25 Sharp Cuts of Time Saving Wisdom

Save Time

Time is a vital constituent of life… so time saving activities are life saving.  The best way to save time is to simply do things right the first time.  Confucius once said, “Desire to have things done quickly prevents their being done properly.”  In other words, haste makes waste.  If you agree with these statements, you will find value in the remainder of this article.

Here are 25 sharp cuts of time saving wisdom from around the blogosphere.  Each links back to a source article containing additional insight.  Enjoy.

Men talk of killing time, while time quietly kills them.
– Dion Boucicault

  1. Consolidate all weekly errands into one trip. – “Try to consolidate all of your errands into one trip away from home, instead of driving back and forth several times from store to home.” – via Frugal Dad
  2. Stop overanalyzing things. – “Stop analyzing and just do it. There comes a time when you have to stop evaluating something and just bite the bullet and do it, if it doesn’t work out do something else and start again.” – via Change Your Thoughts
  3. Don’t waste the current moment.  Be here now. – “Without looking at a clock or a watch do you know what time it is right now, right this second?  Let me tell you.  It’s now.  It always was now and it always will be now.  It’s not tomorrow or next week or next month or even yesterday or last week or last month.” – via The Discomfort Zone
  4. Start using RSS! – “RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication.”  It’s a little piece of technology that allows you to receive up-to-date information from sites in one spot, where you can then read them on your own time.  Many times, a blog’s RSS is simply called a “feed.” – via Simple Mom
  5. Focus your attention on one thing at a time. – “Cutting out multitasking (or “multi-slacking” as I call it) leaves you to focus more intently on one task and finish it to completion, rather than having many tasks started and nothing finished.” – via Zen Dad
  6. Take a LITTLE time to reflect or you will misallocate ALL your time. – “It is important to occasionally take an inventory of your life.  Ask yourself, are you doing what it takes to get ahead in life?  Answer these questions honestly.  No one else has to know, but if you can’t be honest with yourself about areas for improvement, then you will remain stuck where you are at.” – via My Super-Charged Life
  7. Have the kids help you get things done. – “At the minimum, have kids do a quick tidy up 15-30 minutes before bedtime.  This would include picking up toys , laying out tomorrow’s clothes, and collecting anything they’ll need by the door.  For more kiddie help write down a list of all the chores that need to get done, and then assign them on a weekly basis on a family planning chart or white board.” – via Dumb Little Man
  8. Look for patterns in information. – “Information becomes easier to organize if you can identify broader patterns that are similar across different topics.” – via Stepcase Lifehack
  9. Use time multipliers. – “Effective delegation of lower priority tasks is a time multiplier. Eliminating time wasting activities is a time multiplier. Screening phone calls can be a time multiplier. By practicing creative procrastination on anything that doesn’t propel you toward your goals, you can multiply the amount of time you have to achieve those goals.” – via The Wisdom Journal
  10. Backup your data! – How much time would you lose if your hard drive crashed?  “Data loss statistics reveal that more than 22 percent of computer users say backing up information is on their to-do list, but they seldom do it and nine percent admitted they have never backed up their files.” – via My Dollar Plan
  11. Just say ‘no’ sometimes! – Learn to say no.  If you say “yes” to every request, you will never have any free time.  Get super protective about your time, and say “no” to everything but the essential requests.” – via Zen Habits
  12. Perform tasks with multiple positives. – “The key to finding multiple positives is finding areas where different positive actions intersect.  If I can find a way to get paid to eat delicious food I’ll be golden.” – via Pick The Brain
  13. Realize that perfect is the enemy of good. – “Perfection is an illusion. We strive for perfection because we have an image in our minds of what we should be, but what we are not.  Realize that perfection and imperfection are a result of a conflict in your mind, they don’t exist in reality.  You have to make mistakes in order to grow, don’t let perfectionism paralyze you.  If you’re not failing, chances are you’re not trying hard enough.” – via Illuminated Mind
