We’re all way too busy. We live and work in an age with infinite online and offline demands on our time and attention. And the end result is that we’re left little free time for us to just breath and be.
If you’re anything like me, you wish there were a few more minutes in every day. Well the good news is there are always minutes to be saved and various ways to save them. Save enough of them every day, and you’ll have a few extra hours at the end of the week. In this article I discuss 30 of my favorite ways to save 30 minutes a day.
Sometimes our days are so crammed with things to do that an extra 30 minutes at the end of the day represents the difference between sanity and insanity. I use each of the tips below to save time and remain sane on a daily basis.
Perhaps the very best question that you can memorize and repeat, over and over, is, “what is the most valuable use of my time right now?”
– Brian Tracy
- Group similar tasks back-to-back. – Switching gears between different types of tasks can be tough. It takes most people several minutes to get into a productive mental groove geared toward a speficic type of task. Therefore, it makes sense to group similar tasks in an effort to minimize the number of rough patches, and thus wasted time, between task orders.
- Use productive shortcuts. – People who claim that there are no productive shortcuts in life have been brainwashed. There are productive shortcuts for almost everything you do. Finding and using them can save you a few minutes here and there on a daily basis. If you use a computer, learn the keyboard shortcuts for the programs you use most often. If you can permanently delegate one of your regular tasks to someone else, do it. Is there a route to work with less traffic? Where can you hit two birds with one stone?
- Eliminate all distractions for a set time. – Distractions are everywhere. They arrive via email, cell phone, coworker inquiry, etc. I’ve found that cutting out all distractions for a set time is one of the most effective ways to get things done in less time. You can’t remain in hiding forever, but you can be nearly four times as productive while you are.
- Narrow the number of ventures you’re involved in. – Productivity is not usually my challenge, narrowing the number of ventures to be productive in is. Even when you have the knowledge and ability to access super-productive states, you get to a point where being simultaneously super-productive on too many fronts at once causes all activities to slow down, stand still and sometimes even slide backwards.
- Plan ahead and start early. – 10 minutes of dedicated time planning each evening will save you from 30 minutes of ad-hoc preparation each morning. Likewise, starting your morning on purpose 30 minutes early will likely inject at least 60 additional productive minutes into your day. Think about it.
- Organize your space. – How much time do you think the average person wastefully spends searching for items they’ve misplaced? Keeping both your living and working spaces organized will undoubtedly save you 30 minutes daily.
- Productively use waiting time. – Waiting time does not have to be wasted time. When you are waiting at the doctor’s office, the post office, or on hold for the next available representative, what simple tasks could you complete while you wait? How about sorting through your snail mail, writing those thank you notes you’ve been putting off, reading the book you keep meaning to read, reviewing and editing your to-do lists, etc.
- Handle two minute tasks immediately. – “The 2 Minute Rule” is single greatest tip I picked up from David Allen’s book, “Getting Things Done.” If you roughly estimate that a task is going to take you less than two minutes to accomplish, do it right now. It’s a waste of time and energy to keep small tasks like this on your to-do list on in the back of your mind.
- Ask more questions. – The trial and error process can be a huge waste of time. Often people view asking questions and relying on others as a weakness, but they are sadly mistaken. Asking questions will bring you closer to the people around you and likely save you a huge chunk of time. Win-win.
- Buy in bulk and cook in bulk. – Buying stuff and cooking food are two of the most common unplanned consumptions of time. Most people buy replacements in small amounts only when they need them and think about food only when they’re hungry. The problem is these issues will often arise at inopportune times. The most efficient way I’ve found to counteract this is by doing bulk loads of both. I know I’ll always need gas in my vehicle. So instead of putting in $25 here and $25 there, I top off my tank every time I’m at the station regardless of the sticker shock. Likewise, I know I’m going to be hungry at lunch time every day this week. So on Sundays I’ll grill up five extra chicken breasts and make a chicken wrap or sandwich for every day of the week.
- Pick-up the phone. – We’ve become so accustomed to communicating digitally, sending emails, IMs and texts, etc. that we sometimes forget that we can get the same tasks accomplished in a fraction of the time with one or two quick phone calls.
- Don’t mindlessly browse online ad infinitum. – Web browsing is one of the immense black holes in time spending. Before you realize it, you may have spent hours browsing while generating very little value.
- Standardize common tasks. – If you find yourself performing the same set of tasks on a regular basis then it makes sense to establish an efficient, standardized way of accomplishing them. Are certain tasks easier to perform in the morning? Are there additional resources that can be utilized only at a certain time? It’s up to you to find an efficient pattern, standardize it and follow it.
