October 3rd, 2016

Why You Should Set a Packing Timer

Why You Should Set a Packing Timer

If you spend hours agonizing and debating over what to pack for your next trip, speed things up with one nifty (and totally free) travel hack. 

The clock had hit midnight long ago, and I was well into turning-into-a-pumpkin territory.

Yet there I was, with an empty suitcase and a teetering pile of possible outfits for another short trip. My flight was in a few hours and I was beginning to worry that my packing would take longer than the actual trip itself. Still, I couldn't help but ask myself, “Which belt goes with this dress? Are these shoes too bulky? Too strappy? Where is my passport? My extra toothbrush? My travel adapter?”

Sound familiar?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve left packing until the very last moment. Everyone knows that the day before traveling is a whirlwind of to-do lists and last-minute shopping trips, tying up loose ends at work, and returning those last few stubborn emails. But if you’re like me, you end up doing all of those tasks first and leave the most important one—packing—until the end of the day, after decision fatigue has crept in and you can’t possibly remember where you stashed your swimsuit.

By the time that you finally carve out time to carefully choose outfits and coordinate accessories and lovingly slip your running shoes into their appointed shoe sac, you might already be exhausted. I certainly was.

Finally, after one too many post-midnight packing nightmares, I came to a realization: The packing process would always—always—expand to fit all the time I gave it. Rather than carelessly allow myself to take hours (or, sometimes, an entire night) packing, I decided to turn the process into a bit of a game and implement a time-management hack.

Setting a Timer

The strategy that I used is called the Pomodoro Technique, which involves setting a timer and completing a single task in 25 minutes. With this technique, when the timer goes off, you can relax or do something else for five minutes, and then set another timer and complete another task in 25 minutes.

So before yet another cross-country trek, I set a timer on my phone and challenged myself to pack quickly. Suddenly, instead of endlessly weighing my options and dilly-dallying, I was racing against the clock, grabbing my checked bag and carry-on, and organizing my toiletries like a madwoman. Speeding toward a goal and giving myself a time limit made me a fast and productive packer. In fact, the experience was exhilarating. Even better: I beat the block and finished packing in 20 minutes!

Learning Lessons

This little experiment taught me a few important travel truths.

  • Don't overthink. I had already known exactly what I was going to bring along on my trip. Jumping into action and having to make split-second decisions saved me from wondering whether this was the vacation when I would suddenly fall in love with a dress I’d had for years but had never worn (pro tip: that never happens) or spending precious time hunting for binoculars that I was never going to use.
  • Keep it simple. I noticed that my packing became lighter and more minimalist. I was able to focus on the essentials without getting distracted by useless accessories. Think about the last trip that you took. Did you wear or use everything that you packed? Odds are, you didn't. So don't bring five shirts if you need only two. Force yourself to decide now, rather than at your destination.
  • Get your zzz's. In the end, I was gifted with something even more useful than four pairs of shoes that I wouldn’t wear on a beach vacation. I was able to go to bed earlier, get more precious minutes of sleep, and wake up in the morning with a rested mind and body, feeling energized and ready to seize the day.

Now, anytime I find myself debating between this sweater or that sweater, I just remember: Set the timer. Sometimes I’ll throw on a podcast or music, too, to make the whole experience even more fun. I no longer think of packing as a chore. I think of it as the official start of a big adventure.

Do you have any other speedy packing strategies? Share them below in the comments!

For more helpful tips, check out this ultimate packing checklist.

Related Links:

The Essential Guide to Packing for Working Overseas

Minimalist Travel: Pack Your Family’s Stuff in 1 Bag

5 Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Travel Bag

by Kara Cutruzzula