I recently read a book about productivity that talked about realizing the immense value of utilizing spare minutes. This really spoke to me, I truly think that you can change so much about your life and your environment in just a few short minutes, those minutes add up and that can equal real change. After reading the book, I took a look at my life and how I'm already using those spare minutes, and thought I would share my tips with you.
Using Spare Minutes Every day
Everyone has the stuff that somehow gets out of it's regular home and instead of letting them pile up where they shouldn't be, I have a couple of spots in the house that I use. I use these spots to put these items that don't belong on that floor and then when I walk by the spot, I always grab either the whole pile and put it away when I get to the next floor or next room, or a grab a few things.
Think of how many times a day you walk up an down your stairs and how many times you could be moving something with you, never travel through your house empty handed. Grab that laundry basket, the recycling, that book you finished, it could be anything, but grab it!
I've found the best way to do that is to put these items in a certain spot and check that spot before you go up or down the stairs and take those items with you on the trip. For me, I use the stairs when going up, the hallway for items to go to basement and the corner of my desk in my office for items to go to the main floor.
When you break up those tasks into smaller trips, it doesn't feel like you're cleaning or tidying, it's just taking something with you on your trip to make your trip a little more useful.
Once you start doing this, you'll start to find all those random items get into their homes much quicker and once it's a habit it's so easy to keep up.
Spare minutes while cooking:
Now, for those who know me, know that cooking is truly not something I enjoy, I never have and I bet I never will. I feel trapped in the kitchen when I'm cooking, because of that, I use those spare minutes while I wait for something to boil, or cook to do other things.
First thing I always do while I'm waiting on something I'm cooking is the dishes, either in the dishwasher by filling/emptying it, or washing the hand wash dishes.
If I'm cooking something that takes more time than those tasks take, the next thing I will do is make my shopping list, go through the cupboards real quick and take a little inventory and record what I will need next time I shop. You could also meal prep in this time, if that is something you do, not a skill I'm really good at, but you can check out Bloom and Thrive Nutrition Coaching, Heather has great meal prep ideas!
Sometimes I take those spare minutes to make a sweet treat, like Jello, pudding or Rice Krispies. I love having something to look forward to and dessert is one of the best things to look forward to after you've made a meal you didn't really want to cook in the first place.
I think that we often get stuck in a cycle where we turn on the oven to cook dinner, put on a timer and go sit on the couch, I believe in doing this things you don't like first, swallow that frog! And yes, I was that kid that came home and did homework on Friday night, I know, I know...
Everyone has a list of things to do, and completing some of those quick cleaning or organizing tasks while you are waiting for dinner is a good way to get that list done and to feel less overwhelmed with what needs to be done.
Once something becomes routine, you'll be surprised how quickly you can get more done and feel more productive in life!
Spare Minutes in the Car:
I'm sure that I spend more time in the car than most people do just sitting and waiting.
I realized pretty quickly that being early for client appointments is who I am, but that also means that I either park in front of the house that's for sale waiting, or if I'm listing, I'm parked around the block waiting for the right time so I don't look like a creeper.
Here's what I do in my spare car minutes:
Return important emails and phone calls, text a friend I haven't connected with in a while. If I'm driving to a property that will take me a while to get to, I call someone I haven't talked to in a while to catch up, it's nice to have a chat with friends who you can't always get a chance to see to catch up, or my Grandma, love chatting with her!
I organize photos on my phone, delete the ones that were taken as a joke and don't mean anything, create folders for the ones that can be put into folders and organized
I brainstorm, I use the time in my car to decide what kind of blog posts or videos I'd like to work on. I also often use this as a little quick business planning or mapping out my next steps, I do this with voice notes on my phone.
If I know I'll be waiting a long time, because I'm real early, often because it would have been a waste to go home in between appointments, I read. I always keep an active book on my phone or tablet, just in case I get a half hour to relax in the car. This is much nicer in the warm weather obviously.
Other things I always do when I'm out and about is to know what errands I need to run are and plan my day accordingly, if I'm going to drive right by a place I need to be, I'll stop in, complete the errand and cross it off my list of to do's that week. There's nothing worse than being close to a quick task and not being able to complete it. I do a lot of quick drop offs and pickups of signs, water tests, paperwork, gifts, you name it, I always have a small list of to dos that I can do quickly.
Spare Minutes before bed:
I think that this is one of the most important, how you start and end your day can make a huge difference.
A lot of what I do before bed is mental, but there are few things I take care of around the house too. I spend no more than 10 minutes doing these things, so don't think you need a lot of time to get ready for bed.
I get it, you've had a long day, you're ready to just fall into bed, however, if you leave something that is a little nagging and needs to get done, you may not have your best sleep. Set yourself up for success!
The night before I make sure the kitchen is clean, or at least clean enough to wake up and make breakfast stress free. We discuss what we're going to have for dinner the night before, so if I need to pull out dinner from the freezer, I do that.