- Make better usage of commute times. – Listen to audio books, make calls, do some proactive time planning, etc. I use Evernote on my iPhone and capture tons of ideas and thoughts when I’m commuting and traveling on business.
- Write things down. – Nobody’s memory is perfect. If you don’t take notes and setup to-do lists for yourself you will end up wasting minutes of time trying to remember things that would have taken you seconds to write down.
- Consolidate all daily errands into one trip. – Consolidate all of your errands into one trip instead of driving back and forth several times from home to the store to home to the bank to home, etc.
- Stop overanalyzing things. – There comes a time when you have to stop evaluating something and just bite the bullet and do it. Contemplating taking action isn’t taking action. It gets nothing accomplished.
- Exercise daily. – I know it sounds counter-intuitive. You have to spend time exercising. But, research has shown that exercise boosts cognitive function, creativity, problem solving and productivity. In fact a NASA study showed employees who exercised daily worked at 100% efficiency after seven hours, while those who didn’t saw a 50% drop, meaning it took them twice as long to accomplish the same thing.
- Use a timer. – I use a timer to limit the amount of time I spend on daily tasks such as email, retuning calls, cranking through my to-do lists, etc. This keeps me from getting overly distracted from the truly important tasks I must accomplish during the day.
- Do what you don’t want to do first. – If you do the tough tasks first when your mind is fresh, you’ll get them done quicker and be on to the next thing in no time.
- Harness the power of teamwork. – I heard a story once about some horses that were in a competition to see which could pull the most weight. One horse pulled 3,000 lbs and another one pulled 4,000 lbs. Someone suggested the horses team together to see how much they could pull. Most guesses were in the 7,000 lb to 10,000 lb range but when those two horses worked together, they pulled an amazing 20,000 lbs. That’s the power of teamwork. Good teamwork can get a large project completed in an amazingly short amount of time.
- Just say NO! – While saying yes can take us down some wonderful roads, there’s also a ton of value in saying “no.” We’re only given a certain amount of hours in our lives; do you really want to give yours away so easily? If you don’t have to time to commit to a new project, complete a favor, or serve on another committee, it’s a good idea to just say “no.”
- 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.
- Pare down your e-mail inbox. – As a first step, cancel any e-mail newsletter subscriptions that you do not read anymore. If you subscribe to more than one newsletter in a certain category (e.g. tech newsletters), choose the one that delivers the most value to you on a daily basis and get rid of the rest. The e-mail inbox should only be for priority communication, otherwise it just wastes your time.
- 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.
- 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. This is a huge chunk of time that could be used far more productively.
- Turn off the TV. – Nuff said.
- Use technology to automate tasks. – From creating email filters, to automatically backing-up your hard drive, to automatic bill paying. The more you can automate, the more time you’ll save.
- Keep it simple. – Keep your to-do lists and planning simple, and don’t waste time playing with new tools, etc. There’s always going to be shiny programs that promise to make your day faster and more efficient. Stick with one, and learn to rely on it.
- Spend minutes now to save hours later. – During happy hour last Friday I spent some time listening to one of my colleagues confess her utter distaste for the Windows 7 Start menu. “The system is organized all wrong. The programs I need are buried and the ones I never use are right at my finger tips. I waste so much time digging through menus,” she said. “But you can easily rearrange that,” I replied. She looked down with a despondent expression on her face. “I know,” she said. “Someone else told me that too, but I haven’t taken the time to figure it out.” Bottom line: Sometimes you have to spend a few minutes now to save hours of grief in the future.
What did I leave off the list? Please share your favorite time saving tips with us in the comments area below.
Photo by: Xava Du
great article. the most important for me is just say NO. i guess it’s the pressure of over achieving that makes us need to say yes to everything and score some points.
in the end, i end up tired and can’t do anything well
Thirty great tips. I think using pen and paper for to-do lists still beats software hands down. And it’s such a good feeling to physically cross a task off after completion.
Close the unnecessary tabs in the browser. You might unknowingly just linger upon them wasting hours.
Awesome O says
deactivate your facebook account
Love it. I am a solid to-do list maker. I love making lists and I love even more having that feeling of accomplishment after crossing off line after line.
All good points.
#4, #22 – Focus on what it is that you really want to do. Better to be awesome at a few things than poor at everything.
#7 – In his memoir – “On Writing”, Stephen King suggested keeping a book in your pocket at all times. King says he reads while standing in line at the grocery store (I wonder if he really goes to the grocery store?).
#18 – Never thought of this as a time saver, just thought it was fun to do.
