Bending & Folding Time and Space In a Non-Physics Sort of Way Part 1

In conversations regularly, I get asked a lot about how I manage to do all that I do.  Within an hour of one friend asking me about how I do this, another friend posted a great blog entry about how she's renegotiating time with her child.  Thus, I figured I would also add my own experience to the mix.  For instance on my docket right now is the following:
And as I wrote the above list, it did feel like a lot (and I would imagine I am missing some things).  I do this largely while still being able to regularly get at least 7 hours of sleep on most nights.  A colleague of mine at my first major job out of college said it quite well:  "You take all those snippets of time-10 minutes here, 15 minutes there--that no one thinks about and put them to work."

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f0/You_can't_stop_time.JPG
But you can fold & bend it.
But it does seem a lot and largely, it's not in the name of the Puritan ethic of productivity--though it does end up making me a very productive person.  I do it all in the name of pleasure.  These are all things that I really enjoy and find rewarding.  That luck and effort have colluded in a way to make my life so blessed, I can't pretend is entirely of my own making--but being persistent in my pursuits to various has certainly paid dividends.  That is, I recognize that a good deal of my being able to do this has much to do with luck and the circumstances of my surroundings.  That being said,  I think there are some things that I do that help contribute to this in some capacity that I want to touch upon here.

Automating Life
I look for things that I don't really need to think about so much as I need to be reminded to do.  Apartment tasks such as cleaning, changing out the litterbox, or taking out the trash regularly need to be done but are rarely in the forefront of my mind.  I also would rather not take up mental space or time recalling or figuring them out.  In this vein, I find Google Reminders a boon!  I load my calendar up with a variety of reminders and have reminders sent the day before or on the day of (depending on the task and it's time quantity).

In recent years, I've also taken to ordering food in bulk off of Amazon.  One friend jokes that it's my fallout shelter but it's really just a fully stocked food pantry.  There are several benefits to buying bulk on Amazon.  First, Amazon provides reasonable discounts for buying in bulk and if over $25, shipping is free. Amazon also allows for a subscription to foods and toiletries to be delivered on a regular basis (from one month to 6 or so months).  So there's a lot of staple food (rice, quinoa, tea, coffee, dried beans) and toiletries (paper towels, toilet paper, toothpaste, deodorant, etc) that I have subscribed to for delivery.  This has freed up a lot of time in terms of grocery trips and errands.  If I need to adjust because I need more or less of something, I can always go onto Amazon and adjust the frequency.

With my email, one of the best time-savers has been to actively use filters to only allow relevant emails to show up in my inbox (emails from actual people or things I need to see).  I subscribe to a lot of newsletters and am part of many listservs.  These emails are sent into various folders in my mailbox system for perusal at times when I can clearly and consciously dedicate attention to them.  This avoids me getting lost in a bunch of emails that aren't necessarily relevant or needs my attention.

Along these lines, I also often cook in bulk.  Some of which I will put in the freezer and the rest I will have for lunch and/or dinner for the rest of the week.  I usually try to make two large meals in a given week so that I can have some variation and also freeze some of it to supplement some other week later on.  This cuts down dramatically on cooking time.

Finally, I have automated payments whenever possible.  Be it phone bills, school loans, or any other regular bill, I just have it automatically debited or charged.  Again, this saves me time and energy of receiving the bills, filling out checks, finding stamps and putting it in the mail.

Cumulatively, these collection of tool decrease the need for me to have to remember to do things or digitalize things that are part and parcel of daily life.

Routines
In recent years, I've also realize the power of routines in one's life.  For me, the three routines that I find to be most useful are:

Going to Bed Routine.  I start this routine most nights about 1.5 to 2 hours before I'm ready to actually lie down for sleep.  It starts with making tea (some version of what's referred to as sleepy tea) but also includes showering, putting out clothes for the next day, prepping my lunch for the next day, putting out what I need for breakfast, packing my bag(s) for the next day, drinking said tea, and sitting down in bed to read for anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour.  Right before I turn out the light, I'll do some light stretching.  I'm amazed at how this routine helps to center me and prepares me for bed.  Most nights, I'm out within minutes of turning out the light.  It makes my sleep more potent as I'm fully relaxed and makes getting up easier because I know I've had a good night's sleep as that the morning is already set up; there's no need to scramble.

I find this routine rewarding also because it's a quiet and reflective time to myself.  I'm putting together my things for the next day--maybe listening to an audiobook or music--and just enjoying the motions and the solitude (ok, not entire solitude, the kittens love to trample underfoot).

Morning Routine:  The night routine gives way to the awakening routine which usually starts with me awakening (or being slightly nudged by Bear, one of the kittens) just a few minutes before my alarm clock.  My first and foremost goal is to get out of bed and stay out of bed.  A warm bed with two cuddling kitties can be extremely hard to escape from.  So my first goal is to get up, walk to the bathroom (turn on the audiobook), and wash my face with cold water.  This serves two purposes:  1.  It wakes me up much more than just getting up. 2. It's great for allergy season to wipe off the nightly build up of pollen.  From there, I'm putting on clothes, getting breakfast, and checking email (briefly), and taking care of any other last minute items.  It's overall less hectic because a lot of the issues needed to be taken care of already were--when I was in a more alert and prepared mindset the night before.

Rebooting the Mental Computer:  A large portion of my job consists of staring at a computer screen.  It's fun but it's also a lot of mental concentration and thought as I peer into a 2-dimensional viewbox, discerning information directly and indirectly.  Therefore, in order to focus or continue to be engaged throughout the day, I find it's useful to reboot my own computer at least once a day, if not more by going for a walk.  Sometimes, the walks are short--too the end of the hall and back and sometimes, they entail a lap around the campus for the air and eye relaxation.  Regardless, though they take time away from work, they also help me be more sustained and engaged in the work and less likely to lose concentration or maintain a low threshold of concentration.

Owning the Environment
A major component of this is that I've changed my physical environment significantly.  My "living room" is not the center of relaxation it is in many other rooms.  It's productivity central.  Sitting down to watch television has to be a conscious and determined act.  I've create spaces for certain things.  My bedroom is not so much a sanctuary but it's devoid of electronic entertainment.  I've got books a plenty, my bed, and a space to meditate, relax, stretch.  My kitchen and dining area is generally my chorse area (e.g. ironing, folding laundry, etc) and where I prep and eat.  My living room is for entertaining, working on the computer, and exercising.  This clear sense of space allows for me to know where things go, never really needing to do much organizing/cleaning up (besides sweeping/mopping).  This may seem like an irrelevant component, but it is useful as it cuts down on questions and confusion about where to put things or where to look for things.

If you've made it this far, you've probably NOT found things that help you save time per se, but to some degree add time to your life, even if it's adding time that will allow you to reclaim time later.  However, they are essential parts in the whole process in that they give attention to a great deal of the smaller facets of life that do drain or chip away at our time.  In the next part, I will explore specific ways that I either play with time or reorganize life to reclaim time.



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