For years, I was lost in a whirlwind of work, kid’s activities, school obligations, and household chores. It seemed there were not enough minutes in the day to accomplish everything on my to-do list.
I started falling behind on some little, yet important, tasks such as cleaning the shower, clipping the cat’s claws, and purging old food from the refrigerator.
I complained about my lack of time one day when a friend recommended Laura Vanderkam’s book, 168 hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. Vanderkam is a time-management and productivity expert, and this book has some great insights. One suggestion I use daily is dividing my to-do list into ten and thirty-minute segments.
Throughout our day, there are pockets of time that are wasted because we don’t think it is long enough to complete a task. For example, I often have extra time in the car while waiting to pick up a child from an activity. There are pockets of time when dinner is cooking in the oven, while waiting for an appointment, or the few minutes just before you walk out the door for work.
Previously, I used this time to scroll through my phone or wander around the house— it was valuable time that I was wasting because I did not know what else to do with it.
Then, I tried Vanderkam's advice and created a to-do list that included both ten and thirty-minute options.
I now had a plan for filling short bits of time with productive pursuits. I could respond to an email, make a dental appointment or write a grocery list in under ten minutes.
By using these small chunks of available time, it freed up larger blocks later in the day or week for more time-intensive pursuits.
This technique is especially helpful during the holidays when we seem to be even more pressed for time. Here are some examples of tasks I include in my 10-minute column during the holiday season.
- Write a Christmas card
- Schedule a bill
- Do 20 push-ups
- Respond to an email
- Wrap one gift
- Write in my journal
I also make a list of 30-minute tasks for those occasions when I have a little more time, but still not a large block of uninterrupted time. I no longer waste it trying to think of what I should do — I simply check the list and get busy.
Some of my 30-minute tasks include:
- Fold clothes
- Read a chapter in my book ( I like to read Christmas books this time of year)
- Change the sheets on the beds
- Call my mom
- Scrub the bathroom
- Plan a holiday meal and make a grocery list
- Enjoy a cup of hot chocolate
Don’t get me wrong - I can waste time with the best of you. However, when I want to be productive, and I have a plan for making that happen, I’m far more successful.
By getting small, necessary tasks done during pockets of unexpected time, I create more opportunities for leisure later, and that is important to me. It allows me more time to watch my favorite holiday movies.
Time is a valuable commodity!
Please follow me for more articles on healthy living, self-care, and personal growth. This article was originally published on Medium.