Your Most Precious Commodity

Date posted: June 27, 2013

[dc]Y[/dc]up, I’m talking about time. There never seems to be enough of it, right? It’s no secret that time is finite, and with more and more tasks, projects, commitments, and clutter inundating you, you can often feel like you’re drowning in it all.

Since there’s no way to increase the hours in the day, the only other choice is to decrease the demands on your time. There are three main things you need to do this: Systems, support, and a spine.

Systems: Think about the things that need your attention regularly, like grocery shopping, mail sorting, and clutter clearing. What systems can you put in place to handle these things efficiently? Here are some thoughts:

  • Mail: Sort as you walk. As you’re bringing the mail in from the mailbox, begin the sort. Anything that’s junk goes right into the recycling bin. Open any billyour precious commoditys and recycle everything but the statement, then file the bill with your other to-be-paid ones. Consider even filing your bills in order of due date to streamline your bill paying system. To take your mail management a step further, remove your name from catalog and mailing lists. Go to Catalog Choice, create a fast, free account and start opting out.
  • Grocery shopping: When I need to replenish my fridge and cabinets, my shopping trip takes me, on average, 30 minutes. Yup, just 30 minutes. Some key tactics to making this happen? I write up a thorough list of what I need — and here’s the kicker — I list the items in the order that they are in the grocery story. This does two things — makes my shopping super efficient, and it prevents unnecessary “browsing” and impulse purchasing/overspending. I also don’t buy anything that’s not on the list. Gotta stay focused! Another great tactic to cut down your shopping time is to go at odd times (10:30 AM, 8 PM, etc). There’s a much lower likelihood of crowds and long lines. You’ll only find me in the grocery store on a weekend when I need something absolutely vital, which is almost never.
  • Clutter clearing: You know what’s coming here: The Pomodoro Technique. When it comes to clutter (or any project, really) this motivation/time management tool kicks ass. Pick a project or pile, set a timer for 25 minutes and go! When the timer goes off, take a five-minute break. Repeat. This helps the project feel doable, and it’s a great way to get things rolling. When it comes to cleaning up kids’ toys, coats, shoes, etc, involve your age-appropriate child(ren). Make it a game. “Whoever picks up 15 things and puts them in their proper home first gets a dollar!”

Support: Take a look at your to-do list and identify what things someone else could either do for you, or help you get done. These are things like mowing your lawn, fixing the dripping faucet, picking up your dry cleaning or other small errands. You might hire someone, ask a friend or family member to help you out, or set up a trade with someone who could use your skills and talents. By remembering that you don’t have to do it all alone, you not only free up time, but you also free up a whole bunch of energy, making those things that you have to do feel much more manageable.

Spine: To feel freer in regards to time and energy, you’ve got to become BFF’s with the word “no.” Even if you aren’t an active participant of the PTA, you’re still a good mom. Learning to sit with the discomfort that comes with disappointing people is a master key to your happiness and sanity. Through my work with thousands of people, I’ve discovered that, aside from not wanting to feel guilty, the main obstacle in saying no is not knowing how to firmly, yet respectfully decline. Here are some scenarios to help you out:

“Hey, wanna go to dinner tonight/tomorrow/next week?”

“No, thanks, tonight’s not good for me. Maybe another time.”

“Can you take a look at my resume for me?”

“Oh, I wish I could help, but I’m slammed right now.”

“Mrs. Smith, would you be willing to bake 50 (or 500!) cupcakes for our bake sale on Saturday?”

“Sorry, I can’t. My schedule is full this week.”

“Could you stay a couple extra hours today? We really need to get this proposal out.”

“Unfortunately, I have a previous commitment right after work. With a bit more notice in the future, I’d be happy to stay and help.

Even if you do have the time, or you, in fact, don’t have a previous commitment, it’s totally fine to reserve any white space in your calendar for yourself, therefore making you unavailable for anything else. Learning to be OK with disappointing people is incredibly empowering and an important commitment to your life.

We waste so much time dreading, avoiding, and regretting, when instead, by giving some of the above suggestions a try, you can feel back in control of your calendar and your life faster than you think.

OK, your turn! How do these suggestions land with you? What time crunches are you challenged by? Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments section below….

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  1. Kerri,

    I have read the above post for awhile now and felt that my schedule always seemed to be packed full. I have a hard time asking for help and always felt it was really no big deal doing everything myself, that is until recently. While mowing my lawn during our most recent Midwest heat wave and not feeling good physically, I sat down for a moment on my deck trying to catch my breath to resume my twice a week task, when I looked over at my neighbors relaxing in their pool. I actually felt resentful that they could relax and I had a whole schedule of things to do and I could hardly get the lawn done. The following day I called a lawn company and I now get my lawn done. I cannot tell you how liberating this is. It looks great, I no longer feel resentful and I have more time for myself, imagine that!

    Keep writing these wonderful articles for those of us who are stubborn and take a little longer to get it!

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