The real secret

The kitchen of the Tasha Tudor Dollhouse at Colonial Williamsburg, December 2004 -- A perfect example of fitting small things into small spaces!

The kitchen of the Tasha Tudor Dollhouse at Colonial Williamsburg, December 2004 —
A perfect example of fitting small things into small spaces!

“The real secret of how to use time is to pack it as you would a portmanteau, filling up the small spaces with small things.” Sir Henry Haddow

Much has been written about the importance of prioritizing major tasks and important duties first, and fitting everything else in around them.  But sometimes there still does not seem to be enough space for everything.  Haddow is on the right track when he speaks of small spaces, those tiny slivers of time that cumulatively add up to a significant part of the day.

I find that there are quite a few such spaces in an average day, many of which seem to involve waiting on something or someone.  Waiting for the water to boil for tea, waiting in a telephone hold queue,  waiting for the computer to boot up, waiting for a bus or a subway train.  Aside from carrying reading material of a type that can be easily read in short segments, there are probably many things we can do to pack those small spaces with small things.

Since I’ve often found myself in the kitchen while waiting, I have learned to do 60-second cleaning routines: wiping counters, scouring sinks, hand-washing a dish or two.  I can get a lot done this way without feeling as if I’ve worked at all.  In fact, I’ve discovered that it’s helpful, even when I have a long period of time available, to break distasteful chores into steps, so that I don’t feel as if I have a hour or two of drudgery ahead of me.  Sometimes I’ll tell myself that I’ll work on something for ten minutes and then I can stop, but then when I get involved in whatever it is, I often keep working longer.  Getting started really does seem to be half the battle sometimes,

Today, try giving yourself a five or ten minute assignment to work on something you’ve been putting off.  You just might end up finishing a task you’ve been dreading, but even if you don’t, at least you’ve taken a small step, which might make the next ones easier to take.  I wish you a productive day!


  1. Like you I am not very good at deciding just to do a little bit of something. I find once I start I have to finish, which may explain why so little gets done around here.

    • I think finishing just one task may be better than having lots of unfinished tasks lying about. I think it’s admirable to finish something and even though there are lots of other things to do, at least that one thing got done. One big challenge for me is to decide WHAT to do first among so many things that need done. It seems work will expand to fill every bit of time we allow for it! Thanks for being here, give Max and Jez a hug for me.

      • Rene

        Deciding what to do is certainly MY biggest challenge, or my BIGGEST challenge, either way.

        • Either way works for me too! 😀 It took me a long time to realize how bad I am at decision making. I couldn’t decide whether it was that or something else that would cause me to procrastinate. 😀 😀 😀

  2. Those tiny slivers of time seem to consume my day too ! 🙂

    • It’s amazing how a whole day can fly by and I can’t think of anything big or significant I did all day. Thanks for your visits! I love your screen name “greedy reader” – I think a lot of us can identify with that :-).

  3. Sheila

    Julia, it’s a rainy Saturday morning and I don’t even mind! I opened my bedroom window so I could hear the forest sounds, while I sip my coffee,propped up in bed. Life is good! I grab little windows of time, too, and just think of them as baby steps. I’m so glad that I could bring you camping with me. Love from our weekend small space, Sheila

    • Sheila, your morning sounds delightful; rain and nature sounds and drinking coffee in bed; I’m not sure it gets much better than that! Yes I am happy to be on a virtual camping trip! Believe it or not I’ve never spent even one night in an RV, so it’s an adventure for me! Thanks for being here and for taking me with you.

      • Sheila

        Julia, are you familiar with Your blog today echoed her website. She strives to help you with CHAOS: Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome and how to FLY: Finally Loving Yourself. I was just curious! Sheila

        • Yes, Sheila, I discovered FlyLady years ago and really enjoyed her website. I haven’t had time to mosey over there lately, but do plan to go back when I can. One more thing we have in common! 🙂

  4. Fran Kettren

    So true! I have a long list of Saturday chores today. I will be practicing your advice. 🙂 I shared this with Whit, as she is a very busy mom these days. Just last week we talked about the best practices for helping her to complete her house work. I believe your words will encourage and motivate her. 🙂 Thanks again!

    • Wow Frannie, so cool to think of Whitney being in the same state we were in when we met! I know she is a wonderful wife and mom. I can remember that your house was always WAY cleaner than mine, so I think I am the one who may need your advice. 🙂 It’s so great to hear from you here, thanks for visiting!

  5. Sometimes telling myself I only have to work on something for 15 minutes is the ONLY way I can get myself motivated – especially if the task is easy to put off. I usually finish and am happy about it, but I would only face the prospect of doing the whole job kicking and screaming. 15 minutes works for me!

    • I have been amazed how much more willing I am to start something if I promise myself I can quit after 15 minutes. That’s essentially what got me through graduate school!

  6. Carolyn

    Boy today has past by so fast and I am tired. We just got in from a short trip to say good by to Terry’s Aunt Dorothy. She passed away last Sunday at the age of 94. Terry has so many memories of time spend with her and the family, you can say, she was one of his favorites. Most of all she was a great Christian lady.
    Hope Jeff has been feeling good today. Take care and love you all.

    • Hi Carolyn, I appreciate your taking the time to check in after your long day. Wow, 94 years old and a blessing to her family; we would all do well to be able to achieve that! It’s always so hard to say goodbye to people who are an adornment to the world, but of course some of us know it’s really more like “see you later!” 🙂 Today has been peaceful and COOL outside, it rained some but cleared off so that my walk this evening was perfect!


  1. The small daily differences | Defeat Despair

Thanks for encouraging others by sharing your thoughts:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: