Notes from the Editor: Time Clutter

By Karyn L. Beach

When we talk about getting rid of clutter, thoughts turn to the overstuffed closet, the packed garage and all the piles of papers and odd knick knacks that we have lying around the house. It makes sense to get rid of all of that excess stuff.

But when we talk about getting rid of clutter, we should also look at time clutter. When you get to the end of the day and you realize that you’ve done a lot but accomplished little, chances are you a victim of time clutter.

When clients lament about not having enough time, I just smile. We all have the same amount of time and sure children, long commutes, demanding bosses that demand ‘face time’ in the office, and family and social obligations play a role, almost all of us can find some time in their day … if we want to.

I talk to people who insist adamantly that they don’t have time and for those people, I don’t have much to say. They are convinced that they don’t have time and nothing I say will convince them otherwise… if this is you, stop reading now.

However, if you want to create more time in your day and get rid of time clutter, then consider the following.

Question Your Obligations : There is probably at least one thing you do that you can get rid of – social activities you no longer enjoy, extra assignments you took on. Do you really need to do those things? I started a photography club some years ago. It was supposed to be a casual club and basically a way for photographers to get together. Before long, I had over 60 members. I was taking dues, and spending hours every week looking for guest speakers and finding events. I began to loathe that club. I continued for about a year out of obligation but when I disbanded the club after that, I felt a weight lift off of my shoulders; it was definitely the right thing to do.

Use Your Downtime : Use your work commute to listen to a book on tape. If you have a hands-free device, use that time to return phone calls. If you are waiting for the kids to finish a practice or a class, use that time to make your shopping list or to balance your checkbook. Time spent commuting on a train can be golden. I return calls while walking my dog. When I have a doctor’s appointment, I take something with me to do: checkbook, grocery list, to do list or just some reading I need to catch up on.

Be Strategic : If you don’t need to have a conversation, you just need to give someone some information, try returning calls during lunch time or in the early evening when the person isn’t likely to be in. If they aren’t around, you can leave a voicemail or better yet respond via email. Now, if you need questions answered or clarification on an issue, the best thing to do is pick up the phone and talk to the person. There is nothing more time consuming than having a conversation going back and forth voicemail. Emails that go back and forth are also major time wasters, if you are getting into a volley of emails, it’s probably best to just pick up the phone and call.

Be Mindful of Media : I know people who brag about not having time to watch TV. Yet, many of these people spend an inordinate amount of time on the computer: emailing, Facebooking, and surfing the Internet. In terms of media, moderation is key. Only watch TV shows that you truly enjoy. Set a time limit for how long you will be on the computer and honor it. You can almost always do with less TV and internet (but by all means, continue to read this blog!).

Start Earlier or End Later : Get up a half hour earlier or stay up a half hour later. Or split the difference get up 15 minutes early and stay up 15 minutes later. Use that time to get some little things done: laundry, chores around the house, returning emails. It can make a big difference.

Keep an eye out for time clutter. Once you become aware of it, you will begin finding pockets of time that can be used more effectively or areas that need to be de-cluttered.

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