In my previous article Power Time I started to explore how to use time in a quality way with your partner. In this article I dive into the topic of how to create time together and offer some perspectives, questions and tips for action.
You already spend time in each other’s company so you have a start point. You also have an idea about whether this is about the right amount of time, or not. I highly recommend a dialogue between the two of you about these two things.
Question 1: on a typical day, how many minutes do you currently spend together?
I suggest each of you estimate this and write it down individually before comparing your answers. If your answers are close (define for yourself what ‘close’ means) you can move straight to question 2.
If they are not close, then either you have different definitions about what constitutes time together, or one (or both) has trouble estimating time. It may be interesting for you to do an analysis so you know what your starting point is.
Here’s one way to do that. Take a sheet of paper and draw two columns labelled start and finish. Whenever you start a period of time together, note the start time and end time when it stops. This will give you accurate information about how much time you actually spend together. Are you surprised by the number?
Once you have your starting point the next question to consider is:
Question 2: how much time do you want to spend together?
Again, I suggest you each answer this question for yourself and only then talk about it together. And talk about it with genuine interest in discovering each other and improving your life.
A reasonable assumption is that the time you want to spend together is a reflection on how important your intimate relationship is compared to all the other things in your life that are calling for your time (e.g. children, work, friends, interests, self care etc.). If you are upset that your partner wants to spend less time together than you do, it is a chance to learn more about them.
Perhaps these questions and dialogues are already enough and they show that you spend an amount of time together that works well for both of you.
If this is not the case, you might want to read on.
Creating More Time
Obviously it is not possible to literally create more time. 60 seconds in a minute, 7 days a week and 12 months a year are all you will ever get. There is no chance to create that extra hour a day. Time is, as far as this incarnation goes, finite – even if you don’t know exactly how much of it your own lifetime will give you.
We each have multiple things we want to use our limited time for and people to spend it with – one of those people is your intimate partner and then, of course, your children.
Usually I would steer well clear of magic answers to complex questions. But here I will stick my head out and tell you there is only ONE way to create more time with your loved one.
The only way to find more time for something is …. to stop spending time on other stuff.
In every 24 hour day you have a total of 1,440 minutes. Each of those 1,440 minutes is spent on something. You can’t create more of them and you can’t skip any so you’re stuck with that number. If you want to increase the minutes you spend with your loved one then you need to use some of the minutes currently allocated to other things. You need to reallocate.
The same is true for any activity on which you want to spend more time. Maybe with the children? With friends? A personal hobby or project? And a general principle I suggest is to devote an amount of time to a particular activity in a way that matches the importance of that activity to your well being.
This may not be what you wanted to hear but facing difficult truths is something it might be wise to do. Then you can move on and do something about it.
How to handle this then? Well, there are some different approaches that fall into 4 simple categories.
Stop Doing Things
If you are really honest with yourself I am sure you can find at least one thing you do that is less rewarding and less important than spending time with your partner. Something you could cut out completely? I believe everything we do serves some purpose or fulfils some of our needs. We wouldn’t do it otherwise. But included in those activities are certainly some we could let go – quality couple time would meet more needs than what we are doing. Maybe they no longer serve the purpose they once did. Maybe they are habits that you just do automatically and could stop. Perhaps habits that damage your health in some way.
If those things still need to be done, is there someone else who can do them?
What could you stop that would free up some time? How many minutes a day would this give you?
There are also things you do that you don’t want to give up completely but you could reduce time devoted to them. There are things you just get hooked into like Facebook addiction, or things you get carried away with and overdo it, such as just one more episode of your current binge watch series. Maybe there are some activities you do on your own that you could do with your partner instead and kill two birds with one stone.
What do you do too much of and could reduce? How many minutes a day would this give you?
Do Things Faster
I’m not advocating you take risks. Driving home twice as fast may shave a few minutes off your journey but might mean you dramatically reduce your life expectancy (or that of other road users). Again, if you are brutally honest with yourself, are there some things you do rather sluggishly, where you get easily distracted, drag your feet, take a circuitous route or generally don’t take action at your fastest?
What activities could you do faster? How many extra minutes a day would that give you?
Perfection can be a real time waster. If you are a surgeon or some other life or death profession then you can skip this section as I do not want you to cut corners. But for much day to day stuff we could reduce quality and save time. Do each of those shirts need to be perfectly ironed? Does drying washed dishes rather than leaving them to dry by themselves really matter that much? Do you need to read the whole article or could you just skim read it and get the essentials?
What activities could you cut corners? How many minutes could you save?
Now, when you add up all these minutes, what’s the total?
Protecting Your Time Together
So you’ve readjusted your activities to more close match your priorities. Imagine you’ve freed 30 minutes in a day you want to spend with your partner. Your next step is to align and protect this time. This us uniquely determined by the two of you so I really don’t have much I can offer here. Just a few questions to consider:
- To what extent do your schedules match and overlap?
- Does the time you have saved by following the ideas in this article match your partner’s schedule?
- Have you both created more time or is it only you?
- Who else might be calling on your time? Kids? Parents? Work?
- How can you protect time with your partner from these other demands?
And to conclude. Your time is limited in this life. Use it wisely and stay in control of how you use it.