Note: This post may contain affiliate links. Linked products provide a monetary commission to this blog and its owner. The author retains post integrity by linking only to relevant and/or personally-approved products. Thank you!
Time is a precious resource. You’ve likely heard that one before, but how many of us can say we’ve truly absorbed it? For most of us, time is a background factor that we don’t give much thought to. It comes and goes seemingly without any input from us – and that’s where we make our first and biggest mistake.
When it comes to time management, the key is in the term itself. You should be managing your time. It’s an active, ongoing practice that requires effort from you on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. If you’re not managing your time, someone or something else will manage it for you.
Here are some lesser-known methods for significantly saving your time!
Schedule All Regular Appointments In One Go.
How many times have you gotten a notification saying you’re due for x annual doctor’s appointment or x regular meeting at work? How many recreational activities do you dependably engage in each year, month, quarter, etc?
Probably more than you think. And when you use an on-the-fly scheduling method to fit these appointments into your life, you end up stressing yourself out and wasting time getting your plans in order.
It’s better to avoid this routine rush altogether by sitting down and scheduling as many of those predictable events as possible – all in one go. This means that you need to do five things:
- List every regular or otherwise predictable appointment, event, or routine time slot on a document or piece of paper.
- Next to each item, list the expected amount of time it will take, plus any deadlines or limitations that come with it.
- Take our your planner or calendar (or open up your scheduling app) and see where you’re the least likely to be stretched thin – note those date/time ranges down somewhere.
- Now it’s time to put the puzzle pieces together by quickly and efficiently writing down your desired appointment times, taking care to space them out as much as possible (life has a way of getting busier than you expect, so it’s smart to range everything out).
- List any phone numbers or addresses relating to each item and call/email/use an online form to schedule the appointments that rely on other people (i.e. doctor’s appointments, meetings, visits, etc.)
An excel sheet or related format can work well for this process. It may seem like a lot of work, but you would have to do all of these activities anyway! Isn’t it better – in the long run – to simply organize what you need and do it all in one sitting?
I guarantee that this task is easier than you’re imagining it to be, and the stress it will save you for the rest of the year/month/quarter will be as valuable as the added time you gain.
Plan Your Schedule On a Weekly (Not Daily) Basis
Many of us tend to have an as-it-comes method for filling out our planners and schedules. Another word for this is “not really having a plan or schedule at all.”
Planning, as an art, is by definition proactive and long-term. Simply scribbling things in as they come defeats the whole purpose, and it ends up backfiring by causing you more stress and time-waste than you would have had if you’d never bothered to “plan” in the first place!
Making a weekly schedule is a minor time commitment that will give you more adaptability and mental space throughout each day. There are probably a number of things you do on a routine basis, whether these are work, recreational, or self-care related activities. The first step in making a weekly plan is to fill these predictable time slots in before you add anything else.
You can do this several weeks in advance, if you’d like, and consider those time slots to be inviolable and inherent in your schedule. The main point is that each week, you are scheduling the other activities around these regular ones.
Now you will need to take 15-20 minutes to list any tasks or appointments that you know are coming up within the next seven days. I find that it is better to list these things outside of your planner or calendar – you can just jot them down on a piece of scrap paper or in the notes section of your phone.
As you did in the previous section on routine planning, estimate the time and other constraints relating to each task. Write down any information relative to each item, such as contact information, needed supplies, or reminders.
It becomes fairly simple to now “fit” each item into an available slot in your planner. The way you do this is up to you. Some people like to group like activities together, i.e. getting all of your work meetings out of the way at the start of the week or scheduling all social events for the same general time slots each day. Others thrive on variety, and so they prefer to space similar tasks out and break up their routines so that they remain stimulated.
Regardless of how you do it, weekly planning keeps the bigger – but not too-big – picture in mind. It eliminates both scrambling and the classic habit of “not seeing the forest for the trees” that many of us (myself included) tend to fall into.
It also keeps your priorities in view, ensuring that both short and long-term goals get their fair consideration as you plan your time. Some planners, such as the smart planner that I use, have spaces for gratitude, habit-tracking, and note-taking included in their format. This has aided me in a number of ways, as I am someone who naturally struggles with prioritization and sticking to routines.
Your weekly planning sessions should be regular and take no more than the bare minimum of your time. My sessions usually take approximately 20-30 minutes in total every Sunday.
Create Email Auto-Responses.
Some people consider this tactic to be rude, but I would politely disagree. Auto-responses in the realm of email are to be expected. With some forethought, they can actually enhance your etiquette and thoughtfulness! My auto-filled thank-you notes are a quick and conscious way to express gratitude and add a touch of class to my professional & personal life.
Auto-responses save everyone time, not just their sender. If you tend to get routine questions, requests, or updates from people in any area of life, an auto-response is a simple way to ensure that they receive the information they need or want without undue delay on either end.
In one survey, respondents reported spending upwards of five hours in their email accounts each day. Another study showed that the average professional is allocating 28% of their work-time to answering, writing, or otherwise dealing with email.
Pardon me if my opinion is too strong, but this is a complete and utter waste of time! Email should not be taking up so much of your life. By spending a few hours crafting a file of effective, efficient email auto-responses, you can significantly cut back on the hours you are spending on this routine set of tasks.
You can also create auto-filled email templates for common requests on your end, polite correspondence such as thank-you’s and RSVPs, or project updates for colleagues. These templates can be quickly adapted to the unique person or situation you are handling in any given moment – you will save minutes on each message, which adds up to hours and hours of your life in the long run.
Schedule 3-5 “Social Media Slots” Per Day – No More Than This.
