10/10/2011 11:19 am ET Updated Dec 08, 2011

Why You Have More Time Than You Think

Ever feel like you need more hours in the day for a bit of "me" time? Well, that personal time may be right in front of you, if you know where to look.

Working Mother recently polled their readers about how much "me time" they get each day, and 50 percent of the women surveyed said they couldn't remember the last time they had any.

Before we take these results at face value, let's examine a flaw in the question itself: There is no universal definition of "me" time. One woman's indulgence may be another woman's chore; for example, I have a friend who hates sitting through manicures because it's time she could be out for a run; for another friend, a sugar scrub and pedicure are the ultimate form of relaxation. Would a third party see both of these activities as necessary acts of self-maintenance and therefore just another thing we have to schedule into our lives?

Even if we arrive at personal definitions of our ideal "me" time, we may be overlooking the ways we are currently spending that time -- the countless little things we fill our time with without thinking that, if harnessed, could translate into more quality time doing what we love most. Laura Vanderkam, responding to the Working Mother poll on BNET, said it best:

I think what's happening is that we tend to view "me-time" as something elaborate and consciously chosen -- like a full day at the spa. For logistical and financial reasons, that's not going to happen for most of us too often. But humans don't function well with no decompression. We sneak it in one way or another ... but because these things aren't planned and consciously chosen or announced to the world, we don't view them as me-time in the way that an afternoon out shopping might be.

What if we decide to recognize the "me" time we do take? In the age where keeping up with Facebook and Twitter have become tasks in and of themselves, we loose sight of the fact that we choose to spend our downtime in certain ways. If you are reading this right now, you are choosing to take a minute or two for yourself and to fill that time with this article. As Vanderkam points out, it's not that we don't have "me" time, it's that it comes in very small increments, sometimes so small that we don't notice we have it, or how we're spending it.

Once we realize that those minutes here and there add up, we can reevaluate how we use it. What can we do to maximize that "me" time and really appreciate it?

The website She Takes On The World recently shared ways to productively spend 15 minutes improving your small business. Building on that, here are five ways to focus on YOU to make those fleeting 15 minute increments of "me" time more meaningful.