This past weekend I accompanied my son to a chess tournament that was held at a local elementary school, and if you have had the pleasure of attending such an event you know that a chess tourney means lots of downtime for the parent. Because unlike a sporting event where you watch your child and cheer them on while they play…. at a chess tournament parents are not allowed to watch the matches- even from afar. So your main role is to help your child find their name on the roster and figure out whom they are playing next and at which board, walk them to their table, and remind them to shake their opponents hand before and after the match. Then the parent leaves the room, and returns to the school cafeteria or gym where they will hang out for the next 30-45 minutes while the matches take place… and often the parents are waiting in a room without WiFi (I know! The horror!)
Since I knew that I would have all of this free time- I came prepared with lots to do! I brought along 3 weeks worth of coupons that I hadn't had a chance to clip, and my coupon binders which needed to be cleaned of all expired coupons and then filled with my newly clipped coupons. Before leaving for the tournament, I hooked my camera up to my computer and uploaded all of the photos that we had taken on vacation and at our last birthday party. After I finished with the coupon binders, and continued to wait in the cafeteria, I watched a slideshow of all of these pictures so I that I could choose which ones I wanted to upload to Shutterfly and order prints, and which ones I wanted to upload to Ceiva to share with our relatives. And I was also prepared to spend some time working on future blog posts- but unfortunately I ran out of time and didn't get all of that done.
The Moms that I shared a table with in the cafeteria were amazed that I brought along so much to do- and they asked me lots of questions about how I coupon and how I stay organized and how I keep on top of our large family. So I happily passed out business cards for this blog…. and afterwards I reflected on how I do tend to think ahead and find pockets in my day that allow me to get more accomplished. While I definitely do not think that every spare minute of each day should be filled to capacity- it is nice to know that you can find some snippets of time here and there to get “a little more done”.
1. Get up 30 minutes earlier
Some people are natural night owls (I happen to be married to one) and can stay up late getting work done, writing blog posts, etc. I personally find that my creative well is empty after 10pm and I am much better off getting a good night's sleep than trying to accomplish “just one more thing”. But if I set my alarm for 30 minutes earlier than usual, and use that time to get something simple and fairly mindless off of my to-do list for the day, I open up time later in the day when I can tackle something more meaningful. Good candidates for activities during that early morning time period for me include folding laundry, cleaning up the kitchen, packing the kids lunches and backpacks, etc. And I find that sipping a cup of hot tea while doing any of the above just makes that early morning time more enjoyable.
2. Keep one complete to-do list
If you are living with little sticky notes all over the place, and a huge email in-box that is overflowing with information that you need to sort through- you will end up spending time on deciding what needs to be done next. And re-reading notes and emails that you have already read once, but weren't ready to deal with. But if you keep one master to-do list, broken up into sections for things that you need to do immediately, this week, this month, or eventually- you will have a guide map to direct you on exactly what task or project should be “next up” on your priority list. I personally use Evernote as my go-to resource for keeping a complete to-do list. I also found the program called Mind Organization for Moms to be incredibly helpful in showing me how to get all of my paperwork and email inbox organized so that I am not re-reading and re-processing information over and over.
3. Each morning, highlight a few things on your to-do list that you can do in 5-10 minutes
I know that there are several small pockets of time throughout my day… usually while I am waiting for a school bus to arrive or even while I am cooking dinner, when I might have 5-10 minutes with “nothing to do”. These little time pockets are great for things like addressing your child's birthday party thank you notes, sending a few emails, making appointments, or returning a phone call. If I have these items highlighted on my to-do list- I can quickly grab that little item as I am headed out the door to the bus stop, and complete it easily while I am waiting.
4. Spend your time intentionally
Everyone needs some amount of total down-time where they can “veg out”. But if you find that you get sucked right into a 3 hours CSI marathon when you really had no intention of watching it…. then ask yourself if there are better things that you can do with that time- that would make you feel more fulfilled. My husband loves to watch TV in the evening as a way to wind down from his busy day…. and I find that I can let a good hour or two go by before I even realize that I let it happen. Now when he puts the TV on, I ask myself whether or not I intend to watch with him, and if not, then I pull out my book or whatever it is that I intend to do… and do it!
5. Take a look at where you are wasting time and what you can schedule or eliminate
We all engage in time wasters…. checking email for the 57th time that day, running out to Facebook or Twitter just to see what's going on, etc. Sometimes our time waster is over-volunteering or spending too much time gossiping with friends. I have found that I can find huge pockets in my day by scheduling these things…. such as limiting myself to only checking email three times a day, and only reading from my Google Reader after my blog posts are done! I have also re-examined all of the areas where I volunteer my time, and check-in to see whether or not these things are enhancing my life, or adding stress to it. There have certainly been occasions when the right decision for me was to give up some of my volunteer work.
What do you think? Can you put into practice some of these ideas to create more time in your day?