9 ways to carve out more ‘me time’

Amid frantic lives, setting aside time for ourselves can seem like a distant dream, particularly for women. Here’s how to create a necessary change.

Prioritising yourself to take time out for a run, reading a book, or taking a long, hot – uninterrupted – bath should not feel like a luxury laden with guilt.

It is your chance to replenish energy levels and reduces stress, and will make your otherwise often hectic days more productive.

Unfortunately, mums in particular are missing out, with a 2018 study finding dads enjoy up to double the amount of leisure time.

Best-selling parenting author Michael Grose says simple changes include starting the day with your own activities, shedding the guilt and creating wellbeing habits within your family.

Time management specialist Kate Christie says just like money, time needs to be invested for the greatest possible return.

1. Start your day with you

Michael says even if this means getting up earlier, there is no better time of the day for a busy mum to have time to herself.

“My hairdresser, for example, has two little girls,” Michael says.

“She gets up at 5am and goes to the gym, then gets home at 6.30 and away she goes.

“If you wait until later in the day, other things can pop up and, with kids, the busiest time is the end of the day after school.

“If you can put your activities first they’re less likely to be put on hold.”

2. The beauty of outsourcing and insourcing

Nothing frees up time like having a few tasks taken off your to-do list, and outsourcing and insourcing are two brilliant ways to reduce your demands.

“(To outsource) identify everything you do you’re prepared to pay someone else to do,” Kate says.

Insourcing is a little easier on the hip pocket.

“Insourcing is where you identify everything you do for the people you live with they can do for themselves – such as putting dirty washing out or unpacking the dishwasher,” Kate says.

3. Stop multitasking

You might like to think you’re a master multi-tasker, but you’re likely kidding yourself and actually making things harder, says Kate.

“For productive, focused work, you will get your best results from single-tasking,” she says.

“When you multitask, productivity goes down by up to 40 per cent.”

4. Schedule time for yourself

Kate says just like we would turn up for a dentist appointment, we should put “me time” on our calendars and turn up for it.

“Making time for yourself is crucial to making you a happier, more fulfilled, better person,” Kate says.

Michael says a scheduled list is more likely to be completed.

“One thing American expert Ellen Galinsky found was that families who worked well, who were able to create time for kids and create time for themselves, generally didn’t wait for things to happen,” he says.

“They were highly scheduled.”

5. Shake off the guilt

Michael says there’s a history of mums putting their children first – initially because they have to, as it’s their baby – but as life goes on, they don’t take back enough of their life.

“We know that you’ve got to feel good about yourself, feel fit and strong if you’re going to do a good job with your kids,” he says.

“It’s that whole notion of remembering you’ll be a better parent if you take some time to look after yourself.

“It’s that sharpen the saw first approach.”

6. Reduce interruptions

“Each time we are interrupted it can take up to 23 minutes to refocus,” Kate says.

“If you’re working from home with little helpers distracting you, it’s OK to put a movie on to distract them – again, without the guilt.”

7. Mix up your ‘me time’

Kate says the optimal amount of “me time” will vary for mums.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s an hour a day, 20 minutes a day or a few hours a week – get as much time as you can and make sure you do something you enjoy and things that are important to you,” she says.

Mums should also be careful not to fall into the trap of counting activities such as supermarket shopping without the kids as “me time”, Kate says.

8. Start incorporating ‘me time’ now

If you’re struggling to find “me time”, Kate suggests starting small and building up.

“The guilt goes away once you start realising it makes you a better mum, better partner and more productive as you’re living a life you love,” Kate says.

Michael says it is important for parents to form micro habits, which could take as little as five to 10 minutes.

“Some of those micro habits could be to get up and read the paper – only a small thing – that might feel good and then you decide to have a cup of coffee after,” he says.

“Once you start, you get some momentum.”

9. Embed wellbeing habits within your family

Michael says looking after yourself is great modelling, particularly at a time when maintaining mental health is such a big issue for school-aged children.

“You need to embed wellbeing habits within your family,” Michael says.

“An example might be that we go for a walk together once or twice a week or I go for a walk and the kids go for a walk … not just just for physical health but for my mental health.

“It’s about ‘I am going to do some things to maintain my interests. I have my own life, even though it might be restricted, but I’m still carving out some time to make me feel good’.”

Michael Grose and Jodi Richardson’s Anxious Kids is published by Penguin Australia (RRP: $34.99).

Kate Christie’s Me First is published by Wiley (RRP: $27.95).

Written by Sally Heppleston. Updated April 2022.