How do you reclaim some time for yourself when it means making some changes, and when there are people who are going to be unhappy with you for doing it? That’s what host Kay Coughlin is talking about in this episode of the podcast. Because reclaiming some time is one of the fastest ways to start taking better care of yourself. As always, no judgment, no guilt, and no pressure.
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Transcript: Reclaim Your Time (Episode 97)
You’re listening to From One Caregiver to Another. I’m your host, Kay Coughlin. I’m a business coach and an advocate for people with family caregiver responsibilities. I’m a family caregiver for my mother, too, and I just don’t believe that we caregivers have to put ourselves last. I believe that our families, government, and society in general owe us a lot more help than we usually get. And I’m here to help you learn to speak up for yourself so you can live your own life again.
This is episode 97.
Since I announced back in episode 95 that now in the podcast I’m going to be focusing on family caregivers who also have a job, and that could be because you need to have a job in earning income or want to work or like me. For me, that’s both.
I thought this episode would be a good time to talk about reclaiming your time.
When I’m out and about in the world, and I mention that I have family caregiver responsibilities and also a job, now in my case, I do own my own business coaching solopreneurs and small business leaders. When I mention this to people that I do the family caregiving and the working, their eyes usually basically pop out of their head. They can’t believe I do it all. In fact, what they say to me is, how do you have time to do it?
Look at that assumption right there that I do it all myself. Is that because I’m a woman or because I’m an entrepreneur? I don’t know. I know at least part of it is all of the beliefs that are a part of Human Giver Syndrome. And if you haven’t heard what Human Giver Syndrome is yet, I’ve done several podcast episodes on it, so you might want to go back and listen to those. I’m also going to talk about it a little more later in the podcast, so hang on for that.
But part of this belief system is that, when I tell people I have family caregiver responsibilities, they automatically assume that I put everybody else first all the time. And that must mean that I put my business first too ahead of everything else that I do. So it’s easy for me to see why they think that I do everything myself.
I want to be really clear here and tell you that I do not do everything now. I have gone through phases where I do that. Unfortunately, I’ve done that a few times. I did it again at the beginning of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, and that’s hard to believe. That’s been almost three years now. Yikes.
But I did it when my two teenage boys were doing school at home with me as their supervisor or whatever my job was in that weird situation. And my mom was in lockdown too, and she lives right next door to us, she did then, and she still lives next door to us now. And I felt responsible for making sure that both my kids and my mom were getting enough companionship and anything else that they needed from me, and a lot of that they could have been responsible for themselves.
But I noticed myself doing it all for everybody, again, giving everybody all of my time. And once I noticed it, I could recognize the toll it was taking on me, and I connected that back to how much time I was giving to other people. So then I was able to get out of that trap again.
Now, hopefully it’s the last time that I’m going to fall back into that trap. But since it’s a pattern that I’ve had for almost all of my life, there’s always a chance that I’m going to end up doing it again. And if that happens, there’s nothing wrong with me because I’m only human, and patterns are hard to break. The difference now is that I do know how to get myself out of that trap if I start to fall into it again.
So you’re probably asking yourself, how did I do it? How did I get out of that time again? How did I get my time back? Even while the circumstances were exactly the same. Because I was able to do it while I had the same business to run and the same kids at home in the same situation, and with my mom next door really looking to me to be her whole community. Because unfortunately, by that time I had kind of trained her that I was going to be her whole community.
So how did I get out of all of that? And even more importantly, how can you get your time back? That’s what matters here, even when your circumstances haven’t changed either.
When I was writing this episode, I really struggled to find a way to explain time in the tangible way that I’ve come to see it in my own life. So for me, it’s almost like I can feel it. And hold it in my hands. It’s become, for me, a resource that’s finite and also something that I have control over because I can hold it and touch it and feel it. So that’s kind of hard to explain.
But I came across this quote from the poet, Carl Sandberg. Here’s what he had to say about. “Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have and you only can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” Wow. Let that sink in for just a minute. The time is a coin only you can determine and to be careful in case other people spend it for you. I think that’s really powerful.
