Much like everyone else in the Mid-Atlantic States, I’ve been snowed in for the better part of the last week. The storms have given me the chance to sit at my dining room table for hours on end, watching the birds on my deck eating sunflower seeds I put out for them. I love songbirds and watching them interact on my deck around a bowl of food is a lot like watching my own personal reality show. Try it sometime; there is a lot going on there if you have the time to pay attention.
One of the amazing things is how fast those little creatures can go through a bowl of sunflower seeds. They don’t eat the seeds whole –they crack them open, discard the shell and only eat what’s inside. Since the last storm, they’ve also had to push away snow and peck through some ice just to get to the seeds. The thing about songbirds is that they are pretty far down on the food chain and so they tend to be fairly skittish. Me sneezing in my dining room is enough to send them scattered into the trees. In a few minutes when they are convinced the coast is clear, they return. But even at that, none of them stay in one place for more than a minute. They grab a seed, open it, eat it and fly to a branch out of any possible danger. When they feel safe enough, they come back and do it again. In these quick little moments they manage to go through a lot of seed. A lot! A bird’s very existence relies on the ability to open one seed at a time, fly away, assess it’s personal safety and start over, hundreds of times a day.
So the birds got me thinking about time management. Have you ever found yourself saying, “If I just had the time, I would…?” Fill in the blanks here with any long-term project, organize your office, write your novel, learn to speak Italian, bring about world peace, etc. We often get caught in the trap of thinking we need these HUGE chunks of time to make our dreams happen. The truth is in our busy lives today, this is rarely a reality we can create. We don’t have hours and hours to spend on one dream. Or if we do, those chunks are so few and far between we can hardly connect them together to create something sustainable.
Instead, what if we look at our days as a series of stolen moments- five minutes, maybe fifteen – on a good day (gasp) a whole half hour? What can you get done in those tiny little spaces? The key to this method is you have to be really clear on what you want to accomplish in these short bursts. Because if you get to a little chunk of empty time and don’t have a game plan, well, that moment is lost, or, in my case, filled with a quick game of Bejeweled Blitz. Being clear is not necessarily the same as knowing all the steps you need to take. In fact, the first stolen moments may be filled with brainstorming sessions or planning sessions about what you will accomplish with those next moments. Once you are clear though, it’s truly amazing what you can accomplish in a few minutes at a time. Just look at the birds.