Pick Up Extra Bits of Time

Yesterday as I inched my car up through the carpool line, I didn’t see my son waiting. Typically, his school has kids lined up at pick up stations with military precision and I see him smiling and chatting away with the teacher chaperoning the station.

I was near the front of the line. He had a doctor’s appointment, so I got in line early to be one of the first to pick up. That meant I had to sit in my car for a while, staring at the pick up stations. So I was sure he wasn’t out there.

The school has a strict system. As a car drives into the pickup line, they must show a pickup card with a QR code that authorizes them to pick up a child and also tells the teachers with the kids how to line them up at the right pick up station. So I was surprised not to see my kiddo ready to go.

Turns out, my son had hopped on a school bus instead of going in the car rider line. (There’s a whole process breakdown discussion here, but I’ll talk about that another day – I don’t have all the info yet!

So, I rushed back to our home bus stop so I could shove him right into the car and maybe make it to the doctor. I just made it in time for the bus. And we were late, but we just made the grace period window for the appointment. Whew!

If you’re trying to work and be the on-point parent, the one that does all the appointments and activities, you run into this sort of thing all the time, no matter how well you plan. If I had not actually gotten some productive tasks done during my car line wait, I would have been cranky and complainy and mad.

Take advantage of “useless” bits of time

One way that I get so much done is that I haul around a few tasks that I can do during odd downtimes that I find myself in. At first, this may seem opposite of what I say I want. To be done by 3:00 and be present with my family, generally means doing less. 

But I’m talking about those times when you’re not really in control. When you’re forced to wait or sit, and it’s not long enough to go find a coffee shop and pull out your laptop. You might be surprised how many 15-30 minute stretches of time you have that are spent waiting. 

I used to pull out my phone and play a game or aimlessly scroll on social media. And the truth is, I still do that sometimes, I’m not a robot. But most of the time, I have a book or notebook with me and get some reading or some work in. 

It’s important to note too, that I don’t do this instead of engaging with people. I don’t do this when I could be chatting with my son. So in the car line, I read ~25 pages of Atomic Habits by James Clear, a book I pre-ordered more than a year ago and still hadn’t read. (brilliant, by the way. Get it.)

But, while waiting for the doctor, my son and I talked about school and what was going on and about the new VR games he wants and about a girl who has a crush on him but that he only likes as a friend. All gems I wouldn’t have heard if I wasn’t being present.

Where to find 15+ more minutes each day

Driving

I live in Atlanta, GA, and if you know anything about Atlanta, you know the roads are crazy and traffic is a nightmare. There was a joke on social media that’s funny only if you’ve been to Atlanta: “From anywhere in Atlanta, it takes about an hour to get to Atlanta.” Sorry, it makes no sense if you haven’t driven here.

Anyway, DO NOT read the newspaper while driving. I’ve seen this more times than I can remember. It was shocking at first, but now I know to just give those folks some space. 

What you CAN do is listen to podcasts, listen to the news so you don’t spend time watching it on TV at home, listen to audiobooks, or listen to training programs. I am not the best auditory learner, so I like to listen to important things over and over again. The car is perfect for that.

Waiting in carpool lines – my favorite extra bits of time!

As above, you can listen to something if it’s the kind of line you’re constantly inching up in. But if you’re stuck in your spot until school lets out, put your windows down, turn off your car, and get out your planning spreadsheet.

While your kiddo is at sports practice

Watch and engage when you can of course, but much of the time, it’s the same old stuff, or you can’t even see your child. I don’t work during competitions, but during my son’s martial arts regular classes, I pull out my laptop and work on social media posting. 

While dinner’s cooking

This is the main time that I tend to scroll around on social media without purpose. But many of our meals involve a bunch of prep, then some oven or stove time where they don’t need much attention. While I’m waiting until the next step, I usually pull out my phone. But, it’s often 15 – 30 minutes, so lately, I’m trying to use that time for reading or making lists or planning my next day.

Exercising

When you’re exercising is another great time for listening. Especially if you’re going to be doing something like running or a cardio machine. For me, it’s harder when I do any weight work – I lose focus. Right now, this is out for me as I’m doing PT for exercise and I really need to focus on what I’m doing. But as I get back into walking or other cardio, this is one of my favorite times to listen to podcasts.

At the dog park

This one all depends on how you and your dog work at the park. Maggie and I play fetch for a while, then she usually disappears into the woods for a while, chasing creatures. I use this time to plan out the rest of my afternoon and to answer emails, and maybe the occasional Facebook scroll.

Waiting at doctors’ offices & other appointments

If I’m not with anyone here, waiting for appointments is the perfect time to read. I try to always have a book with me. And if I don’t, I always have my phone with the Kindle app installed. I can’t ever decide which format I like best, so I read both physical books and ebooks. I find that keeping inspirational-type books on Kindle works for me because I can pick those up at any point and find a bit to read.

Waiting for the train or airplane

It’s very rare that I’m waiting for transit without my family. If they’re around, I’ll chat with them. But if not, it’s another perfect time to come up with ideas, outline blog posts, or again, read.

Title image - how to pick up extra bits of time

Ideas of what you can do during your found 15 minutes

Exercise

If your child plays a sport on a field, walk laps. Bonus points for walking laps while listening to a learning podcast!

Social media productive posting

Don’t scroll around, I mean posting your blog posts, talking with colleagues, nurturing your audience.

Reading business books

This one’s my favorite – you can do this nearly anywhere and you really only need to carry your phone to do it.

Email replies

Works with basic replies, but sometimes you have to save the complicated emails for back at the office. At least you can get your inbox cleaner!

Planning & listmaking

Another favorite, though at this point, I need to do more acting than planning!

Podcasts

I’m always looking for new podcasts. I love them! 

Audiobooks

Listening to books can be a great way to read more. It depends on how you learn though. I find listening to be great for inspirational type books.

Find your 15 minutes each day – it adds up fast!

So, carry a tote or a slightly bigger purse and add in a book or notebook & pen. Or have a podcast queued up on your phone ready to go. Always have that plan for the 15 minutes. It adds up like you won’t believe. 

I’m headed to the DMV today to get a new car tag. You can bet I have my copy of Atomic Habits ready to go.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Quick! What do you do?You have 43 minutes until carpool. You have 17 items on your to-do list.

You're a business-owning mom, so you use this guide to prioritize your tasks in 2 minutes, and have 41 minutes left to knock out a task.

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