The Importance of Making Me Time

We all know that we live in a hustle-bustle world. Within that world, the past two decades have shown me that I can fully commit to a frenetic pace for exceedingly long stretches of time. For better and for worse. I’m sure I’m not alone here.

Over the past decade, I’ve largely relied upon having a big focus race to pull me out of my nose-to-the-grindstone habits and spend some quality time outside. This year, two such races helped me along in this cause for short periods of time, even if both were subsequently canceled by the race organizations. Now, I’m embarking on a bigger goal, to make down time happen more or less as a means to its own end. Here’s the why and how.

For a few years, Meghan’s stressed how important it is for her to have some time off and has suggested I follow her lead. In explaining both situations, she’s stated how time off–whether it’s measured in hours or days–and dedicating that time to oneself is essential to recharging one’s batteries, lifting one’s spirit, and lighting one’s spark. Conceptually, I got it, but I’d not embraced it until recently.

Lake City rainbow - 2019

A double rainbow during a recent adventure run from Silverton to Lake City, Colorado. All photos: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Over the past month, I’ve broken the habit of only working and have made time for myself. I’ve carved out chunks of time, big and small, to just be and enjoy myself. Those times have already made my running, my life, and myself better.

If I think back, this internal shift may have started with the Imogene Pass Run in in Colorado early September. For this point-to-point race, I left my car at the start in Ouray and planned on catching one of the race shuttles back to the start from the finish line in Telluride. Shortly post-race, I joined some friends in grabbing an early lunch before connecting with my long-time friend Sean Meissner. He’d be driving back past Ouray later in the day, so I settled into a relaxing afternoon in Telluride before a fun ride back to Ouray with Sean and one of his buddies. Once there, it was time for a burger and beer before heading back home. By the time I’d returned home to Silverton, I’d committed to myself to not doing any substantive work that evening (as I normally would, even on a Saturday night). I’d not planned any of that post-race hanging out, but I loved, embraced, and went with it for a full day off. That break energized me over the coming work days.

2019 Imogene Pass Rd - Mountain Views

One of the great views during the Imogene Pass Run.

Since that race, I’ve made time to enjoy a long weekend where I ran to and then volunteered at a race, spent a Monday joining a friend for a few miles of his big adventure, headed briefly to New Mexico to run the Mt. Taylor 50k and visit with a collegiate teammate and his family, spent a satisfying day collecting firewood with good people, gone on evening walks with Meghan, and headed out for some running and fishing adventures in the mountains outside of town. Each outing has left me happy and motivated. I’ve likely gotten as much accomplished in my work and personal life as I would have had I simply worked my way through the month as I normally do. Admittedly, I’ve still had days when I’ve felt overwhelmed and my runs those days have suffered accordingly, but I’ve also been able to commit to some longer outings and felt the freedom to enjoy them in full, guilt free.

Simply Silverton - autumn 2019

A view of Silverton during a recent evening stroll with Meghan.

Here a few things that have helped me and might help you make more me time.

Just do it. It’s cliché, but so true. The best way to make time for yourself is to make time for yourself. Heck, you can skip whatever productive plans you had for this evening and go for a nice walk or jump in some leaves or whatever. Head out for a long run this weekend and go have fun afterward. You won’t regret it!

Make plans with others. Okay, I’m personally susceptible to backsliding on the making-me-time front, so making plans with others helps. I’m much less likely to back out of plans with others than plans solely with and for myself.

Make work fun. Whether personal or professional, much of my work is done alone and for an unrelenting boss (me). Even when satisfying or beneficial, this sort of work is exhausting in the long run. However, whether by reframing or redesigning, some work can be a whole lot more fun. For example, on Saturday Ouray 100 Mile race director and friend Charles Johnston joined Meghan and I for a full-on day of firewood collection and, dang, did the three of us have a great time. The company and mutual encouragement kept the fun flowing and wood piling up. We ended the day with three cords of wood in our yard, big smiles on our faces, and the deep satisfaction that accompanies a day of hard work.

Expand your entertainment. Finding multiple avenues of fulfilling entertainment is great in case one is ever closed to you. I often joke that I’m a one-trick pony in sports; it’s running and only running. Going back at least two decades, I’ve known it’s dangerous for me to put so much of my physical and emotional well-being into one activity. It’s also true that at times I can let running become a chore or at least something familiar enough that it doesn’t create a real break from my day, such that it’s not me time. Enter fly fishing. I’m grateful that in the last few years I’ve found another activity that gets me out of the house, into the great outdoors, and doing something that requires much or all of my focus… with absolutely no importance placed on the outcome. There are no bad days fishing.

Colorado River Cutthroat Trout - Cunningham Gulch

After a few fun outings, I finally caught a few Colorado River Cutthroat Trout in Cunningham Creek outside of Silverton.

Embrace the benefits. Now that I’ve seen and experienced how much better I feel… and productive I am with a little downtime, I can reflect on that relationship in committing to more of it. It’s a happiness snowball. Keep it rolling!

Some of you… and I hope many of you, already do take plenty of time for yourself. Kudos. Bravo. Keep it up. Really. In all honesty, you’re a positive example. There are plenty of people (myself included) who’d do well to follow your example.

If you’re one of us who’s not so good at taking time for yourself, I’d encourage you to go for it. There’s no need to jump in too deep, too fast. Indeed, that may make the experience more anxious than fulfilling, but do set aside a couple hours this week or next to do something just for you, with no necessary outcome or product or whatever. Do something for you.

Weminuche Wilderness - autumn 2019

A view of the Weminuche Wilderness during last Sunday’s long running and fishing outing in the San Juans.

Ps. While perhaps contrary to the goal of making time for enjoyment, I hope to go beyond this step this winter by actively analyzing and working to make myself and those around me happier, more content, more relaxed, less stressed, less anxious, and less frantic. I’ve got some ideas on how to go about this and hope to share more with you about it when appropriate.

Call for Comments

  • How good are you at making time for yourself?
  • In general, how does this time benefit your life? How does it interplay with your running?
Joe Grant - Colorado Trail 2019

I joined Joe Grant during a couple miles of his recent run of the Colorado Trail.