The Time of Your Life
Three groggy, grasping taps of the snooze alarm and we've wasted
27 minutes of it. The morning get-ready rush replete with coffee
spills, cereal slurps and the kids being tardy again to school,
leaves us wanting more of it. And later we shrug, sip our lattes
and wonder where it's all gone. Time. Who wouldn't like more of it?
Find an extra hour or two in your day and you could exercise more
often, fit in a massage or spend time doing whatever it is that
makes you happy. Here are a dozen time-saving strategies:
1. Toss the to-do list. Some of you just winced. Others, freed
from the bonds of a life measured by checked boxes, nodded
knowingly. Instead of a to-do list, simply know your priorities,
advises Colleen Contreras, co-author of Build the Life You Want and
Still Have the Time to Enjoy It! "If we pick three to five
priorities to focus on, it relieves the guilt and pressure that
comes from running behind."
2. Under-schedule yourself. Children get sick. Technology breaks
down. Murphy's Law happens. And still we put more into our planners
than we can accomplish in a day. Delegate what you can (see "Buying
Time"), relegate the unimportant to the trash heap, then breathe.
"Schedule some time to be human," Contreras says.
3. Say maybe. Rather than reflexively saying yes to everything,
force yourself to pause. Practice phrases such as "That sounds
exciting, but let me check my other commitments." In other words,
4. Then, say no. "Saying no, in a nice way, is one of the most
powerful words in our vocabulary," says Donald Wetmore, J.D., head
of the Connecticut-based Productivity Institute, which conducts
time management seminars. "Good time management is not doing the
wrong things quicker. That just gets us nowhere faster."
5. Quit wasting time. Sick of the snooze-button abyss where
restful sleep goes wanting? Could you go without watching an
hour-or two-of television every night? Try logging every minute of
your time for a week, and then trim the fat.
6. Stop multitasking. This doesn't mean you can't unload the
dishwasher while the rice is simmering. But you weren't made for
double duty all the time. "The truth is you can only do one thing
well at a time," Wetmore says. In fact, like a woman driving her
car, talking, reading, eating and applying mascara, you may have
good short-term results. "But eventually you're going to crash," he
7. Plan your meals. Spend 30 minutes planning meals for the
week, and you'll save on trips to the grocery store. Also, stock
your pantry with staples such as rice, beans, pasta, olive oil and
diced tomatoes so you can whip up something healthy in a pinch.
8. Enlist your kids. By about age 7, kids can pack their own
lunches and fold laundry. By 10, they can cook simple dinners.
"Kids need to learn the basics of cooking, cleaning and organizing
to go out into the world," says Schar Ward, author of It's About
Time: Time Saving Tips for Every Day-Home or Away.
9. Start a supper club. Once a week, double a recipe and take
dinner to a neighbor-and once a week she can reciprocate. You'll
both save time and you'll broaden your culinary horizons.
10. Learn to speed read. Between newspapers, e-mails and work
documents, we read a lot. "The average person spends two hours a
day reading and reads 200 words a minute. If you take a speed
reading class, you could go from 200 to 400. That's an hour a day,"
11. Get organized. If your desk is messy or you can never find
that party invitation at home, consider this. "Studies have shown
that a person who works with a messy desk will spend an hour a day
looking for stuff," Wetmore says. So, tidy up. Go paperless with
bills. Stick invitations in a manila envelope clipped to your
12. Schedule time for you. No one will give you time. So take
it. If the novel on your nightstand is collecting dust-and you
don't want to speed read it-or if you neglect exercise, massage therapy,
meditation or other aspects of your well-being because of time,
then go back to tip No. 1, and make you a priority. It is, after
all, about time.