Most of us have no idea of the number of hours in a year we spend doing different things. Since you cannot make extra time, you can only manage your time better. The best place to start is to find how you spend your time now. Get a journal and start an activity log. This is a fast way to find out the truth about how you spend your time. Carry this journal with you and write down everything you do in the day log, from the moment you wake until you sleep and round it to the nearest 15 minutes. Keep a record for at least one week (2 to 3 weeks would be ideal), and try to ensure there are no time gaps. For every 15 minutes, quickly jot down what activity you are doing. For every activity note the start time, finish time, and complete a quick rating of the activity. Here’s your rating scale:
- Place a minus sign (-) if the activity wasn’t useful and meaningful or productive.
- Do not place a sign beside the item if it was a neutral activity like laundry or chores.
- Place a plus sign (+) if the activity was valuable and productive.
- Place two plus signs (++) if the activity was fun, valuable, and productive.
At the end of one week, tally up and see how you’re spending your time. Calculate what percentage of your time was spent in ++ activities, fun and valuable and productive. Calculate the percentage of time spent poorly or wasted. Most of us are shocked to find how much time is wasted on TV, going through junk mail, smoking or even just laying in bed thinking about getting up. This wasted time is the extra time you have available to make changes you want to make in your life.
Here’s a moment of truth. Now, pull out all of your goals you have set. Look at the ones that are most important to you. What percentage of your time did you actually devote to activities required to accomplish your goals? Compare that to the percentage of time you spent on unproductive activities. Are you happy with what you see? What else can you learn from your activity tracking journal? It shows you how much time things realistically take in your life. Before you completed the time log exercise, you probably had no idea of how much time most activities actually take. Now you can schedule so much more effectively when setting goals and planning your days. Truly knowing how much time activities take allows you to preserve your time for your absolute must do’s. Before you agree to do something, check your activity log to gain a more accurate idea of the time commitment something might take. It will give you information to realistically decide whether to say, yes or no.
By eliminating drugs and alcohol from your life, how many hours a week do you have available to devote to your goals, your family, and your health? Take time now and write down the activities you engaged in for two typical days during your addiction when you were most actively using. Write out the whole 24 hours, from when you got up until you went to bed. Use 15 minute increments. Remember to add the time that was spent planning for using and covering up your alcohol and drug use. What percentage of time do you not even remember? Now put in the plus/minus rating beside each activity. Minus signs mean the activity wasn’t useful or meaningful. One plus is valuable and meaningful. Plus/plus is valuable, productive and fun. Once you’ve finished, tally them up. What do you see?