7) Limit your choices
If possible, limit your options. For instance, former President Obama wears only blue or gray suits to curb unnecessary decisions. Mark Zuckerburg is famous for his closet collection of grey T-shirts because he prefers to save his mental energy to run Facebook. “Too much choice is paralyzing,” says Sheena Iyengar, a Columbia University business professor. I find I spend a lot less time at the grocery store or the mall if I limit my options ahead of time. Limiting your choices also works well to save your mental energy for more important decisions.
6) Control time with your companions
If a friend or colleague calls who talks a lot, let them leave a message. Call them back at a designated time you control; maybe while you are running errands, etc. Everyone has at least 1 person who drains their time during the day. If you can help it, avoid this person all-together. If you can’t, take an active role in your interaction with them. Allow them only a limited amount of your time. Maybe call them back during your drive to work. When you get to work, let them know you’ve arrived and unfortunately have to get off the phone. I have a friend who I’ve known for years who’s very long-winded and loves to chat on the phone. I love talking to her as well, but can’t always. When she calls, I let it go to voicemail and call her back when I can multitask i.e. when I’m cooking, exercising or running errands. This way we still get to chat as I take care of other things.
5) Make a daily to-do list
If possible, plan your day the night before. That way, when you wake up you are ready for the day. Each morning you get 86,400 seconds as a gift of life. Whatever time you don’t use wisely is lost forever. Taking a proactive role in planning your day can save you precious time and make your efforts more efficient and effective.
4) Focus on completing one simple task at a time
“The mind holds only about seven pieces of information at a time,” says Carnegie Mellon psychologist David Creswell. “If you switch to other tasks, those pieces of information get scrambled and need to be relearned. It’s a complete time waster.” Smaller, simpler tasks are easier to complete. A strategy that works for me is to write a list that breaks up complex tasks into simple tasks. For example, instead of “work on the computer today”, I’ll break it down into “check my email, do online research, etc.” If I have an hour to spare, I attempt each small task one at a time until the list is done. Try not to do all the tasks at the same time as this is not the most efficient use of your time and can be prone to mistakes.
3) Prioritize your day
Prioritize and complete your hardest tasks first. For me, it’s difficult to go to the gym later in the day because I make excuses and get physically and mentally exhausted by the end of the day. I plan my exercise in the mornings to get it out of the way. This tactic also works especially well at a professional level. As an inpatient doctor, I try to assess my sickest and more clinically demanding patients first, when my mind is fresh. I find that my day runs more smoothly and I get off work on time when I use this approach.
2) Learn how to say “No”
Make sure you say no to the request, not the person. One tactic that works for me is when my kids have an unlikely request, like if they could go to the movies on a week night for example, I typically reply “Not today” instead of saying “No.” They take this well because they know I’m not saying no completely. There is still hope that someday they will go to the movies, just not today. Learning how to say “No” in a diplomatic and professional way at work can also save you time. See “Top 7 ways to politely say “No” for more tips!
Let the kids help with the dishes and cleaning the house. Allow your spouse to take on some tasks. If you’re like me, you are used to doing everything on your own. I’ve learned this is the most inefficient use of my time. There are people around you that can help make your day run smoother. Use them. When I have the kids make their own pizza for dinner while I supervise as I complete other tasks, not only does this save me time, it allows them the joy of learning how to cook. When I allow my husband to help the kids with homework, although he may not do it the way I like to, it saves me time and gives the kids some special time with their dad. Use those around you to help save you time. For small business owners, delegate everything except your greatest strengths. Don’t allow your mental energy and time to be consumed by minor tasks that can be delegated to others. If you dedicate all your time and energy to the management of minor tasks, you are not utilizing your staff adequately and no one is thinking of the long-term goals.
What brilliant time-saving tips work for you? Please share!