Most of us spend seven to eight hours a day working and seven to eight hours sleeping, leaving eight hours of the total 24 hours per day for other activities. This week I would like to challenge you to find your remaining eight. I know that some of us might sleep or work more or less than eight hours per day, and it might be because of the phase of life we are currently in. No matter how busy you are, it is important to plan your time to fit in at least seven hours of sleep regularly, because sleep deprivation is detrimental to physical and mental health. Even new mothers can draw on help from their social support systems to try and fit in some proper sleep in the early years of their children’s lives, so that they can be happier, healthier parents. Children can also pick up cues from their parents in the area of sleep and anxiety, so prioritizing sleep is also part of showing good health habits to our children. Business people and professionals often try to get more done by sleeping less, but when we start the day right, after a good night’s rest, we are more productive with our waking hours and generally more prepared to face the challenges of life.
While it is easy for some full-time workers to see where their eight hours of work have been spent, it might be difficult for self-employed people, managers, professionals or stay-at-home parents to see exactly how many hours they are working. This is sometimes where people eat into the other eights and burn out. When there are no boundaries, especially with the increased ability to work from home, some people find themselves working more than 14 hours a day with easy access to the internet and phones. We might even underestimate the amount of work we do outside “work” e.g. when caring for others or volunteering. We definitely can’t burn the candle at both ends - something has to give. The easiest thing for most hardworking people to give up is sleep, especially when we have other commitments and family responsibilities. Unfortunately, prolonged periods of stress and sleep deprivation start to affect our concentration, happiness, risk-taking, resilience and ability to make good decisions. Some people start to rely on addictive substances and unhealthy coping mechanisms to keep going, when it could have all been prevented with better time management that prioritizes sleep/rest.
Even for those that have good routines and boundaries for sleep and work time, it can be difficult to find where the remaining eight hours go. We need time for personal care, transportation, unwinding and socializing, but that can still leave us a few hours for other interests if we are intentional and focused. People who manage their remaining eight hours well are able to start a business, read/write books, develop a hobby, plan ahead and complete projects that many others just dream of. If we think about time as coins that cannot be regained once spent, we can be more intentional with each hour of our day and have more productive weeks. There is nothing wrong with choosing to use your remaining hours to watch movies, hang out with friends/family or just do nothing - on purpose, but it is sad when people do this unintentionally everyday and wonder why they never achieve much of their goals. Intentional living is about taking control of our own lives, working for a better future, making the most of our opportunities and taking responsibility for what we choose to do with our time. ”Life is too short” should not be a reason to live recklessly, but motivation to live intentionally. Success rarely happens by chance. Take a moment to reflect on how you spend your days - find your eight and be great!
Dr Afiniki Akanet is the author of Life Without Coffee (Choosing Happiness Over Stress) - Afiniki.co.uk