.  This means we don’t have to think about it other days and wonder when something is due back.  On Thursday I check online what needs to be returned the next day and put them in our library bags by the front door.  This is just one example for our household. You might find things in your routine that are haphazard that you can assign to a certain day each week (or fortnight, or month) so it becomes one less thing you have to think about because it's practically automatic.

Making time for things.  Sometimes I realise I haven’t done things I’d like to do simply because I haven’t chosen to do them.  Inertia is a very powerful thing and often stops me from getting stuff done.  If it’s a walk after dinner I'd like, I just do it before it gets too late and the tv sucks me onto the sofa.  If it’s getting dark out I have to con my husband into going (it doesn’t happen often because he's not a fan of the after dinner stroll like I am and it’s more like punishment for him).

With hobbies, I like to have hand-held things to do on the sofa so that I don’t feel like I’m wasting time watching tv or a movie.  I have an infinity scarf on circular needles that is in a decorative box under the coffee table so that I can pull it out at any time.  On a day off I might get into something a bit meatier such as a sewing project on my machine.  Because I work a lot right now these projects tend to be small so that I can feel like I’ve achieved something.  I just don’t have the time for a big project at the moment (if it takes too long to finish I might never get there).

One day though, I have dreams of making myself a simple Chanel-style jacket and skirt in some black and cream silk tweedy houndstooth I have, and making a big denim quilt for outdoor picnics from all the jean cutoffs and denim fabrics I’ve collected for a while.  I know these will happen and in the meantime I stick to my smaller projects.

With books, I read before I go to sleep at night, with breakfast and sometimes lunch, and after work.  I guess it depends how much you like to read as to how much you do it.  Finding a book that piques your interest is important too.  If you can’t get into a book it becomes a chore (I'll always give it 100 pages though).  I don’t have much of a commute now, but when I used to bus to work every day I would read there and back, or when in a car (if by myself) I’ll listen to an audiobook rather than the radio.  

There are no advertisements and you can listen to a story or be inspired by or learn from something non-fiction.  There’s loads to download or you can borrow audiobooks on cd or mp3 cd from your library (they are free of charge at our library and some are even eaudiobooks which you can borrow without leaving your computer).

I think the key with all these things is that I fit them around and into my schedule instead of not doing them at all because there's not a big chunk of time. When I used to work in the city I'd use my lunchbreak to get out of the office and go for a walk in the sun. If it was rainy and cold I'd browse in nice stores and feel good that way (I'm not really a spender but if I was that might not be a good thing to do). There was also a big library in the city so that was a nice place to go and read a book or magazine too.

Have a helpful mindset.  I find it really useful to not speak to myself in a negative way. I definitely can be my own Debbie Downer at times.  Sometimes I find that the running commentary in my brain is making me feel behind and panicky - I’ll be thinking to myself ‘I never have enough time, today is going to be like all those other days when I didn’t get everything done, I’ll always be behind and not get time for the fun things’.  It’s totally a self-fulfilling prophecy.

When I recognise this, I purposely change the soundtrack by repeating to myself ‘there’s plenty of time, I always get the important things done and have plenty of time for my crafts and reading’.  I tell myself that the Universe always has my back and everything will work out perfectly.  Getting back into this calmer mindset makes a big difference and I can actually enjoy both my work and play much more (and it makes me a nicer person too, because feeling time-pressured makes me snippy and sour, not chic at all).

Set good intentions.  Along the same lines is thinking ahead of time that you will be successful in what you want to do, whether it’s a fun pub outing or going to a movie.  If I think to myself ‘I’d love to see that movie but I know it’s not the kind that my husband will want to see and it’s pointless going mid-week because we’ll be too tired and we can’t go on the weekend because of…’ - it’s just a negative spiral.

Instead, when I first get the thought that there's a movie I'd like to view, I check out the times to see if there's one that will suit our work hours and the fact that we don't like to stay up too late. I honestly don't see how anyone can go to a movie that starts at 9pm and not fall asleep. I'll then see if my husband is keen - he usually is because he loves most movies, and thanks to our turn-about movie policy he rarely turns me down, just as I wouldn't to him. On that night we might buy food or have something quick planned.

