In a recent post, I wrote about two specific tools needed to increase productivity: a well-kept calendar and a notebook. In this post, I share with you some creative time-saving strategies that can easily add hours to your days and weeks. See what works best for you.
- Purchase birthday cards once a year: Actually, do this for sympathy cards as well. Once a year, take the time to purchase a year’s worth of cards that you can send out at the drop of a hat. If you think about it, it can take 30 minutes or even an hour to go out, find a parking spot, choose a card, wait in line, and then, finally purchase your card. If you do this once a year, think of all the time you’ve just gained!
- Run errands during the least busy times of the day: If possible, try to avoid the busiest shopping times by going during off-hours. For example, avoid the grocery store or Walmart on Saturday mornings. Instead, you may want to go during the week, during dinner hours, or later in the evening (9 or 10) if the store is open 24 hours. This may take a bit of planning on your part, but that’s where your trusty calendar comes in.
- Set aside one day to make meals for the week: This is one of my favorite time savers. I love to book Sundays off to make my week’s meals. It’s a time where I can work with my hands, unload all of the week’s stress, and enjoy puttering around in my kitchen to prepare healthy food for my family. Before you get started, plan out your week’s menu and shopping list, then get to work! Once Monday rolls around, you will be very happy knowing that you need not worry about meal planning for the week ahead. As an added bonus, this also ensures your diet is healthier as well. Quick tip: Invest in a couple of slow cookers. They let you create sumptuous, healthy meals, and allow you the freedom to walk away from them as you go about your day. Plus, if you use them during the week, you walk into the house smelling a delicious dinner, cooked and ready to go. Almost like having your personal chef—almost.
- Make the most of your commute time: When driving to work or running errands, listen to an audiobook or a downloaded Podcast. Robin Sharma calls this “highway university.” I love that concept! You wouldn’t believe how many books you can go through each month when you take advantage of your commute time to listen to an inspiring audiobook! As an aside, Audible from Amazon offers amazing audiobooks and great monthly deals! This has become one of my most precious resources.
- Always make an appointment before calling someone: There’s nothing more frustrating than playing phone tag! To avoid this problem, send an e-mail with a few options of times to call. When a time and date are set, mark them into your calendar as an appointment. Of course, for social calls, this is not necessary.
- Remind people of the end time: When starting a meeting or a phone conversation, always politely remind others of the allotted amount of time before starting the meeting. For example, you could start a meeting by saying “Welcome, and thank you for being here. However, before we get started I need to point out that we have a 30-minute block of time reserved for this meeting, since I have another appointment right after this one.” This way, people will get to the point and avoid wasting time.
- Avoid perfectionism at all costs: This is a big one, especially for women. When doing something relatively trivial—preparing dinner, writing a thank you note, tidying up the house—don’t strive for perfection. Rather, strive to get it done—good enough is perfection in this case. In doing so, you are liberating more time for yourself and thus, giving yourself more time to work on something that matters to you, whether it be spending more playtime with your children, working on a personal project, or pursuing an online course. Keep those precious minutes for things that strengthen you.
- Practice the art of “hard stopping”: I’m sure you’ve been there. You’re working on a project or a report and it’s time to go home, or to stop. However, you’re on a roll and you just want to get it done. Be careful of this mindset. After all, your work and responsibilities aren’t going anywhere and will be waiting for you tomorrow. That is why it is critical to make yourself STOP at a specific time every day. Give yourself a hard stop time to leave work and move onto something else. If you are able to leave work at 5 p.m., then do so. Stop what you are doing. Prepare your desk for the upcoming day, write out what you need to focus on tomorrow, and LEAVE. Go home and focus on your family, yourself, or a special project that strengthens This may be hard to do at first, but according to Kevin Kruse, author of 15 Secrets Successful People Know about Time Management, this is what the majority of successful CEOs like Sheryl Sandberg, and Richard Branson do. If they can do this, so can you—try it!
- Turn off all notifications: It can take at least 15 minutes to get settled in and become focused on your task. What’s more, every time a notification pops up—a new Facebook message, a new e-mail awaiting a response, or a new text message—we get distracted and our focus shifts once again, resulting in diminished productivity. To break free from this habit, take a few minutes to turn off all notifications on your computer or whatever technology you are using for your task. If you do not need technology, even better! In that case, remove or shut off all technology from your working environment and get to work.
- Take breaks—use the Pomodoro Method: This approach, also cited in Kruse’s book, encourages people to focus their attention on one particular task for 25 minutes (set a timer for this) without taking a break. Then, at the end of the 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break to walk around, take a drink of water, or stretch. Using this method, productivity and quality of work increase exponentially.
- Block off “errand time” in your calendar: The only time I use to-do lists is to run errands. And when I run my errands, I make sure to block that “errand running time” into my calendar. Errands are often tedious and demand a strategic plan in order to get them done. Outline what you need to do, then be strategic about when and where you will do them. Remember go to stores when they are less busy to make the most use of your time. I’ve noticed that shopping earlier in the morning and during dinner hours works best for me (especially for places like Walmart and large supermarkets or drugstores). Everyone is different, so see what works best for you.
What time-saving strategies do you use? What tips can you offer others to help them gain a few minutes or hours in the day?
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