Nea | Self Improvement Saga says
I really like what you said about using waiting time wisely. This is something that always helps me to play catchup. Instead of reading a magazine while at the doctor’s office, I use that time to catch up on writing articles or doing something else productive.
Another one of your time savers that works well for me is cooking in bulk. It’s a great alternative to cooking every single day. Leftovers rock!
I work freelance from home so I realised the best time saving tips were to:
not turn on the tv until after dinner (some days not at all, once you get used to it)
web browsing (limit things like facebook to only once in the morning and once in the evening).
parkerlee | howtomingle says
I think something that I can relate the most to is being organized.
My life functions best when I know what I’m doing that day, or where all my most important documents, ipods are located.
Unfortunately, Organization is something I had to acquire :/
Nice tips on saving time during our day. Thanks for sharing
Debbie @ Happy Maker says
When running errors have a plan. Don’t just drive this way and that way. Have a route so you save gas and time.
Oh by the way great tips.
Thanks for the post! I’m always on the lookout for time savers, however, I find it that I can never focus longer than 30 minutes. If I had to self diagnose myself, I’d say I have ADD or something. I’m constantly multi-tasking. In fact, I’ve been multitasking for so long (reading a textbook, IMing, listening to music, etc.) that if I don’t do all three at the same time, I don’t seem to get in the groove for reading. This gets a little bit better if I were working in a public location, like the library, but is there any advice as to what I can do to focus more and longer? Thanks!!!
Car Negotiation Coach says
I like to plan activities based on the time of day I know I’m more productive in that area.
For example, mornings I’m not very awake, creative, or talkative, so I try to do reading or repetitive/brainless tasks. In the afternoon I’m on point, so that’s when I plan brainstorming sessions and make most of my calls.
#14 is DANGEROUS!! You should ONLY use your commute time to accomplish other things if you’re NOT driving a vehicle. You car should be a NO PHONE ZONE.
I interpreted #14 differently. I think his intention was to let you know that you can get a lot of work done while on a plane, bus, train, etc. He did not specify what kind of commuting. Another person could be doing the commuting. That’s not too dangerous after all.
I agree with all the points above but just one… I do not like to cook bulk food..I believe food should be consumed fresh.. and should be cooked every time you eat and not stored in a freezer… it’s time consuming though 🙂
Or, here’s an idea. Stop being a slave to the clock. If you want life to flow, it’s pretty simple. Be present, in the now. If your life is so frantic that you can’t enjoy it, maybe it’s time to take a look at what you’re not dealing with that you have to fill up your time with things to do to avoid the real work, which is the Self.
Looking forward to use each of these tips to generate some more hours for myself 🙂
Great list — like the one about just saying NO the best! That’ll save me loads of time!
Thanks for the amazing tips.
The nicest one that I used a lot is to write a list. It gives me a peace of mind, feel of accomplishment, and minimizes my daily tasks.
Carrie Greene says
Just saying no is important but the way I like to think about it is…
Remember that when you say yes to one thing you say no to something else…what do you really want to be saying Yes or No to?
Business Development & Systems Coach
I always love your posts! 🙂 Keep posting great stuff!
Craig Thomas says
Nice post, excellent set of tips. I use quite a few already but key tips like over analysing, using a timer and keeping it simple would generally help with my productivity.
Jonathan Manor says
I love it when people write out lists about organizing their life! I just got back from reading:
The blog is unclutter and it talks about how the author of Harry Potter figured out how to “organize” her novels using pen and binder paper. It’s pretty crazy. There’s a lot of information overload nowadays, and I feel like there’s a need to figure out how to do things with more convenience.
P.S: I need a favor that should only take 6 seconds.
My friend’s are in a contest to win band of the month in San Francisco and they need people to vote for Commissure on a website called, http://sf.thedelimagazine.com/snacks
Go to: http://sf.thedelimagazine.com/snacks
It honestly takes like 6 seconds to vote. The contest ends October 15. Every vote helps. Thanks.
Their website is: myspace.com/commissure
Stephanie Calahan (@StephCalahan) says
One that I tell my clients all of the time: Decide to Decide! There are many things in our daily life that we put off for another moment in time. Stop and make a conscious decision that you will make decisions. Postponed decisions often end up as physical or mental clutter that slows you down.
A nice article. I used to work in IT services and product companies for close to 25 years and would always be running short of time on critical activities. I turned an entrepreneur and started my own company early this year. I started off with many initiatives and then I realized that it was all too diverse, now I am focusing on few areas, manage my time more effectively, get rid of all unimportant stuff in a whiff. I have a better work life balance now.
These pointers are of great help.
Thanks a lot for these insights.