What Do I Do Now? Seven Ways to Spend Unexpected Time

About 2 weeks ago, I was putting the finishing touches on the March blog I intended to send out a few days ago, since we were preparing to leave for a vacation. I wanted to have as much cleared off my to-do list as possible so that when I returned, I didn’t face an avalanche of unfinished tasks along with the usual piles of email, snail mail, and laundry that I would face upon my return. Ahhh…the best laid plans! My husband and I returned late last Tuesday night only to find out a day or two later that, since our travels had taken us out of the continental US (the USVI,) we needed to self-quarantine for 2 weeks. Along with a huge number of our friends, family and colleagues, that leaves us both stuck at home, working as best we can and trying to be as productive as possible with some unexpected time on our hands. As a result, I’m saving the blog I planned for another time, and am offering up some suggestions, many of which I plan to do myself, to help you productively spend your time if you’re one of the millions in the same situation!

1. Clear off your desk top.
Some steps to get you started:
– Make an action pile for things on which you need to spend some time
– File what needs to be saved but doesn’t need an action
– Toss or recycle what’s old, out-of-date, no longer relevant, or done
– Shred any financial or personal information (hint – if your kids are home from school, let them work the shredder!)

2. Purge your paper files.
Statistics show that we only ever retrieve 20% of what we file away. I’m betting that when you go back into the stuff you’ve filed you will find that you haven’t looked at most of it in years. It’s outdated, duplicated, or can be found easily online. Think of how much space you’ll recover in your file drawers if you actually find you can get rid of 80% of the paperwork in them! Even letting go of 10% will open up space for the future.

3. Purge your digital files
Think about how easy it is to save stuff digitally, but how much of it is relevant and important to keep? And while you’re working on your computer files, make sure you have a good back-up system in place for the stuff you do need to save. The minimum should include a local, on-site hard drive, and a reliable off-site, cloud back-up, such as Backblaze or Carbonite.

4. Clean out your email inbox and folders
This is a great time to work on that overloaded inbox. Unsubscribe to marketing promotions and newsletters you never have time to read. Delete, delete, delete! If it’s more than 3 months old and you haven’t opened it, read it, and dealt with it by now, it’s probably out of date, irrelevant, or too late to do anything about at this point! If you’re worried about losing something you might need later, move everything that’s more than 3 months old to large, general folders dated by year (2019 and earlier.)

5. Learn how to use new software or hardware.
Have you purchased something that’s still sitting in the box, or in your applications folder and you haven’t learned how to use it yet? This is a great time to take it out of the box or get it set up, learn it, and start using it.

6. Do your taxes.
I know, yuck! But think how great it will be when you can leave your home and resume your normal schedule and not have it hanging over your head?

7. Try to relax and enjoy the unexpected bonus of some spare time!
Many of us spend our days rushing around trying to get everything done and moaning about how we need more hours in the day. While the circumstances are less than ideal to say the least, and even tougher if you’re stuck at home with bored children or worried about finances (or running out of toilet paper 🙂 ), remember that eventually, life will return to normal. In the meanwhile, try to take a little time to catch up, rest up, and spend some quality time with the family you may hardly ever get to see. If you’re feeling the need to connect with those you don’t live with, there’s always Facetime, Skype, Zoom, and Google Hangouts! Until we’ve managed to “flatten the curve,” stay busy, stay positive, turn off the news, and listen to how a community inspired each other through music instead! (Bellissima Italia!)

Lisa Griffith

About The Author

Lisa Griffith is a speaker and consultant who provides services, both on-site and virtually, to help busy professionals organize their offices, systems and calendars. In addition to business and home office organizing, productivity and time management coaching, she provides workshops & seminars for business and community groups.