In our busy world, “saving time” is a hot topic. Unfortunately, time is not a physical quantity that can be boxed, bottled or saved. Instead, it passes by at a predictable and sometimes frustratingly rapid rate. The best we can do is find ways to use the time we have in the most efficient manner possible. If you feel like you are always rushing and never have enough time, perhaps one of these ideas might help:
This seems counterintuitive. Most people think showing up at the last possible second is the epitome of efficiency. In reality, the attempt to show up exactly on time often leads to rushing and stress. In contrast, arriving early typically results in a sense of control and peace by providing:
- a window of time to deal with unexpected problems (e.g. “technical difficulties” or traffic)
- a bit of downtime to return a phone call or answer a few emails
- a shorter wait by being in the front of the line
- a convenient parking spot
- the opportunity to get a good seat
- the chance to network and make a good impression
- a moment to gather your thoughts and be fully prepared
Group Tasks Efficiently
All of us handle a variety of tasks: phone calls, computer work, errands, meetings, etc. Grouping “like tasks” together can sometimes greatly improve our productivity. When assembling your to-do list, schedule your time so that you are working “smart.” For example:
- Run your errands at once instead of taking multiple trips
- Make phone calls at a quiet time of day
- Tackle difficult tasks when you are most alert
- Use “waiting” times to catch up on reading
Challenging situations are easier to handle when we know they are coming. Always be thinking ahead, considering what could go wrong and how you would handle it. For example:
- If there is a weather delay, what will be interrupted and how I will handle it?
- What can I make for dinner tomorrow night when I know I won’t get home until 6:00?
- What conflicts do I see in my schedule in the upcoming week and how can I solve them?
- How will I deal with work if my child wakes up with a fever?
- What’s my plan if I don’t make my connecting flight?
- When can I get extra help with this subject matter that I know I’m struggling with?
There will always be unforeseen emergencies, but troubleshooting in advance can prove a lifesaver.
Spend Money To Gain Time
The tradeoff between spending money and spending time is different for everyone. But if you are feeling overwhelmed, it’s worthwhile to consider all your options, including hiring help. Even a small outlay of cash may improve efficiency exponentially. For example, if you care for small children, hiring a babysitter for an hour or two of could significantly reduce your time running errands. Or perhaps you run a small business and are trying to “do it all.” In a situation like this, a virtual assistant may be able to complete a few tasks very affordably, freeing you to focus on what you do best.
Leave It Ready
One of the biggest gifts you can give yourself is to leave space your tidy and “ready to go” when you return. If you walk out on a sink full of dishes or a desk piled with papers, you are forcing yourself to tackle “old” work before you can begin on the new pressing issues. Building in five minutes to restore order before you depart is one of the best habits you can develop for a productive daily routine.
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Since you can’t save time, the next best thing is to use it well. What tricks have you found helpful in getting the most out of every minute?