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The Happy Nurse: Find time for fun


Claire Westwood, Nursing Times’ Happy Nurse, tells you how to make time to enjoy your life away from work.

Happy Nurses provide life coaching tips to make help you get the best out of your career.

Happy Nurses provide life coaching tips to make help you get the best out of your career.

Following last month’s introduction to the ‘wheel of life’ some of you are probably wanting to find some more time to have fun – especially with the summer holidays looming!

To start the process, you will need to free up some time for reading, setting your weekly targets, and carrying out your actions. The good news is that you will add in extra activities that you will enjoy! You can also cut out some of the ones you don’t really like too.

Let’s look at how you can do it:

How much free time do you have? Do you always feel rushed, and short of time? Do you spend time doing things you really love, as well as the necessities of life?

How much time do you spend at work? Doing chores? Childcare?

How much on Learning? Fun? Sleep? Life planning? Helping others?

Do you spend time looking for items you have mislaid?

Do you waste time, because you have too little that interests you?

Start to look at how you spend your time. Keep a record for a week of what you do each day. You can get more done with better organisation.

Three top tips for making better use of your time are

  1. Stop watching TV
  2. Stop reading daily newspapers
  3. Give up alcohol

These 3 alone could free up 3 hours a night or 21 a week – imagine what you could do with that time!

TV - If you are thinking “ But what would I do without my soap operas?” maybe you should take action, and find out. Instead of watching TV you can meet friends, play with your children, de-clutter a cupboard, spend time with your partner talking, read an inspiring book, go to the gym, a dance class, phone friends or family, write a book, plan your future goals, learn how to invest your money………..what would you do?

You will cut a lot of negativity from your life by choosing not to read the latest news about war, disaster, death, terrorism, scandals and potential threats to your security. It is not important to know about all the disasters in the world. This is especially true if you watch TV news just before you try to sleep. You will gain peace of mind as well as time. Read about positive things that are happening in the world to give you a balanced view.

Alcohol - if you are in the habit of drinking every night, or overdoing it regularly, then cut down or stop completely for a while. Instead of waking up feeling hungover, hungry or sick and tired, you can start the day with energy, a clear head, and more patience with those around you.

‘It’s easier said than done’ I can hear you thinking. Yes it is, but worth doing, so ask a good question:

‘How can I use my time better? What are my real priorities?’ 

Then really think about the answer - ask the question over and over and write everything down, no matter how odd it first appears, the nuggets of wisdom will come if you keep asking yourself.

Make your own life as important to you as the fictional lives or ‘reality’ that you watch on TV, or read about in gossip magazines.

Perhaps you really do try to fit in more than you can physically and emotionally do, so look at your priorities, cancel some activities, learn to say ‘no’ to people and plans you do not want to do, and book some ‘down time’ as well. Some of the best ideas and plans will come to you when you are just ‘being’.

Plan your time

I use an A5 spiral bound note book for my life planning, and one for each project that I have on the go. In these I write my thoughts, things I have learned and read, as well as my weekly and longer term goals and actions. I look at my plan each Sunday and work out exactly when I can get the actions done. If I go for several weeks without finishing a project it is either because I don’t really want to, so I leave it, or I am resisting it so I make sure I have someone to be accountable to. A coach is great for this, or you could use a friend and be accountable to each other.

This works for me but you may need to experiment with a system for you. Keep asking:

‘How can I use my time better?What are my real priorities?

Lots of small actions add up, so keep going, and keep revising your plan. Don’t give up if you feel it is ‘not working’, but try something new and adapt it every week if you have to. Spend time looking at what works for you, and keep going until you have a system that works effectively and that you enjoy using.

Case Study: Using time better

Jane, 34, was fed up, feeling that she was wasting her weekends. She and her partner Adam worked hard during the week, and felt they had to relax at the weekend. However, this often meant Friday nights were spent drinking too much wine. As a result on Saturday mornings they felt tired, and loafed around all afternoon. They usually went out somewhere in the evening, often drinking again, so their Sunday started in a similar way with a few chores thrown in. The weekend seemed to slip away and soon it was time for work again on Monday.

I asked her what she would like from a weekend, and what would be the most different to her working week. She identified that it would be a holiday. I asked her to close her eyes and tell me what words, ideas or phrases summed up a holiday for her.

They were:

  • Travel, going somewhere new.
  • Visiting the coast, or water.
  • Taking photos.
  • Going to a museum, gallery or church, that she had never been to.
  • Being out all day, feeling tired and exhilarated at the end of the day.
  • Feeling like a child, having fun, larking about.

