Who has the time for that! Free time? I’ve never heard of such a thing. But this isn’t about free time.
There are little pockets in our day that we don’t deem an incrementally large enough amount of time to address it as part of our day. You know what what I’m talking about! Even though it doesn’t seem like open time is plentiful, we do little things to “pass the time” without even realizing it. These days, it’s mostly doing something on your phone but there are plenty of things we do that hold no value to our day yet take up precious moments. I think our biggest downfall right now is that we are so reliant on technology to take up our spare moments that we forget all that we really can do in a day.
Before I go into ways to power through your day, please remember stretching yourself too thin is never productive either. If you need a true break- take it! We know in our heart of hearts when we are just being unmotivated and when we are out of steam.
People aren’t productive anymore
People aren’t productive anymore. I think a lot of it has to do with people being overworked at their jobs. People are hired for one job and then are suckered into wearing many hats without enough or any pay to compensate. The workload is not distributed well in a lot of larger companies. Able-minded people are under utilized so they can be underpaid and those in mid-tier and even a lot of upper tier positions are having too much tossed to them and in return we have burnouts that carry into our personal lives.
In a world where you do too much at work, why would you do the “extra” at home? Simply put, you get what you give. You’re not going to get anything out of your life at home if you’re not putting anything into it. With my “productively passing time” method, I can’t really use being too busy as an excuse for not getting the little things done.
Everyone is always talking about the little things in life and that’s because they are important. They deserve our time and attention because the little things are the foundation for the big things and a beautiful house isn’t worth squat if the foundation is sh*t.
Figure out what to NOT fill your time with…
Part of your building blocks here are things you need to decide won’t be used for incremental free time. For me, I don’t like to sit. If I sit, I lose steam quickly so I found out that if I just keep on my feet, I really don’t mind the miscellaneous tasks I do. I also don’t get on my phone for what I call “free use.” This is just identifying that there is a difference between working on your phone and scrolling Facebook to see if you can figure out if that person from high school is still a burn out. I even say responding to important texts doesn’t count as free use because half the time replying to them is work or it’s about a task you need to do. No free use phone time between tasks for me. It just leads to like 30 minutes of nothing getting done. My last big thing I don’t do in my quick spare moments is is pick up something that can’t be put right back down. Many struggle with multi-tasking not because they can’t do it but because they are picking the wrong tasks to juggle together. Think about that before you jump into a busy day. A little strategy can go a long way!
Before you can decide how to best fill your time you need to take stock of your to-do list. What are the musts but then break it down a step further than most and organize by amount of time the task takes. It will be easier to pick and throw together combinations that naturally coincide.
I did this too and years later, these are my favorite ways to pass time productively.
Short bursts of time:
We are going to qualify short bursts as handfuls of minutes- no longer than 5. What can you do with five minutes? As a radio DJ I can tell you five minutes is all the time in the world.
1. Wipe down surfaces/dust
Not to toot my own horn but I constantly get compliments on the cleanliness of my house and it’s not because I’m a trophy wife that just cleans all day. A big part of it is because I wipe down things and dust in between parts of my day. If I’m on my way upstairs to grab shoes, I’ll probably bring a mirror cleaner with me and wipe down the bathroom mirrors I walk passed on the way. While something is cooking in the microwave, I’ll get the kitchen countertops tops etc. It’s something so simple that makes a huge difference in the appearance of your house and the degree of work it will take to do “big” cleans.
2. Pick up toys
This is a great “on the way” job. I am amazing as scooping things up and balancing them in my arms or on my legs/feet. When you don’t have time to vacuum, at least get the floor picked up so you can later if you want to. I get anxiety if I walk into a room and can’t see where stuff ends and floor begins- how some people live that way blows my mind. If there is even one small children toy in the floor, my barefoot WILL find it and step on it at the worst angle possible.
If you don’t have kids you still have toys. Your little bits of hobbies you started scattered about. Something you meant to put up later but never did so now it’s sitting in a weird spot. These are some of the “little things” can make a big cosmetic difference to your house.
Picking things up a little at a time will not only de-clutter your house but your mind too- or lots of studies have suggested that. How you present your home is representative of your mind and how you feel about yourself. Sometimes, if you’re not feeling too hot about yourself, cleaning your house really well can sort of trick your mind to clearing up. I’ve tried it and it’s worked every time. I kind of work through my problems as I pick up. This mundane task can turn into something therapeutic.
3. Prep something for later
Make your life easier later on and prep something for later in the day. This is another time making a priority list can come in handy. It makes it easy to assess what you can prep in your quick down beat. For me, I’ll put the vacuum in the room to remind me or some cleaning stuff on the table, get out stuff for dinner, prep a play area for baby, or if I know I’m leaving the house later I might gather what I need for that so it’s ready and by the door.
Getting in the habit of having things prepared ahead of time is one that can benefit you in all areas of life. The days flow better when you have smooth transitions between activities.
4. Clean up emails/notifications
ahhhh, always putting this one off are we? People with thousands of notifications give me anxiety. I keep mine down to empty or nearly-empty by using small moments to clear them out. Elevator rides, waiting in line, waiting on my husband to pick up his shoes… it’s quick to delete or unsubscribe from some emails, open some texts or pretend you looked at the ones on Facebook just to get them cleared off.
A cleaner phone is a cleaner mind. You don’t owe everything a response but at least clear out things you never intend to reply to!
