Finding Hidden Time

Besides sleep, work, eating 5-6 small meals a day, keeping leaves from blowing in from the front door, wondering if the Giants will make the play-offs and if Rick & Co. are going to be able to keep the exodus of zombies out of Alexandria, getting the most out of everyday is very important to me.  Although I do utilize some apps, I prefer putting pen to paper.  Writing down everything I need to remember to do or be at is second nature.  It can, at times, become overkill as I find myself wondering if I’m bogging myself down rather than streamlining the process.

As I’ve worked out the kinks, I’ve discovered little ways to recover precious time by re-arranging my scheduled tasks.  And up here in the nor’east – with daylight savings time causing us to ‘fall back’ an hour on November 1st – the days will be getting shorter as dusk will begin to set in around 4:30 in the afternoon.  All the more reason for me to utilize the waning daylight to get as much done as possible.  And because I’m at the office from 8-4pm, I need to carefully schedule my day to encompass everything that needs to get done and insure that I’m as work/chore/errand free as possible when I get home.  Here are some of the changes I’ve made:

Hidden time

The Miracle Morning.  I recently incorporated this system into my morning routine. To date, I have seen visible changes in my productivity – and attitude. I’m actually more aware of the course of my day and being more proactive with meeting my goals. Reciting my daily goals and affirmations make help me to be more accountable in addition to writing them down.

Up By 5:30.  If I’m tricking out my hair that morning (blow dry/style/curling iron) then I need to be up by 6.  If I’m doing a ponytail, I can milk it in bed until 7 (that’s pushing it).  But I’m usually in bed between 9-9:30.  I’m getting more than enough sleep so there was no reason for me to lay in bed when I could use that time more productively.   I’m a morning person, so I’m good with this.  I set my alarm for 5:30 then use 30 minutes to check emails (I don’t have many after hours/overnight so it takes less than five minutes), skim the news tiles, feeds and timelines before reading the next chapter of scripture (currently studying Ezekiel). I’m then out of bed by 6 to do (2) of 25 of____ (see below) then get ready while reflecting upon what I had read. From 6:30 – 7am I’ll pack my lunch bag (see below on that as well), empty dishwasher, fold clothes in dryer (if applicable).  By 7 I’m ready to sit down in the office to do my scripture study. And since I already read and reflected on it, as well as checked my feeds/emails, I don’t have to re-read or be tempted to go online.

Exercise.  I aim to workout 3-4 times a week after I get home from the office.  But if it’s a new month and I have bookkeeping client work scheduled or something unexpected comes up and I have to stay late at work, then another part of TMM system is to incorporate exercise.  After getting up at 6am, I do 25 reps of______ (push-ups, crunches, leg lifts, squats, burpees).  One day it was pushups and squats. Another was pushups and leg lifts.  I also sneak in walking wherever possible throughout the day.  There are two banks we use that are near the office that I’ll walk to if the weather permits, park my car the farthest from the entrance and take the stairs instead of the escalator.  I even walk up the escalator.  Kinda defeats the purpose, eh? In the event I can’t do my scheduled after-work workout, I at least know I was able to sneak in some sort of physical activity.

Maximizing My Lunch Hour  I get an hour for lunch and  – one of my TMM daily affirmations – is to make sure I take it – everyday.  I even write it down in my work journal and set a Google alarm to go off as well.  Gone are the days of working lunches, especially with the recent changes here at my job.  I bring my lunch everyday and even have a stash of stuff I keep in our office cupboards and fridge in case I forget.  Since I leave at 4pm, I aim to eat my lunch at my desk around 1pm (while still working) then get up and out around 1:30.  This is where the meat of my tasks get handled.  Fortunately, where I work, I have the following within a mile of each other:  Stop & Shop, Big Y, 2 of our banks, CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, post office, bakery, Goodwill,  Home Depot.  Needless to say, I can REALLY maximize my lunch hour – Make a deposit, pick up rolls at the bakery, bottle returns, Goodwill drop-offs, stop in at Home Depot to pick up another pot of mums, purchase stamps at the post office, have a quick phone meeting with a client.  If I don’t have any ‘outside’ errands to run, then I still take my full hour at my desk.  I’ll go through my coupon binder and pull out any expired ones, run off some new ones online, make phone calls, do my company bookkeeping (I have QuickBooks Online so I can do it from anywhere).  Wednesday night is my scheduled night to pay bills, but I’ve even alleviated myself of that by bringing the checkbooks and bills to work with me to tackle at my desk.

