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Stealing Back Time

No time to exercise, no time to cook, no time to write, no time for me. Does that sound like a familiar refrain? That’s been my song and dance for the past few years, but I finally decided that I’m tired of singing that song and I’m going to find the time to do the things that are important to me. I’ve been reading Waverly Fitzgerald’s great book, Slow Time, and in it she recommends substituting life for some of your familiar refrains: Life expands to fit the life available, I don’t have life for fun, and my personal favorite, where did all the life go? It was the last one that really got me thinking about where my time, I mean life, is really going.

Thinking about the time I waste in useless meetings, doing busy work, and waiting made me start thinking that there really was time for the important things if I could figure out how to spend less time on the mundane. My first step in the journey towards making my time really matter was looking for the odd moments that usually ended up wasted because they didn’t seem like enough time to really do anything worthwhile. Close examination revealed the following stolen moments that could be used more productively:

The thirty minutes a week my daughter has sax lessons—I’ve been spending this time going to the bookstore and wasting both time and money as by the time I drove there from the music store, I only had about fifteen minutes to shop and then I ended up buying something I really didn’t need. That thirty minutes was a perfect slot to fit in one of the three weekly walks I’ve pledged to do. It’s kind of neat to wander around a neighborhood that’s not my own and observe and I’m getting exercise and not wasting money.

Time spent waiting at a (doctor’s, lawyer’s, mechanic’s) office—Let’s face it, no one ever gets in to see their doctor on time and the magazines in the waiting room are never that interesting, so why not use that time productively? I carry note cards and stamps with me and when I find myself with a few minutes that would otherwise be wasted, I write notes to the people I love to let them know I’m thinking of them.

Lunch Hours—How many lunch hours have you given up to work at your desk? I was really bad about eating at my desk or eating out until I realized that that was thirty minutes a day that I could be using to walk, write, or run errands. I’m fortunate in that I live five minutes from my office so I’ve started coming home for lunch and while my foods in the microwave, I start a load of dishes or laundry. Even if you don’t live close to home, you could drop of your dry-cleaning, walk, or do something more productive than sitting at your desk.

Travel Time—My commute is next to nothing, but other folks I know who commute every day, use the time to listen to podcasts or books on tape or to catch up on their email (if they take the train).  

So the next time you’re lamenting about not having any time to achieve your dreams, look through your schedule for some time that you can steal back to put towards something productive. Even if you don’t use your stolen moments to work on your dreams, if you use the time to accomplish some of your mundane chores, you’ve freed up the time you’d normally be working on chores to work on your dreams.