When I was in my second graduate program (We hadn’t met when I was an undergrad or in my first grad program.), Kenny commented on my habit of using every bit of available time. I hadn’t really thought much about it until then, but I realized he was right. It was important to me to excel in school, so I read every page ever assigned to me, studied for every test and precisely followed instructions on every assignment. As an undergraduate, working full time and going to school at night, I read assigned chapters, books or articles while folding laundry, washing dishes, brushing my teeth, getting dressed, and pretty much any other time I was by myself and not driving. That habit carried me through my Bachelor’s degree and both Master’s degrees, and it is how I still read over 60 books per year.
I don’t claim to have mastered time management or to be able to accomplish everything I want to get done, and I certainly haven’t internalized the abundant view of time that I wish I had. But what my reading strategy taught me so many years ago was the power of tiny chunks of time. If I waited until I had vast swaths of unencumbered time, I would never write a blog post, make progress on my book (over 55,000 words so far!) or accomplish much else.
Just last week, I started the JustWind Coaching business Facebook page. I did that in a small sliver of time before work. It takes me a tiny step forward on the journey to building my platform.
Although the practice of using small chunks of time started with reading, it can be implemented in many areas of life, and I find it to be a necessary component of a life full of obligations, opportunities, responsibilities and passions.
Two requirements for harnessing the power of tiny chunks of time are to be okay with viewing our lives works in progress and to appreciate every bit of progress.
It would be easy to feel discouraged about the slow progress of finishing my book and my book proposal (just the beginning of the publishing process) or of gaining enough traction with my coaching business to be able to take next steps in modifying my lifestyle. Sometimes I do feel discouraged, and it is not uncommon for me to feel overwhelmed. But I combat those feelings by viewing my life and each goal as in progress. That way, every step I take in the direction of achieving my goal brings me that much closer. I may not be finished in the time I would like, but I am getting closer, as long as I keep moving in the right direction.
It is also crucial to recognize and appreciate each bit of progress. It was amazing how great I felt after starting that Facebook business page last week. It is a little thing, really, but was something, and I did it with the small chunk of time I had available. Win!
It is easier to view life as in progress and to appreciate the small steps along the way when we adopt a holistic view of our lives. I can have more compassion for myself over my frustratingly slow progress toward my creative goals when I put them in the context of being a full-time employee who is parenting a teenager in a pandemic. When I view my life from that angle, it feels pretty amazing that I have written over 55,000 words of my book (still to be finished and edited) in a little over 14 months.
Besides those lessons, my message to you is that you can accomplish more than you think you can if you commit to using those five, 10 or 15 minutes that you have between tasks or while waiting. You need to have a plan and know what you will do with that time. Otherwise, you will just spend those precious minutes figuring out what to do, and you will get nowhere. With an organized plan, you will know where to start.
Also, put your phone down. You have to concentrate during these slivers of time. If you are going to write, write. If you are going to paint or draw, paint or draw. If you are going to learn how to write a book proposal, Google that and find the resources you need. Whatever it is, focus on it. (I do make an exception for reading because I am really good at turning the pages of my Kindle–my usual reading format–with my elbow while brushing my teeth or washing dishes.)
Life truly is in progress. I don’t think we are ever really done if we remain interested in life and committed to growing into our greatest selves. As the Skin Horse said in Margery Williams’ The Velveteen Rabbit said,
“You become. It takes a long time.”
In many ways, I think that is the point of life. Bit by bit, tiny chunk of time by tiny chunk of time, to become who we are meant to be and to make the difference we are meant to make.
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