For most riders, the barn is like a second home, and between the two places there are a lot of chores that need to get done in a day! If you learn to do the following four things you can balance horses and a busy lifestyle:
1. Learn to estimate time accurately. There are 168 hours in a week and of those, we spend about 56 sleeping and 40 working. That leaves approximately 96 hours of time to fill. Most people typically over- or underestimate how much time they actually spend doing things. And because of this, they don’t adequately plan and end up with periods where they’re simply killing time, or find they run out of time to finish things they’ve started.
Solution: Keep a tracking sheet of your daily routine for one week and see how long it actually takes you to do each task. (How long to make breakfast, commute to work, do housework, groom and ride your horse, etc.) This will help you see where your time goes, what you spend it on, and where you can make adjustments.
2. Learn to prioritize. Some things we must do in order to survive, such as eating and sleeping. Other things are important and give meaning to our lives such as parenting, professional activities and relationships. And some things provide little to no meaning in our lives. It’s critical that we learn to prioritize these things, and take care of them in order of importance to us.
Solution: Get a set of recipe cards and write down one task you do on each card. When you have all your obligations listed on separate cards, see if you can place the cards in order of importance from most important to least important. If you can’t, and you find you have multiple cards which you feel are all critically important, then you might benefit from working with a counsellor or coach to help you clarify your values and priorities.
3. Learn to say no. In my practice, I often see people who complain about having no time to spend with their horses. Often, it’s because they feel guilty for saying ‘no’ to requests, so their time gets sucked up doing things for other people.
Solution: Practice saying “I would love to do that for you, however, I don’t have time.” Then, practice tolerating the distress it may cause you to say it. Learn to accept that it may not feel comfortable until you have done it 1,000 times. Allow it to be uncomfortable and do it anyway. Keep in mind that, quite often, individuals who can’t say no are “people pleasers,” who learned to sacrifice their own needs growing up. If this sounds like you, consider seeing a counsellor.
4. Stop procrastinating! Procrastination is doing anything except the thing at the top of your priority list. You may justify it by saying things like “Yes, but I need to fold the laundry first” or “I’ll do it after I’ve gone to the bank.” It doesn’t matter how you try to sell it to yourself, if you are avoiding the priority tasks on your list, you are procrastinating, and if you want to spend more time with your horse, you’d better get a handle on it.
Solution: Get real with yourself. Why are you avoiding doing your priority tasks? Procrastinators typically do so for one of three reasons: 1) they are perfectionists who can’t start a task because they’re afraid they won’t do it well enough; 2) they are overwhelmed by a task that seems too large to manage or they don’t know where to start; 3) they dislike doing a particular task; let’s face it, some chores are just no fun. If you are an expert procrastinator and you can’t figure it out on your own, talk to a counsellor and get some clarity. You can also check out “Stop Procrastinating: A Simple Guide to Hacking Laziness, Building Self Discipline, and Overcoming Procrastination” by Nils Salzgeber.
If you can do these four things, you should be able to claw back some much-needed time for yourself. But, if you find you’re still struggling, consider makings some lifestyle changes such as letting go of some responsibilities at home or work. Additionally, talking to a counsellor or professional life coach might help you gain insight into what needs to change.