The Surprising Benefits of Being Busy


As I wrote yesterday’s post on finding time to read books, I got to thinking about time organization. I listed a lot of time-consuming things that I have been doing more of–home organization, cooking, writing, more social activities–and I realized that this was a lot to add into my schedule, and I haven’t even added in things like crocheting, yard work and some DIY projects I have taken on.

If you had asked me before I started really focusing on these things, I would have said I was already busy. After all, I did do some housecleaning and cooking, and I have a full time job and two busy kids. But as I started adding things to my schedule, a surprising thing happened; each time I added a task that I had been convinced I didn’t have time for, I discovered that I had no trouble working it into the schedule. One day I realized that I was now doing a long list of things I had previously said I could not fit into my schedule–not even one of them! Here are some things that helped me make the switch to being more productive:

  • Developing one habit at a time. Rather than trying to add every single thing I wanted to do into my day and getting burnt out really quickly, I concentrated on one thing at a time. Once that was a habit, it didn’t seem so overwhelming to add one more little thing.
  • Giving up perfectionism. It is better to do something than nothing, for just about any task. Forgiving myself in advance for making mistakes meant I could take things on without too much anxiety.
  • Learning to do a little bit at a time. Going through a clutter pile for 15 minutes a night may barely touch the job, but if I do it for a week, I can conquer most messes easily.
  • Learning to prioritize. While reading less books was an unintended consequence of trying to do more of other things I wanted to do, I am not at all sad about watching less TV. I never realized how much time I would spend mindlessly watching whatever was on to kill time. I still watch tv, but I make sure it is something I really want to watch, and I enjoy it more for the sense of reward I get from getting other things done first.
  • Enjoying the results of my labors. Having clean clothes all the time is so nice, it isn’t hard to keep my laundry routine going. Eating healthy delicious food every night and not worrying about the cost of eating out makes it easy to sit and do a menu each weekend. Getting some feedback from readers or even consulting my menus or lists on my blog makes me feel that the time I spend writing is useful.
  • Keeping the momentum going. When I am productive in one area of my life, I tend to be more productive in other areas. I am going along, getting stuff done, so I do a few things in other areas, too. I am sure that the medication I am taking for the ADD helps a lot with this one, but it is a nice feeling to get several things done on my ongoing list of To-Dos.
  • Planning ahead. If I have a lot of things I want to do, I can’t just wait for inspiration to strike, I need to have at least a rough plan of when I will get things done. I used to forget what I wanted to do a lot, getting to the end of a week or a weekend and then thinking of everything I could have done with my time. Now, I think ahead, what I would like to get done in the next day, week, month, sometimes even year. I rarely have time when I don’t know what to do with myself. I may decide not to do a particular task, but not because I have not even thought of it.
  • Applying the Do It Now principle. If I have something to do that takes less than 5 minutes, I just do it right away rather than letting things pile up for later. So, sorting the mail every day, taking glasses into the kitchen when I leave the living room, jotting down an outline for a blog post, or just writing down a quick to do list all get done when I think of them, and then I either don’t have to worry about them later, or I’ve already started a longer task.

Some of my problem was with the entropy of every day life–I resented the time it takes to just stay where you are. Cleaning, eating every day, even exercise, when done just to be exercising (as opposed to doing physical activity you enjoy) don’t move you forward in life, they just keep you from falling behind. I hated the time spent on this sort of activity. I had to learn to embrace it, and also to realize that this sort of thing doesn’t take away from what you want to do if you learn to manage your life correctly. What a freeing concept!

Have you done anything to add more into your day?

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