"I am so busy I don't have time to do what makes me happy." How many times have you heard that phrase?
For most people, their calendar is a consequence of what life throws at them rather than a conscious time allocation to get what they want out of life. Some people use the simple 8-8-8 rule. 8 hours for sleep, 8 hours for work, and 8 hours for family and myself. It is a good start. If you know what you want out of life, choose to allocate your time (which is your most valuable resource) accordingly (and have the discipline to stick by it). Make your calendar intentional.
Other than being intentional about your time, let me suggest three hacks to "create" time.
First, if you have an iPhone, Pick your iPhone. Take it out of your pocket now. Go to "Settings," then "Screen time." Check your "Average Screen time" for last week. Then scroll the screen and check the usage per app. Finally, scroll to the bottom and check Last week's average pick-up times.
Now ask yourself these questions: Is picking up my phone these many times a day, spending these many hours, the best way to live the life I want? If someone gave you back these hours a day, would you decide to invest them in your phone? Americans spend an average of 5.4 hours on their mobile phones daily. Social media is responsible for 2 hours and 24 minutes. The average American checks their phone 96 times daily. They do it not because it is the best use of their time but because it is built to be “engaging” (i.e., addictive). Interestingly the iPhone already gives you the tools to treat the “addiction”: Decide how many hours you want back, set strict downtimes per day (and track it), eliminate apps that don't add to your life (or only use them on the desktop), set app limits, move all social media apps to the second screen of the phone, set notifications setting to 2 times a day and create "no mobile" zones and times (ex. meals).
Secondly, create "super activities." You can make time by doing two or three great things simultaneously. If you exercise 5 hours a week, you can start listening to an audiobook while exercising and "create" 5 hours of learning a week. Invite a good friend to play sports once a week, and you will deepen your friendship while burning calories. Traveling to nature with your family strengthens your bonds while lowering stress. Attending religious service will build your spirituality, give you meditation time (a prayer is an ancient form of meditation), and simultaneously build community. Make it a routine.
Finally, buy back your time. Whatever income you make an hour is how much your time is worth. It is a good deal if you can pay other people to take care of things for you that cost less than what your time is worth. Happiness is the balance of positive and negative emotions. Money should be used to eliminate some negative emotions and replace them with positive ones. If you make US$100 an hour and you can pay someone US$20 an hour to mow the lawn, assemble furniture or take care of the kids once a week for a night out with your partner, you are buying back your time to use in whatever you believe is worth more than US$20 an hour. Conversely, If someone asks for an hour of your time, be mindful that they are asking you to "invest" US$100 of your time. Probably worth it if it is to take your daughter/son to the school fair, but it might not be if it is for a useless meeting. Say no.
Time is the most valuable resource you have. Use it well, and make some.