On-the-Spot Time Management

What to do when the unexpected happens.


We’ve all had them. You know what I’m talking about–the days we have planned just so. Then, an item we didn’t know we needed is nowhere to be found. Or an unexpected call comes in and we have to change our plans.


All hell breaks loose, right?

That’s how my day was yesterday. Or rather, that’s how it could have been.  That’s how it would’ve been if I had not already realized that I get easily overwhelmed when my day is too scheduled for my comfort.



My plan yesterday was to go to my local yarn store and knit all day, and then go home to chat on the phone with a local professional organizer. I wanted to pick her brain about starting a new career in the organizing field.

But then I realized I didn’t have a crucial item I needed to knit for the day. As if that weren’t bad enough, I’d forgotten I’d told Dad I would stop by in the afternoon. A brief wave of panic set in.



When this happens, I ask myself two crucial questions:

  • What’s important for me today?
  • What can I release?



The knitting class was already paid for, so I needed to attend to that. It meant purchasing an item I needed before the 10:30 class time.

My father is 85 and very independent and maintaining a relationship with him is important, so I needed to attend to him.

The phone call to the organizer can be potentially life-changing, so I needed to attend to it.


As soon as I figured out what was non-negotiable (the class, my dad, and the phone call) what was unimportant became self-evident–as beneficial as it might be for me to knit beyond the  ninety-minute class time, it was not crucial. It had to go.


Still, I needed to make an unexpected trip to the store. How can I accomplish this without feeling harried to get to class? I like to use two simple time management strategies–buffering and boundaries.


Time buffering is nothing more than creating space in the day for the unexpected. It can be as simple as leaving for work 5 minutes earlier than the usual time in case you run into traffic, or as challenging as getting up an hour earlier than you do now. The important thing is that you decide what’s best for you.

For me, being dressed, fed and having the bed made by 8 AM is pretty important, even on my days off. So, when I found out I needed to get to a craft store before class, I was ready. I was able to buy what I needed and still be the first one to show up.

Time buffering has worked amazingly in my life. I’m never late for work, even on days when I have to go through a bottleneck of cars.

I’m not yelling for a red light to hurry up and turn green! Thus my stress level is turned down several notches. Who doesn’t want that?


Setting a time boundary around a task or an event can not only help prioritize your day, but can also keep relationships healthy. Sometimes, we even need to set time boundaries around difficult people. This is another way of creating space, or breathing room, in the day.

Yesterday, I had to set a time boundary around my knitting so that I could visit with my father. I had to set a time boundary on my visit to dad so that I could devote the proper time and attention needed for the phone call to the professional organizer. See how this works? There’s space to get the important things done; space for the unexpected; space to breathe.

Who doesn’t want that?


Have a great time-management tip? We want to know! Share it in the comments.

A Minimalist Snow Day


We are both home today. We could be doing some online shopping this morning, or watching TV, inundated with advertisements. Instead, we are indulging in our passions. My husband with his needle felting and me with my knitting.

It’s a beautiful day.

What does your snow day look like?


My completed knitting project for today–a gorgeous purple cowl


A Life of Esteemable Acts


It used to be that I would do one of two things to make myself feel better–either I would overeat or I would spend money.

I overate to the tune of being morbidly obese with a BMI of 41 and I overspent in the thousands. With the addiction to compulsive eating and debt to income ratio on the rise, I hid perfectly well in society. I was fat and so were you.  My debt matched yours.

With the higher weight and the higher debt came the greater shame and embarrassment. I crawled into a meeting for people addicted to compulsive overeating. I put down the food.

Five and a half years later, I still weigh and measure my food and instead of being morbidly obese with a BMI of 41, I am at a healthy weight with a BMI of 21.

No longer is there shame attached to my eating.

Today, I pay my bills. No longer do I throw them away in the hopes that the creditor will forget all about it. Yes, I really used to believe that. It makes perfect sense in a world where burying your head in sand seems like a good idea.

My husband, in all of his wonderfulness, does not know this part of me. He finds it hard to believe that I used to be that way, despite the evidence of what I’ve shown him (pictures, defaulted student loan notices, etc.) He knows me as the woman who keeps a clean and organized home, sticks to a regimented food plan, goes to meetings a few times a week, and pays the bills on time (mostly).

What happened? How did I go from being a slothful glutton to an organized and detail-oriented person?

A few years ago, a special woman entered my life. We talk everyday, I tell her what I’m eating for the day, and we talk about life in general.  She is a decade younger than me, but we have similar backgrounds. Our mothers are Irish, fathers Italian. We’re both bad at being Catholic, but love the Church warts and all. Our mothers were alcoholic. And we both have the disease of compulsive overeating.

One day, she said to me, “All the positive talk about ourselves and taking our inner child out to play is all bullshit. Want to know how to build good self-esteem? Do esteemable acts. Get your ass up out of bed every morning. Don’t overeat. Be honest.”

It’s really that simple. Today, my list of esteemable acts has expanded to include other areas.

Be available to those who truly want (not need) my help.

Shut up when they don’t.

Pay my bills on time.

Spend within my means.

Save for my retirement.

Save for a house.

Show up for work on time and ready to do the job.

Tell my husband I love him.



Do you want better self-esteem? Do an esteemable act.

Busy Boycott: Eliminate the Non-Essential


I love to wake up in the morning.  Although, judging by externals, it might seem like the opposite were true.   I’m not one of those people who is all sunshine and bubbles as soon as my feet hit the floor. In fact, I don’t even want to talk to you. I need silence. That’s why I’ve made it a practice to get up a full hour (at least) earlier than my husband.

