Turn Down Time Into Up Time

by Kelly · 3 comments

in Frugal Organization

How many hurry-up-and-wait moments do you have in your day? I know that I have quite a few of those times where I have nothing to do but stay where I am and wait for the next thing to happen.

For me, the biggest chunk of potentially wasted time is school pick-up, which happens twice a day (kids go home for lunch in France). My children’s school is only a 8 minute drive from my house, but in order to be able to park I have to leave 1/2 hour before they need to be picked up. There are at least 44 minutes a day that I have to be somewhere yet have nothing to do. That’s a lot of potentially productive time which might be wasted.

I’ve decided to put this time to good use however. I don’t have so much time to spare in my life that I can let almost an hour slide by without using it to its best potential. Here are five simple strategies that help me be more productive.

  1. Carry projects with you. Ever hear the expression “Idle hands are the devil’s tools”? Well, I wouldn’t go quite that far, but I would say that when you’re just sitting, you could be sitting and doing something. I have a bag in my car with a lot of different things in it. There are magazines that I want to read or catalogs that I want to leaf through, mail to open or maybe some small sewing projects, like replacing buttons. Sewing a button on a shirt takes about five minutes, but I rarely stop to do it at home. Because I have all the necessary tools in my car, however, I can easily accomplish it while I wait.
  2. Take advantage of your space. An often heard tip is to clean or straighten the bathroom while the kids are taking a bath. I admit that I do this on the rare occasions that I give the kids a bath, but my husband is usually in charge of bathing duty.* More recently I cleaned the car while waiting at school. I had noticed that the dashboard was looking particularly dusty, so I spent 10 minutes wiping everything off.
  3. The two-minute rule. If it takes less than two minutes to perform a task in the first place, do it immediately. Answering that email right away or entering crucial information onto the calendar now instead of later saves time in the long run. And a minute saved is a minute earned– you can now take that down time and do something for yourself instead of feeling guilty about the unfinished to do pile waiting to be done.
  4. Know the appropriate time and place. Some projects are transportable and others really need to be confined to one central location. Trying to do something in an area that is not well suited to the task can be counterproductive and a colossal waste of time. For example, most of my bills are paid automatically, but I do still need to write some checks. Doing it in the car is a waste of time; I can do it sure, but I’m more efficient at home with my checkbook, stamps, envelopes and address labels in one place.
  5. Take time for yourself. I find that I waste the most time when I neglect myself. If I set a block of time aside for me, and only me, that I am better able to concentrate on the mundane details that make my life run smoothly. The second Sunday of every month is my project group date; I get together with some close friends and we stitch and chatter the afternoon away. This me time is so refreshing that it’s hard to do without so Stitch ‘n Bi*ch, as we call it colloquially, has been a standing date for the past four years.

*My husband plays the guitar while the kids are in the bath tub. He gets the benefits of good acoustics and some downtime with his favorite hobby while the kids get serenaded and clean.

How do you turn down time into productive time? Any tips?


1 Nicole June 18, 2008

I used to live on an island and take an hour and a half ferry ride to work twice a week. I used the time to pay my bills and write letters. I just brought checks, cards, envelopes, and stamps and dropped stuff in the mail upon disembarking. Good for you to maximize your time!

2 dmoms June 18, 2008

the car is where I file my nails…
sad but true. I draw the line there though – no polishing nails in the car : )

when I learned how to set the alarm on my cell phone, the car became a good 10 minute nap place too while also waiting in the pick up line at school.

3 Chris Roland June 27, 2009

When I trained in to NY from Jersey 4 hrs a day, I read a ton. I’m in technology so all that reading helped me advance my career. I just had to learn to read while standing.

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