I collect any items that need to leave the house with me the following morning, this happens on the stairs or front hall chair so it's not missed in the morning, I hate running around in the morning grabbing items and forgetting something or being late.
I lay out the files that I need to work the next day if I'm leaving in the morning before I get time to sit in the office. This sometimes includes setting my clothes out too.
Mentally before I fall asleep but after I'm in bed, I go through my day, what went well, how can I improve and what still needs to be done tomorrow. This is also a memory technique I use, to remember what's happened. I also run through my upcoming calendar in my mind so I know what still needs to be done, another memory technique and a reason why I don't use a calendar for my appointments.
I also make a short list for the next day of what my 3 must do items are, this is not for appointments I must get to, but for work that I want to complete in my business or around the house. I find that choosing these the night before helps my brain to prepare, since the do the tasks I hate the most first and I wake up prepared do to them.
I reflect on 5 positive things from the day for my gratitude, this ends my night on a high note remembering all the great things that made me smile so I have sweet dreams!
if you're going to try any of these items, try the 5 gratitude items, it puts your whole day into perspective and sets you up to be happy the next day!
Spare Minutes in the Morning
Morning Routine, there's a lot of talk around having a productive morning routine. I wake up early, around 6:30, but I'm also dressed and working by 7am. I don't have a long morning routine, so here's how I start my day, it really starts with the night before, but I also make sure to wake up in a positive space to get my day started right.
As soon as I wake up, while George uses the bathroom, I complete my morning gratitude, I once again go through the day before and try to remember what happened that made me happy, usually this is 5 to 10 things. Right now I'm focusing on the smallest things that make me happy, I truly believe that these micro things that happen to us can make us happier that we ever imagined. Being positive is a choice I make every day and it gets easier when you practice gratitude.
Then I practice mindfulness, I do this to help me stay in the moment, which helps with happiness and being productive throughout the day, the simplest way to start mindfulness is when brushing your teeth, think of the brush and each tooth, really focus on the process that you do automatically and it will bring you into the moment.
The final thing I do in my morning routine to be productive is run down my list of to do's. I only put 3 things on this list, it's short, if I complete those 3 items right away, I move onto others, but I don't make a huge overwhelming list of to do's. When I choose my 3 items, I always do the one that I hate the most first, I am most productive in the morning, so I want to crush that item and get through it right away. To be clear this list does not include things that I do daily like checking emails, listings or returning calls, this list is to complete items that you should get to in your business or life but aren't pressing and never get done.
Email in Spare Minutes
Email, it can be a real mess and cause a lot of stress in everyone's day. I strive to keep myself at a zero inbox. I know that sounds crazy, but you can be productive and deal with all your emails I swear to you! Here's some tips to keep yourself productive in those spare minutes with email.
Take some time to set yourself up correctly first: I used 3 email addresses, one for business, this is my main email address and this is the only email that I have pushing to my phone. I hate seeing a huge number of emails in my little indicator, so I only have emails that I may need to handle immediately pushed to my phone.
My 2nd email address is for those emails that I need to get but don't ever need to respond to, I check these once a day, sometimes twice, but never more than that. This is usually where my electronic bills, receipts from stores and other non urgent items go.
My 3rd email address is for all that spam email you know you're going to get, when you have to give your email address to get some information or to a store who you know is going to spam you, I check this about once a month, if that, and believe me, it saves me a tonne of email overwhelm.
Once you get your inboxes all set up correctly, you need to identify what questions, files or replies you are always typing out or sending. Since I'm so often out on the go, I reply to most of my emails from my phone and I don't make someone wait until I get back to a computer for an answer, than can mean a lot of typing.
Here's what I do, I will create a file for a property for example, all the questions I keep answering I put in this file, I also have the listing and other info that I may need about it. When I reply to an email with info that I think others might want too, I copy that response and save it on this notes section in my phone, so I can copy and paste it the next time.
The simple act of recognizing that you truly answer the same things many times means you can save so much time typing in the future. This works well for files you need to send often too, google drive is very helpful here.
The last quick tip that I have for you, is use your downtime to respond to emails before you scroll through social media. Most of my emails can be responded to very quickly, I may need to do some additional work later for that request, but I always respond right away.
I look at email like sitting down in a restaurant, if a server comes and brings you a drink, you don't feel ignored, even if the server takes a while to come back for your food order, you're still happy you got a drink. If you respond to an email with thanks, I got this, I'll work on this later tonight, the sender feels connected to you and you've bought yourself a little more time since they are not frustrated and wondering what is taking you so long. The other thing I do after I respond, if I still need to do something for that person, I mark the email as unread so it's sitting there reminding me to work on it.
Zero inbox may not be possible for everyone, but once you use some of these tactics, you may be closer to it than you think.
There's a lot of tips here, I hope that you are able to take a couple of golden nuggets out here, remember that real change can seem so overwhelming, but it's truly just small steps added together over time, so take one tip this month, learn it, make it work for your life, do it and master it, once you've mastered it, you've made that change and move onto the next. You can do it!