I love morning routines. For years, I’ve done pretty much the same thing every day: get my coffee, sit in my chair and read my meditation books. Occasionally, something gets added or deleted in the routine. The automation puts the right spin on my day.  My morning needs to begin so smoothly that I don’t even put the coffee on then. It’s prepared the night before and put on a timer. My coffee is waiting for me before I open an eye. It’s a beautiful life.

This week, I started Courtney Carver’s 21-day Busy Boycott challenge. It’s been a real eye-opener. I am now confronted with all the things that clutter up my day–constant Facebook status-checking. E-mail checking on my phone. Responding to calls whose numbers I don’t recognize (even just looking at the phone when these calls come in is a time-waster).

I’ve eliminated these distractions by doing these simple actions on my phone:

  1. Removing the Facebook app
  2. Removing (or hiding) the email app
  3. “Favoriting” friends and family contacts and keeping my phone on Priority ring ONLY. This means that I hear the ring of only those people I’ve favorited. All others go to voice mail. I can get back to them at my earliest convenience.

By eliminating these things, I find I have more time for what I love, what I am passionate about.


This is a brand-new discovery for me. The first time I tried it, I almost threw my needles and laptop across the room. The woman in the video made it look so easy. Ugh. I couldn’t cast off to save my life. I had tears in my eyes. When my husband came home, he knew something was wrong. It was really that bad.

But I was determined.

The next day, I went to my local yarn shop. There was a hank of yarn just begging me to pick it up. I did, and fell in love.

Now, I could cast on and cast off.

That was a week ago. I am making time every day to knit, including it as a part of my morning meditation routine. It’s not perfect and I’m making a whole bunch of mistakes, but I don’t care. I love the process of it.



Okay, I already knew this. But here’s what’s different–I have more time to do it. It’s not because I’m working less, it’s because I am eliminating the non-essential.  Instead of watching episode after episode of home improvement shows this afternoon, I am completing this blog post. Sure, I watched some during lunch, but as soon as lunch was over, I shut the TV off. Now, I’m not against television. It can be a great tool. For me, it’s a trade-off–do I want the comfort of sitting in front of the tv, or would I rather hone my passion to write? Today, I want to write. It’s that simple.

Maybe later I’ll turn the tv back on. But not now, I’ve got too much to write.



The Problem of Unitasking

Buddha MarblesRemoving material clutter from our one-bedroom apartment was a great start. We didn’t have it easy merging two households into one after we got married, but with focus and determination, my husband, Mark, and I have boiled most of our possessions down to two components:

  1. Do we need it?
  2. Do we love it?

If what we own doesn’t fit this criteria, we get rid of it lovingly. This is an ongoing process

Our apartment is now a sanctuary we come home to. We can relax knowing there is enough room to breathe. There is a space between our possessions.

Beauty unfolds.

The Problem

What about the clutter of the mind?

A multitude of messages bombard my mind at any given moment. Focusing is difficult as I have become accustomed to processing input from a thousand different directions. My mind seems to have been programmed that way.

As I sat in meditation this week, I found it difficult to focus on the simple act of experiencing the air as it entered my body.

The Process

The compassionate teacher gave us a phrase to use, focusing on the three-step process of breath:

  • Breathe in–OHM
  • Stop–(AH)
  • Breathe out–(WHOM)

Thought distracted me.

The Lesson

Everything we do has a lesson, or virtue. Even if we do it with imperfection. Perhaps that’s when we learn the greatest lesson.

My meditation fell far short of perfection.

It was a success.

I showed up and saw what I needed to see–I have a problem. I didn’t know I had one. Now, the way to a solution is cleared.

This is a gift.

What Do We Value?


Would you pay a monthly access fee if it meant seeing no ads in your Facebook feed?

This was the question I posed recently to a Facebook group. Not immune to sales pitches, my home page was inundated with ads for stuff I really want but do not need.

Those shoes look really cute.

That’s a nice comforter, how much?

Scores of people responded, all with a resounding NO!

I began to question the authenticity of my minimalist journey. How could I even entertain the idea of paying for an already free service?  Doubts abounded.

Then a curious thing happened.

Someone else, with questions about minimalism, asked her fellows about paying someone to clean her home.

Almost everyone who responded said they hire someone to clean. Some had people come in several times a month, others once in a while. These were some of the same people who refused to pay a small monthly fee for social media use. Yet they were willing to pay at least four times that much to have someone clean their home.

What’s going on here? Are minimalists inconsistent? Sure. We are just like everyone else. We struggle, sometimes confusing wants with needs, like with love. Are we hypocrites, giving lip service to a life with less, but not really living it? Perhaps.

These thoughts and more crossed my mind as I read through the responses to this woman’s question.

Perhaps we’re not asking the right questions.

Perhaps we should be asking something more fundamental–what do we value?

If that’s the question, then it makes perfect sense for a minimalist to pay someone to clean their home, yet not want to shell out the bucks to skip a few ads, and vice versa.

If we value a clean home, but cannot do it, then paying someone to help clean it adds value to your life (not to mention you are helping another person make a viable living).

If we want to eliminate visual clutter and reduce the temptation to buy objects, then paying to have the ads removed can be a valuable service.

Minimalism isn’t about spending less money. It’s about using money as a tool to greater freedom.


Joshua Becker, Becoming Minimalist

PS…I found a great Firefox app for blocking Facebook ads–free!