Time is tricky. You can't slow it down or hurry it along, and I often feel as if I have either too much or too little of it -- sometimes even within the same day. Lets face it: we're all busy. Nobody is immune to time crunches.
Given this, I'm always on the lookout for ways to make the most of my time. Here are some tips that have worked for me.
1) Make lists. Whether it's entered into your phone, written in a notebook, or scribbled on the back of a napkin, I'm a firm believer in lists. I keep multiple to-do lists going at once, in fact: one for work, one for my home life, and one for writing and blogging ideas.
Lists keep me on task, remind me of deadlines, and help me to prioritize. Plus, there's a great sense of satisfaction when you can cross off an item.
2) Set the timer. At the end of most days, my kitchen and family room look like they've exploded. Those rooms are where we spend most of our time, and it shows. My husband works most evenings, and I've gotten in the habit of enlisting my kids (ages 7, 4, and 2) to help clean up our end-of-the-day mess. We set the microwave timer for a reasonable amount of time (5-10 minutes) and race the clock.
Before you think, "Her kids must not be typical kids," know this: they are. They're kids who find a Sharpie maker and paint their toenails with it. They're kids who balk at chores. They're kids who have thrown themselves prostrate on the floor because it's "too much work" to pick up a fallen crayon. They're typical.
Still, I've discovered that even typical kids can learn to contribute and work as a team. I delegate small tasks -- you take care of books, you pick up the puzzles, you clean up all the animals. Inevitably, I find myself singing the Wonder Pets theme song, "And when we work together, we get the job done."
And, interestingly enough, we do.
This timer technique works for me, too. When I'm procrastinating on a chore, I'll give myself ten minutes. Within that amount of time, I often either knock it out or gain enough momentum that it no longer seems hard to finish.
3) Be a "night before" person. If you've ever found yourself scrambling to wrap a birthday present five minutes before you leave the house for a party you've known about for two weeks, this tip is for you. (Which means it's for me.) Before you go to sleep each night, consider if there's anything that you can do to give yourself a jump-start on the next day.
Do you need to take meat out of the freezer? Sign a permission slip? Transfer the clothes from the washer to the dryer? Get your work bag in order? Charge your cell phone? If so, complete these tasks the night before. The next day your current self will be patting your past self on the back, and you'll be so pleased that you'll make a mental note for your future self to keep it up.
(Yes, I divide myself according to tense. Tell me I'm not the only one who's ever thought this way.)
4) Assess time realistically. Does it take you 20 minutes to get your kids in their shoes and jackets and get out the door? Accept that. Don't leave yourself 10 minutes for the job if 20 minutes are required.
5) Schedule rest. I remember reading an article by Geneen Roth about how she once watched Pride and Prejudice (the Colin Firth rendition) while working. With her attention split, she attuned fully to neither. Her work took longer. Perhaps even worse, when Mr. Darcy announced that his "affections and wishes" were unchanged during THE proposal she realized that she hadn't relished the movie, either.
Multitasking can come at a cost. Work hard when it's time to work, but let yourself rest fully when it's time to rest.
6) Enjoy these days. Time is a commodity. We're given an allotment each day, and we need to spend it all. Let's enjoy these days, even the mundane ones. We only get to live them once.
What tips do you have for making the most of your time?
Thanks for joining me during the Making the Most series!