Managing Time Transitions

I’m not too big on small time-savers. To me, it’s silly to think about a device that will let you core a pineapple faster if, for instance, you’re in the wrong job or your family members hate each other. Get the big things right first: meaningful work, happy home. Then you can either deal with you inefficient pineapple cutting issue, or not.

That said, though, I’ve been thinking about transitions lately. One of the places we do lose time is when it gets away from us between activities. Add small children to the mix and things can get a little crazier. Just ask my husband about this. On Saturday, I had a conference, so I elected to just leave in the morning (he was planning to take the kids to the zoo and a birthday party in Westchester). We don’t own a car, so he was going to rent one. Of course, we later realized that normally when we go pick up a car from Hertz, there are two of us, so someone can stay with the kids and the car seats, or we can divvy these up, while the other person gets the car. Since I’d left, he had to haul two kids and two car seats down the street to the car rental place. It’s no surprise they forgot the present (and came back for it, thus stretching out the transition to an even more excruciating length). It’s a lot to think through, especially if you are not the party who often thinks through these things on other days.

One good approach for logistics is to arrange your life so you don’t have to think through transitions every single time. For instance, if you have to remember every single morning what you need to walk out the door, you’ll invariably forget things. So move it from a conscious choice to a habit: keys in purse (or in tray by your wallet), cell phone in charger right by the door, kids’ shoes in cubbies in a similar spot. Do not switch purses or computer bags under some misguided notion that fashion dictates it. That’s just asking for trouble.

Likewise, if you’re trying to exercise more, it’s probably worth having bags with exercise clothes/shoes anywhere you might possibly feel like exercising: in your car, in your desk, in a special spot right by your bed so you can roll out and put them on. You never want to let yourself think “Oh, I’d exercise if only I had my shoes!”

We are no longer packing lunches, mercifully. Jasper (almost 4) decided he was willing to eat his preschool lunch, or enough of it to make it to snack time. But when we were, this was the same thing every day: tortilla, fruit cup, box of raisins and cheese stick. Throw one of each in 5 Ziploc bags on Sunday night and pull a lunch out every morning. No thought required. (Yes, I realize it’s incredibly boring to eat the same thing every day, but I was fine with boredom inducing him to eat the school’s hot lunch).

What transitions have you managed to streamline? How much time does that save? The goal is that, if it takes everyone less time to get ready in the morning, you can spend some of that time doing fun stuff: lingering over breakfast, reading or playing together, instead of rushing around like chickens with your heads cut off, or parents whose spouses have walked blithely out the door for their conferences.

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10 thoughts on “Managing Time Transitions

  1. “Do not switch purses or computer bags under some misguided notion that fashion dictates it. That’s just asking for trouble.”
    LOVE IT!! This made me giggle out loud. I carry the same big ol’ brown purse and brown laptop bag to work everyday…..even on the days I am wearing my black shoes and black coat. I even bought one of those “pouchy” things once, thinking it would make it easier to switch out the important things between my purse (wallet, cell phone, etc), bag, etc…….but nope. Didn’t make things any easier than just simply sticking to the same purse every day does.

    Now, if I could just streamline the lunch packing process. My kids daycare does not offer lunch; we pack it and send it every day. They require the following things in each lunch and, if missing, they supplement for your child and send a note home to you (and then you feel really embarrassed, at least I do): 1 protein, 2 fruits/veggies, 1 dairy and 1 starch/grain. Now, as much of a pain as that can be, it is actually one of the reasons we chose that daycare. I love knowing that my kids are getting healthy lunches that I’ve sent for them and not bologna sandwiches twice a week (which seriously was on the menu at one place we toured, and my kids have never even seen bologna). That nutrition, though, is a priority to me, so I make the time to make it happen. I do think I could be better about getting things ready on Sundays for the whole week, because I do spend way too much time each week night getting lunches together.

    We have made mornings leaving for and afternoons coming home from work/daycare easier by creating places in our entryway for everything to go. This is actually still a work in progress, as I am still trying to learn what works best for all of us, but at least as of right now, we all have a certain place to put our shoes, coats, bags and keys. The kids also know to take their lunchbags directly into the kitchen for their dad to unload everything into the sink. OUr routine is far from perfect, and there are still several things that I spend too much time doing, but thanks to your book, Laura, I”ve recognized those things and am slowly working to change them.

    1. @Emily- Thanks! There is nothing more frustrating than being on the way out the door and realizing that neither your wallet nor your keys are in your purse because you decided to take a different purse yesterday.

  2. Once I had a baby and eventually started cooking again, I found a few useful time-saving products:
    1. Jar of minced garlic
    2. Frozen bag of diced onions
    3. Tub of shredded parmesan cheese
    All of these things can be measured and added quickly and with one hand if need be versus trying to prepare the fresh item.

    Another thing we do is always keep the day care access card in the car with the car seat installed rather than let it go into the house in a coat pocket.

  3. Laura, along these lines, you might also consider the topic of task switching and its cost which is similar to the ubiquitous “multi-tasking” but not entirely the same. It is a real problem in software development, my field. Google ‘”task switching” software development’ for some articles. The idea applies to any analytic field.

  4. I “splurged” and spent $3 on water bottles at wal mart and now stock the cars like they were a hotel room — two bottles of water in every vehicle. It is great I always have water in the car — not the best for the environment but much easier than digging for that one water bottle.
    We have only one set of car seats but there is some benefit to having two sets or a set for each car if your cars are big enough (ours aren’t). I put the gym in my home office which has a door and it is very hard to find me when I am in there so I also make sure I have the sneakers socks and workout clothes in there b/c nothing kills a workout but tripping over a toddler or other family member or work obligation.. once I’m in there I don’t leave until workout is done…

    1. @Cara- I like the idea of splurging on little things that make us happy, reminding us that there is abundance in the universe. If bottled water makes you happy, why be stingy on it? Martha Beck wrote something about this (possibly in Finding Your Own North Star) – buying lots and lots of good chocolate if you like it (you wind up gaining less weight than you’d think because once it’s no longer rare you start going easy on it), or flowers, or stationery or what have you.

  5. @ Laura, you are so right about transitions wasting so much time. Many days I wonder where certain chunks of time went.
    We have streamlined the morning routine too. Then my boys get to ride bikes when it’s warm, or we play a card/board game before the bus comes.
    @Emily, if your children eat ham or turkey (we buy a whole breast and slice it ourselves, and make chunks for casseroles) you can freeze the cold cuts in individual portions (on a cookie sheet) and then make the lunches on Sunday. As long as you put mustard/mayo/lettuce/cheese on the bread sides, and the meat in between, the bread won’t get soggy and it’s defrosted by lunchtime. It also covers a dairy, protein, veggie and starch.
    @Cara–having multiple water bottles has helped around here too. Everyone has their own in the fridge too, so they can help themselves.

  6. @Denise-

    Thanks for the suggestion about freezing ham/turkey on a cookie sheet. I hadn’t thought about that before. They do eat ham. Turkey is kind of iffy. I have given some thought before to cooking a big ham or turkey on the weekend and then cutting it up for sandwiches for all of us for the week because I really don’t care to purchase processed lunch meats. I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. However, it didn’t really occur to me to freeze it. It wasn’t so much of a problem until recently when both of my kids classrooms became peanut free. I used to always be able to just pack them PB or PB&J……now it’s not so easy. Maybe I”ll give freezing thin slices of ham a try!

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