Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom ~ Efficiency



I have been thinking a lot about efficiency recently. We are constantly told by ourselves, our friends, and the media that we don’t have enough time. Is this true, or are we just deeply inefficient and distracted?

In my house, during down times, I have notices that all four of us have our “go to” strategies, none of which are very productive: I check my email and Facebook for the millionth time; Clara listens to music and plays solitaire; Audra watches TV; Dan fools around on his computer.

All electronic, all non-productive.

My girlfriend Sherri addressed this on Facebook recently. (Okay, I realize that does seem a bit ironic.)  “No thank you “Yammer” I do not need an app to help me get things done FASTER. I need an app to slow things down. Oh wait, I have that! It’s called my frontal lobe! I can use it to make decisions about what is important, decide to turn off the gadgets, and tune in to my family, friends, God and nature! All with no monthly fees or penalties! Count me in!”

I have been trying, very consciously, to do two things: Sit around less and fill the small gaps in time.

Sitting around fooling around on the computer – what a waste of my life’s most valuable resource – time. Now when I truly have business to do that involves the computer, I sit at the dining room table. It turns out that our dining room chairs, which have rattan seats, really aren’t that comfortable for extended sitting and having that rattan pattern pressing uncomfortably into my thighs keeps me focused on plowing through the business that I need to attend to, rather than drifting off into the No Man’s Land that the Internet can be.

The other thing I’ve been trying to do is to fill small amounts of time. It’s like me to pace around feeling aggravated while waiting for someone to brush their teeth before we can leave. Now, I try to fill that time by doing something: wiping the kitchen counter, putting away some laundry, loading the dishwasher. I’m still by the door ready to leave, but I’m not just pacing and feeling irritable.

Yesterday it was ridiculously hot. Even in the house, I felt hot. I was sitting (just sitting) in my favorite chair feeling hot. After 15 minutes, I consciously decided that I was wasting my time, and that I could be hot and get something accomplished, or I could just be hot. I got up and got some things done. In fact, I probably cooled myself a bit because part of what I did involved wiping the kitchen counters, and the cool water felt nice.

Consciously trying to be more efficient can apply to any task you want to accomplish. Often we wait for a big block of time before we tackle a project. As Colleen has often said, decluttering a thing a day only takes 10 minutes, although frankly, I think it only has to take about 2.

What could you get done if you decided to be more efficient today?

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter electric kitchen tools that aren’t that useful to you. Suggestions ~ Grater,food processor, blender, mixer, juicer, coffee machine, coffee grinder, can opener, pepper grinder, bread machine, ice-cream maker, donut cooker, popcorn machine, panini press… this list could go on forever. After going through my kitchen last week I have found that I have the usual suspects ~ toaster and kettle ~ plus I also have a hand blender with one accessory, a coffee grinder and a panini press. All these items are used regularly enough to be safe from decluttering for now. 

Eco Tip For The Day

When buying bars of soap, by ones without wrappers or multipacks that come in a simple cardboard box. Every little bit of plastic saved from landfill counts.

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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  1. My husband and I car pool to work together every morning so I typically have a few minutes to fill while waiting for him. It’s amazing how much productivity a few minutes here and there adds up to over the course of a week…but I do think it’s okay to relax once in a while too! It’s probably not healthy to fill every second of every day up. I have had to be intentional about not jamming too much work into my day as it’s something I tend to do and run myself ragged. I’m getting better at leaving myself a little “blank space” to relax and use the time to read, pet/walk the dog, or play the occassional video or board game with my husband.

    • Sounds like you might have the opposite problem than me, Melissa.

    • Hi Melissa, I think your comment is spot on. I agree with Cindy and you that so much work can get done in those little gaps in time where we might otherwise just be impatiently waiting. I also agree that far too much time can be spent lazing around doing nothing useful, especially if your home is reflecting that. But I also agree that a person certainly needs to give themselves some time to simply relax. Finding the right balance is key to a pleasant atmosphere in the home, both visually and mentally.

  2. I get most of the dishwasher unloaded and reloaded while waiting for water to boil or some such thing. Sometimes even the hand washing done.

    I love your eco-tips but I wish you could share them with our stores. There is no such thing as buying items that aren’t already individually wrapped.

