10 Ways to Find More Time (Without an Extra Day)
If you are anything like me, there just seems to be more that I need to do than 24 hours allows. My to-do list seems to grow by leaps and bounds but I only get a few things crossed off. No matter how much we want it, you just cannot get an extra day in the week. So I’m sharing my 10 ways to find more time without an extra day.
From a personal perspective, I can give you a run down on my normal day. I wake up at 3:30a and drink some coffee and go through a few emails or do some other business on-line that I need to complete (I have a list right next to my keyboard so that I don’t forget in my groggy state what exactly I’m doing). I then have to be out the door by 5a to get to work on time (stupid trains) and I work a 10 hour day. Factor in commute time and my unpaid lunch (30 minutes) and I do not get home until around 4:30p.
I have an entire house to run, plus my blog to work on and promote, supper to cook, cleaning to do…. and I need to get everything done before my 8:30p bedtime.
This ability to get it done isn’t a genetic quality. I wasn’t born with the ability to know exactly how to run a functional household. A lot of what I do and how I do it was probably learned in childhood. Learning to basically work two full-time jobs (yes, I consider homemaking a full-time gig- with or without kids) came over time.
We are all truly busy during every waking moment, so how do you find more time in a day? Here are 10 ways that may help you.
10 Ways to Find More Time
You know your routes across town and you know what you will pass on the way to the grocery store. Plan trips so that you can do as much as possible in your outing. I always plan my shopping trips with an additional stop at the post office. In other words, I typically grocery shop within the regular business hours of the post office.
Have to go to the other side of town? Plan stops so that you can get as much done in one trip as possible. Buy that new shirt for your hubby, pick up the dry cleaning, stop and pick up the cake for your co-workers birthday all in one trip. Not only does it save time, but it will save money on gas by not having to drive all the way home and then go back out.
I even go ahead and put mail into my car so that I don’t have to go back home and grab it. If I’m out and near a mailbox, I already have it with me to drop to post. This, to me, seems the easiest of the 10 ways to find more time in a day.
Say “No” More Often
We all want to be able to help out others. We want our kids to be able to go and do the things that they want to do. Sometimes we just have to look at what else is on our plate and just say “no”.
There are many weekends when I know how many things I really have to do. It’s typically those weekends that the phone rings with one of my friends calling to ask me if I want to go out for a bit. Or a family member calls at the last minute to say that they are all getting together for dinner and they would love for us to join them. A perfect example is over the summer my mother in law had a friend get sick at the last minute (the poor woman had vertigo) and asked me if I wanted to join them on their trip to upper New York state for the weekend. Having had about 4 hours notice, I couldn’t just ignore what I had planned for that weekend, so I had to decline her invitation.
Making sure that you know that your needs and schedule come before the needs of others is a great step forward. Even with your children, being a bit rigid in not changing plans on a whim will help tremendously in making sure to stay on task. It may be difficult at first. Eventually, everyone involved will know that you are not willing to drop everything on a dime every time they call.
Pay Bills Online Whenever Possible
The monotonous task of writing checks, putting it all in an envelope (and those horrible, awful companies who refuse to send you one!) and then packing it all up and having to remember to go post it all. That’s if you don’t realize halfway through that you have run out stamps for the last of them. Ugh. So, next on the list of 10 ways to find more time is paying your bills online.
Sometimes paying online can be tedious also, but in my experience, this is only when you first start out and must go through setting up the online payment account. After that, it’s up to you whether you have to log in to pay your bills. City Spouse has everything set to “Auto-Pay”. For accounting purposes, I write down the bill and payment in our household checkbook the same day that the bill comes. Whether or not it gets paid then, we already know it’s paid because our checkbook does not reflect that amount so it doesn’t get spent. When the payment due date arrives, the company gets their money and we get some piece of mind.
I never have to lick another envelope for the cable company. Hooray!
Speaking of saving time with bill paying and other incoming household expenses, City Spouse also has us set up to “paperless billing” for those who offer it. He will forward me the e-bill via e-mail. I will then either digitally file the attachment, or convert it to a .PDF and then file it. Even for those that I need to convert, it takes about a minute for each bill.
The old way of paper billing, I had to write down the amount in the checkbook. Then, I took it to my office to scan it. I then had to convert the file into a .PDF. Finally, I could file it in its digital folder.
Maybe I only save a few minutes per bill but think of how many bills you have coming in each month. If you have (on average) 10 bills to deal with every month, paperless billing will save you 20 minutes a month. That’s 4 hours a year. Just dealing with bills and other paper items that could be avoided.
Cut Down on TV Watching
I have to admit, I am as guilty as sitting down with a good book as I am of sitting down to watch an episode of my favorite television show. Well, let me be honest- I’m a binge watcher. Having cut the cable cord long ago and learned the joy of Netflix releasing an entire season of one of my favorite shows, I watch the entire season in a day if I’m not self-aware.
