20 Minutes at a Time

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“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”

– Dr. Seuss

Recently I’ve been paying attention to how I spend my time because I want to do the things I need to do more efficiently so I can do the things I want to do more consistently. The tagline of this website is Read Good Books. Do Good Things. That sounds great, but it won’t happen on a regular basis unless I improve my time management skills.

Anyone who lives with young kids knows that they demand constant attention. They absolutely require unconditional love and do need significant attention, but that doesn’t translate to doting on them 24-7.

Working toward a realistic balance of all important things (must-dos, should-dos, and want-tos) is a good thing, I believe. But it’s not always easy to figure out practical ways to make that happen in the midst of the busyness and unpredictability of every day. How do you decide what to do first, then next, and how long do you do these things? That’s what I’m always wondering.

Lately I’ve noticed that I’m more productive and a whole lot cheerier when I alternate between focusing 20 minutes at a time on three things: the kids, household stuff, and myself. (Myself includes my husband, other family members, and friends. I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone but me, but it doesn’t need to, I suppose.) There’s something comforting about creating my own structure and rhythm rather than sitting back and letting things happen. Yes, the things will happen, but I don’t get as derailed if I am a woman with a plan.

Annie
5:44 a.m. Working on our patience skills.

 

A bit about the 20 minutes – It’s long enough to make progress and short enough to stave off boredom. And yes – I actually set a timer on my phone. There’s one going right now. 3 minutes and 45 seconds left. There’s something about the looming deadline that motivates me to concentrate and make the most of that focused time.

Now, clearly I’m not ignoring the kids while I do other things … as if  they’d let me forget them. But I am more likely to say, “Yes, I’ll help you draw a rainbow in just a few minutes” rather than letting dinner burn while I get crafty. And other times I’m more likely to hold off checking Facebook or responding to a text in favor of working on a puzzle with my three-year-old. Patience is a good thing, and I like that we’re all practicing it.

I don’t take this approach all the time. That would be truly nerdy and maybe annoying to everyone around me. But I’ve started doing it more often during the daytime, weekday hours, and those days usually go more smoothly than the days when I try to go with the flow. The difference in my mood and productivity is noticeable. I used to find myself spinning from task to task, trying to figure out what was most important, hemming and hawing and doing a little bit and then thinking I wasn’t doing it right and getting frustrated and eating too many M&Ms. Now I’m more likely to do the best I can for 20 minutes, let it go for a bit, and pick it up again in a little while.

For me, focusing on one thing at a time is a practical method for doing good things with my time. As I prepare for the start of 2016, I’m glad to have discovered something that works for me, and I’m gearing up to do the best I can with the time I have in the new year.

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