We would probably all love an extra hour in the day. Or two. Or six. Especially with the busy holiday season upon us right now. But since we’re not magicians and we don’t own a time machine (yet), the only way we’ll be able to find extra time is if we take a good look at how we’re spending the 24 hours we already have.
And no, losing more sleep is not a reasonable option.
Hey, we’d all love to save time wherever we can so we can put it toward more important things, right?
With that in mind, I’ve put together 10 simple ways that you can find more time in your day. These tips really work! They don’t even require a ton of effort. Just some thought, and a little streamlining and you’ll be amazed at how much extra time you’ll have each day.
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1. Know your most productive time of the day, then maximize it
Some people have a great rush of energy first thing in the morning, some people work best late at night after the kids are in bed. Simply taking a moment to identify which time of day you have the most energy can really help save you time. During that period, turn off social media, the television, and do your best to eliminate any distractions so you can really focus on tasks, whether it’s for 20 minutes or three hours.
2. Set time limits: for email, for chores, for searching for the best deal on those hot boots
A smart trick that productive people I know use is setting time limits for those tasks that can end up taking longer than you might intend. How many times has a simple click over to check your email turned into a few hours of reading, responding, and clicking around the web? Exactly. Even the decision to straighten up your kid’s room could become a full-on organizational session.
So, do yourself a favor and set an alarm on your phone. Give yourself 15 minutes to check email or 10 minutes to pick up a room that’s messy. You can even consider setting limits to browse Facebook or shop online, since we all know that those are huge time sucks!
Once you set limits for yourself, you’ll not only be aware of how much time you were spending before, but you’ll be less likely in the future to spend time you don’t have on tasks and activities that don’t need your immediate attention.
3. Turn off your notifications
We cannot recommend this tip enough! And in fact, we often do.
By now, we all know that our smartphones can be a huge distraction, but for many of us, the possibility of an urgent call from work or from the kids means we can’t just turn them off completely. As an alternative, keep your phones on so you still have access to texts; however go into your phone settings and turn off notifications so that you’re still able to use your smartphone (for music, as a camera) without being unnecessarily distracted by someone liking your Instagram photo, an app update, or a PM on Facebook.
If you still need to have certain texts and calls come through, you can also set Do Not Disturb on your phone. It allows you to customize it so that it’s in use manually or on a timer, plus you can set it so that only alerts from designated VIPs get to you.
4. Sign up for online bill payments
Pretty much every creditor and online bank offers various options to automate your payments. While it may take a few quick moments to set it up, it’s a massive time-saver in the long run.
All the time you would ordinarily spend sorting and opening mail, writing checks (if only online), and keeping track of it all can be saved easily! Setting up auto-payments for your fixed bills each month — insurance payments, phone, rent or mortgage, utilities, car payments — will save you a lot of time and hassle.
You can even set up guaranteed minimum payments on credit cards, which has the added benefit of staving off late fees or interest hikes, should you be so busy you forget to pay on time one month.
5. Organize your errand schedule
We’re big fans of to-do lists, whether they’re paper or electronic, but the challenge can be figuring out which tasks to tackle first. Especially if they involve leaving the house. Before you know it, you’ve driven way out of your way and wasted a whole lot of time and gas.
Allstate (a previous sponsor) offers a handy new QuickTrip route planning app, which can be a massive time saver.
Simply input whatever you need to get done during the day, add the location and time you want to spend doing each task, and the app will actually optimize your list for you, even providing a map overview of just where you need to go and in what order.
The app can also sync with your calendar and reminders, so your entire day can be prioritized for you.
In fact, take a look at this sample list of my day, along with my map overview:
Looks like I should be hitting the dry cleaners before the grocery store, which is something I hadn’t considered.
Once I’m done with any given task, I just tap the checkmark and move onto the next item on my list. Or, if I want to add in an item (oops, forgot to stop at the bank), it’s easy to add it in, and your current list and map will be updated automatically. Hey, if this picks up even 15 minutes in my day, I’ll take it!
6. Multi-task…only when it makes sense
Multi-tasking often means you’re doing too much, and none of it well. But there are times that doing two things at once can actually save you time.
Have your kids do their out-loud reading to you while you’re cooking dinner. Fold the laundry while you’re catching up on your TV binge-watch episodes. Make that call that you know will require lots of hold time while you’re wiping down the kitchen counters or straightening up the living room. It’s amazing how much time we can pick up when we put two tasks together, knowing the results of both won’t be compromised.
It’s also something you can do out of the home; think about how much time you spend each month sitting in the carpool lane. Waiting at the doctor’s office. Sitting through an after-school activity like my son’s ice hockey practice. If you have regular, scheduled periods of time in your week during which you’re waiting, consider using that time to do those items on your to-do list that never seem to get checked off.
Bring some note cards and catch up on thank-you notes or address holiday cards. Reply to those five emails waiting for responses (without getting sucked into checking all your emails!). Visit catalog choice and unsubscribe from unwanted mail, which will also cut down on more time spent sorting it in the long run. Of course, this all means a little bit of planning but it can pay off with loads of extra time the rest of your day. And clearly we can all use that.
7. Consolidate chores
Setting a schedule with specific days of the week for particular chores is actually a very efficient way to work. In other words, say you’ll dedicate Saturdays to doing laundry, or save your grocery shopping for Sundays (in the morning, before it gets packed!) and you won’t get sucked into “just doing a little bit now while I can.” Because generally speaking, doing “a little bit” often turns into doing a lot — and suddenly your time is dedicated to completing tasks that aren’t necessarily a high priority.
It’s okay if you’re not doing laundry every three days; the kids can live without their favorite shirt for a whole week, promise.
8. Put kids to work!
Speaking of kids and chores, put those children to work around the house! Not only does it help you, but it’s good for them too for so many reasons. Even young kids can help out, which primes them for taking on bigger responsibilities as they get older — and when you use natural household cleaning products like Branch Basics (above) they’re safe enough for kids to use.
There’s no reason you should be folding your tween’s clothes. Or cleaning up your grade-schooler’s dishes after dinner. Delegating is the key to picking up a ton of time in your day, and while it might be hard to get your kids started on a schedule at first, they’ll catch on to the new routine in no time.
9. Give important items a home
We love Marie Kondo’s tip that every single item in your home should live in one single place.
Now it may not be realistic for everything — say, your pencils and pens — but for a lot of things, finding a designated spot is a massive time-saver. You know what I mean if you’ve ever spent way too much time looking for your keys, your handbag, your kid’s backpack, some working AA batteries, your favorite sweater.
Be sure you put them in the same place every single time, and that the kids know just where to look, too: keys in the bowl on the counter; your handbag on the hook in the kitchen; the phone chargers in one drawer; tape and glue stick in a designated box on the playroom shelf; the kids’ jackets on designated hooks in the front closet (sorry, backs of chairs and hallway floor, you’re out!).
Soon, you’ll find yourself picking up plenty of extra minutes that you might have spent tracking down items on a daily basis.
Also? Just one junk drawer per household. Massive time saver!
10. Delete time-sucking apps
So many of us put our restless fingers to work during downtime or our commutes, with those time-sucking games and puzzles on our phones. If the temptation is too strong to play one more 50-point word or clear one more row of gems…just delete them!
You’ll be amazed how much more time you pick up in your day when you start using those moments instead to knock off a few tasks from your to-do list.