10 ways to use my time better in 2014

photo-107I’ve been thinking about how to best spend my time for a while. Still, there are always things I can improve. Or I can take my own advice! Here are some tweaks I plan to implement in the coming year.  

1. I will get out of the house more often. It’s good to meet people. I’m always tempted not to, since it takes time to get myself ready and go someplace, but such meetings often spark new ideas. It’s OK to be inefficient sometimes. Maybe 1-2 times per week. I think that might help me take more steps as well, and I seem to be doing a lot of sitting these days.

2. I will start setting an alarm. I realize that new blog readers — especially those who came here due to the What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast juggernaut (it hit #1 on iTunes for business books again this week!) — are going “huh?” I am not a morning person. I work from home, which means I don’t have to start a commute at a particular time, and I also have 3 small children. Up until now, someone was inevitably up at 6:30 or so. Alarms have not been necessary. But all this is changing. They are sleeping in sometimes. 7:30! And it’s kind of embarrassing to still be in my pajamas when the babysitter shows up at 8. So — I will start my mornings intentionally. I may even be able to implement a morning routine, like those I write about!

3. I will make a new “bits of joy” list, and a new “list of 100 dreams” that reflects my current life. Both lists will help me figure out what I want to spend my time doing. I realized the other day, as I was reminiscing about a little used book store in Muncie, Indiana, that “browse used book stores” should go on my bits of joy list. Now I need to find one around here.

4. I will read before bed. I will go to the library (or used bookstore) at least every week or two so I have good material to read. I’ve been working through some old New Yorkers, and it’s been great, as long as I avoid the political pieces.

5. I will devote time each week to novel writing. I’m finishing up revisions of the current project over the next few weeks, and then it will be time to start the next. Novels just take time to prepare and cook, so the earlier I start, the more time I have to let my characters marinate.

6. I will make a running list of personal projects (e.g. buy a chair for the guest room) and tackle one per week so they don’t feel oppressive.

7. I will take healthy work breaks: biking once the weather gets nicer, prepping veggies to roast them for snacks. Taking intentional breaks is better than the unintentional ones that have me checking Twitter (again).

8. I will continue to protect my most productive writing time (8-10 a.m.) for actual writing. I will not sit down at my desk at 8 a.m. without knowing what I should be writing during that stretch.

9. I will keep the phone off for stretches of time on weekends.

10. I will work on planning my weekday evenings — my Achilles heel of time management. It’s easiest to putter and let the kids watch TV. That’s fine some days but not every day. I may take them out to eat one night a week, and there’s the library, or local sports games, or the playground once it gets lighter and the weather gets warmer. The key is planning ahead.

How will you use your time better in 2014?

Photo of the reading nook, which should be used…



19 Responses to 10 ways to use my time better in 2014


  1. Calee says:

    Organized kids activities (for us ballet & chorus) make sure that 2 weekday evenings are more exciting than they could be. I’d hate to be out every night (and so are wondering what we’ll do when the 3 year old realizes he’s old enough for t-ball) but it’s a nice way to break up the week.

    As for managing time, I’m looking into to assigning certain tasks to a specific day. I need to allocate more working hours to uninterrupted time and I think that by calendaring it in, I might be more successful.

    • Laura says:

      @Calee- I definitely try to engineer uninterrupted work time. I’ll try to put phone calls back to back on one day, and then create completely open days when I can. I especially like open days when I’m near the end of a project. I find those focused hours help me really dig in and get it done. It feels kind of like a heady all-nighter in college…but with sleep!

  2. Linda M says:

    I’m an empty nester and I agree with number 10. I tend to waste my weekday evenings because I’m tired but there is so many projects I could be doing that I put off until the weekend.

    • Laura says:

      @Linda M – they really are hard to use well, most likely because we’re all tired. But it winds up being a serious amount of time.

  3. ARC says:

    I love this list – what great suggestions. Is your ‘bits of joy’ list things that you enjoy doing so you remember what lifts your spirits, or things that you did that you want to remember? (trying to figure out whether it’s suggestions or a journal kind of thing).

    I feel positively slothlike that 7:30 is sleeping in for you :) My kids get up between 7 and 7:30am and I know I should be grateful it’s not 5am, but EVERY morning I think it’s too early. I am hardwired to be a night owl and maybe fixing that is something I should do in 2014.

    Anyway, thanks for the ideas!

    • Laura says:

      @ARC – the bits of joy list is a list of things I like to do that take small amounts of time. The idea is to use “bits of time for bits of joy.” We often wind up with bits of time that are hard to use well. Making a list of things you can do that you enjoy helps call these things to the top of mind. That way, when I have 10 minutes, I’m more likely to read a poem than stand there mindlessly checking my email.

  4. Brian Matthys says:

    The “Sunday Night Blues” are a huge time waste. No matter how much you love your job, it is hard to overcome. If we find a cure for that, we would really have something!

    • Laura says:

      @Brian – I agree that Sunday afternoons/evenings are often lost time. It’s all mental — you still have many hours of weekend left at that point!

  5. Katherine says:

    Less facebook.

    I don’t even think I need to have any other ideas listed, because that one will free up an embarrassing amount of time on a weekly basis.

    • ARC says:

      Oh yeah, you and me both. I’m starting by deleting the app on my phone.

  6. Ana says:

    I like the “bits of joy” idea and agree with #10. they both boil down to being more intentional with free time. Yesterday we were home all day and I noticed that when I did have a few minutes when the kids were occupied I would check facebook or email yet again. I’m not big on poetry, but finding other little things to do with those 5-10 minutes is such a good idea!
    #10 is one I’ve struggled with for years, often almost getting into a habit of using weekday evenings for productive tasks and then falling out of the habit again when I get tired. By 8pm I am usually DONE. But yet I stay up for a couple more hours wasting time on the internet or TV (I’ve been reading a LOT more, but the default is often still internet/TV). I could definitely use that time better or simply go to bed earlier. that’s TEN extra hours a week!!

  7. I need to stop using dh’s ipad. It lets me hit reload on the internet (my big time waste) but it is a pita to do anything useful on.

  8. Looks like 2014 is going to be very productive for you!

    I plan on chunking up my time in 50 minutes of work, followed of 10 minutes of relaxation / physical activity. This has worked wonders in the past so I plan on making it part of my daily routine.

  9. I will read less. A weird one, I know, but I’ve been using reading as a crutch when I don’t know what else to do. I need to start filling some of those bits of time with more interesting/challenging things!

  10. i hope you share the bits of joy list :)

    i have pretty much given up on weekday evenings for this stage of life BUT — like many of your posts — this gives me hope that someday they’ll return.

    also, removing facebook from my phone = best move of the year thus far :)

  11. I like your idea about a running list of household projects. We have some that have been put off for an embarrassing amount of time! Surely I can handle 1 per week.

    • Laura says:

      @Sarah – yes, I can handle one big one a week. I’ll also add in like 2 little ones just to knock ‘em off.

  12. Strugglingforeverafter says:

    My solution for #10 was to set a no tv rule for Mon thru Thursday… So even if we don’t plan something the kids get good free play theme together (they are in school/daycare) and I Am not tempted to turn on the Tv….

  13. Nikit says:

    Thanks for the list – I love number 3 and am going to adopt it. First visit here and will be back again.