  14. Get your priorities straight. – “Understand your priorities.  Don’t over complicate your life.  Especially when you don’t need to.  Don’t take on more than you can handle.  Always make sure that you have enough time to yourself.” – via Think Simple Now
  15. Mistakes do not waste time if you learn from them. – “There may be moments or days of weakness, but you should always come back to learning from your mistakes.” – via Work Happy Now
  16. Write stuff down or you will waste time trying to remember it. – “You’ll have your ideas safely saved away instead of having them lost somewhere in the depths of your mind.  If you don’t write things down you’ll forget many good and some great ideas.” – via The Positivity Blog
  17. Relocate closer to your place of employment. – “In every major city in the world there are people traveling over an hour to reach their work destination from home.  Huge waste of time that could be used working or spent with family.  Huge waste of money on gas and cars.  Huge impact on environment by emitting green-house gases and other pollutants.” – via Alex Shalman
  18. Batch process less important tasks. – “There are a lot of little tasks you need to do throughout the day.  Don’t let them interrupt the more important stuff.  To be more productive, batch them up and do them all at once, preferably towards the end of the day.  Batch like things together — do all your email once a day, at 4 p.m., instead of throughout the day.  Do all your paperwork at once.  Process your physical inbox to empty.  Don’t do them throughout the day.” – via LifeDev
  19. Simplify your workspace. – “The third major benefit of the one pencil philosophy is that you’ll spend less time searching and more time doing.  The few seconds spent choosing between the umpteen writing instruments in my cup weren’t a big, but little things to add up.  I was losing seconds each time.  If having everything within reach was supposed to make work easier and more productive, I was finding the exact opposite to be true: I was wasting time hunting down disposable pens for no good reason.” – via On Simplicity
  20. Be frugal with your time. – “I have had to get my finances in order by being frugal with my money and putting thought into what I spend that money on. I need to use those same principles in getting my day more organized in terms of what I spend my time doing and how long I allow myself to do each thing.” – via Remodeling This Life
  21. Use automated tools. – “I’ve been evaluating various web tools for reminder systems.  One of the more creative ones I discovered was IWantSandy.com, where “Sandy” is your executive assistant.  Once you’ve signed up, you get a special e-mail which you use to communicate with Sandy.  You simply e-mail her messages with something like “Remember to read blogs in 5 minutes” and sure enough you’ll get an e-mail reminder in 5 minutes.” – via Mrs. Micah
  22. Don’t mindlessly browse online [or watch TV] ad infinitum. – “Web browsing is one of the “black holes” in time spending.  Before you realize it, you may have spent hours browsing while generating very little value.” – via Life Optimizer
  23. If you aren’t enjoying yourself, you ARE wasting your time. – “Do you ever stop and think… Why am I doing all this stuff?  Do you ever feel like your sole purpose in life is crossing things off lists and maintaining your calendar?  Maybe if you aren’t enjoying yourself, all your time is wasted.  All that time we spend bored, frightened, angry, in a hurry, or unhappy, isn’t that the real waste of time?” – via Steve Olson
  24. Live by the 80/20 rule. – “Tim Ferris of ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’ credited the Pareto Principle for significantly improving his business and personal life. He looked at everything based on these two questions:  Which 20% of sources are causing 80% of my problems and unhappiness?  Which 20% of sources are resulting in 80% of my desired outcomes and happiness?” – via 7P Productions
  25. Work smarter, not harder! – “With the right combination of skills, tactics and tools, you can work less and still impress.  It requires thinking outside of the box… and then implementing strategies that directly increase the visibility, impact and “wow-factor” of your labors.  Here’s how…” – via Marc and Angel Hack Life  😉

