Better bits of time

FullSizeRender-12I am always on the lookout for better ways to spend little bits of time. It is very easy to do nothing of consequence: delete more emails, perhaps, check social media and the like. This has the unfortunate consequence of making time feel “full,” even though you haven’t done anything. So here are some other ways I’m trying to spend shorter blocks of time.

Running on the treadmill in the morning. So it seems like going for a run would take quite a bit of time, but I can do a quick 2 miles in less than 20 minutes. Now that the 2-year-old is starting to sleep better, I’m experimenting with setting my alarm for 6:30 and being done before 7:00. It feel great not to have to figure out when it will fit in the rest of the day, particularly if my hair needs to look nice, though the honest truth is that any given 20 minutes can work for this. Or less – running one mile is better than nothing!

Reading on the Kindle app. I’ve been stressing this one a lot lately, but it really is great at turning what would be headline reading time into better reading time. I downloaded The Age of Innocence the other day (it’s free- as are many classics). I have not had a real block of reading time devoted to it, but I’m already a decent way in, just in little bits and pieces. Pulling a paperback out of my purse feels like a major decision, whereas pulling my phone out does not. With a book on the phone, you get the same outcome.

Listening to TED talks in the car. This is a new one for me. (If you haven’t watched my TED talk, please give it a view — almost to 3 million now!) TED has lots of playlists so the next one starts automatically, or if it’s just a short trip, I’ll choose a talk before I start and just play that. I found out from tracking my time that I spend more time in the car than I think. I don’t have a daily commute, so it wasn’t figuring into my mental model of life, but it averages out to about an hour a day. This helps it be an educational hour. (If my kids are in the car I talk with them — but sometimes they’ve been watching Leap Frog phonics videos, which I guess is educational enough that I can let them do that and I’ll listen to my stuff).

Hacking through the admin list. Maybe you’ve figured out how to get a lot of the little administrative matters of home and work off your to-do list. I still wind up doing a reasonable chunk of them. So I make a list of them: scanning and emailing a contract, buying a present for one birthday party, sending an RSVP for another, mailing a card, etc. If I have 5 minutes before a phone call starts, I do one of these, in order to preserve open blocks of time at other points in my life.

Strength training during microwave time. I clearly have time to exercise, hence the running. I know as I get older that I should do more strength/resistance work, and yet I never do. I’ve realized this is because I don’t have a good trigger that tells me it’s time. But every day, I’m heating at least something up in the microwave. I can do push-ups, plank poses, whatever. That won’t work if you’re using the microwave at the office (unless it’s that sort of office) but it’s slightly more productive than sorting the mail (which is under our microwave, and tends to be the other thing I’d do with this time).

What bits of time do you use? Any other tips for time in the car?


25 thoughts on “Better bits of time

    1. I’ve been doing this too for a couple of years.

      Strength training: I make it a habit of doing a few push-ups every time I go to the bathroom. And stretching exercises while sitting on the floor playing with my kids. Now that we have a basketball net, I shoot hoops while watching the kids play outside. Great for the abs!

  1. These are great ideas! I’m trying to get better about documenting my kids’ growth through photo books – so I created a private instagram account where I can post photos that automatically go to print every 60 photos in a cute little 8×8″ book. It’s on my phone, sure, but it’s not mindless scrolling on social media and much easier than scrapbooking. 🙂

        1. You got it, Christine! I love their commercials too, they always make me laugh!

          I love making shutterfly books too but being the Type A perfectionist that I am…it gets cumbersome to make them “just right” so the automatic option with chatbooks is great.

    1. I’ve seen that before, but always hated the idea of posting so many photos of my kids on social media (not that I don’t do it already, but I try not to post so often that it would actually fill 1 or more scrapbooks!) Creating a private account is a great idea!

    2. I use Chatbooks too, but instead of the auto-print version, I just do one book per year from my regular Instagram account and I can choose photos to remove if I don’t care about them (like random funny signs or food or whatnot). I printed 4 years’ worth in one ambitious weekend, which reminds me, I need to do 2016 now 🙂

  2. My parents live in another state and we are close but with two young kids I don’t really have a lot of time to chat on the phone. After my dad got sick a couple years ago, I started calling them when I got in the car every afternoon on my way to pick up my kids. My commute to the first kid is short – about 10 minutes – so I have a natural limit of how long we can talk, which is great since they tend to be talkers! They love that I call every day and they respect the time limit since they know they are going to talk to me again tomorrow – there isn’t that pressure to cover every topic under the sun. I know it’s not a novel idea to make a call from the car, but starting this habit has been so great for my time and my role as a “doting daughter” 🙂

  3. It’s probably my age, but I hate to be seen as just another millennial on her phone so I tend not to read on the Kindle app in public–I’d rather pull out a real book.

