Sometimes in the counseling world, we wind up with an empty appointment slot. Someone cancels an appointment, or it just winds up that the 2:00 time slot never gets filled. I find these moments both wonderful… it’s nice to get a break during a long day… but also very frustrating.
It feels frustrating because I don’t think it’s enough time to do something meaningful, and it therefore feels wasted.
“I’m standing in line at the grocery store, I can’t do anything meaningful here.” “I’m five minutes early for my appointment, I can’t do anything meaningful right now.” We all have a threshold, when our brain tells us that it’s just not worth it to try to invest in a bigger project because we don’t have time. Is this line of thinking accurate? Well… sort of, but only sort of.
It’s true, of course, that an unexpected fifteen-minute window of time is not enough to complete a big task. You can’t make a four-course dinner, plan an impromptu visit to the doctor, or maybe even finish that next project at work. But does that mean the time has to be wasted? Does that mean it can’t be invested into something meaningful?
It may depend on your definition of “meaningful.” But I define meaningful as things that are priorities for me. Household chores are not a priority. Spending quality time with my loved ones is. What do you want to invest your time in?
For some of these meaningful things, a small chunk of time is not enough to accomplish that task… but it is enough time to take care of a non-meaningful (but still necessary) task on the to-do list, which then frees up time later on to create a larger window of time for the meaningful things. Most of us use these small chunks of free time for the exact opposite of meaningful tasks: we scroll through social media, binge watch a TV show, gossip, complain, or stare into space feeling indecisive. Productive? No. Meaningful? Nope. Rejuvenating? Rarely. When we use the small windows of time to accomplish things, we make time available for the bigger and more meaningful priorities in our lives.
Cut the time-wasters. Use those small chunks of time to take care of small tasks. And don’t think that there are no meaningful activities that really do only take a small chunk of time!
And remember that for other important priorities in your life, a small chunk of time really is enough to accomplish something meaningful. Invest in a relationship: say I love you, send a text, pray for someone and tell them so. Invest in your health: do twenty jumping jacks, stretch and touch your toes, take a walk around the block. Invest in your peace of mind: meditate on a verse of Scripture, do a small frugality task, read an interesting blogpost or article.
Written by Jessica Hayes
iHope Executive Director