So, keep that picture in your head of time being a coin that you can spend or that other people can spend for you. Think with me for a minute here about time being something that you can change. I know it might seem like it’s too big that you’ve got too many habits or too many patterns of the way you spend your time, but what I want you to know is that it is something that you can change. And you can do it little by little. So one little step at a time.
And I’d like to encourage you to start right where I did this last time. It happened to me during the pandemic, and that’s by noticing. Notice what you’re spending your time on. And also notice what you want to do, but don’t have time to do.
So if you are busy running everything in your business and coordinating the lives of your family too, and that could be your spouse, your kids, your parents. There is a really good chance that you can take some of that time back for yourself so that you can do the things you want to. W
hether for you that might be sleeping a full eight hours at night. And I have to tell you, that’s something I’ve been able to make time to do and it’s amazing. Maybe you want to take naps or play pickleball with your kids, which is something I make time to do when the weather’s nice. You could be talking about exercising or reading or writing that novel you’ve always wanted to write. You can make the time for that.
I know that’s really hard to believe but stick with me here because, once you notice the things you’re spending your time, the next step here is, listen closely: Realize that you have a right to spend time on yourself. Even though Human Giver Syndrome is probably telling you that you don’t have that right to spend time on yourself.
The reason that happens is because of Human Giver Syndrome, we believe as a society that some people simply have to live to make other people’s lives more convenient, less stressful, happier, and more successful. Meaning you should focus all of your resources on the people you are responsible for.
In fact, there’s something interesting that’s probably going on for you, right now. Like all of my work, I am approaching this topic with no guilt and no judgment about the way you spend your time. Now, I’m trying hard not to judge myself too, that’s a little harder than not judging you.
But if you are feeling some guilt or maybe some judgment, even though it’s not coming from me, I am not surprised at all. That is one of the beliefs of Human Giver Syndrome, that those of us who have been designated to be givers for other people ought not to keep back any resources for our own benefit. And so when we think about holding back a resource, whether it’s time or money or anything else, we have been trained to feel guilt and judgment. And that keeps us from even wanting to think about holding back those resources for ourselves.
I want you to know that this belief of Human Giver Syndrome is not true. Everybody on this planet, every human being, every individual, has equal value and an equal right to live their own life and use resources for their own benefit. Even you, even me.
But I sometimes get to a place where I don’t know that. Back at the beginning of the pandemic when I was using my time for everybody else, I forgot that. I just didn’t know it for a time.
You know, I never wanted this designation of Human Giver for myself, but other people believed it about me, and I played along for a long, long time. I mean, decades. Since then though, I have decided that I don’t have to be a giver all the time. That I get to choose when I want to give, and that applies to my time when it comes to my family and my business too.
Because we believe this about our businesses too, that we have to completely drain ourselves and run ourselves into the ground to have successful businesses. That the only way to do this is to give and give and give, until our businesses are successful based on some measure that somebody else told us should be important.
And that is what the hustle and grind culture is all about, this belief that that is the only way business is going to work. So we do this to ourselves in business too. We work harder and harder and harder, and we give more and more and more, and we tell ourselves that it’s just one of the rules. That’s just how it is. And that’s not true either.
Knowing all of this about Human Giver Syndrome means that I have the knowledge that I need to choose to take care of myself too, and not just to take care of my family and my business. And it means that I can use my time for my own care and my own wellbeing.
And that’s going to be your next step too: Choose to use time for yourself. It’s this choice. It’s this decision. For most people, this is not easy to do. There’s just a lot of pressure to conform to these beliefs that you should give and give and give.
That’s Human Giver Syndrome again, and to keep things just the way they are, where you are totally draining all of your time for other people and you’re never setting any aside for yourself. And again, this is whether you’re talking about your business or your team or your family, you’re going to face these pressures to do it the way you’ve always done.