    In the car, I listen to audiobooks on CD from the library because my car doesn’t have Bluetooth capability. This could also be done on a smartphone if your car does have Bluetooth capability (with the added bonus of being able to continue to listen while out on a walk or running on the treadmill). I’m also a big fan of the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast.

    I love the admin list idea–will definitely try that.

  4. I often take that time to pop small to-dos into Trello, which I keep on my phone, so that I can check them off later when I’m sitting down and focusing on getting things done.

    I also save articles to Safari, or check new articles in feedly, that will give me ideas for posts of my own and read those when I have a few minutes and ONLY a few minutes spare.

  5. I have listened to so much good music while studying or working I wouldn’t find time or patience to listen to regularly. I really liked how you managed to snatch half an hour in the morning to run. I think that’s a good recipe, to fit in those little things that will make your day better.

    1. @Nick – I am hoping to make the morning run a relatively regular thing. Since I work at home, I generally can take a break in the afternoon to run, but when the weather is warmer, or when things get really busy, it’s nice to have the AM option.

      1. A half hour to workout seems so much less daunting than an hour! I’ve been getting to work at Early O’Clock and doing a lot of my early day stuff at the free student gym and making coffee/breakfast in the lab shared kitchen.

        Half hour anything seems so much less daunting, for some reason. I should try and schedule half hour blocks of free time rather than whole hours, which feels like i’m being lazy!

  6. Great ideas! I had been whining around about not getting time to do yoga, even after it being essentially prescribed to me by my family doctor AND my chiro. Finally figure out that I have the perfect window for a 15 minute yoga routine every night … while I supervise my daughter’s bath time. I have the space, there is already a (bath) mat in there, and bonus, she thinks down dog is HILARIOUS.

    1. Oh. Also, I have been unloading the dishwasher in the morning in the time that it takes to make my morning cup of tea. To make this work: (a) I bought a hot water dispenser to cut down on the time to fill, boil, pour the cup, (b) I spread a towel out on the counter and anything drippy or fiddly just goes on the towel to air dry and be put away at night/ With that in place I can unload the dishwasher in about 4 minutes (1 to boil and dispense, 3 to brew). This makes a huge difference in my evening and in successful adulting in general. 🙂

  7. I also use car time with kids for “read alouds”. We still have cuddle on the couch reading time, but as they’ve gotten older it is harder to do. I go for classics (Winnie-the-Pooh, Paddington, Jungle Book, Mary Poppins) that are a bit above their reading ability. I enjoy the stories as much as they do. Anything read by Jim Dale or Jim Wiess are a pleasure to listen to. It is amazing how many they remember and enjoy going back to reread as they get older.

  8. I have been on phone-book-reading STREAK over here. Excellent use of those little chunks of time, especially on those days when there really isn’t a stretch long enough to sit down with an actual book.

  9. Love this!

    Also, in the intervening minutes while I try to work on a talk-saw your TEDTalk and shared it with my classmates-we all loved it! What an awesome talk!

  10. I have a friend who calls this process “making time plump.” Here’s my favorite: Our new house came with an indoor hot tub — so when I have five unexpected minutes, I take a dip!

  11. After a couple months’ hiatus, I’m back to time tracking. I too love doing it with pen and paper and being mindful about it. Lately, to avoid political news, I’ve taken to listening to podcasts on my phone while I get ready in the morning and when I’m driving. I’ve subscribed to several, and I love having these stories to tune in to. And ever since I got a car with a bluetooth 5 years ago, I take advantage of driving time to call my mom frequently. I’ve also started reading books before bedtime to get back into my old reading habit and to wind down. I’m finding it so much more relaxing than scrolling (no surprise). I also recently took a mindfulness workshop with my husband and am trying to remember to meditate often; it only takes 10 minutes, and the benefits are huge!

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