    • Hi Delores, I am sitting here drinking my cup of tea reading your comment after unloading the dishwasher while waiting for the kettle to boil.

      It is a shame that the stores you shop at don’t sell soap at least in a simple cardboard box. Even the major grocery chain stores here in Australia offer that choice. Where do you live?

  3. Cindy!!! This post is dark chocolate with walnuts for me!! Delicious. Efficiency has somehow got a bad name in certain circles, but it can be terrific. When I have 5 minutes, I play a guitar scale, run through a difficult passage once more, unload the dishwasher, look up the answer to a nagging question such as “What type of nuts are most nutritious?” When we busy ourselves with productivity, we notice irritating phenomenon far less, and that is truly priceless.

    • Beautifully said, and I’ll take my dark chocolate with pecans, if you don’t mind!

      • Dark Chocolate with almonds for me.

        • Damn!!! I really love cashews best, but pecans (pee-cans because I am from NY) and almonds it is, ladies! The walnuts are super tasty, but it is the omega-3s I am after there. Heck, they are really all ridiculously yummy. Have a marvy Wednesday!!!

      • Dark chocolate with sea salt. Yum. That is my one and only chocolate weakness.

    • Dark chocolate with most any nut will work. Or just dark chocolate. Wow! A big bowl of dark chocolate ice cream sounds very good right now. Yum!!

  4. I think a big part of this is priorities. It is so easy to do odd things that waste time which sometimes I think we do to avoid doing the things we should do and don’t really want to do. I also think this applies when we take a lot of time decluttering only to go get more junk to fill the spots we just cleaned out. I call it churning. Maybe you get rid of all the junk food in the house and then go buy more because there is a great sale or you are having sugar withdrawal. We need to figure out what we do to cause us more work as well as wasting time and stop ourselves from doing those things. If you don’t go to garage sales, you won’t be tempted to bring home the junk. If you don’t go to all you can eat buffets, you won’t be tempted to overeat, if you set a time limit on the computer, you will do just what is the most important instead of wasting time. Fill up the empty spaces with more meaningful things that matter.

    • You’re right. If you make being productive a priority, more will get accomplished and you’ll be happier.

    • Sometimes I think we get into a rut where we forget how much better we feel about ourselves when we are being productive. I know I feel better at the end of a day when I have accomplished lots of little things. Crossing things off the to-do list is always very satisfying. On days where I choose to be lazy I often feel more tired and sluggish than the ones where I am busy.

    • Oh Spendwisemom, you are so right! This has been /is so me. They say nature abhors a vacuum, lol. I think that’s why it’s important to get rid of storage furniture too. And guilty as charged re junk food, this is one area I am still working on not churning – am getting better (had a wee relapse yesterday though – oops). And still realising how much food we have in our cupboards – we don’t seem to be going through it as fast as we used to. Am working on making sure my priorities stay my priorities! Self care for me is important – am off to have my freshly made green smoothly (made with some kale just picked from my garden) and head off to yoga – woohoo! (And we’ll not mention the fish supper and choccy bar from earlier in the week, eh?) I’m going to admire the empty space left by finally removing a cupboard yesterday too.

      • Ooh Fruitcake, I’m a green smoothie fan. I also do a mean raw kale salad that is so yummy.

  5. It’s funny that this post should be here today as I have been using a program which tracks the amount of time I spend on my computer per month and emails me a monthly total including a breakdown of where I spent the most time. May was 120+ hours which I found shocking and this month was 76 – still quite a lot, though I have to take into account that I do take advantage of the online/instant streaming aspect of my film/tv package, so a fair few of those hours are watching films and tv series. So I guess you could say that 76 is my internet AND tv/film time (not sure that makes it much better!).

    However I will be honest and say that a fair few of those hours are also me procrastinating. A LOT. Facebook is a killer for me, I do think I check it more out of habit now than out of any real interest as when I’m typing it into the address bar, I’m sat wondering why I’m bothering then once on the page can see within seconds that there is nothing new. But on the other hand I don’t have many friends and a lot of family live far away so I am afraid of isolating myself even further by deleting my account. Besides mere habit I think I also check it a lot for the same reason elderly people leave the radio/tv on all day – as a kind of background noise to make you feel a little less lonely and isolated.

