Who couldn’t use a few tips to help save time daily? If you’re as busy as I am, sometimes you can’t keep all of the plates spinning. Friends have often asked me how I do it all — work a full-time job, homeschool three children, attend graduate school, write part-time, have a son on a travel soccer team . . . oh the list goes on.
Of course, as I’ve said before, everything doesn’t get done every single day. I’m human just like everyone else. But, I have learned several tricks over the years that help this season of my life to be a little more manageable. Check them out!
The truth is that it’s not a wasted effort. Simply keep the parts of your schedule consist that are consistent (such as the hours that you work or that your children are in school) and be flexible for the hours that are apt to change without much notice. This may mean that you have a loose routine from 4pm-8pm on weekdays. Take the time to rework your schedule for those hours when they change.
1. Create a daily schedule
I’ve heard many moms say it before, “I am not organized enough for that!” when talking about homeschooling, cooking real food dinners for their family or returning to school and pursuing their dreams. My answer? “Well, get organized!”
Not organizing your time, when it’s so simple to do, is a waste of time! If you have children, you may protest this by saying that their afternoon schedules change with the seasons, so having a daily schedule for yourself is pointless.
2. Set a timer
When you first use this tip, you’ll want to set a timer simply to see how long it takes you to do a certain task. For instance, if you want to take a five minute shower, set a timer for five minutes. If the timer goes off before you finish your shower you’ll know that you take longer than desired to shower.
Once you’ve decided how long certain tasks should take you set a timer and work to beat your best time. This way of game-ifying my life has helped me to stay on track when I’m tired or when I’m prone to daydreaming. To add more fun to mundane data-entry tasks at work, I listen to a popular music streaming website and make a game of finishing a certain number of pages by the time a song is finished. I work faster this way and am less likely to get lost in thought or make careless mistakes.
3. Stop watching live TV
Before you commit to this tip, calculate how much time you spend over a week watching TV shows when they are actually shown on TV. Don’t estimate. Actually keep track for a week and see what the number is.
If you aren’t taking advantage of DVR technology, online full episodes, or streaming websites, you are wasting time. I can’t remember the last time I actually watched TV on a TV or watched a show when its first showing was scheduled.
I began using a DVR years ago and had the shows sent to my desktop. Eventually, I began using Netflix and Hulu Plus and TV network websites to watch my favorite shows. This summer we cut the cord on cable and haven’t missed it a bit.
I love having my shows waiting for me when I’m ready instead of having to work my life around when my favorite shows air on TV. I love that I can pause a show at anytime and get back to it when I have time.
I watch an average of 17 minutes of TV per day (with most of my watching happening on weekends, where I’m likely to be found watching on my Kindle while taking a relaxing bath or while doing chores. Most days I don’t watch any TV at all.)
4. Take care of the morning the night before
If you are waiting until the morning to pick out your clothes, make lunches, find your keys and your work bag, etc you are wasting time. Do everything you can do the night before so that you have very little to do the next morning.
This is a simple rule of time saving that my mother taught me as a child. I’ve even learned to pick my work clothes for a full week on the weekends to save even more time. Depending on what you’re packing, lunches can be prepared for the week, as well.
5. Make meals ahead
If your busy evenings leave little time for making a real food dinner, try cooking several meals at once on the weekend and freezing them to reheat the next week.
Another time saver in the kitchen is the beloved slow cooker. I have three and at least one is usually in use at any time. Plan more slow cooker meals to save time in the kitchen.
6. Leave home a few minutes earlier
Once you’ve discovered a little extra time in your morning by preparing for the day the night before, try to leave a little earlier than usual. Earlier this year I discovered that leaving just ten minutes sooner helped me to avoid slow, heavy traffic. This is especially important during the school year when school buses are part of the traffic congestion.
7. Stop multitasking
It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of multitasking. I have found that when I focus on one task at a time, I perform that task with fewer mistakes and it takes me less time over all.
Whatever you’re doing, do it until it’s done before switching to another task. This will save time and create a calmer, less chaotic mindset.
8. Don’t take phone calls
This one may be more difficult for you than it was for me. Since I first began using email regularly in 1996 I’ve considered phone calls to be a waste of time. Of course, I’m an introvert who doesn’t enjoy chatting with others for the sake of chatting, so it was easy for me to eliminate personal phone calls that don’t have a purpose. (Don’t worry, I still call my parents who don’t have email and don’t like texting.)
In the time it takes me and another person to get through the socially expected niceties of, “How are you?”, “I’m doing well. How are you?”, “I’m fine.” I can have the information I need and send a response via email or text. Currently, I screen every call to my cell phone and only answer calls from my parents, my husband or my children. I only return calls when I’m asked a direct question via voice mail and the person doesn’t have email or text. My husband has even gone so far as to disable his voice mail so that others must text or email him if they need a reply. (He also answers calls from his parents, me and our children.)
If you get phones calls regularly, let them go to voice mail and pick a certain time each day to return calls. Reply via text or email when possible and people will eventually get the message that emailing or texting you is the best way to reach you.
9. Get off social media
Of course, you already know that social media is a total time waster. I suggest picking two or three ten minute periods in your day where you run through your social media accounts for the latest news or personal updates from friends and family. That’s 20-30 minutes a day and is plenty to keep up.
10. Simplify your life and keep everything its place
The less stuff you have, the less stuff competes for your time. Simplify your material possessions and make sure the ones you do have have a place to live. If you put your keys in the same place everyday when you walk in the door, they will always be there. If you own five work outfits, you can plan one for each day of the week and never have to decide what to wear. (If you own more than five, you can rotate them month to month wearing the same five for a month at a time.)
Do whatever you can to simplify your things and you will find extra time in the spaces where there was once an over abundance of unnecessary material items.