Photo by: Caucas

40 Positive Effects of a TV Free Week

A week away from TV

“What could you accomplish if you stopped watching TV?  What would you do with all the extra time?”  My wife asked me these questions two weeks ago.  After a short discussion, we decided to find out for ourselves.  We completely eliminated television from our lives last week.  It turned out to be an incredibly rewarding experience.  We now have a plan to drastically reduce our future viewing habits.

Here are 40 positive effects from our week without television.

  1. Wrote 4 blog posts. – I usually only have time to write 2 articles a week.
  2. Made it to the gym 5 times. – I went Monday through Friday for about 45 minutes, hitting every major muscle group.
  3. Increased household communication. – TV kills the flow of household communication.  We both noticed that we had a lot more time to talk.
  4. Read a novel cover to cover. – I read the short novel “Siddhartha” by Herman Hesse.  It’s a powerful story about the importance of life experiences as they relate to approaching an understanding of reality and attaining enlightenment.  I highly recommend it.
  5. Caught up on current events twice as fast. – I typically waste a good hour everyday watching CNN.  This week I grabbed my news off the web.  It took me significantly less time to scan CNN.com.
  6. Enhanced focus on everything. – TV is a huge distraction, even when you hear it from the other room.  It’s so much easier to concentrate when you don’t have a TV yapping at you.  I had no idea how much if affected my ability to concentrate until it was gone.
  7. Learned a few new skills. – I took my own advice and learned how to change the oil in my truck… pretty darn easy.
  8. Spent more time with friends and family. – We invited Angel’s sister and some friends over for a mid-week dinner party.
  9. Cleaned the house. – Something Angel and I habitually evade by watching TV instead.
  10. Learned new recipes and prepared 5 home cooked meals. – We cooked large portions so we could have leftovers for lunch every day.
  11. Spent more time enjoying simple pleasures. – Deep conversations, long walks, telling jokes, etc.
  12. Finally trimmed the hedges in our front yard. – I always put this off because I am tired after mowing the lawn.  This time, however, I did it on a totally separate evening.  It only took me 30 minutes.
  13. Cleaned out the garage and sold 2 old dehumidifiers on eBay. – We setup a 5-day eBay auction and got $65 for each one of them!
  14. Took 2 evening strolls around a local park. – We hadn’t been to this park in years… there’s only 1 reason why.
  15. Saved money on our electric bill. – Our power company’s website allows you to check your daily usage.  Sure enough, less TV equals less electricity usage.
  16. Burned more calories. – We were off the couch moving around.
  17. Backed-up critical files on both of our laptops. – Transferred them all over to our Iomega 500 GB external drive.
  18. I played my guitar. – …for the first time in a year.  I’m hooked again!
  19. Found 2 new bands I like. – I used online music comparison services to find 2 awesome bands with similar music styles to my favorite band, Counting Crows.
  20. Listened to more music. – In addition to finding new bands, I had more time to listen to my favorite music.
  21. We stargazed in our backyard. – …for the first time since Angel and I first started dating.  It was blissful.
  22. Caught up on times with an old friend. – I hadn’t spoken to my buddy Jon since my wedding a year and a half ago.  We had a pleasant 30 minute conversation on the phone.
  23. Handled basic household maintenance. – Replaced the AC filter, applied pest control spray, replaced fire alarm batteries, etc.
  24. Took Angel out on a romantic date. – I took her to one of our favorite Italian restaurants and then out to a local pub where we slow danced to a live music.
  25. Finished up a little DIY project. – I’ve been stalling on staining, sanding and hanging a certain wooden shelf for nearly 6 months.
  26. Updated the photo frames throughout the house. – Sometimes it’s nice to mix things up.  We spent some time sorting through our digital photos and replaced a few photos in various photo frames throughout the house.
  27. Played racquetball. – Great 2-person sport!
  28. Organized my monthly planner. – Entered all my known commitments into my planner and did a little time planning each night.
  29. Reviewed our long-term goals. – Angel and I had an open discussion last Tuesday night about our goals for the next 3 – 5 years.
  30. Setup recurring automatic payments for most of our bills. – Now our electricity, phone, insurance and cable bills are automatically withdrawn from our account each month.  This basically buys me 30 additional minutes of free time every month.
  31. Updated my resume. – It only took me 45 minutes.
  32. Quiet relaxation. – Instead of clicking on the TV, I spent some quiet time gathering my thoughts each day when I returned home from work.
  33. Intelligent conversations at suppertime. – Quite frequently we eat supper in front of the TV.  Since there was no TV watching this week, Angel and I had some really interesting conversations instead.
  34. Hit it off with our new neighbors.  – We spent more time outside and ended up running into our new neighbors.  They seem like pretty cool people.  There’s certainly the potential for friendship here.
  35. Exchanged back massages. – It sure beats canned laughter.
  36. There was more time for “quality time”. – You know… just me and her and some classical music in the background.
  37. More real life experiences. – Because we were off of the couch, actually doing something.
  38. Watched 1 quality movie. – Instead of watching whatever was on, we went to Blockbuster and selected 1 quality movie to rent.
  39. Ironed my clothes each weeknight before bedtime. – …since I had more free time in the evenings.  It made my mornings less stressful.
  40. We got more done. – Because we had so much more time to do it all.