    I do agree with Cindy though that it is a waste of our most valuable resource and I know full well that I could get lots more done if I didn’t waste time online. I am trying to implement a policy where I delay going on my laptop by doing another task first, or by considering how much I really want to google X/Y/Z right now. It’s hard going but I do hope to break the habit, I have managed to cut down 40 hours last month from May so I’m going in the right direction. I am also considering writing up a list of short 5-10 minute tasks or fun things I can do in that sort of time period and putting it on the wall near my laptop.

    Finally I just wanted to share a quote I saw recently that I liked which summarises how I feel about life right now:

    ‘My goal is no longer to get more done, but rather to have less to do.’

    • First of all, great quote.

      I find that if I can avoid getting on my computer first thing in the morning, I will get A LOT more accomplished throughout the day. Otherwise, I might get sucked in for a couple of hours. I check my email on my iPod first thing in the morning, but I don’t like to browse, post on Facebook, etc. on the iPod, so this is an efficient alternative to actually getting onto the computer.

    • “My goal is no longer to get more done, but rather to have less to do.”

      This quote is great, Jane! It sums up where I want to be, but it may be ages before I get there.

    • Jane – that is sooo going on my post-it note wall of fame for excellent quotes!

    • Love that quote!
      We’ve recently put a timer on our router – comes on at 7am and goes off at 11pm – am finding this a good way of not getting ‘trapped’ on the web late at night.

  6. its been incredibly hot here too and we don’t have AC in our home.
    I spent the majority of my time over the weekend in the basement cause its cooler, but this also meant I was in rooms I normally don’t spend time in and guess what? I got a lot accomplished 🙂
    Cleaning out the deep freezer in the garage was a cool experience lol
    and tidying up the garage in general, the movie room, my daughter got her whole room clean and bathroom (also located in the basement!
    and last night it was very enjoyable to water the garden at 9pm when it was still in the 90’s and the mist was wonderful 🙂

    • Hi Sher and welcome to 365 Less Things. You certainly managed to find some great tasks that are especially suited to a hot day. Well done. Ad doesn’t it feel so satisfying to accomplish so much.

  7. My husband is the master at getting things done in small amounts of time. Me? I need to work on this – big time. He can clean the kitchen, send a file to a customer, fill drink cups for our return from work – it’s really quite amazing. But is it really? I think it is just being aware like you have been, Cindy. I have watched my more competent model (CJ) in his pursuit of getting lots of little things done, and I have been able to accomplish more: cleaning a cupboard, cutting old t-shirts into rags, and tidying my work area. I think you, Colleen, and CJ are rubbing off on me, so thank you!

    • Interesting. You’re married to Mr. Dark Chocolate above? I think awareness is so important. If I’m not aware that I’m wasting time, not aware that I’m finishing tasks 90% of the way rather than 100%, I can easily fall back into those unhelpful habits.

  8. Funnily enough, I’ve just been researching internet blocking programmes – because I can’t seem to muster the discipline to cut my internet time myself. I do remember a life before the internet though, and I wasn’t mega efficient with my time then. So I suspect I’d find another ‘time wasting’ outlet to chill if it didn’t now exist. I get a lot of fun out of Facebook and other interactive forums perhaps because I do need to rest quite a lot.
    But in the kitchen I’m a master of quick jobs while the kettle boils or the dinner cooks. And before bed I’ll clean the bathroom sink or the toilet or dust the one shelf unit or the mirror, so the whole bathroom never actually needs cleaning.

  9. For exactly this reason I don’t have the internet at home except on my phone. Even with a laptop it’s only interesting with the internet. I know I’d spend hours reading rather than keeping my house in order or going for a run. Plus with eight hours of a computer in my face at work, do I really need the same at home?

