Redeeming the scraps

Image by Arthur Ganson

Ever since I came back to Brazil to stay (in June 2010), I’ve been extremely busy… usually bordering on overloaded. Trying to juggle my U.S.-based work, two teaching jobs, and translation projects has left me with practically zero free time. I’ve stayed up nights crying from the stress and even taken several months off from capoeira (my only outlet as well as the passion that originally drew me to Brazil) simply because I couldn’t handle it all.

So how did I manage, in January, to launch my English-learning website and publish about 60 posts on it in addition to a free grammar e-book? I still can’t quite believe how much I got done on top of my “normal” duties that month, but I’ve identified what enabled me to do it:

Redeeming the scraps.

I wish I could remember where I read this – but I recently came across a quote pointing out how much more we could do if we utilized the random 15-minute “scraps” of time during the day.

This is how it works on a day with four classes and multiple obligations:

  • Yesterday, miracle of miracles, I arrived 10 minutes early for my 7 AM class. During that time I skimmed a book from the school’s archives and jotted down 3 ideas for new posts – and then shelved them for the next 90 minutes while I gave the class.
  • On the bus ride home, I started to flesh out those ideas in my head, and when I arrived I took 15 minutes to put them down on paper. Once again, I hit “pause” on the creativity button as I worked on a translation project for the next hour, then logged into my U.S. job e-mail account to perform triage on several dozen new emails.
  • I prepped for my noon class, made copies, then went to give it. Got home at 2 PM, ate lunch, washed dishes, washed clothes, and used another scrap – 15 minutes to type up the first of the three new posts.
  • I didn’t finish, so I saved the draft and worked on my U.S.-based job until it was time to head to the school for a training session and evening classes that run until 9:30 PM.
  • When I got home from the night classes, I had a half-hour to kill before my husband got home, so I finished post 1 and typed up post 2.
  • So by the end of a very full day, I’d written two complete posts and had a sketch for a third – just by making use of “scraps of time” in between my other commitments.

This isn’t the way I like to work. I prefer sinking my teeth into a project for hours at a time, letting my creative energy flow freely until I’ve accomplished a ton and my husband has to drag me away from the computer to go to bed. But I don’t have hours at a time – so I use the scraps instead.

There’s one crucial element I haven’t yet mentioned – you must be passionate about your side project. I don’t see the work I do in the scraps as an obligation… in fact, I use it as a reward, telling myself, “If I spend 90 minutes on the obligatory stuff, I’ll take a guilt-free half hour to work on my site.”

Got a packed schedule? Redeem those scraps to move your project forward, one baby step at a time.