The trick for me was making television a reward for a completed chore or task. I set myself a goal of 2-3 things on my to-do list and once they are accomplished THEN I can sit down and watch an episode. But only once they are done; and only one episode. Another episode requires another set of tasks be completed.
Think of it as a “grown-up allowance”. I’m sure that you have told your children no television until *insert random task here* is done. So doing it to yourself should be second nature. The added bonus is by showing them that you will also comply with this rule, they will be far more likely to know that you mean business when you say it to them.
It’s a double win!
Keeping a calendar isn’t just a good idea in my house- it’s a necessity. With City Spouse’s doctor appointments, family gatherings that require a 3-hour drive to attend, and an adult parent to care for, my life is overly full. By keeping track of what is happening when I can better plan my days to adjust cleaning tasks, meals for the evening, and blog tasks to make sure that everything is accounted for in the day’s few hours.
You don’t have to go all out and spend a lot of money on a planner or need anything fancy. There will be time to get a little fancier down the road. Just start out small and get in the habit of keeping a household schedule. Get the routine. Get everyone on board with your new system.
When you first start out, there will be some trial and error. Don’t waste your money on pretty planners before you see what works for your household. Start simple with a monthly calendar on the refrigerator for everyone to write down appointments and events. Find an app on your smartphone that can be shared across users of the account and put it on everyone’s phones and ask them to start using it. Find the ways that work for you.
Have a Rotating Meal Plan
The world of meal planning can be daunting at first. I am in the process of writing a book on the topic for you all. (Coming Spring 2017.) In the meantime, take an hour or so to have your family sit and brainstorm. Make a list of everyone’s favorite meals. Write down even the simplest meals that you prepare, complete with sides that you all love as accompaniment, as a starting point.
By knowing what everyone likes, you can have a list of rotating meals that you know how long they take to prepare, and then based on the schedule of the day you will know what meals are quick for busy days and which take longer and you can put those on days that you will have more time to cook.
I recommend looking at Once a Month Meals for menu plans, freezer cooking ideas (for quick meals that are prepared in advance) and new ideas for cooking. Their menus even include shopping lists to streamline the entire process for you!
Have a Morning Routine
I would be lost without my routine each morning. Planning social media before work. Answering emails. Drinking my coffee. It’s what works best for me.
Not everyone is a “morning person”. Being productive each morning is super difficult for some people. City Spouse is NOT motivated in the morning. His idea of a morning routine is rolling out of bed with 10 minutes to get ready for work and leave the house. Trust me, his routine does not work well for him, but I’ve given up trying to alter it. (According to his family, this has been the method to his madness since high school.) Because of his lack of practice and his bad habits, he fails to thrive. His pattern sets him up for a lot of bad, unproductive days.
Don’t be like City Spouse!! Start creating the habit of getting up with the intention of starting your day out in the most productive manner possible. Having a good base for the day first thing in the morning truly does set the stage for an accomplished day.
Have an Evening Routine
Having an evening routine goes hand in hand with your morning routine. You are setting the stage to make your life run like a well-oiled machine.
Each night, before I go to bed, I set aside 10 minutes to write down everything I have scheduled and want to get done the next day. I then label them in order of importance and pick 2 more to put at the top of the priority list. (I have a top 3 list. Three is a good number to not overload yourself on a bad day, but a good jumping off point to get the ball rolling on a good day.)
Knowing what you HAVE to do versus what you can do if you feel like it makes things just seem simpler and more doable in the long run. I also tend to draw check boxes next to my list so I can put a checkmark next to things once they have been completed. It gives you a sense of accomplishment. It makes you feel good. And it motivates you to get done even more on the list when you see how good it feels to realize your goals- no matter how small.
Embrace Good Enough
This last item on the list of 10 ways to find more time, by far, was the hardest for me to finally grasp. It took years to accept that what I get done each day is enough. I had the preconceived notion that everyone else’s homes were spotlessly kept. That everyone was organized perfectly. That everyone had a home-cooked dinner on the table at exactly 6 p.m. each evening.
Now I know that my “noise” about perfection within my home was created by my homemaker grandmothers. My Mom had the ability to stay home with my sister and I until we went to school. I only experienced life at home with a working mother for 8 months of my life. The first 8 years of my life she was at home all day with us. No wonder I thought perfection was the norm!
Knowing what I can do in the time that I have each day and accepting my limitations has helped me tremendously in getting more done. I’m not beating myself up for what I didn’t do. I’m rewarding myself for the things that I do get done. No one’s lives or schedules are the same. We all have a set amount of time to get done what is most important to us. If spending time with your kids at a sporting event is more important than cleaning, then by all means go! Never think that you can do more than is possible. Those people that you see with a spotless home and a perfect outward appearance, they are sacrificing something in a different area to have that.
What is important to you should come first at all times.
Do you have other areas that you find help you to organize your day and make you feel more productive? I would love to hear how you schedule your day and make your life work for you!