    It frustrates my bf as he spends his spare time in his pc at his house, and I’ve suggested he get the internet connected at mine for me. Knowing me, he rightly said “I’m sure you’d have been bothered to get it in the last year if you wanted it, but you’re not that lazy. There must be more to the reason” And he’s right

    • I like your boyfriend. Although he would probably like to be able to use the internet at your place he is aware that it is probably not best for you. Sounds like a keeper. 😉

  10. I’m sorry, but this time I don’t agree 100%
    There are days (entire 24 hour blocks) when I must do nothing. If I ignore that or guilt myself into doing something useful anyways, then there are consequences and I burn out (needing a few days instead of 1 to get back to productive, and having regrettable outbursts too). I’ll admit, there are days when I just avoid doing what must be done, but those days are the ones that I putter about endlessly doing little things instead of the big thing I should be tackling! And I do my most productive days when I have a huge puzzle to work out (financial, work related or relationship/parenting) on those days I can’t sit down even for a half hour TV show. My body must be kept busy at something and my brain needs to be feeling useful/distracted for the solution to become clear.
    But generally the “down time” of chill-axing on the couch plugged into a TV, or book, or computer with my family all in the room doing the same uselessness is pretty important bonding time as we share what we see with each other and get our stress of the day down to a low hum for a while.

    Long story short. Doing nothing can be something if you are with people you love or need a rest.

    • I agree in principal Creative Me. As I comment earlier, down time is important and I think Cindy is aware of that but she is also aware that taking the option too frequently to the detriment of the state of her home can actually add to the stress rather than relieve. At least that is what I read into the post.

      As per my usual stance, I think that we get the wrong attitude as to chores v satisfying accomplishments. Speaking from experience, I think we often see every work related task as a chore that must get done and is not to be enjoyed but endured. If we could change our mindset on this we would remain calm, accomplish much and still be balanced and relaxed.

      Too often lately I haven’t been doing this even though I, in comparison to some, have a very easy life. I then avoid tasks I would rather not be doing. As a result sometimes going for coffee with a friend can become a chore because I know that I really ought to be taking care of tasks at home. So instead of relaxing and enjoying myself in a friendly environment I am still stressing myself as if I am working at something unpleasant.

      Get the balance and the attitude right and much can be accomplished.

  11. This is an interesting post Cindy. I see it in two ways. In many lives there are way to many things to do and some downtime is needed. I call it vegging time. But many can also go the other way and become too involved in doing things online or with the TV. The answer is balance. What are we doing that has no value? Sometimes it is surfing the net so we don’t have to do something else, reading a magazine for the same reason, or doing who knows what just because we can and it’s there. We don’t have to be always doing something productive for that something to be of value. It is of value to be in the same room with family doing a variety of things. It is of value to spend time reading because it calms you down and gets your mind off your job. Again the answer is balance. Doing something while waiting is better than just losing time unless that few minutes helps you get your breath before another big rush. One thing I am learning is that there are many things I do just because I have been doing them. They aren’t really important. I’m trying to intentionally examine the things I do to make sure they have value whether it is productive (getting all those needfull things done) or non-productive (sitting around in order to rest and recuporate).

  12. Cindy – good post, I have been thinking about time wasting lately too – its winter here and the tendancy is to go to ground a bit in the evenings, its much easier to sit in the lounge with the heat pump and the tv and computer than to go out to the garage and work thru stuff that needs decluttering. I’m feeling the cold so much this winter – the only down side to losing weight is the lack of insulation!

    I’m also about to address with my kids some human interaction guidelines – namely while in the company or conversation with people, don’t stand there text or facebooking on their phones – people who are present should take priority to those who are not.

    I don’t really want to drag all my clutter-sorting into the little lounge (where heatpump and tv are) as it is a smallish area but maybe I could bring a small pile, or re-visit the photo project that I put aside instead.

  13. I agree that there are small and big pockets of time that are wasted doing things that are not always productive, like surfing the web. I have been thinking a lot about this lately because many times those timewasters involve sitting. There is a lot of research that shows that sitting for long periods of time without getting up and moving is extremely bad for one’s health. I work in an office and I make point of moving and at least standing as often as possible throughout the day. Finding time to relax or doing things that are enjoyable, even if they waste time, is important tththough.

    • Sorry for my typo, it posted too soon. Anyway, balance is good, as well as awareness of that precious commodity that is time.

  14. I wholeheartedly agree that ‘intentional’ use of time is so important, and ever since focusing on that, I have inadvertently become more productive and most importantly, I have been able to slow down and watch the sunsets 🙂

  15. Can I add a slightly different perspective? Not that long ago I decided to spend an entire day not multitasking. I was extremely strict. When I went upstairs to do my meditation I did not take up the replacement loo rolls at the bottom of the stairs. If I had I would have had to take them into the bathroom. Whereupon I would have noticed that nobody had replaced their toothbrushes ….etc. etc. Instead I went upstairs I meditated and then I came downstairs and looked at the net thing on my list. I worked through my list one by one. One item was bathrooms. It was then that I picked up the loo rolls, replaced the toothbrushes, washed the loo and wiped the mirror. I got more done that day than I ever usually do.

