Time. It's like money, and that's exactly how we talk about it: how we spend it, how we save it, and why we never seem to have enough of it. Time is also like food. It's how you feed the human-animal bond to make it stronger.
Every day, studies demonstrate that a stronger bond makes you and your pet physically and emotionally healthier. Unfortunately, time is under a lot of pressure these days – obligations of school, work, daily chores and our social network all rob us of this commodity.
Timing is Everything
Before bringing home any pet, you should measure how much time you can devote to that particular companion animal, be it dog, cat, ferret, bird, reptile, or what have you. If you manage your time correctly, you should be able to take care of the physical needs and still be able to spend "quality time" that you both can appreciate.
Here are three ways you can better manage your time:
Know how long tasks take to complete
This means being realistic. For instance, a 15-minute coffee break can take 40 minutes if you drive 10 minutes to your favorite coffee shop, wait in line, then drive 10 minutes back to the office. Your "break" has now put you behind the eight ball, and you have to work harder to get your job done.
The same principal applies at home. If you decide to clean the closet before taking Scruffy to the park, you may find yourself immersed in a task that for most people takes hours to complete. You and your dog may not make it to the park.
If you tend to be late and find yourself playing catch up all the time, you're probably underestimating how long it takes you to complete a task, get ready for the day, drive to a particular place, etc. The first step to improving the situation is to find out how long various activities take.
Time yourself. Before cleaning that closet, check the clock. When you finish, check it again. Do the same when you get up in the morning. From the time you get to the bathroom to the moment you're in the car, ready to go to work, how long did it take? Time yourself how long it takes to drive to work and get ready for the day's challenges.
Concentrate on those areas where you seem to be chronically behind. What chore prevents you from playing with your cat? How long does it take, and when do you get a start on it? You may need to rearrange your schedule, which means re-prioritizing tasks.
Use small amounts of time more efficiently
If you added up all the time spent waiting in line or on hold, you'd realize how the moments of your life slip away. Use this normally wasted dead-time to your advantage.
Besides the cordless phone, the VCR is another great invention that can save you time. If you have only a few hours in the evening and there's a program you must watch, record it. Spend the free time with Fido and watch your show later.
Stay focused on your goals
Let's go back to the example of your messy closet. If you decide that you're going to clean it once and for all, then do it! Don't let yourself get distracted by some of the interesting things that you uncover. Lack of focus and constant interruptions are two of the greatest thieves of time.
This also applies across the spectrum of your life. At work, it is helpful to organize your day into blocks of time dedicated to specific tasks. The object is to finish or substantially finish one project before jumping to another. Not only will you get more done, but you will minimize errors because you're focused on that one task.
It's important to take this approach with other important parts of your life, such as pets. Block out time to specifically spend with your dog or cat, be it an hour, 2 hours or more. Let nothing – except very extraordinary circumstances – come between you and this regular schedule.
If you decide that each day you will spend 2 hours playing with your dog, work your schedule around those 2 hours. You'll discover that you and your pet will soon look forward to that magical time when everything else is put aside. Your pet will especially appreciate having a routine to look forward to.
It's like anything else – if something is important enough, you make time for it.