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The Gift of Little Bits of Time

By Barbara Greenleaf October 25, 2020 Lifestyle

During the pandemic, the days seem to slide by, and, even without going to an office or having the usual philanthropic meetings and obligations, we often don’t get to what needs doing.

There are lots of reasons for this: procrastination, lack of external deadlines, competing claims on our time. Whatever. As we all know, the Nike slogan, “Just do it!” is often a lot easier said than done.

The Extra Time in Waiting

I have noticed, however, that there’s a relatively painless way around this. Since I’ve always subscribed to the Japanese maxim that if you’re not early, you’re late, I often found myself cooling my heels waiting for the Zoom to start, the store to open, or my husband to get his act together so we could take a walk.

Rather than spend that time growing increasingly impatient, I started to do something with it.

That “something” was often:

  • Tidying a drawer
  • Paying a bill
  • Sending an email
  • Planning a menu
  • Setting out the supplies for an art project
  • Making a doctor’s appointment
  • Throwing a load in the washing machine

I was amazed at how much I could get done in random little free periods, especially considering all the psychic energy I had put into evading these chores.

In thrall to procrastination, I had built them up in mind to giant, life-sucking amoeba. After I had taken care of them, I asked myself what had I been so stressed out about? The whole deal only took 15 minutes.

New Projects – in Tidbits

I also found little bits of time useful in starting projects. Not for nothing did a junior encyclopedia for which I worked employ a person whose sole function was to write first lines. This is more difficult than it sounds as the beginnings of any project is really hard.

In the old days, one could sharpen a pencil, put in a new typewriter ribbon, or run out to buy a pad of lined paper. Today, there are no such excuses: it’s just you and the blank screen of your computer.

Getting an idea is exhilarating, getting it down on paper can be excruciating. Why do you think so many old-time journalists were alcoholics?

Enter Little Bits of Time

If you take the “swiss cheese” approach and nibble at a big assignment, be it writing the Great American Novel (or, more likely, cleaning out the garage), without even realizing it you would be gathering the momentum to push on.

Little bits of time also have the advantage of built-in deadlines because dinner must be started, a friend is coming over, a program is about to start, etc. In this way you are freed from the bleak prospect of a whole afternoon stretching out before you when doubt you’ll have the intestinal fortitude to fill it productively.

With just a few found minutes at your disposal, the pressure to perform is off. Finally, these mini work sessions have a way of adding up, which relieves you of the heaviness of procrastination. You accomplished something concrete! This has to be good for combatting the blues during Covid, which is no small benefit.

A Strategy Independent of Time of Day

Conventional wisdom holds that people are most productive in the morning, but I have found that little bits of time can be put to good use morning, noon, or night.

The fact is that most of us have “dead time” each day. Maybe it’s the half hour before lunch – or waiting for the clothes dryer to finish or the few minutes after TV and before bed.

When you start to look for these little pockets of unclaimed time, you’ll find them. And you don’t you have to use them “productively.” What is a better use of your time than gazing at scudding clouds or smelling the proverbial roses…? Yes, little bits of time can be a gift, indeed!

How do you use little bits of time? Do you view them as a help or a nuisance? What are your tips and tricks for overcoming procrastination? Are you getting to the bottom of your To Do list during the pandemic? Please share your thoughts and experiences with the community!

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Cindi Martin

Great ideas!

The Author

Barbara Greenleaf is the author of the new self-help book, Parents of Adult Children: You Are Not Alone, based on her long-running blog. She has also written a history of childhood and a self-help for working mothers. Barbara was on the staff of The New York Times.

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