A Little Time Trick

Man looking at his watch. A Little Time Trick.
Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay

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:

  1. Establishing “homes” for your belongings
  2. Returning items to these “homes” when you are finished with them
  3. 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?

30 thoughts on “A Little Time Trick”

    1. When you have children, there are always last minute tasks before you dash out the door. It’s tough. But if you embrace the mentality, you will find that the girls will be taking care of more and more of themselves in those last few minutes, and then the 5 minutes will be yours to do as you wish. At least when you are leaving for an appointment after they are already off at school, the 5 minutes will be there! Hang in there, Janine!

  1. I need to work on #2 – a lot. I tend to let things pile up and then it takes way longer to sort out later. As I am a work in progress, I’m going to try to embrace your idea and see what I can accomplish in 5 minutes 🙂 Thanks for the tip Seana!

    1. It always feels so much easier in the morning to let it pile up, but I so agree that it takes forever to sort through things that have been tossed together in a jumble! 5 minutes of anything you do each day adds up.. I actually got the idea from a personal trainer when my girls were small. I told her I only had 5 minutes to exercise, and she said, “5 minutes is a lot if you do it every day.” Turned out to be perfectly true!

  2. I am habitually early for everything. Something I learned from my father, I am usually 1/2 hour early for very important presentations etc. I try to keep that down to 10 mins when I am turning up at clients homes. 😉

    1. I think early is a great habit. Someone once told me, “Good things happen when you show up early,” and I totally agree. It just gives you a minute to get your head together, and as I said, run around and put a few things away:)

    1. I had a daughter like that. The whole family had to pretend that the time to be ready was 15 minutes earlier than it actually was just so she would be on time!

    1. Love how you have found the perfect motivator for your son to get ready to go! And what a great idea… I’m not behind closing my eyes for 10 minutes… sound nice!

    1. Some people set their watch ahead for the same reason. It just makes you feel less rushed, and then gives you that little window to walk around and put a few things away… which ultimately makes the space nicer to return to!

  3. There was a time when I always arrived early for everything, but that doesn’t happen so much anymore. Maybe it’s because it’s too easy to think, “I don’t have to leave just yet; I’ll go on my computer for five minutes.” Even if I can keep it to the five minutes, it means I’m arriving right on time, or late if I get stuck in traffic. Since I do have a smart phone, I should just leave when I’m ready, then if I’m early, I can pop online while I wait for the other person or people to arrive.

    About the daily pickup, one of the best organizing strategies I ever learned was from “Getting Organized the Bonnie McCullough Way.” In her book, McCullough recommends spending 5 minutes a day in each room, tidying, picking up, putting away, etc. and that advice changed my life. When you first start, it barely makes a dint in the room, but eventually you don’t even need that much time. I highly recommend it!
    Janet Barclay recently posted…6 Simple ways to keep blogging from being a burdenMy Profile

    1. That’s what I do, Janet. I arrive early and then hop on my phone and check mails or delete photos… or sometimes just roll down the window and look at the sun:) Bonnie McCullough and I are on the same page with the power of 5 minutes. Great idea to spend 5 in each room of your home. Over time, the results are almost astounding!

  4. I love this rule! It’s applied to all ways we need to be ready for whatever circumstance. It will prevent rushing around at the end.

    My other rule is Just.Do.It. Whatever it is usually takes just a minute or two and then you are done.

    It’s encouraging to know that our rules make it easier for our lives.

    1. Sometimes I think it is the simplest rules, executed over time, that end up having the most impact on our lives. I love Just.Do.It… don’t overthink and over-plan, if it quick, get it done!

  5. I totally agree. When I was a kid, I had to get myself up, ready, and off to school by myself. So, I started this habit early in life. I would get up an hour earlier than I would need to leave and do what I needed to do and then usually had 10-15 minutest to watch the news. It worked well for me. I still do this.

    But, now with kids, my kids don’t understand this since I work from home and am here the majority of the time. Still a work in progress.

    I recommend to my kids to get the work done and bring all the bags and stuff together for the next day before going to bed.

    1. Great that you are teaching your kids to have their stuff ready for the next day. That is a habit that keeps paying rewards over and over throughout life! I like having the extra time, and also used to get up early in high school. I would often drive over to school and be one of the first ones in the building. It worried my mother, but I liked getting there early… just made me feel on top of things.

  6. I miss the days when I just got calls when I returned home and listened to my answering machine. Now everyone expects you receive a call, text, or email within an hour and things should be done almost immediately! These tricks can definitely help people save some time and be feel less pressured! ~ Jessica
    Jessica @ Independent Travel Cats recently posted…All your Essential Travel Photography Questions Answered by Photographer Laurence NorahMy Profile

    1. I know exactly what you mean. We don’t have those couple of minutes to listen and think before reacting. People can get very nasty if you don’t text back immediately! Shooting for having the 5 minutes is worth the effort, even if we don’t achieve it 100% of the time.

  7. I try to use up every spare momentI’m given by doing a task that needs to be done. If I have five minutes before I have to leave for an appointment, I’ll quickly fold some laundry, etc. —-it definitely makes life easier!

    1. Laundry folding – good one! 5 minutes actually adds up to a lot of time for getting things done. Plus, you just feel more at peace being 5 minutes ahead rather than running 5 minutes late!

  8. I like the clarity around time that you have…and your tip about being ready 5-10 minutes before you need to be. It’s building in the cushion for the unexpected, but also for that pause or extra breath. Especially in the morning, I use a timer to help me get out the door. I’ll set it for 10-15 minute before I have to leave. That’s my auditory cue to stop working, put things away, and head out to my client’s. What I like about using the timer, is that it allows me to fully focus on what I’m doing without being worried that I’ll be late.
    Linda Samuels recently posted…Why Do We Hold On to Treasures, Clutter, and Stuff?My Profile

    1. I love an auditory clue. It really helps to prevent the frequent looking up to check the clock, which is distracting. Using a timer is a great idea… maybe a Time Timer for children?

  9. Sometimes I’ll challenge myself to see how much I can get done (dishes into or out of dishwasher, folding clothes, etc) during a commercial break or while my toast is toasting. It really is amazing how much you can get done in a very short amount of time!

    1. I agree… it is pretty amazing how much can be accomplished in a few short minutes. My sister does the same thing as you, working to do other things in the kitchen while the toast is toasting. She accomplishes so much that she can’t understand why her husband doesn’t do the same!

  10. I, like Linda, set alarms to help me transition between activities….but lately I’ve been sloppy about it (e.g. not even dressed yet, and thinking it won’t take long, and being wrong). I still tend to be on time, but also tend to have rushed to get there. My intention is to shower and dress earlier so I really am ready and not rushed. (Other transitions not such a problem for me.) The extra time? I never have trouble filling time — once I get there — if I have my smart phone with me! (audiobook, social media, surf the web, read articles, calendar, email, etc. etc.)

    1. I never have trouble filling the extra time either. If I’m out and about, I usually turn to my phone as well. When I have a few minutes at home, I am always “resetting” my space to welcome me back!

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