Timing Matters

Time Managment
photo credit: John-Morgan via photopin cc

When I was little my father used to tell me, “timing is everything.” Each year this phrase has made increasingly more sense, and I’ve come to realize that when we do things can matter as much as what we do.  Reflecting on this truth, I’ve identified three time-related principles that can increase your productivity and success.

Each person has a unique internal rhythm which impacts factors such as:

  • what time of day we feel most productive (morning person vs. night owl)
  • how much sleep we need (5 hours vs. 9 hours)
  • what environment we work most effectively in (e.g. inside vs. outside)
  • how we learn/produce (e.g. sitting down vs. standing up/moving)

If we want to maximize efficiency, it makes sense to be self aware and schedule our tasks accordingly. Some musicians I know are at their most creative in the wee hours of the morning. Many athletes I know enjoy the pre-dawn hours for a workout. There is no wrong time, as long as it feels right to you. Admittedly, many of us must work within an employer’s/family’s constraints, but to the extent that we can choose when/where to work, it makes sense to go with- rather than against- what our bodies want.

We all have a series of tasks to complete in any given day. Many times we perform these tasks at the time we feel we “should,” instead of when we would be most convenient. A simple example is dinner preparation. We wait all day and start making dinner at 5 or 6 (or 7…) because this is what we’ve always done. In reality, however, the 5 o’clock hour is often the most chaotic time of day, when we may be driving kids around, bouncing a colicky baby, or dragging in from a long day at work. Instead of waiting, consider tackling the chopping/measuring/table setting/prepping at a calmer time of day. Ever watch a chef prepare a meal on a TV show in about 5 minutes? It’s because most of the work is already done. Maybe chop veggies as you are eating breakfast, or consider pre-measuring all ingredients during naptime. With a bit of planning, you can even do a fair amount of prep work over the weekend to carry you through the week

This concept can be applied to many of our daily responsibilities. Take a look at the tasks you regularly perform, especially those that seem stressful, and ask yourself “Can I do any part of this at a time which would work better for me?”

Many items on the “to do” list require participation from another person. This is a tough one, because we can’t control when & how others behave. However, we can increase our odds of success by being intentional and thoughtful.  Always ask yourself, “When is the best time to ask this person for help with this request?

– It’s probably not the moment he first walks in the door,
…but it may be when he’s stuck in the airport, waiting for a flight, and has time to kill.

–  It’s probably not the night before the complex deliverable is due,
…but it may be 2 weeks in advance, when he can meet your need without throwing his own schedule off.

– It’s probably not when your teen is trying to get to practice, study for 2 tests and tackle an unexpected project,
…but it may be on the weekend or the Friday night when she’s got no plans.

The key here is that by respecting other people’s time, you actually increase your own productivity.

*     *     *     *     *

There may never be enough time to leisurely accomplish all you need to do, but a bit of intentionality can help you make the most of every minute you’ve got.

What tricks have helped you make the most of your time?

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26 thoughts on “Timing Matters”

  1. So true about doing things when you feel most productive and will say I have trained myself better as I have gotten older to be more of a morning person now, as much as I have not been in the past. Thanks so much for the tips though 🙂

    1. I’m definitely a morning person, but I also know people who definitely are not. And frankly, they fared better in college than I did. I just don’t think we should attach moral judgments to body clocks. Do what works for you, right Janine?

  2. I used to be a morning person and I woke at 5:00 ready to go. Unfortunately my new medication makes it very difficult for me to wake up. I miss my favorite and most productive part of the morning. I wake now about 7 and my brain is still asleep for a while after that. This is a difficult adjustment for me because I feel my time is not being used wisely. Time for me has fallen to the wayside…. Hugs

    1. Hugs back to you!! Medications are exactly the kind of thing that can mess us up. It’s hard to face an unwanted change in your schedule, but know that MANY PEOPLE are in the same boat. Don’t be too hard on yourself, you can only use the time you’ve got the best you can:)

    1. Time is so limited that I figure every little bit helps, right Susannah? Hope you find a tidbit that brings you a few productive moments:)

  3. I’ve been doing a lot of freezer meal prep lately (like putting meat and spices into freezer bags, then pulling out the day before I want to cook it) and it’s amazing how much those simple steps of chopping meat, adding spices, and having the marinating done simplify my cooking time in the evenings!

