You schedule your day around other people, which means you’re lacking time alone. If you have a partner or a family, you take their needs into account. Your job, whether waged or freelance, requires you to put others first. Even your pets probably weigh in on how you spend your time.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean a lot of us are missing out on something that’s actually crucial: time alone.
In 2020 we are hyper-connected, even more so since the pandemic started and the only way to be reached is digital. We have notifications on, we’re available at all hours, we can stay up to date with worldwide news. But it all comes at a cost. We’re so dedicated to optimizing ourselves for others, we neglect the base.
It’s easy to miss and hard to fix. The way our lives are structured means we don’t leave a lot of wiggle room between the wake-work-decompress-sleep routine of our day. But when you do make time for yourself, the results are worth it.
The scientific benefits of spending time alone.
Psychologically speaking, spending time alone is hugely beneficial. For you, being alone, with absolutely no hope of reaching other people, you’re at your most creative.
It also increases your empathy. Though it sounds counterintuitive that being alone helps you think more about other people, spending time away from your immediate social group gives you the space you need to break out of your tribe mentality and get some perspective.
Aside from being beneficial to your productivity, creativity, people-skills and self-awareness, it’s also just nice to spend some time outside of the grind, floating from thought to thought, free of others’ demands on you, whether your boss or your cat.
It can feel uncomfortable at first. We’re social creatures, and we’re used to spending all our time with external stimulation. That makes it challenging to stick to a set alone time.
Book a meeting with yourself.
Spending alone time has fantastic benefits for your mental wellbeing and your relationship with others. But even as we ensure to make time for the things that are important to us, like bosses, partners, and pets, the most important thing — ourselves — rarely makes the list.
I’m not saying you never have time to relax in an indulgent bath or whatever your chosen form of self-care is — I’m saying you don’t purposefully schedule it in. If you have unexpected availability, you’ll squeeze in a slot to look after yourself. That’s not what I’m talking about.
Don’t find time. Make time.
You may have to make sacrifices by giving up your TV hours or leaving your phone behind, but consider that you’d never watch TV or check your phone with a client — so why should your most important client, yourself, be any different? Instead, find ways to turn the focus onto yourself. You can go for a walk, do a stream of consciousness, or even doodle.
It’s weird to start thinking of yourself as a priority as important as work, side gigs, or even relationships with others. But when you give your time and attention to those external sources of stimulation, you’re not focusing it inwards. You-time isn’t really yours unless you enforce those strict boundaries.
In summary, schedule yourself time.
Mark off a time slot on Google calendars, set an alarm on your phone, write yourself a sticky note. However you plan it in doesn’t matter — only the fact that you have regularly scheduled alone time does. It can be as often as you like, so long as you approach the endeavor with the purpose and intent you would for any of your other priorities.
Drop all the outside influences, even if it’s just for ten minutes a day. Don’t squeeze it in when you find the time: proactively block out time for you. And you’ll find out how your productivity, creativity, empathy and self-awareness can increase just by booking a meeting with yourself.
Zulie Rane is a reader and a writer who believes in the power to change the world through the written word. You can find her writing on ZulieRane.com, posting selfies and art on Instagram at @zulierane and tweeting bad puns on Twitter at @zulierane.
Image courtesy of cottonbro.