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We all feel rushed during the holidays. Yet one of the most precious gifts you could ever give yourself can’t be found at the mall, online or in those mail-order catalogs that arrive in bulk this time of year. I'm talking about the gift of time. Think I’m being unrealistic? That carving out some spare hours -- or even minutes -- isn't doable? It is.

Don't believe me? See if any of these excuses sound familiar:

But… I work a lot, and that's OK. How about the toll it takes on your health? Finnish researchers found that working long hours increases the risk of cardiovascular disease by 40 percent. The good news? If you pare your working hours down to eight a day, your risk of coronary heart disease drops.

But… I have too much to do to take time off. No matter what your situation is, you can afford (and need) to take a break every once in a while. “We all have the same 24 hours that Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs and Amelia Earhart had," says Doug Sundheim, a leadership and organizational consultant and author of The 25 Best Time Management Tools & Techniques. "The key is making time [for ourselves] so we can have the life we want to have."

But… staying busy gives me satisfaction. At first glance, it can feel satisfying to have a calendar that’s completely booked. It can give us a sense of accomplishment, a reassurance, if you will, that our lives have meaning. But experts say that this “busy trap” is merely a fashionable trend that’s not good for you. Studies show true happiness comes from having a more balanced life. “If you’re absolutely exhausted at the end of each day, it’s a warning sign that you’re overbooked,” says Sundheim. "Another sign is irritability. If you find you’re constantly irritable, it usually means you're trying to juggle too many things, and it’s time to cut something."

But… everything will fall apart if I take time off. Not if someone else does the work for you. One word can fix this issue: Delegate! Have laundry piling up? Enlist your teenage son to take over washing his grass-stained soccer gear. Need to take the car in for a tune-up? Tap your spouse for the chore. Peace of mind may only be one less task away, so if meaningless chores are doing you in, it’s time to call on your household to pitch in.

But… next week won’t be so busy. Don’t bet on it. Even if your calendar doesn’t show back-to-back appointments, experts agree that this empty appearance can be misleading. What about those groceries you need to shop for, or those thank-you cards you want to mail? Downtime fills up fast with errands if you don’t put “me time” at the top of your list. "No one teaches you how to manage your time," says Justin Klosky, master organizer on "The Talk" and author of Organize and Create Discipline. "But life gets very busy as we get older. You make time for your career and your loved ones, and these priorities constantly shift the focus away from yourself." 

So bestow yourself the gift of personal time this season. It's one present you won’t be regifting. 


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