7 Ways to Constructively Use Carpool Time


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With three children in different schools, I spent an average of seven and a half hours each week last year waiting in the carpool line for my children to be dismissed. With only 24 hours in a day and no more available slots in my schedule, I was forced to use my carpool time more creatively and make the most of those precious hours. To make my at-home life less hectic, I created a to-do-in-the-car list and tackled at least one task each day. Here's a roundup of seven things you can do without leaving the car:

Make appointments/return phone calls. Finding time to schedule doctor appointments, meetings and home repairs can be tricky. The same goes for returning calls to friends, family and colleagues. You only need a planner and a cellphone to schedule appointments while in the car. Once the necessary appointments are made, spend the remaining wait time catching up with friends and family.

Plan meals and write grocery lists. Planning weekly meals on the run is a hassle and typically results in forgotten items and an unexpected visit to the grocery store. Toni Connor, a preschool teacher and mom of three boys, uses her time in the carpool line to clip coupons, using the weekly grocery store sales flyer to plan meals and make her grocery list. By taking time to sync the grocery list with coupons and meal planning, you shop less often and avoid impulse buying.

Volunteer. Each year, schools look for parent volunteers to help with projects and programs. Grading papers, coordinating programs or cutting out materials allows parents to help without being in the building. Tasks like these can be completed in the car and help your child's school.

Take care of correspondence. Fill out school permission slips and write notes or birthday cards while waiting for the kids. Tara Piatek, a mom of four, uses carpool time to catch up on correspondence. "Right after the twins were born, I put together and stuffed their birth announcements while waiting in carpool," Piatek says. She cuts back on time spent at home doing tasks that can be done in anywhere, unlike laundry or meal preparation.

Journal. It's difficult to reflect and record thoughts or ideas when you're constantly on the run. Use the carpool waiting time to journal, jot down ideas for work and upcoming projects, or sketch. Journaling allows time to organize ideas. By taking time to note ideas for a creative project, outline a solution for a client or sketch a home-improvement project, you record your ideas and thoughts when they are fresh. When committing ideas to paper, you group them in a constructive way, enhancing your productivity at home and at work.

Pay bills/balance your bank account. Piatek works as a virtual assistant and dedicates some of her carpool time to completing business tasks. At least once a week, go over bank statements, pay bills, and note future bill dates and budgeting needs. By allocating time in carpool to attend to tedious tasks like balancing bank statements, you can focus on where your money is going, avoiding any costly mistakes.

Read or nap. Sometimes carpool time is a great time to read. Whether a book, junk mail or a magazine, reading can be a much-needed break during a hectic day. Power naps also are a great way to take a little break and gear up for homework time and the dinner hour. Relax and refocus during a short chunk of uninterrupted time.

By constructively using time waiting in the carpool line to complete mundane tasks, nap or read, you free up time at home to relax with your family.

Christine Coleman is a freelance writer and mother of three. She is looking forward to the coming school year, when there will only be two carpool lines and she will be able to write at her desk.

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March 2019

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