Gay Men’s Skills of Living Series: #1 – Reclaiming Your Time
In this 10-part blog series on Gay Men’s Skills of Living, the first one, today, is about gay men and time management. Since the beginning of this year, I’ve noticed that more of my clients are talking about positive, practical, empowering changes they want to make for themselves in the new year, and a theme I’ve been hearing has been about the use of time.
I help clients focus on building the skills they need to make for a better life, and using concepts from Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and Life Coaching that support these. These skills for living can vary with each person and are customized for each situation, but there are some that keep coming up in sessions. It’s that collection of skills for living that I want to share with you in this new blog series. Other upcoming articles in this series will deal with skills needed to have a great life in your relationships, money/finances, social life, emotional management, and professional life.
I always say that time is a resource, just like money is, but unlike money, everyone is given the same amount of time: 24 hours in a day. While money is about how much we have and how to spend it, time is more about just how we spend it, because it’s in fixed units of hours/days/months/years, with the big variable being our total life span. In my book, Self-Empowerment: Have the Life You Want!, I mentioned how I think it’s smart for a person to spend their resources of Time, Energy, and Money according to their Values, Priorities, and Goals.
In 2017, it became kind of a meme when video came out in the news when Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) was shown in a Congressional hearing using the phrase, “Reclaiming my time!”, which is an internal procedure about the time allotted for each Congressperson to speak. Because Waters is a staunch Trump critic, she asserted this rule because she wanted to make sure that she made her statements on the record, publicly, and to be heard. It was an act of assertiveness, self-care, strong self-esteem, passion, and determination to say her piece, repeated over and over with a firm resolve.
Since that incident, “reclaiming my time” has been adopted by many in social media to demonstrate assertiveness and determination. When my clients have been thinking about their goals for the new year, one of them has involved self-reflection on how they spent time last year, and how they want to spend time differently this year.
If you spend your resource of Time according to your values, priorities, and goals, what do you do? One client (let’s call him “Michael”) said that he was deliberately spending less time on social media, especially Facebook, because he felt that much of what he saw there was making him feel angry, helpless, or demoralized, especially around politics, on issues that he couldn’t do anything about (except maybe voting and volunteering at the next elections). Another client, “Pete”, said that he realized he was spending too much time on trying to get freelance work that didn’t pay very much, at the expense of not focusing on getting freelance gigs that paid better and helped him make his living.
Reclaiming your time is an act of self-assertion, and it assumes (correctly) that you have the power to assess how you are spending time, and to make adjustments as you need to, to reduce the time you spend in one area, and re-allocate it to another area that you feel is a better use of your time. I realized that last year I was spending too much time keeping records on all my clients (which is a legal and ethical requirement of the profession) on paper, when I could have been using a secured, online practice management software. I implemented this “paperless office” over the holiday season, and it’s been a great time-saver ever since, allowing me to get home to dinner with my husband after my last evening client. That extra time thereafter was worth the time spent to get it set up.
You get the idea. Think about it: If you were to borrow from Rep. Waters’ concept of “reclaiming” your time, what would you reclaim it for? Having fewer meetings at work in favor of getting more work done at your desk? Finding an easier way to deal with things like keeping house, doing laundry, going shopping, paying bills, or caring for pets? Spending less time on social media and more time on in-person interactions with family and friends (that’s a big topic lately)? Setting aside more time for reading (that was one of “Michael’s” new year goals, and it’s one of mine, too)? Even the practice of taking naps is looking good, as I recently heard that some of the most high-achieving people of the 20th Century all had in common the habit of taking brief afternoon naps, which actually made them accomplish more in their day.
In order to reclaim your time, you first have to assert that you are worth it. What you care about matters. If it’s important to you, then it’s important, period. A good self-esteem means giving weight and meaning to your feelings. As gay men, we’re not usually raised with this. Too often, we’re taught growing up that our feelings (particularly romantic and sexual, and it can also be about how we like to spend our time with hobbies and interests) aren’t important, that they are “wrong” because maybe they are not gender-conforming enough. As adults, we have to re-assert that we like what we like, and we don’t like what we don’t like, and that’s an adult prerogative, for both straight and gay adults. Validate yourself with the reassurance and empowerment that building the skills you need to improve your life, at any age, is possible. And if one of those skills is learning to reclaim your time, go for it. The time is now.
If you need help with learning to validate yourself, to overcome negative messages of your past, or to develop optimal time management skills, consider therapy or coaching with me or my associates at GayTherapyLA, either in person or via phone or webcam. We would be happy to help. Call or text 310-339-5778, or email Ken@GayTherapyLA.com, for more information.