We all have dreams and goals for things we’d like to find the time to do at some point in our lives, but it’s so easy to feel like we just don’t have the time. Life is busy! If you have kids at home, you might be waiting for them to get just a little bit older, a little bit more independent before you get to some of those things you’ve been meaning to do. I know I’ve always felt like I would surely have more time on my hands at some point in the future, just beyond my reach, but of course that time never comes. At some point, I had to start figuring out how I was going to keep my house clean, grow my blogging business, tackle our renovations, and have a normal family life, all at the same time, regardless of what phase of life we were in. If I didn’t just start getting stuff done, then it was just never going to happen. Right now, Kennedy’s got a crazy travel soccer schedule, Jack’s a typical “into everything” 2 year old, and we’re up to our neck in bathroom and kitchen renovations. It’s so easy for me to feel like I’m a blogger with no time to blog, and a housewife with no time to house, until I remember these little secret weapons that I’ve learned over the last few years, and probably really perfected when Jack was a little baby that I couldn’t. put. down. ever. Lately, I feel like I’m really picking up steam and getting a lot of the things done on my list around the house, and in my work life too. All just by sticking to these little tricks I’ve learned for making the most of my time! I thought I’d share some of them with you today, partly because I feel like these things are pretty much the keys to the universe, and partly just because some of you have asked. 🙂
Here are some of my favorite tips and tricks for getting more done in even the tiniest slivers of time! Little slivers of time add up to big accomplishments!
Set some goals.
You need to know where you’re going if you’re ever going to get there, so goals are your friend. Big goals, little goals, easy goals, and hard goals. You should set goals for the day, goals for the year, and even goals for the next 20 seconds. These goals will point your thoughts in the right direction and give you a huge boost of energy and confidence when you achieve them. Have you ever heard of the term “SMART” goals? These are goals that are “Specific”, “Measurable”, “Attainable”, “Realistic”, and “Time-Sensitive”. Setting SMART goals allows you to actually know that you’ve achieved what you set out to do, whether it’s picking up the toys in the living room, or taking over the world, and give you the energy to keep moving forward when you get that feeling of success.
Work in super-super tiny chunks of time.
Like, really tiny. The tinier the better. You will be absolutely flabbergasted at what you can get done in 10 minutes, blown away by how much you can accomplish in 2 minutes, and amazed at the fact that 30 seconds can actually be of value to your day. Seriously, 30 seconds! Back in the day when I was running the coffee shop I used to always say “Precious seconds, people. Precious seconds!” ..and they all thought I was crazy. Until they realized that I was brilliant. True story! Mostly. 🙂 When you look at your day in 10 minute segments though, and assign each 10 minute segment a purpose, magical things will start to happen. And it’s absolutely OK if sometimes those 10 minutes are assigned to things like breaks and snacking.
Use a timer.
Using a timer really helps to keep you on track and makes you actually get started when you’ve made up your mind to hit “start”. I used to use a chicken-shaped egg timer and I liked that the constant “tick tick tick” in the background kind of subconsciously let my brain know that it was “working time”. Plus a chicken timer is always fun and funny and I’m whimsical like that. Or at least I used to be. I just use the timer on my phone now. It’s great because I can find myself getting carried away once I start a job and when the timer goes off, then I know it’s time to move on to the next thing. Like I said, 10 minutes is actually quite a long time and I can completely forget that I had a timer going at all in that amount of time if I’m really focused. It’s great to have something to snap me back to reality and keep my head in the game.
Lists: write it down and clear your brain.
OK, so having a goal for every 10 minutes (or even every 2 minutes) of your day is a lot to remember, clearly. Actually, it sounds a little insane at first. The truth is though that I typically only do about 2-3 sets of 10-minute tasks in a day, and that’s all it takes. And I set time aside to plan what I’ll be doing during those times. I use my phone’s notepad feature to keep track of any ideas for tasks that pop into my head throughout the day and I then I plan a few sets of maybe 5 of those tasks to do at different times during the day. The thing I’ve noticed though is that having any more than 2 or 3 different task ideas in my head at one time that I’m trying to remember can get kind of distracting. Actually it can get pretty stressful if you’re trying to focus on one thing but you know that you absolutely must. not. forget. to do those two other things or disaster will strike! Having all of my tasks written down in a list really takes a load off of my mind and lets me actually enjoy getting stuff done! When the timer goes off, I just have a quick look at my phone to see what’s next!
So what kind of things are on my lists? I almost always have a little bit of everything. Or not! Sometimes I’ll focus for an hour on getting a whole bunch of little “blog work” things done that have been bugging me, but in one list of 10-minute tasks, I could do some quick trim-painting in whatever room we’re working on, some planning for whatever holiday is coming up, some online shopping, some regular cleaning tasks, and some organizing and decluttering, and some blog work too. Having a little bit of everything in there really helps me feel like I’m making a little bit of visible progress on all of my goals every day and it keeps me from feeling bored. Speaking of which, on to the next tip!
