How Would You Use More Time?

by | Apr 15, 2021 | Creativity

How Would You Use More Time?​What would you do you with an extra 5 minutes a day? Maybe you have an immediate answer. Maybe it seems like a pittance and why bother. But how about when that adds up to 30 hours a year? Or let’s go wild and save 30 minutes a day, or 3 1/2 hours a week. That’s 182 hours a year! Now how would you use it?

A little background and a confession: I’m an improvement geek. My day job includes helping healthcare teams improve processes and patient/family experiences. At the heart of this is applying a quality improvement methodology known as lean thinking, which is about relentlessly driving out wasteful practices that don’t add value.

Here’s a graphic of the 8 categories of waste we scrutinize.

And you’re thinking, what the heck does this have to do with children’s writing and creativity? A lot, at least for me! And maybe there’s a nugget that you’ll find useful. So, bear with me for a bit longer.

Waste is pervasive in our society. It sucks our time and energy from productive pursuits (along with being costly and sometimes dangerous). Think of the last time to you had to wait an excessive amount of time for a service, had to deal with receiving a defective product or went to pick up an essential item at the store only to find it’s out of stock. All are examples of breakdowns in processes, with the result being one or more types of waste.

▪ Here’s a favorite short video from lean consultant Paul Akers about his quest for a lean burrito and the waste of excess to make his larger point.

We can give feedback to the company or take our business elsewhere if feasible, but it’s pretty much out of our control otherwise.

But what about examples of things more in our control? I’m always striving to rethink how I spend my time to free up capacity — for writing, family, health and fitness, creative hobbies, sleep . . .

There are many time management techniques and tools out there in the world. My approach is inspired by facilitation methods I use at work. The questions I find valuable:
• What can I stop doing?
• What can I do less frequently?
• What can I do more efficiently?
• What can I combine?

It helps to be specific about how much time I need to gain, how I’ll use it and at least rough estimates of time that can be swapped as I come up with ideas. I also keep the planning timeframe narrow and then re-do the exercise every few months.

Here’s a simple worksheet I put together that includes an example of my recent planning. 

I don’t try to include everything, just a few current priorities sitting on top of regular life activities. You’ll see that being successful with a few ideas in my example would free up at least five hours a week.

Also, I used to think being time poor disappears once you’re retired (that was my dream, at least!). This changed as I started talking about doing time swaps in one of my writing workshops often attended by retirees. An example is one retiree who had the realization mid-workshop that she could shave how much time she spent browsing recipe websites to get traction with the food-inspired stories she’d been yearning to write. Being mindful about where time is spent seems to be an ongoing need.

So, let’s hear it. Are you time poor or rich in meaningful pursuits? And what tips and tricks have you found most useful?