In working to maximize each day, I’ve found that the biggest factor in achieving that goal is capturing what I call lost time. By lost, I mean those blocks of time between things where you’re either standing around waiting for something or where you’ve allotted more time for something than you need, so end up just finding something to fill that time. When these times are and their length is different for each person, but we all have them. Capturing those times and making the most of them can be the difference between a super productive day and a day when you go to bed feeling insurmountably behind.
For me, my biggest chunk of “Lost Time” is my lunch hour. I have one hour for lunch each day, and because I only work five minutes from my house, I am able to go home each day for lunch. Thankfully, it doesn’t take me fifty minutes to each my lunch, so I capture that time and try to get as much piddly stuff done as I can. Here is a sample of what my lunch hour looks like:
1-1:05 PM Drive home
1:05-1:10 PM Wipe down bathroom sink, tidy up bedroom, make bed (if not done earlier that morning), put away clean clothes, etc.
1:10-1:15 Pick out daughter’s clothes and pack day care bag for next day
1:15-1:35 Put away clean dishes, put dirty breakfast dishes in dishwasher, wash bottles, wipe down kitchen counters, fill water bottles, take out recycling
1:35-1:40 Pick up and sort mail
1:40-1:55 EAT LUNCH! (Sometimes I multi-task and respond to emails while I’m eating)
1:55-2 PM Drive back to work
There are a number of tricks that really help to maximize lost time.
1. Identify it! This may be the hardest step for some people. We all feel like we’re going full speed every minute of every day. Finding this time requires being objective and critically examining how we spend our time each day. It may be helpful to keep track each day of what you do. Once you start tracking these things, you may see little gaps emerge.
2. Make a conscious decision to seize it. Almost every day when I come home for lunch, I can hear my couch saying ‘Come lay down on me. I’m sooo cozy.’. But I know that if I take the next 35 minutes to get a bunch of small tasks crossed off my list, my evening will go so much smoother, and if I’m really lucky, I’ll have even more time to relax on that couch later – and my husband and daughter will probably join me! That being said, there are days when I listen to that voice and just relax. We all need that once in a while too.
3. Focus on the little tasks. Notice that I don’t do anything that takes a long time. Putting away clean dishes is the biggest job I’ll do over my lunch hour. The point is to get as much of the “clutter-y” type tasks (those little to-do’s that just seem to clutter up your to-do lists) out of the way.
4. Be efficient. There’s a reason that I do those things in the order that I do. Our bedroom and bathroom are on one end of the house. I start on that end and make my way to the other end. This minimizes extra trips.
5. Match the frequency of the chunks of lost time with the occurrence of the task. You’ll notice that most of the things that I do over my lunch hour are daily chores. That’s because I have that chunk of time each day. If you have one hour every Tuesday between two kids’ events, fill that time with something that you need to do each week such as grocery shopping or running errands.
It is amazing to me how much difference it makes if I am able to get things done over my lunch hour. When I walk through the door each night, I don’t see dishes piled up in the sink or have to walk around the basket of folded clothes on the floor to get to where my two favorite people are playing. I walk over to them and get big squeezes, and I am able to enjoy it and not be distracted by all the little things that need to get done before I can cook them supper. I get all that stuff done earlier in the day so that I can spend my time doing what I love most – enjoying my family and soaking up the time I have with them.