I asked her whether these were activities she could do at the weekend, and she said they were. She decided that on each weekend at least one of the days would be a ‘holiday extravaganza’! It sounded a lot more positive than how she spent her current weekend. Together we highlighted the importance of making plans in advance, as otherwise her weekend tended to drift.

Eight weeks on, her quality of life is now much better. She has had several days and weekends away over the summer, and these changes have also motivated her to join a photography evening class, and write a list of ‘40 things to do before I am 40’.

You too can make plans, book tickets, involve everyone, and have a 24 hour ‘holiday extravaganza’ every week. Add in some specific times for fun, challenge and excitement – these make life worth living! Know what these words mean for you!

How and where do you get excitement and challenges? Do you do new and exciting activities regularly? When was the last time you really challenged yourself physically, emotionally or intellectually?

My idea of excitement and challenge has changed considerably over the last few years.

The phrase ‘That’s the scariest thing I have ever done…..’ now only covers activities more frightening than: walking on hot coals, skydiving, flying to a foreign country alone, speed dating, putting on an improvisation show when I had no idea what I was going to be asked to do in the next 2 seconds…..oh, and moving to a town where I knew no-one and launching my happynurses coaching business.

Confidence only comes after the event, and challenging yourself can be a great boost. What have you always wanted to try? Salsa dancing? A balloon flight? Going to the cinema alone? Going on a blind date? A parachute jump? Joining a book group? Acting on stage? Writing a film script? Asking out that woman you saw in the bar? It could be anything. Set it as a goal and take the first step….. Hobbies, sports, playing games, hugging your children, making models, watching comedy programmes, sex, travel - if you find it fun, then it is!

Follow the happynurses STAR coaching plan:


Situation and self awareness

Think about how much ‘free’ time there is in your life at the moment.

How much TV do you watch, without really enjoying it?

How could you use your time better? How could you organise your ‘life maintenance jobs’ into a shorter time?

How could you have a 24 hour ‘holiday extravaganza’ every week?

What have you discovered from these questions?


Target - time specific

What exactly do you want? When can you fit tasks/ fun/ relaxation/ fitness in?

How could you use your time the best?

What would you like to get done that you can’t fit in at present?

What would be the benefits of being better organised. Make them vivid in your mind.


Action - possible and actual

List all the ideas you can think of, enlist friends or a coach to help you.

Look at all your options. Spend a week becoming aware of what you do, then analyse it. Know where you really are NOW.

Which actions seem the ‘best’ for you to try?

Which of these are you going to do? Keep your activity diary every day while you alter your plans.

What one action can you do TODAY to move closer to your target? DO IT!

When are you going to do your others? Be specific - day, time, location.

Plan to do small actions initially.


Reflection on your results

What worked well?

What did you enjoy?

What was difficult, but rewarding?

What did not work?

Why was that?

Was it up to you, or others?


Start a new week with more information, and edit your organisation plan so it suits you better. Keep a record of your achievements and difficulties, then follow the STAR system for another week.

Repeat until your organisation is excellent - keep going, as it might take some time, but will be worth it. Start to grow through challenging yourself and feeling happier by having more fun - whatever that means for you!


Claire Westwood is a qualified nurse and Results Coach. Visit for 21 free happiness tips or click here to buy her book!

Claire is holding a ‘Happy Hour’ audio show on this topic on July 14th at 20.00. To take part click here and find some inspiration over the phone or computer while at home:

Event:  Find time for YOUR fun and adventure

Date and Time: Tuesday, July 21st at 8:00pm GMT/UTC

Format: Attend via Phone or Webcast — it’s your choice



Readers' comments (5)

  • can you say patronising much?

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  • There's actually some good tips here, but I completely disagree with the idea that we shouldn't read/watch the news.

    Nurses are politically ignorant enough as it is, without being encouraged any further.

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  • Most of the Nurses I know are way too tired after covering extra shifts for absent colleagues because of staffing shortages and Government HEAT targets to even have a social life let alone explore getting the most out of one.

    Thanks for the advioce though Claire. When I get a life I'll try it.

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  • Some good ideas here - I just need to be more organised and then I can change the way I do things!

    I strongly disagree however with the view that we should cut ourselves off from the rest of the world. There are a lot of disasterous happenings in the world - and some of them continue because we do nothing.

    However there are things we CAN do and maybe that we SHOULD do that will improve the lot of those who have nothing.
    [such as sign the One Million Campaign to support breastfeeding practices around the world ]

    Surely helping others is more important than just making sure we're happy and can be a way to finding peace too...

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  • Give me a break

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