Occupational therapy

How do you occupy your time?

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Occupational Therapy has been my career for over 20 years but now more than ever I recognise the need for a type of therapy that’s platform is occupation. I have always loved my work and loved understanding people’s relationships with their occupation, but even more broadly asking the question “how do people occupy their time?” and how does this impact on their wellbeing.

I have worked predominantly in organisational health and wellbeing and a lot of the exploration has been about someone’s “job,” but it is all intertwined isn’t it?

What we do outside of work impacts what we do at work and vice versa, there is no big line dividing the two and in fact with the impact of technology the line is increasingly blurred.

I have seen over and over again in my career that when someone can find meaning or value in their occupation then it does, in fact, have a therapeutic effect and all aspects of their life thrive. So the question really should be “how are you going to occupy your time today to thrive?”

If our time is in fact therapy, how are you going to prioritise it to make the most of this therapy? Most of us have at times spent money for physiotherapy or psychological therapy because we know that it will impact on our physical or mental wellbeing. But how do we prioritise this resource that simply comes with being alive – our time.

The first step has to be stepping out of autopilot and recognising the power you do have over your time. Yes, perhaps not all of your time but certainly some of your time. Do the choices you are making with regard to occupying your time align with your values and wellbeing?

I am pretty sure most of us don’t get up in the morning with the following goals for our time:

• I plan to spend as much time on social media/ Internet as possible today

• I plan to be distracted and not really listen to my daughter today

• I plan to check my phone 20 times every hour

• I plan to multi-screen through most of my day

• I plan to write an obnoxious email to my work colleague

• I plan to walk past people in the street because I am concentrating on my phone

They may not be our goals but certainly this can be how our day ends up. If the way we occupy our time is in fact therapeutic, how do you think this therapy will work for you?

When we consider our time as therapy it perhaps lends itself to us setting goals as we would for any other type of therapeutic intervention. Your physiotherapist does not randomly intervene without a goal or setting milestones for treatment. So when you are looking at your time, maybe you can look at setting up goals using the SMART criteria.

Specific – if you want to address your time on social media, set a time limit. E.g. I don’t want to spend any more than one hour on social media for the day.

Measurable – if you feel like you continue to get distracted when working by checking emails, use an app that blocks you from checking emails for an hour.

Achievable – don’t go from zero to hero, take small steps toward your goals.

Realistic – understanding that you may need to access your phone continuously during the day at work but when you get home you turn it off at 8pm.

Time based – set different goals for the week each Sunday and review your progress again on Saturday.

In a world where there are so many distractions and so many competing demands, it has never been more important to focus on how we occupy our time. The therapeutic value of our occupation and the power we have to set goals, make changes and thrive!

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