The Passage of Time

The Passage of Time (Photo credit: ToniVC)

One of the worst habits I have when it comes to getting work done is that I can’t make myself start something if I think I’ll be stopping soon. For instance, why should I bother starting that project, I think, when my husband will be home in half an hour? Or why even open my word document when my writing will likely be interrupted by that call I’m expecting any minute now?

At the very second that I am writing this, I’m feeling the effects of this terrible habit. The baby went down for a nap at 7:45 PM and I ran to go make myself something to eat. By the time I returned, she’d been asleep for 15 minutes and, since nearly all of her naps only last 20 minutes, I figured I would just bop around on Facebook for those 5 minutes. Except, fluke of flukes, she’s still asleep at 10 PM. Instead of utilizing this extremely rare chunk of baby-free time, I squandered most of it goofing around on Facebook because I thought she’d be waking up any minute now and what was the point of starting anything when I’d only need to stop any minute? When I look at it in hindsight, I get furious at myself for wasting those two hours but when I was in the moment it made perfect sense not to start anything to my warped sense of logic.

Clearly, this productivity tip is still a work in progress for me but I’m telling you (as I’m constantly re-learning myself) that nothing will increase your productivity more than starting to actually use those tiny chunks of time throughout your day that you discount. When you have a chance to work, DO IT even if you think you’ll be interrupted soon. You’ll be amazed at how much more you’ll get done.

There’s three big reasons why this will help you get much more done:

  • Chunks of time can expand without warning. What you’re assuming is a little bit of time can very often be longer than you expect. It’s some kind of law of the universe: if you dilly dally because you think you only have a little time, it will expand into a much longer bit of time that you’ll kick yourself for not using. If you think like my mother, you’ll love this logic: If not working guarantees time will stretch out longer than you expect, working every time you have a little bit of time will ensure that things always happen on time or earlier than planned. Even if this “airtight” theory proves false, you’ll hardly be mad at me because you’ll have gotten an unexpected bit of time to work. 😉
  • Most things never take as long as you think they will. So what if you only have 5, 10 or 15 minutes? You’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish in that time! Especially if you’re dreading a task, it can seem bigger than it really is and you’ll tend to overestimate how long it will take. To use writing as an example, I can write over 500 words in 15 minutes so I could, in theory, bang out an entire 50,000 word novel in just 100 little 15 minute breaks. When I look at it that way, it’s just plain stupid not to try to get as much done as possible whenever you have a spare second. How much could you have gotten done during when you were just taking a quick Angry Birds break or checking Facebook?
  • It’s like finding more time in your day! Every wish there were more hours in the day or the things you need/want to do? When you start to use all those little moments you were overlooking before, you will literally have more time to do whatever you want to do, be it work, hobbies or whatever.

But, as my example above shows, it’s often easier said than done, especially if you’re already in this bad habit. It can involve totally changing the way you think and tricking yourself into a new mindset.

Do you have a mental trick or strategy that works for you? How do you force yourself to use the little bits of time in your day productively? Please share your tips below.