I strongly recommend a week without television to everyone.  You’ll be amazed…

Photo by: Zyphichore

20 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Every Sunday

Sunday Questions to Reflect on Your Life

At the cusp of new beginnings many of us take time to reflect on our lives by looking back over the past and ahead into the future.  We ponder the successes, failures and standout events that are slowly scripting our life’s story.  This process of self reflection helps maintain a conscious awareness of where we’ve been and where we intend to go.  It is pertinent to the organization and preservation of our dreams, goals and desires.

If you would like to maximize the benefits of self reflection, I have 20 questions for you.  These questions should be reviewed every Sunday morning or sometime during the weekend when you have some quiet time to think.  Remember, reflection is the key to progression.

  1. What did I learn last week? – If you have trouble answering this question, it’s time for a change.  It doesn’t matter how old you are, you should learn something new every week.
  2. What was my greatest accomplishment over the past week? – Reflecting on your accomplishments is a healthy way to raise self confidence and contentment.  It’s also an effective way to track your progress.
  3. Which moment from last week was the most memorable and why? – It may open up your mind to new passions and goals, or simple pastimes worth revisiting.
  4. What’s the #1 thing I need to accomplish this week? – Everything else is secondary, and should be treated as such.  Nevertheless, this question will also shine light on other noteworthy tasks.
  5. What can I do right now to make the week less stressful? – Set reminders in your calendar, get your laundry done, fill the car with gas… organize yourself.
  6. What have I struggled with in the past that might also affect the upcoming week? – The idea here is to learn from your struggles and better equip yourself for future encounters.
  7. What was last week’s biggest time sink? – Steer clear of this in the future.  Setup physical barriers against distractions if you have to.
  8. Am I carrying any excess baggage into the week that can be dropped? – Physical clutter, mental clutter… eliminate the unnecessary so the necessary may shine bright.
  9. What have I been avoiding that needs to get done? – Pencil in a time to get these things done.  For any 2-minute or less tasks, consider scheduling them first thing Monday morning.
  10. What opportunities are still on the table? – If it’s still available and you want it, make a concrete plan to go after it this week.
  11. Is there anyone I’ve been meaning to talk to? – Regular communication can solve problems before they fester.  Always keep an open line of communication to those around you.
  12. Is there anyone that deserves a big ‘Thank You’? – Take time each week to thank the people who have helped you.  Your kind gesture will not go unnoticed.
  13. How can I help someone else this coming week? – The easiest way to get what you want is to help others get what they want.  If you help them, they will remember you when you need help.
  14. What are my top 3 goals for the next 3 years? – You’ll never make any progress in life if you don’t setup realistic goals for yourself.
  15. Have any of my recent actions moved me closer to my goals? – If the answer is no, something needs to change.
  16. What’s the next step for each goal? – Knowing the next step is the key to accomplishing the whole.
  17. What am I looking forward to during the upcoming week? – The answer can act as a great source of motivation.  If nothing exists, schedule something to look forward to.
  18. What are my fears? – Consciously address your fears each week and slowly work on resolving them.  It’s all about taking baby steps.
  19. What am I most grateful for? – It’s a smart way to keep things in perspective, and something you should never lose sight of.
  20. If I knew I only had one week to live, who would I spend my time with? – Another helpful reminder… Life is short.  Spend more time with the people you care about.

Take 30 minutes every Sunday and give yourself the gift of self reflection.  It has worked wonders for me, and I am confident it will do the same for you.

And check out these books for more thought-provoking questions:

Photo by: Cesar R.

