This, That and 365 Simple – Time Management

I’d taken a short break from writing the 365 Simple posts that turned into a long break.  Funny how that works!  I’m refreshed, my brain is unfogged (spellcheck hates that word since I just made it up), and now I’m ready to get back into a regular writing habit here and on the Standing Stone Ministry site.

Before I begin, I wanted to ask your opinion on the new look of this website.  Did you notice?  Do you like it?  I’ve been searching for a template that was very minimal yet still offered everything I wanted.  I like this current one, except I’m still working on having pictures on the homepage.  Trying to figure out how to make it look the same on mobile devices (even though the theme is supposed to be mobile friendly [sigh]) has been frustrating.  Plus, I’m figuring out how things work with the new service that mails each post to subscribers – I’ve discovered there is a 24-hour delay. Please be patient with me as I work through all of these small glitches.

Here is the plan for the foreseeable future:  Mondays I will post about what’s going on in my life and the steps I’m taking toward fulfilling my dreams.  You got a taste of that this past Monday when I posted about my chicken processing workshop.  I’ll continue to share each week and will, hopefully, encourage you to take steps to fulfill your dreams.  I’d love to be able to share your stories in the future as well.  I have a big announcement coming up in a few weeks that may be a surprise to some, not so surprising to others.  Stay tuned……

Wednesdays I will post a new 365 Simple article.  My goal (obviously) is to create a year’s worth of simple tips or life hacks that embrace a more minimalistic lifestyle, encourage whole, fresh foods, and offer plenty of DIY stuff that can make a huge difference in how we live our lives.  The ultimate goal is to publish this as a book someday.

Fridays I will continue to post the 52 Ways to Care for Your Pastor series.  This site is about 10 weeks behind the Standing Stone Ministry website so if you’re already on the email list for those posts then you can skip Friday’s reading.  I won’t be offended.

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365 Simple:  #46-52 Time Management

#46 – Single-Tasking

This may come as a total shock to some of you.  Researchers are finding that people actually accomplish more if they forego multitasking in favor of single-tasking.  In fact, multitasking can actually make us less efficient and the chronic stress of trying to accomplish more than one thing at a time can actually lead to damage to the memory region of the brain.  Check out this article that appeared in Forbes.  This was a real revelation for me.  I used to be the queen of multitasking.  I prided myself on being able to do seven things at once.  Then I realized that it was actually taking me longer to accomplish my tasks because my efforts were so spread out.  I still unload the dishwasher while talking on the phone or chop vegetables or make salad while listening to a podcast.  Those are brainless tasks to me.  Now, however, if I have something important or timely to do, then I give that my full attention.  I do not allow myself to become distracted until the task at hand is completed.  My days are much more efficient and I accomplish so much more.  One of my main methods is…..

#47 – Set a timer for 15 minutes

Ever heard of Parkinson’s Law?  It simply states, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”  In other words, if I allow myself four hours to clean the house and do two loads of laundry it will take me four hours.  If I have a writing project to complete and give myself three days, it will take me three days.  Mentally we’ve told ourselves it will take X number of minutes – and so it does!   What if I told you that you can accomplish an amazing amount of work in 15 minutes.  Try it.  Set a timer for 15 minutes and push yourself to complete as much as possible.  You can clean the kitchen in 15 minutes.  You can chop vegetables and get that pot roast in the crockpot in less than 15 minutes before you leave for work.  Not finished with the task in 15 minutes?  Simple.  Take a quick mental break, grab a glass of water, and set the timer for another 15 minutes.  Honestly, I am amazed at how well this simple trick works.  No more walking into a room and forgetting why I entered.  No more wandering from one task to the other leaving a trail of unfinished business behind me.

Set a timer when you open up Facebook, email, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram or any electronic device or game.  If you only allow yourself 15 minute increments at a time you won’t lose countless hours clicking on videos of someone’s cat or funny wedding bloopers.  Just this morning I lost 45 minutes of my day mindlessly scrolling through Facebook while drinking a cup of coffee.  I can’t remember any particular story or video that enhanced my life or made me smarter, probably just the opposite.

#48 – Have a plan 

Back in the 90’s Day Planners were all the rage.  Now paper and pencil have been replaced with electronic gadgets.  I sometimes feel that we are so busy updating our Outlook Calendars with the tasks we are supposed to do that we never get around to actually doing any of them.  I have a simple solution for that. Grab a piece of scratch paper and a pen.  Write down three  tasks that are the most important for you to accomplish today.  Stick the paper in your pocket and begin your day with number one.  Single-task, set a timer if it helps, and knock out each task.  Choosing just three things to accomplish keeps me from feeling overwhelmed by all the things I have to do.  I love lists, but long lists can be daunting.  With only three items on my list I feel sure that I can successfully complete all of them.  If, by chance, I don’t finish one of them, then I place that task as #1 on tomorrow’s list. This isn’t magic or rocket science.  I’m simply setting an easy short term goal which keeps me focused and energized.  I usually find that I have accomplished more at the end of the day than the three tasks, and that feels really good.

#49 – Don’t put it down, put it away 

This handy dandy tip for time management is something I learned as a wee lass at my mother’s knee.  It is a phrase that goes through my brain a hundred times a day.  Don’t put the clean towels from the dryer on the couch to save for when I watch TV in the evening.  Rather, take the clean towels to my bedroom, place them on the bed, fold them, put them away in each bathroom or kitchen cupboard right away.  Done.  I don’t have clutter in my living room.  I don’t have an unfinished task hanging over my head.  I don’t risk having clean towels full of dog hair because the puppy likes to snuggle into warm, fuzzy material. Use the same principles for mail, bills, dishes, filing, shoes, or anything else you may be tempted to put off until later.  This takes some habits training to be sure.  I recommend you try this time management principle in one area at a time.  Tackle something easy, like junk mail, first.  Get good at dealing with it right away and then move on to other areas that are more problematic for you.  Hint:  If your spare bedroom looks like a Chinese laundry, then you might want to seriously consider this one.

