20 great ways to make more time for yourself

Health correspondent

Try these tips to cut down on stress and ensure you have more quality 'me time' for the things you really enjoy.



'Simplifying your life can create extra time in your day,' says life trainer Stephen Yates. 'Doing everything at once actually makes you less efficient and tasks can take longer,' he says. Multi-tasking can also overload your brain, leading to stress, forgetfulness and a weak immune system.

There is no need to live like this - with a bit of re-organisation, you can free up enough time to relax, do the things you really want to do. You'll feel less stressed and pressurised which will help boost your mental and physical well being.

1 Learn to delegate

Ask family, friends and colleagues to do things for you. You may find it hard at first, but you'll not only have more time, you'll also feel less resentful of others leaving everything to you.

2 Just say no

Cut out activities that drain energy and time. Ditch regular get-togethers that have become little more than a habit and don't waste energy on people who take without giving anything back. "Saying no is the most effective method of gaining time and energy,' says life coach Suzy Greaves.

3 File your life away

Instigate a clear desk policy. Aim to handle each piece of paper just once: this means dealing with bills, forms and the like immediately then filing them away. If you don't already have a simple and effective filing system, set one up as soon as possible.

4 A place for everything

Avoid those frustrating searches for misplaced essentials by creating special places for keeping things like glasses and keys, which always seem to disappear just when you need them fast.

5 Buy in bulk

A lot of birthdays this month? Consider buying all the cards (and stamps) you'll need in one go. You'll have a better choice and avoid last-minute panics.

6 Manage your email

Check your in-box regularly but only answer emails at specific times. Then you can choose which emails to prioritise rather than dealing with each one as it arrives.

7 Cut out cold callers

You don't have to keep answering the phone to double-glazing salespeople or other unwanted sales calls - just register online at the Telephone Preference Service. But remember to contact organisations whose calls aren't unwelcome, such as charities and companies you do want to do business with, and give them permission to call you.

8 Go for internet banking

Register for internet banking so you can check your balance, transfer money, apply for an overdraft, pay bills and make credit card payments 24 hours a day. Alternatively, most bills can be paid automatically by direct debit - it only takes minutes to set them up.

9 Shop online

You can now buy virtually anything on the internet - books, toys, cosmetics, clothes, groceries, computers, furniture, flights, tickets for concerts - all at the click of a mouse. Opt for well-known companies or those with an address and phone number in case of problems.

10 Know your numbers

Consider setting up the same chip and pin for all your accounts - but then keep it to yourself!

11 Store by the door

Keep a basket by the front door for library books, rental videos and DVDs and anything else that's been borrowed, so you're more likely to return them on time.

12 Create a reserve

Always running out of petrol, golf balls, light bulbs? 'Start to create a reserve,' says Suzy Greaves. 'For example don't wait until the petrol tank is hovering on empty, fill it up when it hits half way, buy in bulk and see how it feels to have more than enough.'

13 Shut down the computer

'Watch out for computer addiction,' says life trainer Stephen Yates. Set a time for stopping projects, for example installing that latest bit of software your children sent from afar, bidding on e-bay or planning the family holiday until 2am and then not sleeping. Say at 5pm, "I will stop and start again tomorrow".'

14 It takes five

'Spend five minutes every day doing something you enjoy,' says GP Dr Rob Hicks. 'Play the piano, listen to some music, whatever takes your fancy. Then gradually extend it to 10, 15 minutes and so on. Before you know it you will have made the time to do what you want to do and you'll be more relaxed, so more productive in other areas of your life.'

15 Breathe deeply

As soon as you get up take 10 deep breaths, then make your 'to do' list. 'Breathing deeply brings oxygen to your brain which clarifies your thoughts and energises your minds helping you to plan your day more efficiently,' says naturopath Jackie Young.

16 Join the club

Avoid going to the surgery to pick up your repeat prescription then queuing at the pharmacist while it's being made up. Join the Boot's Health Club and they'll do it for you and have it waiting for you at your local branch. Visit www.bootshealthclub.com for more information.

17 Box your pills

Never quite sure if you've taken the right pill at the right time? Get yourself a pillbox at your local pharmacy and worry no more. Most come with marked boxes for each day of the week with four adjustable compartments labelled breakfast, lunch, dinner, bedtime.

18 Use NHS Direct

Worried about a recent diagnosis or an unusual symptom? A quick call to NHS Direct (tel: 0845 4647) will set your mind at rest and could save you a visit to the pharmacist or surgery.

19 Be a pay pal

Sign up to www.paypal.com and you can buy online without having to spend time searching for your credit card number and financial information every time you make a purchase.

20 Down-size your tasks

'Do you really need to wash the car every week? Does your garden have to be 100 per cent perfect?' asks Gladeana McMahon, co director of the Centre for Stress Management. 'Look at your weekly tasks and see if you can trim them back, then spend the extra time gained doing something healthy like going for a walk.'




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