What Everyone Should Know About Selling Hours for Dollars

An Hours for Dollars Warning 

“Cutting to the chase”…  Strictly selling hours of your life for dollars is the inverse of a practical and profitable business plan.  The word “selling” is very important here because that’s what happens in every business transaction.  A product is sold and purchased at an agreed upon price.  The corporate exchange of hours for dollars is no different; it just has a different twist.

Everyone is the CEO of Their Own Corporation

What most people don’t realize is that you never really work for anyone but yourself.  The only question is: What are you selling, and to whom?  Even when you have a full time, salaried, “Corporate America” position, you are still running your own business.  You are selling one unit of your existence (an hour of your life) at a set price (the associated fraction of your salary) to a customer (your employer). 

Good Business vs. Bad Business

Selling hours for dollars is a flawed business plan.  Let’s take a quick look at the components of a good business plan vs. that of the standard hours for dollars routine.

A good business plan:

  • Multiple Products – Providing multiple options to your customers.
  • Product Development Growth – Innovating and expanding the core capabilities of your product.
  • Multiple Customers – Your total income revenue is acquired from several sources.  The loss of a single customer will not jeopardize your sustainability.
  • Scalable – Your business can grow naturally without disproportionately increasing costs.  Also, it cannot be shutdown by the absence of a single worker.
  • Inventory Expansion – Inventory can be expanded to meet increasing customer demands.

The business of strictly selling hours for dollars:

  • One Product – A single hour of your life.
  • Static Product Growth – You can change your level of productivity within an hour, but you can’t change the dynamics of the hour itself (which is the metric you are being paid by).
  • One Customer – Your employer.  If you lose your one customer, you lose your business.
  • Single Point of Failure – If something happens to you (injured, ill, etc.), your business suffers.
  • Ever Declining Inventory – Life has a limited inventory of hours.  They cannot be reproduced.

The Silver Lining: You Must Find Your Passion

There is, however, a silver lining.  When you are passionate about your work, even in an “hours for dollars” environment, you open the floodgates to a world of accelerated personal growth and contentment.  Suddenly, you are working to learn, mindfully indulging in the task at hand.  This passion is the byproduct of interest.  You have to be genuinely interested in the subject matter of your profession.  In other words, dollars cannot be the primary source of motivation.  Once you find your passion, here are some ideas for maximizing your career growth potential:

  • Learn as Much as You Can – This becomes a natural process when you are truly passionate about your work.  Obviously, the more you know the more valuable your time will be to others.
  • Pursue Unpaid Growth Opportunities – Get out of the “hours for dollars” mindset.  See if you can barter your skill set with others in your industry.  You educate them as they educate you.  Knowledge is worth far more than money.
  • Provide Value from Within a Black Box – This is how you increase your level of impressiveness.  Your efforts must make someone think, “Wow! How does he/she do that?”  They can easily see your inputs and your results, but aren’t 100% sure how you got from point A to point B.
  • Innovate – If you think there might be a better way, try it.  The worst case scenario is you’ll have to revert back to the way things are now.
  • Help Other People – The best way to get what you want is to help others get what they want.  This will also aid you in establishing strong professional relationships.
  • Market Your Visibility – Don’t be bashful.  Take credit where credit is due.

Avoid the “Hours for Dollars” Mentality

Even when working in an “hours for dollars” environment, you can avoid the “hours for dollars” mentality.  Find something you’re passionate about and take it to the next level.  Become a guru.  This should help you to strategically position yourself as a “go to guy/gal”, someone your superiors (and industry insiders) see as a vital asset.

Doing so will ultimately free you from the bounds of an arbitrary hourly rate, because you (your business) will become entwined with the future objectives of your employer (and maybe even the industry as a whole).  This typically translates into big raises, bonuses, etc.  You’ll start getting paid based on the tangible value you provide.  Eventually, this position of power can be leveraged to start a company of your own.

Photo by: Antonio Martinez

28 Unique Bits of Financial Brilliance

Financial BillianceFinancial wisdom is not intrinsic to the mind, it’s learned.  Most people who are brilliant with their finances received at least some third-party guidance.  Maybe they absorbed the knowledge from a parent or grandparent.  Or perhaps they pursued it on their own by reading personal finance books, blogs and magazines.

