While there’s certainly something wonderful about the holiday season, it can also make life pretty crazy. Whether you’re wrapping up a semester at school, trying to finish a project at work before the end of the year, or stressing out about what present you’re going to buy for your sister who has everything, it can feel impossible to find time for yourself.

Despite the importance of having the time to unwind, actually fitting it in between school, work, and errands is much easier said than done. Even the oldest trick in the book of actually scheduling free time during your day doesn’t always work out for me—I find it too easy to see that time as flexible and end up encroaching on it with things that feel more important (even though, in the long run, they’re probably not).

So, as December starts to ramp up, here is one simple trick I’ve used to find time for myself no matter how busy things get: Instead of making vague promises to yourself about finding free time, schedule a very specific activity that will help you unwind.

Start by taking some time to think through what you really want to make time for. For example, are you trying to fit in some exercise, do you want to to read a little every day, are you looking to unwind with some TV at the end of the night, or do you just want more sleep? Of course, you could have a lot of different answers to this question, but I feel that going through the thought exercise pushes me to identify the specific activities that really help me to recharge my batteries and relax.

Then, find the time to slot it into your calendar. When you plan your week, treat your downtime activities as some of your major to-dos, setting aside time for them in the same way you would set aside time for a big meeting or a project you need to work on. Instead of penciling in an hour of “downtime” on Wednesday night, write “catch up on my favorite blogs with a cup of coffee” or “take a bubble bath.”

I’ve found that by making “me time” a little more actionable, it’s easier to hold yourself accountable to it; it’s hard to notice when you don’t take some time to relax, but pretty obvious when you don’t get through the book chapter you said you were going to read. You have a particular activity to look forward to, and you won’t feel as though you’re wasting time.

A busy schedule shouldn’t be an excuse for not spending time on things that help you unwind. Try scheduling in a few specific activities for yourself this week—and see what a difference it can make.

(Oh, and if you’re really having trouble finding the time, try productivity expert Alex Cavoulacos’ method for tracking and budgeting your time—really looking at how you’re currently spending your minutes and hours should help you identify things you can swap out to create time for yourself.)

Photo of cozy home courtesy of Shutterstock.

Updated 6/19/2020