- Get up earlier. How you start your day sets the tone for the entire day. Too often, we get up at the last possible minute, scurrying around to rush out of the door so we can gain a few extra minutes of sleep. Why not go to bed a little earlier, and get up earlier instead? That way, you have more time and can start your day relaxed and in a better mindset. I started doing this three years ago when Rick and I changed our work schedules, and I feel so much better in the mornings! I can use the time to do my Bible reading and make my lunch before work, or I have some extra time if I need it to allow for traffic, or to run an errand before work like getting gas, going by the ATM, or stopping by the pharmacy. Believe me, more time helps you feel better about the rest of your day.
- Utilize your lunch hour. It might not seem like much time, but you’d be amazed at what you can accomplish in an hour. I’ve used my lunch hour for: writing (I take my laptop to work with me for this), cross stitching, running errands, taking a walk, going to my favorite secondhand bookstore, shopping, and I even go home for lunch once a week. Your location and transportation may change your options, but there are ways you can use your lunch hour to get things done. You don’t have to do something every day, but taking advantage of it two or three days a week can save you significant time after work.
- Schedule “down time.” I mentioned this a few entries ago, but it bears repeating: it’s vitally important that you have at least 20-30 minutes a day for something you enjoy in order to stay in balance. It really is good for your mental health to take a time out, and you’ll be more effective if you have something to look forward to, or if you’ve had an opportunity to do something relaxing for yourself. Use that extra time in the morning or use your lunch break to read, take a walk, watch a short TV show, listen to some music, or just sit and do nothing. It doesn’t matter how you utilize this time, as long as you do.
- Plan meals ahead. Whether you love or hate to cook, there’s no denying that it takes time to put a decent meal on the table. Check your schedule and plan your meals according to how much time and energy you’ll have at that point in the day to prepare them. Can you cook extra on a weekend, so you can have enough for a quick meal of leftovers on Monday? How about crock pot meals, that you put in before work, and are done and ready to eat when you get home? One favorite thing that Rick and Dad both like to do is grill a number of meats when they grill out, and refrigerate them for meal later in the week – for example, they may grill steaks, chicken, pork chops, burgers, and hot dogs. That way, we can have steaks that night, burgers and hot dogs the next, etc. All you need to do is serve side dishes, which are quicker and easier to prepare than meat.
- Don’t multitask. I truly believe that “multi-tasking” is the curse word of the twenty-first century. Studies have proved that people are significantly more effective when they concentrate on one task at a time, but for some reason we reject this and continue to run around like chickens with our heads cut off. Much as a Jack-of-all-trades is a master at none, neither do we do our best at multiple tasks at one time. Peak performance comes with focus. Just try it for a day, and see how effective you are. If you don’t accomplish more in a day of focus, feel free to scramble again. But I’ll bet you’ll be surprised. I know I was when I tested this theory, and I’ve never gone back!
- Group “like tasks” together. Substitute multi-tasking with this. Group tasks that are similar, require similar resources, or are located in a similar area together. For example, if you’re on the computer paying bills, can you go ahead and update some other things while you’re online? Can you water the plants while you’re outside cutting grass, or washing the car? What other stores are near where you need to go – can you get anything else done while you’re in that area?
- But split up bigger tasks. It’s rare that I clean the entire house in a single day. Usually, I’ll group like chores together and split them across two or three days. For example, I’ll clean the kitchen and bathrooms and clean floors one day, and dust and vacuum another day. Or when cleaning bird cages, I’ll wash the food and water dishes and change their toys one day, and wipe down the cages, change newspaper, and empty trash the next day. Use grouping like tasks to break down bigger jobs into manageable chunks that leave you with more free time every day, instead of taking up one day trying to do it all.
- Buy time when you need it. Mom told me when we built our house that I’d learn shortcuts to cleaning and housekeeping fast, and she was right. You could spend every waking moment running things down, and I believe you could fill the sleeping ones too, if necessary! Everybody in this day and time has too much expected of them. It’s the mixed blessing of our technological age – we can do things faster, so we’re expected to do more. Get off the treadmill and give yourself a break. Look for ways to take shortcuts on things that aren’t as high a priority in life, and give yourself permission to live by your priorities. Spending time with your family is more important than whipping up a gourmet meal and cleaning the house, so learn to be ok with a crock pot supper and wiping the kitchen counters with a Clorox wipe and walking away from it instead of three hours cooking, and an hour long scrubbing session with the rubber gloves, brush, and Soft Scrub every night. You’ll never find the bottom of your “To Do” list, so utilize shortcuts wisely and stop trying. Find the fastest and most effective way to get it done, do your best, and move on. Everybody knows that everybody is busy. And for goodness sake, don’t be afraid to delegate tasks to others, either, or to ask for help. You help them, so they should be willing to help you.
I hope these entries have inspired you to find ways to save your two most valuable resources. Maybe the money you save from my tips in the last entry can be invested in a way to enjoy the time you save from the tips in this entry!
That’s all today. Take care and have a great week.