    Why? I think because I wasn’t distracted I worked only on one thing at a time and I didn’t stop until I had either completed it or done as much as I was able within whatever constraints. I notice now that when I do a small chore such as unpacking the shopping I am easily distracted by somehting that needs putting away. So I stop unpacking and put away the item and then I notice something else. It’s not that I’m not doing things, but I’m not doing the things I set out to do because I think I can fit something else in at the same time.

    I try not to multitask now. I always carry my kindle and journal with me so if I am stuck in traffic, waiting at the station or whatever I can read or make notes, lists whatever. But multitasking – no.

    • Gillie, I’ve tried to teach my Mom this. She goes willie nillie though the house doing like you said and then comes to the end of the day and didn’t get done everything she wanted. If she takes one thibng at a time she will get it all done.

  16. Just a couple of comments today. I have been not reading the posts for the last week because I have been in the hospital. Home now and recovering but the decluttering is taking a back seat to recovery. Also, will not be on the website for a while since I have been reading the posts via my work computer and my company did an IRIF (Involuntary reduction in force) on Monday and I was one of the victims. So, I need to set up a personal email and find everyone again. Just wanted to say how much I have enjoyed keeping up with everyone and look forward to our future interactions. My last day at my company in July 15 but I will still be working on my 365 less challenges. I printed out some of the Monday missions so will just pull out one and work on that. And now that I will be “retired”, I hope to get my house in order – 1 day at a time, 1 item at a time. Thanks everyone and I hope to meet up with you again soon.

    • Sorry to hear that you have been in the hospital. Hope you recover quickly. Sorry too about the IRIF. Will be happy to see you back here with things settle down.

  17. I live in New England where anything over 80 degrees is considered “too hot”, so even though your “too hot” is way hotter than mine, I still fall into the same thing you were talking about, sitting in a chair because it’s just too hot to move.

    I like the choices you pointed out, either get up and do something and be hot, or just sit and be hot.

    We’re coming up on a stretch of at least a week where it’s going to feel like it’s in the 90s. That IS very hot for us, and I figured I wouldn’t get much done except the basics, but now you’ve got me thinking…

  18. Hi all – I’ve been gone since the 21st, so I’m trying to catch up on all the posts while I was out of internet contact. I’m sure there are some good ones!

    I have a hard time sitting still, just doing nothing. About the only time I can relax is when I’m not at my own home and that might be a little sad. 😉 I like to get things done, but I get easily distracted. A few weeks ago my in-laws came over and while running the garbage out to the back yard, I kept stopping to pull weeds, when what I needed to be doing was cleaning the house!! This is where the “timer” method can help me. I’ll set the timer for anywhere from 10 – 30 minutes depending on how much time I have available and then run around, intensely focused, getting things done such as paying the bills, or balancing the checkbook, or cleaning the bathroom, or doing the dishes. My biggest block of time available during the week is when we get up at 4:15 a.m. to 7 a.m. (when I have to hop in the shower for work). It’s amazing what can be accomplished during the quiet morning hours. Love that!

    I’m pretty good with deadlines. It’s when something is left open-ended that I can procrastinate with the best of ’em! We just got back from my mom’s home in another state and she had a bunch of projects that needed to be done around her house. My husband and I were going like gang-busters getting things done and she said, “You guys got my entire to-do list done in one day, plus a bunch of other things that I hadn’t thought needed to be done!” And then she said we were “hyper.” LOL Nope, had a deadline. Stuff had to be done. Got it done!

    So looking forward to seeing what you all discussed while I was gone. 🙂

  19. First of all I would like to say awesome blog! I had
    a quick question that I’d like to ask if you do not mind.
    I was curious to know how you center yourself and clear your thoughts before writing.
    I’ve had trouble clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out.
    I do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually wasted just trying to figure out how to begin.
    Any suggestions or hints? Cheers!