Google “time saving tips” will undoubtedly turn up a plethora of advice on things you can do to stretch the 24 hour day, everything from ‘hire a painter' to ‘gardening maintenance strategies'. Unfortunately, none of these ‘strategies' are anything short of ridiculous if you don't know what you're doing. Now, the English teacher in me cautions you — these things aren't “strategies,” they're “tactics.” Strategies are different than tactics. Strategies win wars, tactics win battles.
Similarly, time saving tips help you save time (a tactical goal), but they don't tell you what do with it once it's saved (a strategic goal). So let's start there.
Strategically speaking, you need to decide what it is you want to accomplish, since presumably, you're saving time for a reason. If you don't have a reason to save time, no matter how much time you save, it'll never be enough. It's like this: when we save money, we do so with a goal in mind, be it your kid's college fund, that nice new Mustang, or Prius (for the green among you), the vacation in St. Kitts, whatever.
The point is, you know when you have enough money, because you've formed some idea in your head as to what amount of money will be “enough.” The same is true about time, except for the annoying little proviso that no matter how much time you save, you'll be losing time if you've no idea what you're going to do with it once it's in your little temporal piggy bank. So, figure out what you're going to do with that time, long term.
These are the categories of things to do if you're going to save time. And, since I'm good like that, I'm even going to give you examples- hey!, don't ever say I din't give you nuttin'.
1. Delegate the Remedial
First things first, you aren't Superman, and you aren't the Flash (my favorites are the Golden Age versions-what else is spare time good for?). You can't do everything. So, if you can't, and someone else can, get them to do it. After all, if someone else can do it, then it makes sense to think they can devote the time to it that it needs.
So, don't mow the lawn, give the neighbor's kid $10 to do it. Don't iron your own clothes, let the dry cleaner's do it. Do the laundry drop off thing. Order take out-but don't break the bank or your waist line.
2. Be a Better Boss of Yourself
I love nothing more than rolling over in bed for an extra five or ten minutes. In my version of Heaven, you can hit the snooze bar all day. I love the snooze bar (and only slightly less than an actual bar). But you have to think of it this way: during your work day, you are there for your boss. During your days off, you are there for you. How important are you to you?
Are you important enough to devote the tiny bit of discipline required to get up at a decent hour? You are your boss here, and like any boss, you want to be satisfied with your employee's efforts, right? So, if you think of your day off as a day you devote to you, wouldn't you want to devote to yourself as much time as you can-or at least as much as you devote to your job? Then get up! By all means, indulge: hit the snooze bar, but only once or twice, after all, you're already getting up an hour or two later than on Tuesdays, right? If you get up around noon, then fire yourself.
Stop thinking of resting, sleeping, relaxing, and other leisure activities as excuses. Who says you have to wake up at noon on Saturdays? Grab your normal complement of hours (8-10 is normal to healthy), and skip the rest. Getting up really late doesn't prove how cool your night was, it proves how poorly you manage time. Oh, and do it now. Whatever it is. At the risk of sounding condescending, if you do it now, you won't have to do it later. Tape your TV shows and watch them on the weekend or days off, don't use them as an excuse to not pick up your socks from the bedroom floor (by the way, she probably hates that).
3. Multitask, One Thing at a Time
Although this may seem to contradict the strategy of multitasking, it doesn't. This rule requires simply this: if you're doing something, then do that something. Focus on it so you don't have to do it seventeen thousand times. So, pay attention to what you're doing, so you only have to do it once. So pay attention to what you're doing, so you only have to do it once. So pay attention….oops. Sorry. Whatever you do, Zen out. Focus on it. Don't have two conversations at once. Don't cook and clean at the same time. Do not ask Suzy how her day was while your putting it to her. Ask her before. Or after. By the way, if you've got time/energy/boredom enough to ask Suzy at the time, then you are doing something…not quite right.
4. Batch the Mundane
Related to multitasking is batching. Although this may seem to be at odds with #3, it isn't. Batching is not the art of starting umpteen billion things and half-assing all of them. It's the art of knowing what things can take care of themselves, so you can get those going, while you do things that can't take care of themselves. That means, put the wash on, then do the dishes. It means, set the DVR to record, then go out for the paper. Concentrate means this: when you're doing the dishes, DO THE DISHES. When you're going out for the paper, GO OUT FOR THE PAPER (and watch yourself crossing the street, your mom isn't here to keep you from getting run over anymore).
You just really need to be careful about what you batch together: don’t put the Thanksgiving turkey on while you go shop, pick up the laundry and a million other things—the turkey will not thank you. Nor will your guests. You can, however, put the turkey on while you fix garbage disposal, wash the car, and water the plants, right? God I hope so.
Here are two other things that can go together: since I drink coffee, I bought one of those coffeemakers with a timer on it. Now, while I shower in the mornings, my coffee is brewing – one less thing to worry about. If you need to keep your garden or lawn watered, put your sprinklers on a timer. Set your DVR to record for the week or month. Let the pasta cook while you unpack your gym bag, or something else not too time consuming that needs to be done. A watched pot never boils anyway. Oh, don't leave your stove on while you go to the store. That would be stupid.
OK. Back to a really good example: Let's say that we want to go bar hopping on Saturday, but we can only go if we can get the shopping, laundry, and car detailing done before 5:00. OK. Now we have a goal (bar hopping), so, how about the plan? That's the easy part. Three tasks (yeah, right), plenty of time. Let's play “in extremis.” Say you get up at six to be at work at nine. Saturday morning then, give yourself two hours, get up at eight – forget how early it is, first, it's not really that early, and second, you're still getting two hours extra. Shower and eat, be out the door before nine.
Drop off your laundry (some places do it by the pound, in others you'll put the clothes in the machine, then go – needless to say, pick a nice place, so when you come back, you're clothes aren't gone). Drop off the car at the car wash, then go to the supermarket. Make sure that on this trip you aren't buying stuff that's going to spoil before you get home. Pick up your car, go home.
Of course, this is a lot easier said than done, but the idea is that you delegate to others tasks that can be (car washing, laundry), and you do only the stuff you have to. And of course, you delegate stuff before you actually do the other things you have to do personally. Of course, again, there are a million and one things that have to be considered, like the line at the car wash, the line at the supermarket, traffic, returning to the laundry to find a trail of clothes that used to be yours along the floor to an empty parking space, and a million other snags that I'm not bright enough to think about (and that probably have happened to you or someone you know), but that's why articles on ‘time saving tips' are so ridiculous-and usually, so utterly useless (not mine of course).