Organizing With Tiny Bits Of Time

So many people think that they don't have time to be organized, that having a neat and functional home or office requires loads of unscheduled time or that their workload simply prevents being organized. In 40+ years of doing organizing and working with many, many people in a wide variety of situations, I have yet to see this to be true, but often people do not recognize the opportunities they have to change their environment for the better.
There are two aspects to the question of where to find time for organizing. One is to identify all those little bits of time that could go to improving the area around you, and the other is to find all the things that you do that could possibly be shifted, either temporarily or permanently, to help you create the kind of organized living or working setting you would like. This newsletter will focus on finding little bits of time and leave the second aspect for another issue.
The bottom line is that every situation in which you are waiting for something to happen is an opportunity to use that time to clean, clear and organize:

- while waiting for water to boil, or the microwave or stove to cook
- while the laundry is being washed or dried
- waiting for the bathtub or sink to fill (you can clean whatever needs it around the sink or tub)
- during commercials (lots of cleaning and organizing can happen during commercials)
- when out, while waiting for the traffic light to change (good for doing relaxation exercises!)
- while waiting for a bus or BART to come or when riding on it (a chance to organize your purse or briefcase)
- while standing on line (you can plan your to-do list)
- in the office, while on hold on the phone, waiting for the phone to ring, or for documents to print

As you can see, most of us encounter numerous opportunities to take advantage of these brief moments that can be employed to keep up with daily overhead of living and catching up on backlogs. You can probably add many situations not listed above to the occasions when a little guerilla cleaning and organizing is possible (I'd love to hear your additions to the list). These opportunities are golden - you don't have to set aside any other activities for them, and they don't require scheduling, planning, or a substantial time commitment. You just take advantage of time that is going unutilized.
The real beauty of this kind of quick-hit cleaning and organizing is that it's painless, and nearly always has additional advantages for each opportunity. For example, jumping up during commercials and running off to wash dishes, in addition to getting your dishes clean and not having that preying on your mind and self-esteem, also keeps you from being totally sedentary, giving you a higher activity level that is good for the body and soul. Taking advantage of stop lights to neaten your car or do relaxation exercises (you can do a quick run-thru of the sequence listed in the relaxation paper - as you become more adept at doing the relaxation sequence, you can more readily and quickly relinquish the tensions built up during the day) helps improve your outlook and may help you be a safer driver (if you are relaxed, you are less likely to react inappropriately to the idiotic things other drivers may do, and your alertness may increase as well because you will be less tired).
During the workshop and in the curriculum, I talked about having a list of tasks you can do when you are too tired to think. Similarly, a list of quickie actions that you can do during these short bursts is also helpful; there may be some of the same items on the two lists. You will be better able to take advantage of the full time period if you already know how you are going to use it. One of my techniques for this, is as I am doing one quickie task, I look around for what I can get done with the next similar chunk of time; so if I'm washing dishes during commercials, I look for what needs to be done during the next commercial.
Another aspect of making full use of these opportunities is to have your quickie or multitasking activities setup ahead of time so that it is easy for you to carry out your plans. An example of this, if you want to do mending while reading  email, the news (or whatever) online, having everything you need to get the mending project done right beside you and ready to go will make it more likely that this will happen.
As I mentioned in class, you don't want multitasking to be a source of distress - it should be a game. My way of playing this game is to see how many different things I can keep going simultaneously without losing track of any of them, so I like to do isometric exercises while I'm doing dishes or any other task that allows it, as well as a number of yoga practices. The mind is busy keeping track of it all and the concentration that takes is a good exercise in itself. Stress is not an issue in playing this game, since it is after all, a game.

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