Task Grouping:  Grouping tasks with appointments or other errands in the same vicinity is another time saver.  A prime example is the one I gave above with my lunch hour errands.  The same rule applies when I have tasks/errands that are out of my way.   Example:  I have a Staples coupon that expires on a certain day.  I don’t have a Staples near me, but I pass right by one after my every-third-week manicure appointment.  I see when my next appointment is that’s right before the expiration date and write in a ‘Staples –>Batteries —> Use coupon’ task for that same day.   I have a bookkeeping client who’s about 20 minutes south of me that I visit every two months to pick up stationery to print her invoicing on.  She’s right near a shoe outlet and I need a new pair of flats and black boots so I slot in to stop in there on my way back.  My optometrist and car dealership are three towns over and near each other so I try to schedule my 6 month check-up with my scheduled oil change/tire rotation (I don’t travel much so it takes me a while to rack up 3,000 miles).  Bonus – there’s a car wash and grocery store down the road so I can swing in for a quick wash and shopping trip.  NOTE:  These are mainly for tasks that are not time sensitive.

Time Blocks.  This is how a typical day would go:  Log into QB, post bills, remember I have an eggplant about to rot and need an interesting recipe so I log into Pinterest for a recipe.  Then back to work to reconcile the bank statement which reminds me that I have to do a bank transfer to cover the mortgage debit so I log into our bank account and take care of that.  Then back to job stuff when I remember that I hadn’t cleaned out the email account I set up just for coupons and rewards so I stop, log in and delete any junk.  What I thought was multi-tasking was turning out to be my major loss of focus.  I looked at my planner to see what needs to get done that’s computer-related (ie: check bank balance, QBO, look up directions, print a recipe, type up titles for draft posts, place an online Staples order, etc.)   I put them on a sticky note and stick it on the cover of my planner which stays on my desk.  I then set boundaries for the day – breaking it up into blocks where I work for a block of time, stop for a 15 min break to try to handle something computer-related on the list, then back to work, then break for lunch where I try to handle anything that remains. I stop around 3:45pm to close everything up to leave at 4pm.  I give everything one last look online before leaving.  Once home, I aim to stay offline and unplugged until I go to bed where I catch up on any articles I saved to my reading list.

Supper Planning:  I never thought this would be something I needed to consider since it’s just hub and myself.  In the past, supper was whatever fell out of the freezer and tossed into the sink to thaw before rushing out the door for the office.  What I’d create with it, well, that was another story.  Having a plan changed all that.  It gave me one less thing to worry about, not to mention cook-free nights.  Since the summer, I’ve been spending a few hours on Sunday cooking anywhere from 2-3 suppers for the week that just have to be microwaved during the week.  The remainder of the week would be a night or two of leftovers and one easy night consisting of burgers on the grill or soup & sandwich.  Plus knowing which nights I didn’t have to spend time prepping and cooking allowed me to schedule client bookkeeping, workout or after-work errands. And even the non-cook nights hub is enlisted to warm up and plate.  This has given me a great peace of mind and a lot more extra time for more important things like watching the latest episode of Nashville On Demand!

Packing Breakfast & Lunch:.  Hub works from home so he takes care of his own.  For me, I need to pack these as I do not want to buy either – even coffee. Part of my Sunday prep is to make a large salad mixed with raw veggies and maybe some chick peas for protein.  I store it in a large, rectangular container so all we have to do is grab a bowlful, maybe add some chicken or turkey and dressing.  In addition to the staples I keep at the office, I now prepare breakfast, lunch and a snack and pack them in containers.  All I have to do is grab them out of the fridge and pack them in my lunch bag the next morning.  We have  Keurig at the office so there’s no reason for me to buy coffee ($2.15/5 days x 52 weeks = ……..$559.00!!!  For coffee!!  I don’t even want to calculate what Starbucks would cost!

Night Prep:  After supper clean-up, I spray down the counters and sink and wipe till their bone dry.  Then I do the floor with the wet Swiffer (which is the best thing since sliced bread!)  I then check the weather for the next day to decide upon an outfit then review my planner for what got accomplished today and then map out what has to get done tomorrow.  Based upon what my tasks are the next day, I pack my tote with anything I may need to get them done (ie: checkbook, coupon binder, docs to return to client, deposit, store returns, etc.)  I have that much extra time in the morning and can leave the house without fear of forgetting something.

Utilizing Stagnant Time:    We’re talking about things you can do while commuting back and forth to work, waiting for a prescription to be filled or (dread of all dreads!) sitting at the DMV for what seems like an eternity waiting for your number to be called.  Listen to podcasts, catch up on blog posts, sort/delete/save any photos on your phone to an online storage app like Dropbox or map out next week’s supper schedule while waiting for your doctor’s appointment.  If at home, I’ll put in a load of wash, empty the dishwasher or begin a grocery list while on hold. Keep a list of non-time sensitive activities you can do during stagnant times.  Or perhaps, you can find something from this list

What are your shortcuts to finding extra time?  Would love to hear from you.

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