4 ways to reclaim ownership of your time

Ever since Rep. Maxine Waters proudly declared she was reclaiming her time, I’ve adopted it as a mantra of sorts.

Sleeping in an extra five minutes? Reclaiming my time.

Continuing to speak when someone attempts to interrupt me? Reclaiming my time.

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Taking my sweet time sipping my grande iced vanilla coffee while I work at Starbucks?

Reclaiming my time (and also my space after two Black men were unnecessarily arrested at the popular coffee chain last year).

But taking ownership of your time goes much deeper than that.

In a recent Mindbodygreen interview, Lauren Ash, founder of Black Girl in Om, a holistic wellness platform for women of color, shared:

“I set myself up for success by identifying at the top of every day what is a priority today. What did I not get to yesterday? It really allows for ease. So I don’t just open up my inbox and respond to people that are trying to demand my time, but I’m really taking ownership over my time for me.”

While I have a pretty consistent morning routine that consists of prayer, journaling, and meditation, I am guilty of checking my inbox as soon as I sit down at my desk and power up my laptop. And I immediately get overwhelmed by all of the inquiries, requests, newsletter subscriptions and “reply-all” threads where you end up spending more time than you’d like trying to figure out exactly what’s going on and how/why you’re involved.

Point is, as soon as I open Gmail, my time is not my own. And if you’re anything like most people, you’re not alone. So in an effort to reclaim ownership of my time, I’m sharing four life hacks to help you do just that.

Ask yourself: Who’s owning this time?

Sometimes we can catch ourselves scrolling through Instagram mindlessly because we’re not asking ourselves an important question: Who is owning this time?

If the answer is Instagram, a Netflix show you don’t actually care too much about, or something else, then there’s room for some re-prioritization with your precious free time.

Sometimes, the answer will have to be “my boss” or “my children” or “my taxes.”

But try to find more ways to make that answer you—maybe that means taking a walk, meditation, or doing something that brings you joy. But don’t be too hard on yourself, either—sometimes it feels good to watch 5 episodes of The O.C. in a row, and that’s OK, too.

Transform your to-do list

In the article, Ash talked about bullet journaling as a way to re-think her to-do list. If you’re juggling a lot of responsibilities (say, your day job, your side-hustle, your personal brand and/or running a household), it can help to break up your to-do list into categories. Perhaps a bullet journal is more your speed, or you prefer a more high-tech way of organizing your thoughts and tasks, such as Evernote or ToDoist.

I, personally, like to set up my to-do list for the day the evening before. This helps me actually own my sleeping time.

The point is to dispose of all the randomness running around in your head before bedtime so you can sleep soundly and without worrying about the 50 million things you need to do the next day. Your brain will thank you for it.

Put your phone on DND

I’ve always been a fan of Apple’s “Do Not Disturb” feature. I set mine 30 minutes before my desired bedtime. Recently, I kicked this up a notch by changing the setting to black out my screen so I don’t see notifications during (DND).

If you really want to block out the world, you can put your phone on airplane mode, but I like to leave it on DND in case of emergency. This hack also works for blocks of time when you need to concentrate on a task.

Take this a step further and disable notifications that you don’t actually need. You’ll be surprised how much less you check your phone when it isn’t pinging to get your attention every few minutes.

Plus, it forces you to be intentional about which apps you want to check rather than absentmindedly reaching for the phone every time a banner pops up on your screen. I bet your friend’s “lol so real” comment on your latest tweet can wait while you focus on another priority.

Take a nap, seriously

Today’s society will have you thinking you have to spend every waking moment being productive, that your self-worth is measured in how much you can produce. But as Tricia Hersey, founder of The Nap Ministry, says, “rest is a form of resistance.”

Listen up: You are NOT the Energizer Bunny, so don’t let anyone fool you into believing you can keep going and going and going.

As self-proclaimed Black feminist, lesbian, poet, mother, and warrior Audre Lorde once said: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

So, have a nap. I promise the work and to-do list will be waiting for you when you wake up.

Take ownership of your time and notice what you need. Promise: Even if you just reclaim five minutes a day, you’ll be better for it.

This article originally appeared on Shine—a daily self-care & meditation app that feels like a pep talk in your pocket. Join 3 million people who start their weekdays with Shine’s motivational message. Plus: Get support with audio challenges developed by self-care experts. After using Shine, 96% of people saw a decrease in anxiety & depression.

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