So if you are finding it hard to believe you get to have time to yourself or thinking that it’s going to be impossible for you to reclaim any of your time for yourself because so many people are relying on you or there’s so much to get done? I believe you. This is what you’ve been taught to believe, and it does make the world a whole lot more convenient for other people when you spend your time coins on them.
There’s really no incentive for them to help you reclaim your time either. Now, I want you to know that mostly other people who are draining your time don’t mean to be hurtful about it. This is just something that humans do. It’s just the way we are. We’re kind of oblivious that way.
Once you make this choice, even if right now you’re still finding it hard to believe that you are allowed to use time for yourself, you have to start somewhere with reclaiming your time.
I’m going to really recommend that you start small, really small if that’s what you need to do, because you know what? There is no prize here to win for making the biggest progress or the fastest progress. So you get to start small. By small, I mean start with five minutes at a time, if that’s what works for you right now. You know, five minutes is enough time to get a cup of coffee or meditate a little bit. Take a walk around the block or put your headphones on and listen to just one song that you love.
Now, during these five minutes, you could feel some guilt coming up because you’re spending those five minutes on yourself. You can feel that emotion. I want you to know that it is not going to devastate you. Now, we’ve been taught that these emotions are going to devastate us, but it’s just not the truth.
You also don’t have to resist the emotions. Actually, it’s resisting the emotions that are eventually going to wear you down.
So once you get used to taking five minutes and you know, knowing that you can survive all the feelings, all those challenging feelings that are going to come up during those five minutes, it’s time to go longer than five minutes. I don’t want you to stop there. You can start doing longer stretches of time for yourself.
This is going to lead to the next step then, which is at that point when you’re taking more than five minutes for yourself, that means: You’re going to have to start talking to people about expectations. That’s the next step, telling people what you’re doing. You’re going to have to tell them what you want and tell them what you need.
And I’m almost positive that at this point you’re going to have to get some help too. You’re going to have to let people help you or maybe hire people to help you. And again, I’m just not going to pretend that any of this is easy because I’m not going to lie to you. But it is going to make an immediate difference in your ability to reclaim time for yourself.
You’re going to have to keep paying attention to those feelings, those challenging emotions. I can almost guarantee that you’re still going to feel them. And I know this because even all these years later, I still sometimes feel guilt or anger. Maybe frustration. Sometimes I still feel resentment about the way I have given my time away to other people, or how hard it is for me to explain to people that I need time.
Because we’re human, feeling these things is totally normal. And you are not broken, and I’m not broken.
It’s not really what I’m talking about here much in the podcast today, but I want you to know that you can notice your feelings and even feel your feelings without letting your feelings run your life. This is important because it’s probably going to come up a lot as you try to reclaim your time.
Now, there’s another warning here that you need to know: you might have to fight for yourself. Reclaiming some of your time might feel to you like you’re clawing your way back. It might take a lot of effort and it might take repeating yourself and talking about your expectations and your needs over and over. At first, you might have to advocate pretty hard for yourself.
Unfortunately, it’s very possible that people could call you selfish. In fact, if you think that might happen, You’re probably right. And if you think that might happen, I’m also guessing that you can just right now name the people who are the most likely to do it to you. Now, I am not saying this to scare you, but what would be the point in pretending about this or denying that it’s not going to happen?
Please prepare yourself for people to push back against you because you are about to make other people’s lives more inconvenient.
Let’s talk about where you might get pushback from. You might get pushback from a team member or a contractor who isn’t doing their job well right now, or who isn’t doing the whole job that you hired them to do. I know a lot of people who cover for colleagues by making excuses for them, or they do their work for them just to avoid having a hard conversation with them. So you might get some pushback there.
You might get some pushback from a client who has been taking advantage of your time, like maybe what started out as an extra 15 minutes a week for that client has been kind of quietly growing and now you are doing an extra two or three hours every week for them at no charge. This is a really common time problem for professionals who work with clients. So I know from my own experience and from my work as a coach, that these clients who are pushing you on the time you give them might not be happy when you talk about how to remedy that. Whether you decide to write a new contract or just stop doing the extra work, and I want you to know that.