I also set good intentions for the week (or day), in that I try and expect the best to happen, that I'll have internal motivation and will simply fly through my jobs and that I will enjoy myself along the way.

So, dear K, I hope there has been something useful for you in this post. My best advice is to plan to do the stuff you want to do and see what happens. As females, I often find we put others first and we don't tend to ask for what we want enough. I've been doing the latter more and have been surprised at how receptive my husband has been. It really was all about me and not about him (because he's not an ogre, he's a great guy). Make it sound fun and you'll have a keen partner in crime, and that in turn helps you get more excited about your plans and time obstacles will seem easier to overcome.

And again, I'd love to hear any other chic ideas for spinning more time out of thin air so we can do the things we'd love to do more of.

Happy new year to you all!


  1. One of my favorite time management strategies is to write down your to do list for the day. Then prioritize the items from greatest importance to least, and cross off the bottom 20%. You'll get the important things done and still have time for yourself left over. The rest can wait for another day :)

  2. A great bit of advice for us all. I was also thinking that maybe your friend might rethink where she lives. It is a big change, but we have just rethought our lives and have decided that the long drives home during the wee hours of the night after huge days at work were too dangerous (my husband is an anaesthetist and does this regularly and in thick fog), so we have sold our 154 acre farm and huge garden, and have bought a small suburban block a short walk from work overlooking a creek and billabong. We will build a light filled smaller house with private courtyard garden.

  3. I love this Melissa, and it's what we're thinking about at the moment. Not so much for the commute, because ours is 'only' 20-30 minutes each way, but to be in a smaller town versus a city. It's a big decision for anyone, but it's something that we don't think about sometimes; we just think where we live is where we live.

    Brian Tracy talks about zero-based thinking, which simply means 'if I had a choice where I could start again afresh/with no prior ties: where would I live, what would I do, how would I live etc'. It's an illuminating exercise to think about.

  4. Zero-based thinking... now that is something worth trying.

  5. Happy New Year Fiona - great post! Aisling x

  6. I used to have a 90-minute commute each way. I probably walked about thirty minutes of it, but the rest was public transportation. My book and ipod were always with me. I probably read a book a day, or close to it, just from my commute time. I also picked my commute books carefully- things I could fall into and shut out the world around me- without missing my stop!

    For cleaning, establish a routine. Your spouse should be part of the routine, BTW. If you're doing all the work, resentment will build up fast. Figure out what your cleaning priorities are. What makes you feel "Our home is clean?" For me, it's having the floor swept and a fresh tablecloth in the dining room.

    For meals, I do a lot of make ahead and freeze meals. Frozen dinners can be very nice indeed when it's something you made and portioned out ahead of time. Pull out a couple containers of whatever you want for dinner in the morning, then serve them with a starch if you like them, a salad or side vegetable like steamed broccoli, which can be made quickly in the microwave or on the stove if you're using frozen veg. Add a piece of dark chocolate and some fruit and you're fed.

  7. Thank you for this post, Fiona! I especially appreciate your idea to stick with smaller creative projects for the time being. This is an idea that I'll definitely use - so I set myself up for success. Happy New Year!

  8. Hi Fiona,

    Happy New Year!

    I couldn't agree more that females often don't put themselves first, and either don't ask for what we want or don't ask for it in a "strong" enough way.

    For me, especially in winter, cooking batches of meals and freezing them really makes life easier. I aim to make time to do this every second weekend so there is enough on hand, but yet it's still fun and not a chore.

    You have lots of great suggestions here - thanks for your tips. Here's to 2016!


  9. Thanks so much Fiona, fab ideas that I hope to put in to practice this year!

  10. Love what you've posted here and it came at a perfect time for me. Am starting back to work tomorrow after 2 weeks off for the Christmas holiday and all I am focusing on is what I DIDN'T get done. Not that we had a really fun New Year's Eve party for neighbors and Christmas fun with our son at home and a movie and dinner out the three of us. You are so right about the negative silly!

    I will definitely be putting some of your suggestions into practice.

    Happy New Year!

  11. I think your list is so comprehensive and well thought out. Bravo! I like the comments about zero based thinking, that was interesting.


Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...