Before anyone raises concerns about this tactic, let me be clear about one thing – I am, in edition to my writing and editing work, a professional social media manager. This method still works for me, and each slot is at most 10 minutes.
Let me put that into perspective. I am, as of writing this post, managing upwards of ten social media accounts across five or six platforms…and I still only need to spend a maximum of about forty minutes (total) a day on this part of my job. Do you feel sheepish, yet?
As a professional, I have utilized various planning and posting tools to manage this. That fact may or may not be relevant to you, depending on your line of work or your hobbies, but if you do manage several accounts that require frequent posting and interaction, you ought to consider an account with a planning application such as Buffer or Planoly.
I use both, but I do have a referral code for Planoly, if you wish to look into their options.
For the average, non-professional social media user, setting up dedicated time slots for social media may seem draconian. When you consider the fact that most U.S. adults spend a minimum of 2 hours and 22 minutes on social media, however, you may begin to realize how much you are giving up for this largely low-value habit.
Valuing smaller increments of time is a habit of productive people, and it’s one you should seek to cultivate. Within 2 hours and 22 minutes there are: 14 increments of ten minutes each (enough time to do a chore or complete one sub-task for a project), about 5 increments of thirty minutes each (time enough to work out, eat a meal, take a nap, or do your beauty routines), and 2.75 one-hour blocks of time.
Limiting social media has been proven to reduce stress, enhance your interactions with other people, and significantly increase productivity. The fact that the practice is also a time-saver is just an additional bonus.
Create A “Delegation Crew” & Help Each Other With Tasks.
If you have a fairly robust group of friends, chances are that you all have different strengths and areas of skill. Someone might have a low-stress lifestyle and a knack for DIY projects, another might be a whirlwind when it comes to drafting copy and organizing files, etc etc.
Utilizing your strengths as a community can increase everyone’s productivity while also saving time. It works like this: you make a mental list of three to four friends or family members who have skills you’d love to utilize in your day-to-day life. Think of your own areas of skill – for example, I often help friends by editing graduate school essays – and keep those in mind as a bargaining tool.
Make a group chat or text and propose that you all try out a “task swap” where you exchange services. Maybe someone local will help you clean if you help them set up their online files more efficiently. You can exchange graphic design help for a recommendation letter, de-cluttering services for help taking your own clutter to the dump or donation drop-off, and so on. The only limits are your and your loved ones’ creativity.
Consider this a pooling of resources – the main resource being time. Labor is time in most ways that matter to most of us. Bartering is a skill that has plenty of applications in today’s world; I personally feel that it’s a shame that it’s been so neglected.
There are also bartering websites that allow you to exchange services with strangers – just exercise due caution when considering this option.
Minimize The Need To Clean.
This is one of those “well, wouldn’t that be nice” things that most people probably dismiss as a non-priority (or an impossibility). There are, however, many, many ways to cut back on the time you spend cleaning your home.
The first step deserves its own post, but I’ll summarize it here: invest, invest, invest! When I began writing and freelancing full time, I realized just how much of my week I was spending on cleaning tasks. A large portion of that time was spent working with sub-par tools or methods that weren’t doing a good job. I needed to invest in better options.
By investing in practices such as having multiple good-quality brooms and wet mops on each floor, repairing or replacing vacuum cleaners, and buying things like cleaning wipes or sprays in bulk, I cut back on the time I wasted by a significant margin. It doesn’t need to be expensive – take stock of the cleaning supplies you already own by laying them all out in one room, and then decide what you can afford to pay for improvements.
There are other ways to save time – many of them. Here are just a few:
- Pare down your linens – how many extra towels, sheets, blankets, etc. do you have? Keeping all of them clean and organized is a time drain.
- Keep a (realistic) cleaning schedule where you and anyone who lives with you ca easily see it – break the jobs down into smaller tasks to make things more efficient.
- Value the 5 minute increments that pop up throughout your day – use them to do small things like putting clutter away or making the bed!
- Lower your standards – strange advice, perhaps, but many of us compare our homes to the spotless, staged rooms in glossy magazines or Pinterest posts. As long as your home is functional and sanitary, you can afford to relax a bit.
- Question everything – and this doesn’t refer to a one-off decluttering fest, but rather a mindfulness practice by which you think about the things around you during your daily activities, and commit to questioning whether you use them or not. It may not be as satisfying as taking a huge trashbag of junk out of the house, but piecemeal decluttering is often more effective over the long run.
Cleaning is a topic which has countless blogs dedicated to it, and you can use your own creativity to critically think about the amount of time you spend on your cleaning habits. Most of us spend either too little or too much time on it. Extremes are rarely useful – especially when it comes to time management.
Aim to be realistic, efficient, and aware. That is likely the beginning and end of where you need to be to shave time off of your tidying routines.
In Conclusion – Manage Your Time, Or Have It Managed For You.
Time slips away every second of every day – or at least that’s how we tend to see it. Really, it is a more abundant resource than we imagine it to be. When used efficiently, your time stretches out and seems to become greater and deeper than before.
Many of us have lives filled with commitments to other people and to things which may not be strictly important to us as individuals. By cutting out these less-than-ideal uses of your hours – ruthlessly, if necessary – you do yourself and the world a favor. You become more effective, happier, and better prepared to fulfill your purpose in life.
So don’t be afraid to manage your time. Be consistent, persistent, and compassionate toward yourself as you try different methods and find what works for you. The difference in your quality-of-life will be astounding.
Thank you for reading, and please add any tips or advice you have to this post! I love hearing from you all, so don’t be shy. If you enjoyed this post, subscribe via email and join the Bougie on a Budget community! Until next time, lovelies <3