    1. I totally agree, Sarah! Having any part of the prep taken care of just makes everything go faster. Many times you prepare a whole meal ahead in a freezer bag and then just put it in a slow cooker. This can be so helpful when the late afternoon/early evening hits and times just seems to disappear!!!

  4. This is very well-written! I agree Seana. With a job like mine, I sometimes struggle with time management because my work schedule changes drastically! Today, day shift and the day after is night shift. I was writing my new blog post earlier and I mentioned that as long as I get enough rest like 8 hours of good sleep, I can conquer the world. LOL 🙂 I usually do light housework before going to sleep and the heavy ones after getting a good sleep.

    1. Having a shifting work schedule is VERY HARD! I give you big points for knowing your need for sleep and scheduling household tasks around your sleep level. That’s really rough, Rea …

    1. I have always loved sleep, but I find I need it more as well. Now if I could just go to sleep and stay asleep all night.. that would be awesome!

  5. I’m a late morning person. I am not a night owl, nor do I like to wake up early. Ideally I’d wake up around 8 or 9 and then work straight until lunch. Then outside time.
    That’s my ideal but of course it doesn’t always happen.
    Cassidy is a good cook and he uses that prep trick a lot in life. You’re right – the prep is done and that makes a difference.

    1. I would ideally go to bed around 10 and get up at 7… which is, yes, 9 hours of sleep. I get this in the summer, but never during the school year. Plus, I feel more tired in winter, and I love to sleep in on Saturdays:)

  6. You bring up such great points in this article. I have found personally that you are so right about respecting other people’s time. I think I was soo selfish when I first got married. Not because I wanted to be, but because I was used to being single and not considering the time of my husband so regularly. Now 3 years in and with a 2 year old, I have noticed the homemaker has truly come out of me and I do put my time around them and it works for everyone so much better. There are less misunderstandings and I feel so much better about the me time when I am able to actually get it each day. 🙂

    1. Such wisdom there, Brittnei! If you have the flexibility to work around your husband’s work schedule, it really can bring peace to a home. Especially within a family, making time work for everyone is a clear “win-win”!

    1. You are in good company, Jessica! I’ve got some family members who tend to put off. BUT, they often do well under stress, so it is good to know yourself. For me, the last minute is certainly NOT my finest hour:)

  7. I find I’m most productive when I think of tasks in terms of how long they will take to complete. I’m the type of person who can sit and work on the same thing for hours, so I used think there was no point starting something new after 2:30 PM (or 9:00 PM when I was in school). Now I’m more attentive to tasks that can be completed in under an hour, or under 30 minutes, and I’m able to get a lot more things checked off before the end of the day/week.

    1. Wow, I have so much respect for people who can focus for extended periods of time! I don’t have as long an attention span, and when small children were underfoot, I got used to being interrupted. It is all about knowing yourself and your available time, and then making the day!

  8. I find that it’s best when I can be intentional about scheduling myself based on knowing best or worst focus times. I’m definitely a morning person. It’s when I have the most energy and clarity. However, I’m not able to accomplish all things in the morning, so I have to work with what I’ve got.

    I have noticed that as the evening progresses, there comes a point when my brain says, “It’s time to stop, Linda!” There have been many times when I’ve tried to push myself despite the warning. But on the best days, I listen to the brain and stop. Always working on that balance.
    Linda Samuels recently posted…What Are Today’s Interesting Finds? – v6My Profile

    1. I definitely fade as the evening presses on, and the older I get, the harder it is for me to rally in the evening. Guess I’m a morning person as well. But I have friends who are the polar opposite, so it is a lot of learning to know your own body, and then do whatever you can to take advantage of that!

  9. Great post Seana! I totally agree. Timing is everything. I personally am a morning person. So, I wake up early in the morning and go to work early. But, don’t expect me to do anything from the hours of 2:00 to 4:00 pm. My energy comes back after dinner.
    Sabrina Q. recently posted…Create A Custom Marker boardMy Profile

    1. I’m a morning person as well, Sabrina. I can stay strong until at 6:00, and then I’m ready for a glass of wine and putting my feet up:)

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