There is no doubt that the pace of life has picked up. The first wave of change was ushered in by the industrial era, and since then technological advancements have accelerated the speed at which we function. Recently, the advent of the smart phone – with its associated 24 hour accessibility – has made many of us feel that we never get ahead.
How do we suffer? The list is familiar. We are…
… always rushing around
… dashing out the door at the last minute
… frequently late
… left feeling uneasy and out of control
Another casualty of the frenetic life is that we don’t always get things put away. We are pressed to get somewhere or finish something, and these deadlines demand our attention in a way that objects on the counter do not. The ringing (or buzzing) phone demands action, while the magazines in the corner just silently pile up.
Nonetheless, a cluttered space can add to our stress. For some, the visual chaos is truly unsettling. For others, we often lose track of things, meaning we waste time hunting for needed belongings.
Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet for slowing down. Much of our schedule is dictated by outside forces, such as work, family, school, etc. However, there is one small trick – or habit – I intentionally put in place years ago that has had surprisingly far-reaching benefits. Here it is…
* * * Be completely ready 5-10 minutes before you need to perform. * * *
By perform, I mean take the kids to school, leave for the office, sit down and work on a paper, or whatever your life requires. This may happen multiple times during the day:
- before school or work
- before you head out to a class or lesson
- before you need to pick up children
- before you leave the office for the day
- at night before you turn in
Of course, you can’t always make this happen. You may work in a career where you get a call and have to run out the door immediately. Or, if you are a parent, you may still have last minute obligations in the morning, like brushing kids hair or helping them pack their backpack. However, as far as your needs are concerned, set the goal to be ready before you actually need to be.
What can you do with the extra time? Sometimes, you may end up dealing with an unexpected crisis or situation. Periodically, you may simply sit and breathe or look out the window. Most of the time, I suggest you walk around and put stuff away. “Reset” your space as much as possible, so that when you return, it looks in order. This is not only pleasant to walk into, but it allows you to be productive from the moment you return. You may not always get everything put back, but you can actually accomplish quite a bit in 5 minutes!
Remember, being organized involves three primary functions:
- Establishing “homes” for your belongings
- Returning items to these “homes” when you are finished with them
- Circulating new items into the system and old items out
Most people fall down on #2, because it requires a discipline that is honestly easy to procrastinate. Yet ultimately, delaying #2 results in a time-consuming mess. To me, this is one area where “a little bit goes a long way.” 5 minutes spent putting things away now will save you more than 5 minutes later. Why? Because by the time “later” rolls around, there is a strong likelihood that you will have piles or bins of mixed up items, and sorting these out takes time.
Our lives are made up of habits, some better than others. This is a habit that can reap big rewards.
What do you think? Can you be ready 5 minutes early? What would you do with the time if you had it?