‘Better’ Probably Takes Less Time Than You Think

Want to stop rushing around everywhere? Want more time to 'do better'? Welp, better might actually take less time than you think. Tap through to find out how to rescue wasted time and find more time to do life better! #productivity #motivation #selfdevelopment #lifehack #selfhelp #growthmindset #inspiring #motivation #motivational #personaldevelopment #getoutofyourcomfortzone #styleyourlife

It’s Monday morning and I’m grumping and tugging the dog down the street, speed walking through the neighborhood. I smear on my makeup with my fingers, slick on some mascara and call it good enough. I eat my breakfast standing over the sink.

Crumbs of granola rain down onto a pile of dirty dishes as I eat and check email simultaneously. I’m out the door at 8:00 am and I arrive at my meeting 15 minutes early, frazzled and unpleasant.


The dog and I meander around the block. I let her smell trees while I make small talk with my neighbors and pinch the mint growing on the boulevard. I paint on my eyebrows and eyeliner – two things that make me a) feel beautiful b) look less like a beige thumb.

I arrange my yogurt, granola, and fruit into a pleasing, pretty mound and tuck into it at the table. I duck out the door at 8:06 and arrive at my meeting looking and feeling damn near flawless.

Did you catch that, friends?

The difference between these two mornings? Six minutes. SIX MINUTES.

Have you ever done this? Convinced yourself you don’t have time to eat sitting down/return a text message/do something that makes you feel more attractive and put together?

Because those things take forevvvvvver! And we are very busy people with very limited amounts of free time!

But are we? Like, really?

Last week, I started timing myself while doing these ‘time consuming things’ I’m often ‘too busy’ to do. Would you like to guess how long it takes for me to apply the liquid eyeliner I love? 45 seconds.

How long does it take to send the thank-you email that makes me feel like a good friend? 62 seconds.
Sometimes the difference between ‘good enough’ and ‘way better’ is 62 seconds. Share on XAnd I’m guessing this might be true for you, too. If you’d like to find time for a slightly calmer, more intentional, ‘better’ day here are three things that can help.

3 ways to find time for ‘better’

Time how long those ‘too time-consuming, put them off till later’ things actually take

No, really. Use the stopwatch on your phone and see how long it takes you to put your food on a plate, on top of a placemat, and eat it at the table. How much longer does that take than eating it out of Tupperware, standing in front of the fridge?

How much longer does it take to put the plate in the dishwasher instead of on the counter?

How long does it take to bring your laptop onto the patio and work there, instead of working in the corner of the bedroom? (Note to self: Why are you so weird about this, Sarah? IT TAKES 30 SECONDS.)

Next time you feel like rushing through something or putting it off because you think you don’t have enough time, pull out your phone, turn on the stopwatch, and do the slightly-more-time-consuming version. You might be amazed by how little time it actually took.

Track how much time you spend online and how much you spend on your phone

But where do we find time to do these slightly-slower, life-improving things? “I’m not a wizard, Sarah! I can’t create time!” you cry.

Dude, I know. But we can rescue time we’re spending elsewhere. There are a jillion apps and plugins that will help us do this.

Install timeStats in Chrome to track how and where you spend your time online. THEY EVEN SHOW YOU A TERRIFYING PIE CHART #gratifying.  If you discover you’re spending more time than you’d like on a specific site, timeStats even lets you set limits and block yourself from select sites!

If you’d like to measure how much time you spend on your phone. The Moment app works with iphones and QualityTime works with Androids.*

Now, this is not where I shame you for enjoying Netflix or Instagram. This is not where I tell you that Facebook is ruining the world. This IS where I remind both of us that life’s a lot nicer when we spend our time and energy with intention. (And I’m guessing nobody is spending three hours a day on Facebook on purpose? I mean probably not?)

Notice how taking these extra few minutes affects your life + makes you feel

When I spend 15 minutes speed walking through the neighborhood, yanking the dog along behind me, I start my day feeling rushed and grumpy. (What am I rushing towards? Back to my house, where I work for myself and set my own deadlines?)

When I spend 18 minutes taking the slightly more scenic route and giving the dog the luxury of smelling something for LITERALLY SEVEN SECONDS I start my day feeling relaxed and centered.

When I decide I’ll email my Airbnb host tomorrow, I think about it 10 times and feel vaguely nervous that I’ll forget about it. When I spend 60 seconds emailing him as soon as I think of it, I feel accomplished/productive/smugly on top of it.

I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. Notice how these tiny upgrades and slow downs feel. Pay attention to how they affect your life. When we notice that something makes us feel good we’re waaaaay more likely to do keep doing it.

Of course, I’m not saying every single aspect of your life needs to become the slightly longer, ‘more intentional’ version. Sometimes you really need the two minutes you saved by eating a Clif Bar for breakfast, in the car. Sometimes you just don’t feel like putting on eyeliner. That’s fine!

But I think you might be surprised to find how little time it actually takes to make your daily life feel calmer, sweeter, and ‘better.’

I want to hear from you! Do you do this – convince yourself you don’t have time to do life-improving things that actually take two minutes? What are the slightly-slower things you do that improve your life?

*Shout out to Donna, one of the members of our Money & Happy Facebook group for telling me about this app! Come join us if you’d like more money or happiness in your life! (Uh, who doesn’t?)

