One of the most common objections people raise to the idea of creating a schedule or planning their time to help them become more effective is this:

Isn’t that kinda dull? A bit limiting? Doesn’t that, like, restrict me dude?

It sounds like a valid point, until you look at people’s lives.

The fact is, most of us are already pretty stuck in a rut. The difference is that we’ve fallen into that rut instead of actively choosing it.

Meals are a great example – as much as people can dislike the idea of having a regular meal rota, a lot of us are eating the same few meals on repeat without meaning to.

The way we spend our time is another great example, and one I’m considering at the moment as I work to become more intentional with the way I spend both time and money.

In particular, I’m considering how I spend my free time.

Do you know how you spend yours?

Here are the things that had become my family’s default:

  • Go out for food
  • Go shopping

Not the most cultured, well-rounded ways to spend time, hey?

I’d never actively chosen that when I had free time I wanted to eat and shop, but they’re the habits I’ve got in.

Partly, I blame the weather. England is grey so often it can feel as if the options are limited to things that are indoors. Add in the specific complexities of my daughter’s additional needs, which mean that organised activities a lot of children fill their weekends with aren’t a possibility, and the default became heading out to a shopping centre for lunch and browsing.

This is strange because my husband and I are not shoppers. We’d look in the book shops, any shop that sold paper goods (because, duh, I always need a new notebook), and would end up in a toy shop.

2019 was a year that involved a lot of self-reflection, and part of that was considering how we spent our time.

I made the decision that we’d start spending time more intentionally, by replacing our go-to activities with new ones.

We got a dog, and suddenly had to be outdoors every day no matter what the weather was like. Plot twist: nobody died. We bought Wellington boots and new outdoor coats and started spending a chunk of our weekend time walking through the forest.

And the days became much more enjoyable and memorable than they were when they were filled with shopping malls.

We were in the forest so often, spending £4 a time to park, that it made sense to get the annual pass from Forestry England.

Suddenly, we had a go-to activity that we’d chosen intentionally.

Why stop there?

My husband and I decided to join Odeon’s Limitless programme, which gives unlimited cinema trips for a monthly fee. Now, instead of our date nights being focused around meals we rarely remember, we do a dog walk and see a film.

The memberships mean that those options become our default. Sure, we can go for a meal if we want to, but our thought process has changed so that’s no longer the thing we automatically assume we’ll do.

And, finally, I invested in annual passes for us all for Yorkshire Wildlife Park. My daughter has been like Dr Dolittle ever since we got the dog, so a day out to see more animals is her favourite choice right now. This last weekend she actually stroked the wallabies, which I only realised after was probably highly against the rules 😉

With these three memberships, we have a new set of habits and go-to choices building. The cost of the memberships means we’re motivated to return to these places time and time again, and the deliberate selection of activities that interest us means we can look forward to them – unlike the way a gym membership is probably not going to motivate a sedentary person to exercise, but rather become something they can feel guilty about not using.

Why does any of this matter to you?

Because chances are you may have done what I had done and fallen into a lifestyle of making the same choices on autopilot. Is there an activity you’d like to start spending your free time doing? A place you’d like to visit? An organisation you’d like to join?

Sometimes, a little intentional spending of your money can be a great way of encouraging an intentional spending of your time.

 

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