What To Do with “Found” Time?

Jan 21, 2016

Most people are trying to squeeze the most they can out of their time, but what about when you have “found” time?

For example, last Monday, I FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY had my TSA pre-check appointment way out in Alexandria, VA. For those of you not familiar with the DMV (that is, District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia), the trip can be an hour each way in traffic. Add in some bureaucratic surprises from TSA and it could easily become an all-day affair.

Being a worst-case scenario type who has racked up her fair share of on- camera speeding tickets, I scheduled double the amount of travel time to avoid any issues. However, a series of pleasant surprises (my neighbor dropping off my daughter at school, little traffic, I didn’t get lost, uncrowded office) allowed me to be in and out and back home 90 minutes earlier than I predicted.

So, how to best use this “found” time? I came up with a few ideas on my drive home.

  1. I could take a nap. My kids have had multiple cases of strep this season, and my immune system has finally broken down. I didn’t sleep well and the Mucinex was not kicking in. Crawling in bed sounded amazing.
  2. I could exercise. However, my standing Monday 5:15 AM running date already happened in 31-degree pitch-black. I wish I had known about the found time so the run could have been more pleasant in 40-degree sunshine. Oh well, next time.
  3. I could check my Priority Plan and see what I could do to help push my goals forward. My Priority Plan this month includes items like getting back on the social media train (and maybe re-dabbling in Instagram), creating agendas for 1:1 coaching sessions, and inviting specific people to some of the public sessions this winter.
  4. I could squeeze in some Later List To-Do’s. A quick scan let me know I could call the electrician to schedule some work, call my doctor to make an appointment, and maybe even call the hair salon as well. It is always hard for me to make calls during business hours, so this felt like a real opportunity.
  5. I could cross off some overdue or lingering To-Do’s. These included plugging in my cool new cordless vacuum cleaner (don’t laugh; when you have two kids and two cats, one gets very excited about a machine that sucks up cheerios and fur), printing labels to return holiday gifts, or thinking about my kids’ summer childcare plan.
  6. I could do something that interested me. While my travel is heavy MOST of the year, there are some weeks when I can build in longer chunks of personal time. I’ve started a list that includes making this, riding my bike or running here, or trying to meal plan by month (I have a hunch it will lead to less food waste.)

So, what happened? Well, after a quick diversion to simply unpack and charge the new vacuum I decided to go with Option 3 – check my Priority Plan. I could have easily frittered away the time with email, or a bit of this or a bit of that. Truth be told, a nap sounded awesome and I really wanted to cyberloaf for a new coatrack. But instead, with a dose of discipline, I took the time to do a thing that really mattered – writing to you!

Reader Reflection: What do you do when a meeting is cancelled? Or you arrive someplace early? Or something goes faster than planned? Tell me your secrets!