Monday, February 3, 2014

Seize the Moment

I can't get it all done. There is always more to do than I can do. There are always things left undone at the end of the day.

Familiar story?

Even when I manage to stay on top of the bare basics, there are plenty of undone extras: things I want or need to do, but can't find enough time.

Enough time. That's my hang-up. I actually have bunches of tiny windows of time (10 minutes here, 20 minutes there), but sometimes I don't even try to start something because I know I won't have time to finish it before I leave the house, before naptime, before my student comes, before I have to start dinner, before.....

Usually, these are non-essentials (i.e. not necessary for survival). Things like:
  • Plant winter crops (including the seed garlic that's been in my fridge for two months)
  • Tackle the piles on the desks and in the corners
  • Plan a lesson on Mexico for the our little homeschooling co-op
  • Writing time (journal, thank you notes, letters)
  • Practice my violin
  • Pick a bagful of avocados
  • Cut the boys' hair
  • Take inventory of our 72-hour kits and food storage
  • Make sauerkraut and kimchi before I lose those cabbages
  • Record songs and poems for a bedtime playlist for my boys
  • Learn a song on my guitar
  • Write regular blog posts! 

You know what happens when I wait for a big enough window of time? They usually remain undone. I miss my chance to plant the garlic, piles become household fixtures, I lose the cabbages, etc. etc.

I have decided to forget about enough time. Instead, I break it down and seize the moment! I do something instead of putting it off "until I have time." Seizing the moment often has a lovely domino effect. For example:

The Garden
I went outside to call the boys inside, then decided to give them a few extra playtime minutes and readied two garden boxes for new seeds. Feeling motivated a few hours later, I took a loose 15 minutes and planted that garlic! When I had a student cancel in the afternoon, still feeling extra happy about having that garlic underground, I also planted parsley, cilantro, carrots, beets, and sugar snaps! I happily admired the dirt under my nails all day. :)

The Messy Studio Corner
When I had only a handful of minutes before a student arrived, I plunged in and filed the music that had been piling on and around my filing cabinet. When I finished teaching that day, I stayed in the studio an extra ten minutes, sorted a few more papers, and left the top of the file cabinet looking respectable. My mind is so much clearer in there now!

Writing Time
I can do this while the boys do their schoolwork. Or maybe nab ten minutes after I brush my teeth at night. Or just write it when I think of it! That only takes a couple minutes, and then (in the case of a journal) I don't forget what I wanted to document. A few journal lines is better than nothing, right?? Keeping journals out in the open inspires regularity.

This is the hardest one to face without a real block of time. Just when I feel warmed up, I have to stop. But I learned this week that a well-used 20 minutes here and there still builds on itself. It is very satisfying.

Well, look at me go. :) Started this one last night, finished this morning during the boys' free time. On my iPad, I keep a running list of possible topics with notes under each one so I have a ready outline when a window of time and computer access happily coincide.

Sometimes I use a few minutes to do things half-way, such as pulling the emergency gear from the garage, ready to look over. The danger here is creating more mess with no concrete plan to finish. To avoid this trouble, I jot down the main things I would like to accomplish in any leftover time during the day (I have my weekly calendar scrawled on a whiteboard in the dining area). This prioritizing helps me feel okay about not having time to finish once I start.

SIDE NOTE: Seizing the moment is twice as hard if I don't sleep enough at night. As I feel accomplished seeing my extras get done, I am highly motivated to go to bed at a decent hour.  It's a nice cycle to get stuck in.

How do you seize the moment? Share your secrets!


  1. Don't forget to teach them about Mexico's secret underground nuclear fission reactor plants and how all the commoners and Mexican peasants are actually actors.

    P.S. You're amazing.

  2. Kate, you said you wouldn't tell anyone!

    Such a great tip Nonie. I do the same thing ... put everything off until I have a slot of time in which I can both start and finish. This includes returning phone calls --- I am infamous for waiting weeks to call someone back if I think the conversation will be more than five minutes long.

    Thanks for the motivation!

  3. I've been having a similar thoughts lately about just doing a little each day otherwise absolutely nothing would get done. Cleaning out just one drawer, filing papers for just ten minutes, writing a short entry in a journal before going to bed. Little things add up to big things over time. Thanks for sharing!

  4. One of the best pieces of advise Rachel gave me when I was heading off to college was to leant to study throughout the day, even when I only had ten minutes. I determined to do so, and it probably saved my academic career--ten minute time slots really added up to a lot in those few years!

    One thing I have been focusing on is working fast. I had been just of the mindset that I had "work enough to do ere the sun [went] down," and I would dutifully plod along accordingly, but I realized that when I focused and worked fast, I really could cut the time needed in half! leaving time for fun with the kids, or whatever I want to do.

    Another effective way is taking thing off the list--just saying "no" to the optional. It's surprisingly refreshing :)

    1. Good thoughts. Yes, I enjoyed your post on working fast to have playtime with the kids. When you really have a 30-minute window, you could just seize 15 or 20 of them.

      The things on my list are usually a combination of things that need to get done and things that will be enjoyable or relaxing for me. Some of them have been said "no" to before, even multiple times, but they've resurfaced (like that learning a song on my guitar). Trying to say "no" is a good way to see how important it is.