P.S. We can make life feel slower, deeper, and more interesting by trying new things + How to make fewer decisions.

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  1. Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

    I don’t even dare check how much time I spend online and on my phone at this point. Probably 90% of the day… well, the hours I am awake, too. I should track, like you suggested. It would hopefully shock me into changing my behaviours!

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  2. Sky

    Just downloaded Timestat…terrified to see the results!

  3. becky fh

    I stopped wearing my contacts to work years ago because it just took too long to put them in. This year I’ve made a push to wear them more consistently, and it has made me late for work exactly zero times…

    Thanks for this today!

  4. Samantha Lee

    THANK YOU FOR THIS. I think we all like to tout that we are “so busy”, but you’re right, we waste SO MUCH TIME doing other things when that time could be spent more intentionally doing those things that actually fuel us. Lately I’ve realized just how freaking long it takes for a friend to text back and I’m like, really? You don’t have 15 seconds to respond? I don’t need it immediately, but 5 days is a long time, haha.

    Thanks again for the always insightful advice. <3


  5. Nicole

    Oh, thank you for this! I already have the Moment app on my phone, but was wanting something for my computer. Just installed timeStats!! Another little tip I use comes from Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project… the ‘one-minute rule’. Pretty straight forward. Anything that will take one minute or less, do immediately instead of putting off – ie. put your dish in the dishwasher instead of the sink, put your clothes in the hamper instead of on the floor, check the voicemail instead of putting off… etc. It has made a world of difference for me! It’s amazing what you can accomplish in a minute… or way less! It’s helped me feel much less ‘cluttered’, increasing my overall happiness!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Yes! I love that, too!

  6. Karen

    I used to skip writing out my affirmations in the morning in a mad dash to get to a job I didn’t even want to go to. Then I timed myself — the writing takes 4 minutes.

  7. kddomingue

    I discovered some time back that a minute and a half is a LOT of time. No! Really, it is! I was heating something up in the microwave (which I don’t do very often) and figured that I might have just enough time to fill the sink preparatory to washing the dishes before my minute and a half was up. Well, I filled the sink, washed the dishes and wiped the countertops…..and still had a few seconds to stare at the microwave waiting for it to bing. Lol! Totally changed my perception of small increments of time. So, three minutes to take a more leisurely walk with the dog and enjoying it as opposed to jerking your pup along and neither of you enjoying the walk….that three minutes is not likely to cause your entire day to spiral out of control and will likely give you a rosier outlook on the rest of your day. On the other hand, that three minutes that you stood there staring at that pot of water, willing it to come to a boil, could have been used to accomplish a task or three that would otherwise have been left for you to do later when you’d rather be doing something more enjoyable.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Yes! I’m a huge fan of the ‘while the microwave is going’ or ‘while the toaster is going’ trick!

  8. Tiffany Han

    Brilliant. I love this.

  9. Rachel King

    “look less like a beige thumb.” Ha!

    Clever post too.

  10. Indya | TheSmallAdventurer

    This post feels like it’s calling me out. I’ve been really slacking with housework lately as I just want to work on my blog and housework “takes too long”, but after tidying 3 rooms in a little over an hour the other night, I realised that was just an excuse for me to put it off.

    You’re right, nothing takes as long as it seems, and it always feels so much better when I stop focusing on time and just focus on the actual task. This post was just the reminder I need to stop using the “too busy” excuse daily. I’m only 20; I have plenty of time left to do all the things I want to do!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Isn’t it amazing what we can accomplish in short amounts of time?!

  11. Kristie

    I literally was laughing out loud throughout this whole post because like all your articles there’s honesty about the ridiculous things we all do and hilarity in the way you express them and provide another way to do things. I always look forward to reading them. ANYWAY, I’ve gotten so much better over the past year with spending WAY less time on my phone and online in general. The phone can be such an addiction if you give don’t keep it in check. Already added that chrome extension, should be interesting! Thanks for sharing these tips and all your practical advice 🙂

  12. Kristie

    As for slower things: I like to read on the patio outside, eat breakfast and lunch at the dining room table looking out the window with an actual cloth napkin not looking at my phone, fold clothes and put away after drying ASAP, sort through my mail when I get it right away (this is SO hard for me!). The one thing I need to work on: taking the probably 30 seconds to empty out my car of any used cans/wrappers/papers each day.

  13. Erin

    I did this today! I always just drink my coffee or tea out of a mug because using one of my fancy cups and saucers would “take too much time.” I turned on a timer, made my coffee, and poured it into the cup placed on the saucer. Time: 2 minutes 53 seconds. Level of fancy-ness: massively upgraded.

    Thanks for the fun idea!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Love it!

  14. Kat Tischler

    I’ve had a hospital bill shoved in my drawer for the past 6 weeks, because a) it was a scary bill and b) I was always going to call them “tomorrow”. Well, I sucked it up, took your advice, spent less than 15 minutes on the phone and saved $3,500 because it turns out we don’t actually have to pay it. So. THANK YOU!!!!

  15. Amy L Walton

    I LOVE this!

    I’m a doula/Mama Mentor with my business, Mind Body Mama Tulsa, and this week I’m encouraging my FB followers to focus on “boring self-care”. This can be a great addition! Re-Posting to share the love!

  16. Rebekah Jaunty

    You’ve convinced me. TimeStats and Moment, here I come. Hoo boy…

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