The rewards of setting aside free time for yourself

Women who manage to set aside regular free time report higher levels of satisfaction with their lives than those who tend to put their own free time on the back burner.The folks at Real Simple magazine recently did some research to find out what women in this country are missing. Number one on the list? Time. Nearly half of the women surveyed – 49% to be exact – say they do not have enough free time. I can totally relate. Almost a month ago, I recommended a book that I’d just downloaded to my Kindle to my friend and fellow Beyond Today blogger Lisa Ardrey. She’s blown through it and its two sequels! I’m still trying to make time to finish Chapter 1.

The rewards of doing so are clearly worth it. According to the research, those women who do manage to set aside regular free time (and I must emphasize, this means free time for themselves, not free time to do the grocery shopping or free time to clean up after the kids but actual free time) report higher levels of satisfaction with their lives than those who tend to put their own free time on the back burner.

What’s getting in the way of making these easier, breezier moments a reality? Well, interestingly enough, it doesn’t seem to be work. Two thirds of women surveyed say that work doesn’t get in the way of their personal lives. Housework seems an entirely different story. About one-third of the women who have spouses or partners say if they didn’t do as much around the house themselves, things just would not get done – and they would not feel sufficiently cared for.

So what’s the solution? Is there a solution? For me, I think it comes in multiple parts. First, we have to really understand where our time is going. I don’t regularly track my time as I do my money, but I have on occasion, and just as with the dollars-and-cents it is an eye-opening but worthwhile effort. I eat up minutes watching the last few scenes of a particularly great Frazier, straightening the sock drawer, chatting to the friend who called. Before I know it, there goes an hour. Second, we have to put some of that time to its better use. I really enjoyed catching up with my friend. But I would have felt better had I used the sock-straightening-Frazier-watching time to tackle the book, or hit the treadmill. And third, we have to know what our time is worth and when it’s better to hire out.

In one of my books I address 100 easy-to-remember maxims to better handle your money. Money Rule #9 reads: “An hour of your time is worth _________.” The point is – you need to know. (If you don’t and you work on an annual salary, lop the last three zeroes off your salary, then divide by 2. That’ll get you close.) Use this number, along with your enjoyment/hatred of the task at hand to decide when it pays to hire someone else to weed your garden, paint your wall or caulk the tub. Just make sure to put your newfound leisure to good use.

Jean Chatzky

About Jean Chatzky

Jean Chatzky, the financial editor for NBC’s TODAY show, is an award-winning personal finance journalist, AARP’s personal finance ambassador, and a contributing editor for Fortune magazine. Jean is a best-selling author; her eighth and most recent book is Money Rules: The Simple Path to Lifelong Security. She believes knowing how to manage our money is one of the most important life skills for people at every age and has made it her mission to help simplify money matters, increasing financial literacy both now and for the future. In April 2013 Jean launched Jean Chatzky's Money School , a series of college-style, interactive online personal finance courses that give men and women across the country the opportunity to learn from and interact directly with her. Jean lives with her family in Westchester County, New York.
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