Your Guide to

Busy people are great at checking items off their to-do lists of work, family, and community responsibilities. At the end of the day, they have a happy boss and clients, well-cared-for family and friends, and an exhausting sense that somebody's been neglected. Who could it be? You!

"Me time" is the time you spend doing exactly what you want, taking care of your own needs and cultivating your own interests. It's not about laundry or cleaning your bathroom. It's about having fun and time to relax. It's about learning, growing, and enjoying your own company, whether alone or with friends. When was the last time you did that? If the answer is "who knows," then it's time to put yourself on the to-do list. Here's how:

1. Figure out what "me time" looks like.

Make a list of things you like or want to do. Maybe it's watching movies, reading books, hiking in the woods, or having coffee with friends. Maybe it's rock climbing, dancing, or wine tasting. The items on your "me list" should reflect your real desires and what you consider enjoyable. It should not include chores, other people's expectations, or self-care items you don't enjoy. For instance, if you absolutely hate going to the gym, but you do it anyways—good for you, but it doesn't belong on your "me list."

2. Designate time.

Devote at least some portion of every day to "me time" and schedule a longer period of time at least once a week. By putting it on your calendar or daily schedule, you're setting your intention to spend time on yourself. Maybe your daily "me time" is the half hour you spend with your coffee before the kids get up or an hour in bed with a good novel. Schedule a longer chunk of "me time" weekly for activities like a mani-pedi or time to attend a lecture.

3. Keep it simple.

If finding "me time" is a hassle or you feel stressed creating a "me event," then simplify. Sometimes, all it takes to create "me time" is paying attention to an activity you already do. Even taking an extra ten minutes walking the dog can be "me time" if you focus your senses on the experience to make it truly yours. Notice the way the leaves crackle as you walk or the crisp snap in the air. Feel the sun on your face and smell the flowers beginning to blossom. Listen to music through your headphones or focus on silence. When you put yourself in the picture, any time can be "me time."

4. Ask for support.

Tell your family you need time for yourself and ask them to respect it. Even small kids and distracted teens understand the need for personal time and space. Tell your family how long you'll be busy with "me" and who they can talk to if they need something.

5. Ditch the guilt.

Many busy parents feel that if they take time for themselves, they're being selfish. Try thinking about it like this: You're not taking time from anyone else. You're modeling good self-care, respect, and personal responsibility for your own needs. What parent wouldn't want their own child to learn those lessons? By caring for yourself, you are caring for your family.

6. Know your resistances.

LeslieBeth Wish, EdD, psychologist and author of Smart Relationships, says, know what it is that's making you resistant to "me time." Is it guilt that you are doing something for you that doesn't seem "important" enough? Fear of rocking the boat at home since you've always been there for others? Fear that you will get sad, depressed, confused, or lost if you can't think of what you really want to do with your me time? Fear of not sticking to your me time? Naming your resistance increases the chance you will take "me time." Another way to avoid sabotaging your commitment to take time for yourself is to write your thoughts in a journal—and re-read!

LeslieBeth Wish, EdD, reviewed this article.