Getting A Handle On Time

Mondays are productivity days at SimpleProductivity blog.

Photo by dynamosquito

It’s only taken me 5 months to realize it, but I am struggling with the new work situation in my home. 5 months ago I started a new job, which requires a 30-45 minute drive each way. The same day, my husband started a new job 3 hours from our home, which means he stays in an apartment and we see him late Friday evening to Sunday evening.

I thought I was doing fine. But during a particularly busy week, I realized I wasn’t getting things done. And not just during that week.

Not Getting Things Done

It started small. My projects were stalling. I noticed this when someone commented I was still working on a baby blanket. I joked back that I hoped to have it done before he goes to college.

But then I realized my blogging products weren’t getting written. I wasn’t working on my novel. I hadn’t seen the inside of my writing room for a month.

And the household tasks were sliding. I was discovering hidden pockets of dirt. I’m not making progress cleaning out my music library.

I haven’t done anything outside of the house since before the holidays. My garden beds are choking with weeds, and I need to be ready to go with plants in another month.


So what’s the first thing I did? I got resentful that everything is piled on me now.

As the only adult in the house during the week, I have to make sure that meals get cooked, the animals are taken care of, my daughter gets to her activities, solely on my own. I have to deal with the siding blowing off during a storm, oil changes and garbage.

I really cranked up the whining with the two major areas I am responsible for: cleaning and shopping.

And I let it rip…I had a major pity party that turned into a five star event. I whined to everyone how busy I was and that I was getting nothing done.

Realizing I Have Choices

A chance conversation with a friend of mine about a book we are both reading pulled me up short, and I realized what I was doing.

First step, stop the complaining.

Second step, look at my choices. Because truly, I do have choices.

Third step, admit to my poor time choices and correct them.

My Time Sucks

I didn’t have enough time to write, but my RescueTime logs told me I spent 4 hours playing an online game with my daughter.

I didn’t have enough time to exercise or clean the house, yet every weekday afternoon saw me sitting and reading magazines or chick lit for at least an hour and possibly two.

I didn’t have enough time to do work on my crafts but yet I had enough time to surf Facebook for 3.5 hours (again, courtesy RescueTime)

Getting A Handle On Time

The truth is, I have plenty of time. I’m just not using it in a good way.

So, what to do?

The Plan

From here, I have to figure out how I am going to make this work.

  1. I start by listing my time sucks. These include both online and offline activities. Online activities I have a concrete grasp of thanks to RescueTime. Offline time I know how much time I am spending on activities.
  2. I choose how much time I will spend on each. Personal Facebook is not all that engaging, and rather annoying. I choose to limit my time to 30 minutes every Wednesday. The online game I will limit to no more than 15 minutes a day. The reading I will limit to Sunday afternoons, but only if everything else is done.
  3. I enforce those limits. All of my browsers have limiting software installed. For Firefox I use LeechBlock, and Chrome has NetNanny. The limits will be put in place through the software. My current reading book is no longer next to my bed, and my Kindle software on my iPad is now in a folder called “Sunday only.”

So that eliminates the time sucks. But how to work in the productive stuff?

Getting Back To Productive

I still have a list of things I would like to do during the week in my target list. Now I just need to find time to do them. Here is how:

  • I will get the maintenance tasks done before dinner. Yes, I may feel like doing nothing other than sitting on my fanny after work. But in the two hours between when I get home and dinner, I can knock out most of the repeating household maintenance tasks in that time…including cooking dinner and taking the dog for a walk.
  • Plan for days when maintenance tasks can’t be done. Just because I have always done something on Fridays doesn’t mean I still can. I now have to go from work to my daughter’s school to home, just to rush through dinner to get to Girl Scouts. I need to shift those tasks I used to do on Fridays to a different day.
  • I will give the time between dinner and her bedtime to my daughter. From 6:30 to 8:00 I will be with my daughter. We may do something like craft together, or I may be free to do my own thing if she has homework. But I won’t get caught into doing things to make up for other unproductive time and short-changing her.
  • I will get ready for bed at the same time my daughter does. If I shower and get into jammies at 8:00, I won’t be rushing at the end of the night.
  • My project time will be used on projects. In theory, the time between 9:00 (my daughter’s bedtime) and 10:30 (my bedtime) is my project time. With getting ready for bed pulled out of this time, and other tasks completed, this time can be used to work on my projects.
  • I will get to bed on time. I get into a viscious cycle of staying up too late, feeling tired during the day, having too much caffeine too late, and staying up reading. This cuts my sleep short, and then I am less likely to want to do the things I need to do.

I can’t say that this system is going to work…it’s only in theory. But I do know that even just laying out the roadmap makes me feel like I have a chance of getting my life back in order. I’ll let you know how it goes.

But at the same time, if you have any tips you would like to throw out to me, please do so, either in comment or email. I can use all the help I can get at this point. :)

Photo by dynamosquito. Licensed under Creative Commons.



  1. Martha says

    I can totally relate to you. However, in my case, I don’t have the “missing spouse during the week” reason to my lack of organization and running around; I just end up doing that all on my own without any extra help. However, I just recently got an iPad :)
    One of your Open Loops articles suggested the most wonderful timer app out there: 30/30. It is awesome, and I have been using it to create Morning Routines, Night Time Routines, Planning Routines, etc. It shows me the task I should be doing and how long I’m supposed to be doing it, so it keeps me focused. I LOVE it!
    And I found it here, on your blog!

  2. Matt says

    Watching what I’m doing when I switch major activities has been the biggest help for me – if I can jump just a little into a task instead of taking a quick break, I’m much more productive.

    I’m a stay at home dad and I’ve noticed that after I put the kids down for a nap, if I stop even for 5 minutes to just check email or read a magazine article, I either get sucked in and lose 45 minutes, or I force myself back in but do everything slowly. If I immediately do something – no matter how small, I start to get on a roll, which feels good, and I can get a ton done in a small amount of time. Taking a break between small activities, for me such as laundry and cleaning, seems to lead to me getting more done.

    Even knowing this, I can completely relate to what you’re going through!

    • LJ Earnest says

      I’m trying to keep this in mind as I move through my evening. I am forcing myself to move onto the next task, because I know if I sit down to read, the whole evening will be gone!

  3. christina says

    Getting to bed on time is a big one! I have bad habit of staying up late, but then I am a wreck the rest of the week.

    I have started trying to lump many of my tasks into “busy” days, so I have more days to ignore the clock and skimp on the discipline.

    • LJ Earnest says

      I am with you on the staying up late. I seem to get my second wind about 9 pm. And then I just want to “read one more chapter” or “play one more game.” I read recently that one of the best ways to relax before bed is to read an old favorite, because you know what happens and you won’t be tempted to keep reading. That works for the reading, but I am at a loss on how to get past the phone…