Either way, if you’re not doing well financially, you’re probably ready for some advice that makes sense.  Here are 28 unique bits of financial brilliance from around the web, each linking back to a source article containing further instruction and insight.  Enjoy.

I have enough money to last me the rest of my life, unless I buy something.
– Jackie Mason

  1. Stop buying “stuff” you do not need! – “Purchases of a few hundred dollars add up quickly to thousands of dollars.  On top of that, if you carry a balance on your credit card, you will pay on average 12% to 14% interest.  These rates can skyrocket quickly if you are late on even one payment.  In addition, you may become subject to late fees and penalties.  All this to get something that isn’t even used or enjoyed.  No thank you!” – via My Super-Charged Life
  2. Start rolling an income snowball. – “Most people know how they’d make money in an ideal world. The problem is that most of these “ideal” schemes require lots of time, planning, risk taking, etc. On the other hand, most of us have skills that we could implement tomorrow to make money independent of an employer (this could be anything from doing landscape to hiring ourselves out as a consultant).  So the first step in creating an income snowball is to write a list of things you can do to make money in ascending order of difficulty and speed of implementation.” – via The Growing Life
  3. A car lasts longer than 5 years.  Stop wasting your money! – “Cars are simply a method of basic transportation…that’s all they are. They are assembled hunks of metal sitting on four tires designed for the purpose of transporting us safely from point A to point B. I doubt Henry Ford ever envisioned the kind of luxuries we see in today’s automobile – voice activated radio controls, heated leather seats, heads up displays, and backup cameras installed in bumpers. If families invested the $400 a month wasted on new cars into a good, growth stock mutual fund for 30 years they could easily retire millionaires. Hope you like the car!” – via Frugal Dad
  4. Live within your means. – “When you spend less than you make, you are buying flexibility and freedom. You gain the ability to change jobs or move to another area of the country. You are buying the ability to say yes to the things that matter because you save on the areas that aren’t as important to you.” – via Productivity501
  5. Debt can make you money.  It’s called good debt. – “Would you take a million dollar loan at 1% interest? I would. I’d immediately put it in a few interest baring accounts that are FDIC insured (I say a few because FDIC insurance doesn’t cover a whole million). At today’s rates, which are historically pretty low, you can make a guaranteed 3% on that money. That means the debt naysayers would be missing out on 2% of a million dollars, $20,000 a year.” – via Lazy Man and Money
  6. Money management can have many positive side effects. – “My husband and I both work out our finances together. I’m still the budget maker and bill payer in the family, but since we make the decisions on how the money is allotted, we have to make the time to communicate, come to an agreement, and project our monthly financial plans. We’re more unified in our marriage than we’ve ever been.” – via simple mom
  7. If you don’t have an emergency fund, start one now! – “It’s better to be safe than sorry.   Nobody can anticipate when the roof will have to be repaired or an appliance will need to be replaced.  The idea is to try to find ways to live below your means so that you can save for retirement and other long-term goals but at the same time make it a priority to set money aside in the event an urgent need arises.” – via Everything Finance
  8. Financial freedom only solves small problems. – “You know what really determines our happiness levels? Not money, but how optimistic we are and how often we have monogamous sex. Money cannot solve big problems, like cancer or world hunger or happiness. Money solves small problems, like, can you have a big wedding, can you go on a good trip. Small problems are what people talk about when they talk about financial freedom.” – via Brazen Careerist
  9. Financial calculators are your friend.  Use them! – “In various posts I have referenced financial calculators that I like.  I’m going to put them all in one post so they are easy to find for reference.  As I find more, I’ll add them to this list.” – via My Dollar Plan
  10. There is no specific template for business success. – “Living a life that’s not based on a template and being true to yourself may not mean paving a road in the sky like the Wright Brothers. However, if you tell everyone you want to start your own business, you will be doubted. They’ll tell you everything that’s wrong with your idea and why it won’t work: You have no experience. You’ve never run a business before, what do you know about sales? It takes money to make money. Almost no one starting their first business knows exactly what they are doing.” – via Illuminated Mind  [Read more…]