#50 – Clean as you go

Have you ever cooked a great meal and then felt overwhelmed by the ridiculous mess in your kitchen?  It doesn’t make you want to cook from scratch meals does it?  Cans or boxes are so much faster and clean up is so much quicker.  Open, dump, heat, throw away.  It doesn’t have to be disaster area versus convenience pseudo-food.  There is a way to cook great meals, using several pots and pans, and still sit down to a nutritious meal with a fairly clean kitchen.  It’s called the Clean As You Go Method.  Yes, it is a form of multitasking, but in this case it actually reduces stress rather than creates it.  I’ll illustrate what I mean by going through a normal dinner prep scenario at my house.

Arrive home from work.  Grab all of the salad fixings and any fresh veg for side dishes out of the refrigerator.  Wash, peel, chop, and assemble the salad.  Put the salad in the fridge to keep cold.  Place any side veg into its cooking receptacle; pot, steamer, roasting pan, etc.  Set aside till it’s time to begin the cooking. Gather all the veg scraps for the trash or my compost pile.  Now that my sink is cleared of vegetable scraps fill the sink halfway with very hot water and soap.  Quickly wash knives and cutting boards used for the vegetables.  Gather all of items needed for cooking the entrée.  Do I need to sauté vegetables before adding them to the stew pot?  I sauté away, toss the finished vegetables into the stew or soup pot, and then put the hot sauté pan into the wash water.  Do I still need the spatula or wooden spoon for another dish?  No?  Then I wash it quickly with the sauté pan and place it on the drying pad.  Move onto the next dinner prep task.  Any bowls, spoons, measuring cups, or sauce pots are thrown into the wash water as soon as they are empty.  There is always a moment here or there when I’m not actively stirring a pan to quickly wash and rinse the items in the soapy water.  Obviously I won’t have every item prewashed before dinner is served, but I have enough of them done that after dinner clean up is a breeze.  The now cold dish water is great to rinse dishes in before loading them into the dishwasher (yes, I prewash before placing into dishwasher).  All that’s left is for me to drain the dirty water and fill up the sink with fresh hot water to wash the few items left.  I am in and out of the kitchen within 20 minutes after dinner is finished.

#51 – Discard, don’t organize

Do you really need all of that stuff that you’re organizing into color coordinated bins?  Really?  When will you next use it?  What are you saving it for?  Too much stuff to clean, sort, mend, arrange, put away, or organize is a waste of time.  Discard what you don’t need.  Will you ever sit down and tear out all of the recipes from that stack of magazines from last year?  If you haven’t done it by now, you won’t.  Get rid of the magazines.  I guarantee you’ll find every recipe you’ll ever want or need on the internet.  Those magazines are just gathering dust and creating mental clutter along with the physical clutter.  Do you love, love, love every single item in your Christmas bins?  Honestly?  Does great aunt Martha come to your house every year to inspect your tree?  Do you need all of her crocheted Christmas ornaments, even those that got stained when the basement flooded five years ago?  If you haven’t seen the bottom of your coat closet, bathroom cupboard, or junk drawer in a while, what are you waiting for?  Discard the extra stuff.  Lighten your load.  Lighten your life.

#52 – Clear the clutter – a box a week

We tend to give inanimate objects emotional control over us.  Objects represent memories.  We fear that discarding an object means discarding a memory.  When we really think about it, though, we realize it just isn’t true.  We will always have our memories.  We don’t need objects cluttering up our world to keep those memories alive.  However, moving from decision to action can be daunting, especially if clutter has built up.  One very easy way to make a difference is to choose one room, closet, or bookcase and fill up one box of unused, unneeded items a week.  Let that be your initial goal.  Set the timer for 15 minutes (yes, that blasted timer thing again!) and begin.  Don’t think too hard about each object or you’ll find yourself making excuses to keep it.  When the box is full or the timer goes off, stop.  Put the box in the garage along with the other items that are going to be thrown away or given to charity.  Initially you may only be able to handle one box a week.  As it gets easier you may move to one box a day.  Finally, you may find yourself cleaning out an entire closet, cupboard, or room in a day.  With less stuff comes more time.  Isn’t that what time management is all about?

2 thoughts on “This, That and 365 Simple – Time Management

  1. Marla

    So glad to hear you will be posting more again!!! Missed your many thoughts and ideas. 🙂 Loved the timer – #47!! I used to do that with my kids when they were little. We would make a game out of who could do their job in what ever time we set. With kids, I used as little as 15 seconds up to 5 minutes. No matter what we were doing, we Had to stop when the timer went off. To make it more fun, I would then set the timer for equal time and we had to sit still, play a game or sing. Then back to ‘the job’ time. Back and forth until the job was all done. It was fun! My kids still talk about it today, saying it made work fun… sometimes. Ha! #46 – also another favorite of mine. I learned some time ago, the fastest way to clean a room was to start in one corner and go around the room. NO criss crossing, back and forth – it really wastes time! It’s amazing how fast things tidy up when I stay ‘single-task minded’. #52 – Declutter!! Positively the best burden freer known to housewives!!!

    • Thanks Marla for the encouraging words. I love the idea of setting the timer for the little ones. That would make for a fun way to clean messes up. No stress, just fun, and the job gets accomplished. I’ll try that with the grands. Yep, declutter is the best burden freer. I have several rooms to go through, as well as the garage so plan on more decluttering advice and pictures in the future.

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