Setting a few goals for yourself and then challenging yourself to complete them really kind of is a little game in itself, but if you do things exactly the same way and in the same order every day, things get tedious. And then you get bored. And then you get slow and sloppy and distracted. I like to play little mini games with all of my tasks throughout the day to keep myself on my toes and to make things feel a little more fun and challenging. Sometimes it’s writing all of the jobs down on little pieces of paper and pulling a new job out of a jar every 5 minutes, sometimes it’s folding 10 pieces of clothing in between each mini task of the day, sometimes it’s trying to do 37 30-second jobs all in a row. It really all depends on my mood and what makes the idea of doing a whole ton of work in a short amount of time seem less daunting on that particular day. Actually, I’m playing a little game right now as I write this post!
Set up routines.
I can’t tell you enough how much I love my routines. I should say right now, before I really get into this particular mini-rant, that I don’t really have my routines totally memorized, and I even keep those in a list on my phone so that I don’t even have to worry about remembering those if my mind is elsewhere, occupied by other brilliant thoughts that day. I’m able to still get to everything and keep things running smoothly around here no matter what. What routines really do is help you completely own your time. You know what needs to be done when, where you should be as far as progress on your regular tasks at what point in the day, and what works best to be accomplished during which day part. They also allow you incredible flexibility, because you’re able to move things around in your schedule with confidence if the need ever arises, and you know exactly how long everything will take. You also become super-efficient from tackling these tasks over and over again, and working them into your daily lists and game-playing in different ways. Being a master of efficiency at packing school lunches doesn’t sound like a huge accomplishment, unless you’re a mom who has to do it every busy day of your life. Well then in that case, that kind of lunch-packing efficiency sounds like a life-saver! If you can set up routines, stick to them for a bit, then keep improving them to get better and better, little by little, you’ll be amazed at how little pockets of extra time start popping up in your day!
You really can learn to do an amazing number of things in the course of your day, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll ever be able to do everything. Sometimes you might need some help for practical reasons like not having the right tools for a certain cleaning job around the house, and sometimes you might just not like to do a certain job at all. If you know that you’ll just be beating your head against a wall if you try and fail that one task another time, then it’s OK to get help. Keeping your own sanity is absolutely key to keeping a balanced and amazingly productive schedule. Don’t ever feel bad if you need to ask for help around the house or with having someone watch the kids for you for a little bit. Instead you should feel resourceful! It’s so clever of you to put those resources available to you to work to help you achieve your goals instead of letting them go to waste. In my case, my “help” is having Jack in daycare (French daycare at that!) during the day when Kennedy is in school so I can feel like I get all of the stuff I need and want to do around the house out of the way and I can be able to focus on my precious kids when they’re home without feeling the stress of sacrificing making improvements to our home or spending time with you lovely people. 🙂 That’s just the kind of help that really helps me, and the kind of help needed might be different for everyone, but one thing will always be true: Help is helpful! If there’s a little bit of help available to you, use it!
Be prepared to be dazzled (by yourself)
Whether you can find 30 minutes or 30 seconds to work with, you’re going to be so amazed at all that you can accomplish with a little bit of vision and a little bit of consistency. If you’re feeling pressed for time, give a few of my little tips a try and I promise you’ll love the feeling of actually making progress on some of your goals and dreams, even if it is just a little at a time.
These tips apply to getting things done around the house, renovating projects, and even big career dreams and goals! The key is to keep yourself energized and motivated and to constantly remind yourself to stay the course. It’s all about being consistant. It’s so easy to fall back into the trap of “I don’t have time” and I have done just that on many an occasion, but I’m always so re-excited as soon as I remember that even just a few minutes (or seconds!) a day will get me there more quickly than I ever thought possible!
Do you have any tips that work for you for making the most of your busy day and finding the time for everything you want to do?
Other tips and ideas that you’ll love:
- How to start a blog so you can work from home
- How I run a successful blog working less than 1 hour a day
- 10 ways that you can work from home
- Tricks and hack to make you love camping, even if you think it’s “not your thing”
- The RIGHT way to mop your floors
- The best homemade ant killer recipe
- How to finally start line drying your laundry
Courtenay Hartford is the author of creeklinehouse.com, a blog based on her adventures renovating a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural Ontario, Canada. On her blog, Courtenay shares interior design tips based on her own farmhouse and her work as founder and stylist of the interior photography firm Art & Spaces. She also writes about her farmhouse garden, plant-based recipes, family travel, and homekeeping best practices. Courtenay is the author of the book The Cleaning Ninja and has been featured in numerous magazines including Country Sampler Farmhouse Style, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents Magazine, Real Simple, and Our Homes.