Feb 23, 2011

Do you have time?

Do you know how long it takes you to dry your hair? What about taking a shower, putting on your make-up, or un-loading your dishwasher? There are things we do every single day and they usually take about the same amount of time. But if you're like me, you rarely think about how long it takes you to do things - and this could seriously prohibit you from getting very much accomplished in your day. See, I had my first baby 5 months ago today and I can't tell you how many people told me things when I was pregnant like "enjoy your time now because after the baby comes, you'll never get anything done". Honestly, I think that's nonsense! I thought it was then and I still do. The only reason things don't get done is because I don't manage my time well - and that has nothing to do with my precious little baby. So, at the start of this year I made a conscious decision (not a resolution) to start managing my time better - and it has been an eye-opener! I didn't give up anything to create more time and I didn't stop sleeping as much (and yes, I do get plenty of sleep with a 5 month old); I just started organizing myself a little better and I started by paying attention to how much time it takes me to do things. I now know that it takes me 7 minutes to dry my hair if it is sopping wet, but only 5 minutes if I allow it to air dry for about 10 minutes first (which is really better for the over-all health of my hair). I also know that it takes about 4 minutes to unload the dishwasher, 6 minutes to straighten my hair (if I'm really going all-out one day), and 3 minutes to put on my make-up. It takes me 13 minutes to take a shower, and 23 minutes if I'm shaving my legs (isn't that ridiculous that it takes an extra 10 minutes???) - but I also know that I have to bank on more time than that because that's simply the time I need upon stepping/getting out. Why is this important? Well, first of all - it's important to know at the end of the day when you ask yourself the question "where did the day go?" - where it actually went. Secondly, it's important because you can mulit-task if you know how long it is going to take you to do something. Here are some ideas on how to effectively use this knowledge:
Example One: When I make rice (which we keep on-hand in the refrigerator to add to meals throughout the week), I know that I am going to be bringing 2 1/2 cups of water to a boil before I add in the rice - if I start out using cold filtered water from my refrigerator - that it will take right at about 7 1/2 minutes for the water to start to boil. I also know that it takes me 5 minutes to dry my hair. With this knowledge - I can put the water on to boil, go the bathroom to dry my hair - have time to put away the brush and hair dryer - and be back in the kitchen just in time to put the rice in the water. 
Example Two: On Sunday mornings we have to leave the house by no later than 9:15 in order to easily make it to church by 9:45 (without having to feel rushed). I know that I need to take a shower/get ready, feed and dress the baby, and eat breakfast (thankfully my husband cooks on Sunday mornings). My husband likes for us to sit down for breakfast at 8:45, so I need to be completely ready to go by that point. Since I know exactly how long it takes me to take a shower, dry and straighten my hair, and put on my make-up - I can set my alarm clock without worry and know that I will be able to get as much sleep as possible and have plenty of time to get sufficiently ready.

This kind of time management can be played out in a million different scenarios; the possibilities are really endless. Now, I can hear some of your objections already - so let me address them (or what I think they will be). You may think that this will stifle creativity, require you to live by a clock, and give you a sense of urgency that would keep you from ever being able to sit down and relax. If so, then you missed the point entirely! What is the point of organization and structure if it's not to allow more freedom? When you know how long it will realistically take you to do things, then you can more adequately plan for relaxation time! Here are some examples:

Example One: Little Johnny walks up to you in the kitchen to ask if you can read him the book in his hand - a book you know well! It has a whopping 23 pages of relatively small font and few pictures! Oh how you hate to tell you sweet son no when he asks you to read him a book, and you'd love to be able to sit down and read him one - but you've just put the water on to boil for the rice and don't want to have to get 3 pages into the book only to have to stop & get up to tend to the rice! But wait! Since you know that it takes the water 8 minutes to boil, you can then tell sweet little Johnny that you don't have time to read that book - but you'd be happy to read book "x" (a book you know only takes you 5 minutes to read). The you can sit down and relax with your child and have plenty of time to read, laugh, tickle, and answer the million and one questions you'll get, without having to worry or be preoccupied about the water on the stove! 

Example Two: Back to the rice (can you tell I eat a lot of rice). You've poured the rice into the water and now know that you have 40 minutes before it will be ready (if you're cooking brown rice). Great! Now there is time to do your Yoga routine! Before now, you were always worried you were going to burn the rice and were constantly checking it...and lifting the lid to see if it was ready (which we all know you're not supposed to do). How much time did you waste thinking about it and checking on it? But, now that you know exactly how long it takes to cook, you can leave it and completely relax! And what is the use of doing yoga if you're preoccupied with something else??? When you're completely finished with your routine (not skipping the last 10 minutes of relaxation) - then you can slowly waltz into the kitchen feeling refreshed and peaceful to beautifully cooked rice! :)

So give it a try! Use one of the apps on your phone to time and record some of the things you do all the time and see if this works for you! I think you'll be amazed! Feel free to post your own ideas for time management in the comments section! Also, look on the side toolbar and vote on what you'd like to see on Save Simply next!


Anonymous said...

It works the other way too. Some things take MUCH less time than you think they will! For instance, many of the unwanted tasks in my home take fewer than 5 minutes to do. But if you don't know it, it could really loom large and make you want to put them off. When you know for sure it's just a couple of minutes, the excuse "I don't have time right now" doesn't hold up!

On days when I can't get motivated or am not feeling well, I do the 15 minute trick - just set a timer for 15 minutes and focus on one task at a time until the timer beeps. It's truly amazing how much you can get done in 15 minutes if you focus. Sweep the floor, load the dishwasher, maybe even scrub the sink and have time to spare.

As for not feeling much difference in what you'll get done now that baby is here, I am with you there. I did not have any appreciable difference to my life or schedule until I had 2 kids (or maybe it was more b/c my older kid was 1 1/2 and getting into things). Then it hit me like a whammy! I was tag teamed something awful. It didn't start to calm down until my oldest was about 6. So, while I agree that a little baby doesn't necessarily throw one's schedule into a tizzy (though they could, if colicky etc) I wouldn't agree that time management is always the answer to that conundrum. Certainly can't hurt, though!

hollie said...

Good points. Multitasking is the only way I can get anything done these days.
While I agree that you can still function normally with an infant (especially since they sleep a lot!), three babies is the point where it changed for me. Being outnumbered by toddlers...even time management can't save you :)

Isabella's Mom said...

Good points, y'all! I should clarify: I never meant to imply that having multiple children shouldn't effect your ability to get things accomplished. I can only imagine how challenging it must be to have 2,3, or 6 to look after! How the two of you do it, I just don't know... but that's partly the reason I asked both of you to be guest posters! I want to know your secrets!

Kat said...

I'm a big fan of the "timer" method. What I tend to do, especially when the girls needs extra love for whatever reason, is set a timer for 20 or 30 minutes. Tell the girls that when it goes off I'll reset it (usually for 15 or 20 minutes), and spend that time with them. Whether it's reading a book, or being their dragon, we all know that time is theirs! When the timer goes off again...I repeat the process. The girls are happy, I'm happy. And a LOT can get done in 30 minutes :)