5. Make lists
Surprise! Making lists is something I like doing in my free-time. Not just for these articles but so I can stay organized. As a new mom, my brain has become a bit scattered so Post-It’s and the Notes app are life savers. I feel like everyday you can make at least one useful list. Normally a to-do list. Even on a relaxed day it’s a good idea to write or type it down to have the reminder. Would always have a reminder and not need it than need one and not have it!
Grocery lists will SAVE you money, every month I like to set monthly goals or to-dos for myself, I also have a holiday gift idea list for all the people I love that I constantly add to when I see stuff that screams at a certain person, blog idea list, career goal list, list of baby milestones, and – my favorite- the halloween costume idea list that has been around for years now! It doesn’t even have to be a “list” per say. I am strongly for handwriting things down. You are more likely to remember it.
Never let an idea go to waste. Write it down.
Hopefully that can get you going and find some things YOU will like to do to pass your downtime in a productive manner. Find things that naturally fit into your schedule for the best results. Don’t just outright copy mine- it might not work for you. Dare I say… start with a list!
Not everything is a whirlwind. Sometimes it’s like an hour of downtime. Can’t really nap and get ready again or fully commit to something else so what do you do then? Netflix! Not anymore except maybe in the background. 😉
Longer chunks of time:
Let’s just say this is going to be pieces of your day where you can’t fully commit to another activity yet. 5 min- 1 hour?
1.First always double check to ensure you’re on schedule
It’s always a good idea that if you have a spare moment to double, triple check that the moment isn’t because you’re forgetting something. Oven on? Call someone back? Zoom call? If you’re going to be opening up several tasks in the day, it’s easy to slip up if you are being careless. Don’t ever multi-task if you don’t intend to put attention into your day. Better to get one thing done then 10 sh**ty things done you have to amend later.
2. Miscellaneous cleaning task
This is a popular one for me but I’m a compulsive cleaner. Once I discovered the world of a clean house I could never go back, even if it makes me look like a tight ass with a stick up my butt. I REALLY enjoy clean spaces.
But I don’t just have these huge chunks of day to clean and I’m sure you don’t either. I get mine done during these moments! On a random Tuesday if I have an hour, don’t be surprised to find me cleaning out a closet or reorganization stuff under the kitchen sink.
Normally I kinda prioritize like vacuuming is a must everyday, then mirrors every other day, surfaces each day I can, and then any other projects that are cleaning can be added onto the day if those things are squared away. When you vacuum and dust each day, it ends up only taking minutes to do.
Get a little movement in while also treating your body during your downtime. Stretching is absolutely a productive use of time. If you start stretching regularly you will notice a huge difference in your mobility for everyday activities- even just things like bending over to pick things up or going up the stairs.
4. Act of kindness
Try doing an act of kindness! I didn’t say random because there is nothing wrong with treating someone you know and love. I’ll use spare day to make little cards to mail to friends, make little gift baskets to drop-off, check-in on someone who I feel might need it, and I’ll search the internet for cute little things to send to let them know I’m thinking about them.
Big or small, it can end up really turning someone’s day around to receive your little note that day- you never know!
5. Fill out my planner
Sometimes in that particular moment there isn’t something to-do, but later this week you might have a lot. Free-time is a great time to get that planner filled out. Birthdays, vacations, weddings, and your everyday tasks all should be recorded in that bad boy.
I am lame enough that I actually go through it and draw little inspiration notes and images throughout the year. It’s really silly I know, but it helps me feel good during my off weeks to see them so whatever works!
If you are reading this and don’t have a planner, it’s your sign to buy AND use the planner.
Often I am asked how my house is so clean with two dogs and now it’s with two dogs and a baby. It’s this stay-on-your-feet method! Fill your hands with tasks not Facebook. It’s awesome how getting more stuff done keeps the wheel turning once you get it started. It gives you a satisfied feeling that makes it easier to keep up with than, say, working out.
If you struggle to find the motivation to do things, I have a book to recommend! It’s called The Five Second Rule by Mel Robbins. I’m not into self-help books but bought it because a girl was talking about how she could never get out of bed when she needed to and didn’t have the motivation to do the mundane stuff. I instantly thought of my husband- sorry babe! – and how he has been really struggle to get things done and have motivation for the little but important things. I bought the book on a whim expecting him to roll his eyes at me… and he did. The book then it sat on the coffee table for a couple weeks when out of nowhere in conversation so seamlessly he thought it would get by me he said, ” yeah I just did what the book said,” and continued on. HAH! I knew if I left it there long enough he’d at least peek at it. If he liked what he saw, I figured he’d give a chapter a chance.
It’s now been 3 weeks of him getting to work ON TIME! – Sadly this is big for him. *sigh* So some book huh? If it can get my husband to work and to take out the trash then maybe it can give you a nudge too.
One step at a time. That’s how you are going to get your life the direction you want. When I start feeling stuck, I’ll pause and take a mental look around. Am I actually stuck or did I stop moving? When I stay busy, I stay thriving. There’s this whole movement right now to “give yourself a break” but most of y’all just spent the better part of year doing that. I think a lot of people overapply the memo and think it means to literally do nothing when in reality it means take a vacation once a year and go out for lunch sometimes. It doesn’t mean to cut ties with hustling towards what you want.
And to bring this all back, who are the types of people that reach their goals? People who know how to pass their time productively and get the most out their days. Days are short and so is life. Using spare minutes to get crap no one likes done is my way of maximizing my true free time. The time you can actually use, like when the whole family is in the same room or a saturday afternoon when a friend has a great idea.
Live your life to the fullest.