(for those of you that are new: this is a continuation of a series we started back in November. It kind of got derailed over the holidays, so we’re finishing it up this month. If you’re interested in catching up, you can read the earlier posts, which are Get Thee to Bed!, Plan Ahead and 3 Ways to be Efficient.)
People who read my blog often wonder how I can find the time to blog or the time to bake or the time to read or the time to paint furniture, or the time to do any of the stuff I write about.
But another secret (well, it’s not really a secret!) is that I try to cut clutter from my schedule.
Simply put, I try not to fill my life with things that don’t matter to me or that don’t mesh with the overarching beliefs and goals that shape me.
Maybe you’re wanting to read more.
Maybe you’re wanting to spend more time with your spouse/kids/family/friends.
Maybe you’re wanting to have time to craft/play music/write/paint.
And maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t have time for any of that stuff!!”.
And to that, I would gently suggest this:
If you’re wanting to do something and “can’t” find the time, you might be cluttering your life and schedule with things that are wasting your time.
(I don’t know every person’s life or schedule, of course. There are stages and phases of life that are just really, really busy, and nothing can be done to reduce the busy-ness. If you’re in that sort of situation, my advice will not apply to you. Hang in there, and may your life calm down soon!).
The things that are cluttering your schedule will probably be really different than the things that are cluttering another person’s schedule, but the point is that you need to take a good hard look at what you’re really spending your time on and then consider whether those things are what you really want to be spending your time on.
The best way to do this is to keep a time diary for a few days (a week would be great).
You can keep this very low-tech…a pencil and a piece of paper will work fine. Every day, write down, in a list format, what you spent your time doing the whole day long. Including the actual time spent on each activity is optional, but can be helpful.
For instance, my morning so far would look like this:
4:40-woke up, made bed, ironed Mr. FG’s clothes, packed his lunch
5:00-read email, checked Twitter and Facebook
5:15-read Bible and prayed
6:15-read email, blogged
You can do in in less detail than that if you want. The point is just that you want to see where your time is going.
You may find that the simple act of writing it down will alert you to your time-wasting habits and will make you want to do something different (writing down that you spent an hour on the Internet doing mostly…nothing? That’s painful!).
Once you’ve got several days’ worth of time diaries finished, look them over and see if you are spending time doing things that don’t really matter to you.
You might see a lot of TV-watching. You might see more texting/tweeting/Facebooking time than you’d like to see. You might observe an inordinate amount of phone time. You might notice that you’re running around to an activity every night. You might see that you’re spending more time on the internet than you are with your family.
Whatever it is, odds are good that you’ll see some things on your schedule that aren’t really in line with what your goals and desires are, and when you do, you should think long and hard about cutting some of those things out.
If you say your children are your number one priority, but you’re spending most of your non-working hours online, you should change something.
If you say that you really want to keep your house cleaner but your time diary says you spent 3 hours watching TV over the course of a day, you should change something.
If you say that you really want to read your Bible every day but your time diary says you spent an hour on the phone every day, you should change something.
If you say family time at home is a high priority for you but your time diary says you are never at home with your family, something needs to change.
So between now and next Thursday, could I encourage you to keep a time diary?
I’m going to do it myself because I am pretty sure that I am checking my email way more often than I’d officially say that I am, and I may be wasting time in other ways without even noticing it.
Schedule clutter can be as sneaky as household clutter, and so keeping it at bay requires the same kind of constant vigilance. Clutter of all kinds has a way of creeping in, and I want to keep an eye on the time clutter that might be worming its way into my days.