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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This post has been updated for 2022
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, or you can even purchase an actual timer, like the Time Timer as recommended by past Spawned guest Jake Knapp. 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 offer 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. Use tech to your advantage
We are big fans of paper calendars, don’t get us wrong, but using a digital calendar can really save you a ton of time, especially if you’re managing the schedules of more than just you. We know lots of families swear by Cozi (above), but even simply getting everyone set up on Google Calendar or Apple Calendar, both of which are built into your Android or iPhone, can add back a whole lot of time you might spend making sure people know where to go and when.
And it’s not just the grown-ups who need to have access, by the way. Get your tweens and teens to keep track of their own schedules on their phones. Hey, if they’re on there playing Apple Arcade games or watching TikTok, they can look at their calendar app, too.
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. (And keep in mind, if “reading a book” or “writing postcards to a few friends” is on that list, that works too).
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 meal planning and 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.
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.
And with this in mind, it’s the perfect time to institute an allowance system. Here’s the one I use with my kids that really works (except instead of envelopes, I’m doing automatic bank transfers these days).
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. Make your phone less enticing
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, or in many cases, social media. If the temptation is too strong to play one more 50-point word or clear one more row of gems…just delete them, or configure your phone in a way that you’re not as easily tempted.
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.