How to Waste Less Time
Finding yourself running out of time every day? Feeling stressed and disorganized? You are not alone! Lacking enough hours in a day to accomplish everything is something all of us face from time to time. Here are a few strategies for freeing up some time (and regaining some sanity):
Planning Your Day
"If you fail to plan, you plan to fail" said the wise Mr. Unknown who gave us so many insightful adages. This adage holds true for both big tasks and small ones. A hectic, stressful day, where little gets accomplished and you constantly feel rushed is often the result of a no clear plan as to what needs to be done. Spending just a few minutes the night before and writing down a list of things you need to accomplish tomorrow will go a long way towards having more productive and less stressful days.
Time management gurus recommend setting one top-priority item that must be done even if you don't do anything else. Then prioritize the rest of the items, leaving at the bottom of the list stuff that can even spill over to the next day. Keep the list realistic though; you want to feel good at the end of the day after you've accomplished what you set out to do.
The Extra 15 Minutes
How much can a person accomplish in 15 minutes? A lot in fact, if we are talking about getting up 15 minutes earlier every morning. Hitting the snooze button for just a little more sleep often translates into a more hectic morning because then you are forced to rush when you finally get up. But what if you got up 15 minutes earlier instead? More time to get ready, less rushing and less stress will translate into a better start of the day. And this can translate into a better day altogether. Try it (although I know it’s easier said than done - I still struggle with this).
It saps both your productivity and free time, and therefore it is something we should try hard to eliminate. First, here is a simple 2-minute rule that transformed my daily time management: if you are faced with a task that will take less than two minutes to complete, don't put it off for later – do it right away.
The next simple rule is called OHIO – Only Handle It Once. It was another rule that helped me tremendously get more stuff done. Do you normally go through your mail quickly picking an item or two that interest you, then leaving the rest of the mail to go through for later, only to come back to sort through it again looking for that one bill you know is due soon, then leave the mail again, and then again come back to it looking for something else? Well, that's a waste of time. Only handle it once – pick up an item and decide right away: pay, keep or trash. No point in sorting and resorting items ad nauseum. This applies to your inbox too. When you take something out of your inbox, don't put it back – take care of it while it's still in your hand.
Prioritizing is another way to fight procrastination. Have multiple tasks of the same priority on your plate? Do the easy stuff first. This gets you in the working mood, which often means tackling the hard task will become easier. Plus, at least some stuff will get done as opposed to nothing getting done if you are just procrastinating with the difficult task.
Checklists and More Checklists
A great time-waster: forgetting things. A great way to avoid this: write things down. Checklists are the secret of success of many super-organized people, and they often keep more than one checklist. For example, one checklist for work-related tasks, another for the family obligations. A running grocery list on the fridge is yet another kind of checklist that can save you time (how many times did you return from a grocery store forgetting one item you knew you needed?). Whether you write them down on paper or type them in your Blackberry, checklists will make you more productive and save you time.
Just like shopping in bulk can save you money, doing things "in bulk" can save you time. Preparing meals is one example. Consider cooking once a week for the whole week, and freezing the food in meal-sized portions for convenience. Another example is grouping different tasks together. Instead of going to the store, coming back home, then the next day going to the dry cleaners, try grouping your errands together. It saves you time and it also saves you gas.
And those are my five quick tips for this month. Implement them all or only one, and watch your time magically get freed up!
Personal Finance Blog
Starting in 2004, this blog series ran for 10 years. Click on the links below to read some of the posts.