I also have a lot of clients who have created their own time issues with their clients by being too generous with their own time. I totally understand this. I believe in over-delivering in my business too, but it’s something you have to keep a close eye on. And be willing to address when it does happen in your business and when it really starts to suck your time away from you.
Now another person who might push back on you could be the person you are caring for. This could be a spouse or your kids or an adult family member you’re caring for. Because you might have to ask them to do more for themselves so that you can get your time back, and they might not like that. I just want you to know that there are plenty of people who could get upset with you and try to get you to stop reclaiming your time for yourself, and they might do it by using emotional manipulation or telling you that you’re wrong.
So just get ready to advocate for yourself if this happens to you. Nothing has gone wrong. This is totally normal. It’s something humans do, so just know that it could happen.
The reason this is all going to be worth it is because on the other side of all of this work of reclaiming your time is you. It’s your health, your wellbeing, your fulfillment, your future, it’s your life. It’s all those things that you would rather be spending your time on.
And I just want to remind you, this for me has never been a shift that I’ve made all at once. Back in 2020 when I found myself doing it again, I started small too, and I worked my way up to now I have big chunks of time that I have reclaimed. And I have so much control over my own time now, but I had to retrain myself how to do it and remember how to feel those challenging emotions.
And I also had to retrain myself to just let the people around me live their own lives too, and be responsible for the things they could be responsible for, that I didn’t have to do everything for them. I had to remember that their lives are going to be less convenient, but that’s okay because it’s just not my job to burn myself up for the sake of everybody else. And it’s not your job to do that either.
I’m not perfect at this. I backslide sometimes. Look, I’m a mom and an entrepreneur and a wife and a family caregiver. Sometimes people really do need me more for a short time, and usually I’m happy to do that. Sometimes in my business I do the hustle and the grind for a little bit. And that’s okay too.
I don’t do it for long stretches of time now because now, I do what I’ve been talking about in this episode. I notice the way I’m using my time so that then I can decide what I really want and I can take action to reclaim my own time, and whether that’s behind the scenes in my business or with one of my coaching clients or with my family. I know now that I always get to choose how to use my time and I know how to make it happen.
Before I go, I would like to ask you a favor. If you have enjoyed this episode, there are two great ways that you can help more people get help through this work. You can subscribe to the podcast and like and share this episode. That’s really the fastest way to help the podcast grow. And if you know any small business leaders or solopreneurs, and those are entrepreneurs who work on their own like I do, you can tell them that I’m a business coach and you can send them to my website.
Thanks for being with me here today. You can find out more about all of this work at Facilitator On Fire dot net. That’s Facilitator On Fire dot net.
If you haven’t already joined my free Boundaries community, what’s stopping you? It is the place to explore setting boundaries without judgment or guilt. There, you’re going to find just real talk about how humans really work. And you can find that community at Facilitator On Fire dot net slash Boundaries. I can’t wait to be with you again in the next episode, From One Caregiver to Another.
Kay Coughlin, CEO of Facilitator On Fire, is a business coach for the non-profit sector and social justice businesses. She is also well-known for being an advocate for family caregivers.
In every forum she can find, she shouts that it's OK for every human to earn a living, set and enforce boundaries around their bodies, thoughts, feelings and actions. You can join Kay's free, private online community to talk about boundaries here.
Kay also teaches about emotional labor, how to rest, and Human Giver Syndrome, and is the host of the "From One Caregiver to Another" podcast and author of "From One Caregiver to Another - Overcoming Your Emotional Grind."
Kay is well-known for her public speaking on boundaries and self-care.
Facilitator on Fire is a subsidiary of Donor Relations Mindset LLC, which Kay founded in 2015. She lives with her husband and children in central Ohio, and is the primary caregiver for her own mother, who lives right next door. Kay can be found on LinkedIn and Instagram.
Copyright 2022. All rights reserved, Julia Kay Coughlin and Facilitator On Fire.
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