Get Limber with Your Time

Tips for practicing flexibility when managing time.

Get Limber with Your Time

Taking time to plan and schedule has many benefits. Scheduling is not, however, fool proof. When dealing with humans, human things happen that require flexibility.

While those three sentences are easy to understand and most people readily agree with them, when you add actual experience to the mix, being flexible can be much more challenging than simply agreeing with a few sentences (such is life). Said another way, you might think you are flexible, but when something actually disrupts your best laid plans, how do you react? Or, how does your partner(s) react?

If you, like many others, would like to train your ability to flex when schedules change, consider these three approaches:

  1. Practice empathy - put yourself in your partner's shoes.

    It takes practice to understand how someone else feels about a situation. Start with small situations, like that thing that happened at their work that you really don't understand. Interrogate how they feel and why. Practicing in less relationally charged situations will build up your ability to empathize in more emotionally charged situations.

    For example, imagine it is your anniversary and you have been planning a trip for months, but then your partner's child is really sick and needs their parent to stay home. The disappointment is real for you, but the need is really there for their kid.

    Take the time to visualize how you would approach the same situation if the roles were reversed. Try not to dwell in "how I would do it so much better than they did," but rather focus on the feelings of being pulled in two very different directions and having to make a decision.

    Being in the role of having to make the decision is very hard. You face disappointing someone, regardless of your choice. The person in this role is also missing out on plans they were likely looking forward to as well.

    So be a good steward of your relationship and sit in the experience of your partner for a moment. It might not be easy at first, but it can help to shift the emotional waves to being productive, instead of dwelling in what you are missing.
  2. Let yourself feel the feelings - cancelled plans are hard!

    You are allowed to look forward to activities with your loved ones, and it really sucks when you are disappointed! Take the time to feel your feelings. Journal, complain to a close friend, go for a what you need to do to process your experience.

    Try not to deny that you are having an emotional experience, and don't lie about the feelings you do have. Instead, acknowledge them and learn how to self-soothe. Remember that your partner is not responsible for making you feel better, although you can ask for reassurance if that helps.

    After the big waves of feeling have started to wane, I encourage you to consider what you need. Are you able to reschedule? What is something you can do the next time you are able to see each other that creates a positive, meaningful experience.

    A note of caution: there is a real risk for passive aggressive behavior here. Flexibility does not mean keeping score against your partner for times they have had to reschedule.
  3. Consider underlying wounds that might make flexibility harder.

    There are many life experiences that might make flexibility challenging in a way that seems insurmountable.

    Sometimes, you can recognize your own insecurities and work on navigating how you need to grow to get through challenging situations. A common experience here is the need to compare time between parters. A partner might want the exact same amount of time as another partner. It is beneficial to take the time to find out what underpins this need for "equality." What meaning are you making out of time and what are you risking when you aren't getting it exactly how you think you should?

    It takes a lot of work and self-awareness to approach this by yourself. If looking internally feels as insurmountable as becoming flexible with time, consider getting the help of a good therapist or counselor. They are incredible resources that can assist in moving through challenges with help.

Flexibility is a skill that can be learned. It isn't necessarily an easy skill to learn, but know that it can help you become more resilient as you develop your relationship with others and yourself.

To learn more, register for the Managing Time in Relationship Workshop coming this week - see the registration below.

In curiosity,

Dr. S. Kay Webb