Searching for Time

In our busy world, “saving time” is a hot topic. Unfortunately, time is not a physical quantity that can be boxed, bottled or saved. Instead, it passes by at a predictable and sometimes frustratingly rapid rate. The best we can do is find ways to use the time we have in the most efficient manner possible. If you feel like you are always rushing and never have enough time, perhaps one of these ideas might help.

Be early

This seems counterintuitive. Most people think showing up at the last possible second is the epitome of efficiency. In reality, the attempt to show up exactly on time often leads to rushing and stress. In contrast, arriving early typically results in a sense of control and peace by providing:

  • a window of time to deal with unexpected problems (e.g. “technical difficulties” or traffic)
  • a bit of downtime to return a phone call or answer a few emails
  • a shorter wait by being in the front of the line
  • a convenient parking spot
  • the opportunity to get a good seat
  • the chance to network and make a good impression
  • a moment to gather your thoughts and be fully prepared

Group Tasks Efficiently

All of us handle a variety of tasks: phone calls, computer work, errands, meetings, etc. Grouping “like tasks” together can sometimes greatly improve our productivity. When assembling your to-do list, schedule your time so that you are working “smart.” For example:

  • Run your errands at once instead of taking multiple trips
  • Make phone calls at a quiet time of day
  • Tackle difficult tasks when you are most alert
  • Use “waiting” times to catch up on reading

Anticipate Problems

Challenging situations are easier to handle when we know they are coming. Always be thinking ahead, considering what could go wrong and how you would handle it. For example:

  • If there is a weather delay, what will be interrupted and how I will handle it?
  • What can I make for dinner tomorrow night when I know I won’t get home until 6:00?
  • What conflicts do I see in my schedule in the upcoming week and how can I solve them?
  • How will I deal with work if my child wakes up with a fever?
  • What’s my plan if I don’t make my connecting flight?
  • When can I get extra help with this subject matter that I know I’m struggling with?

There will always be unforeseen emergencies, but troubleshooting in advance can prove a lifesaver.

Spend Money To Gain Time

The tradeoff between spending money and spending time is different for everyone. But if you are feeling overwhelmed, it’s worthwhile to consider all your options, including hiring help. Even a small outlay of cash may improve efficiency exponentially. For example, if you care for small children, hiring a babysitter for an hour or two of could significantly reduce your time running errands. Or perhaps you run a small business and are trying to “do it all.” In a situation like this, a virtual assistant may be able to complete a few tasks very affordably, freeing you to focus on what you do best.

Leave It Ready

One of the biggest gifts you can give yourself is to leave space your tidy and “ready to go” when you return. If you walk out on a sink full of dishes or a desk piled with papers, you are forcing yourself to tackle “old” work before you can begin on the new pressing issues. Building in five minutes to restore order before you depart is one of the best habits you can develop for a productive daily routine.

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Since you can’t save time, the next best thing is to use it well. What tricks have you found helpful in getting the most out of every minute?

33 thoughts on “Searching for Time”

    1. It’s definitely worth the effort. Lateness can be a habit. I just enjoy the peace of being early. At worse, I have time to surf the internet or catch up on reading, which is lovely:)

  1. You defined time so well. I do hope we can box and save it.. but nahhh. I hate being late and if I’m ever late then there must be something wrong. lol. Grouping like tasks is a great time saver!!

    1. I hate being late too, Rea. It actually makes me anxious. I think planning for efficiency really helps. It’s when we start tackling tasks without a plan that we risk proceeding in an unproductive manner.

    1. I just find that being early calms me down… like I’m in control instead of running. But it does take an intentional effort. It’s worth a try, right?

    1. Such a good point, Kim! I love the “tripping over the cat” – making me smile:) I once heard that hurry and love are incompatible… thought provoking for sure!

  2. One of the favorite perspective shifts I remember learning years ago from Harold Taylor was that instead thinking about time management, think instead about managing ourselves. As you pointed out, we can’t really control time. It’s a constant that keeps moving forward. But we can manage ourselves and how we choose to navigate the time we have.

    Love the various tips and strategies you shared. A favorite of mine is to consider “downtime,” or “doing nothing” time. We all need breathing space sprinkled around all that doing.
    Linda Samuels recently posted…How Do You See Change?My Profile

    1. Great addition, Linda. Downtime is very important, and we need to prioritize some “white space” in our day. Thanks for the insightful comment:)

    1. Tv can definitely be a time zapper… suddenly, an hour has passed, right? I love giving yourself time to rest. That is such an excellent point.. we don’t work at our best when we are tired. Excellent addition to the list!!

    1. I feel the same way about running errands. When I am out in the car, I want to get them all done. This also helps my gas mileage, which matters in CT where we have a very high gas tax!

  3. I actually love to spend money to solve problems. I’ve had some tech or childcare issues over the years and whenever I put money into the problem, it stopped being a problem. I can’t believe I’m saying that, but it’s so true!
    And I know now to anticipate problems. Things run a lot more smoothly in my head.
    Tamara recently posted…You’re a Wizard, Harry!My Profile

    1. My father says “If it can be solved with money, it’s not a problem”… not meaning that getting the money isn’t a problem, but that there is the possibility of a solution, unlike a terminal illness or a death or something like that. Part of anticipating things that might happen comes with our years of experience, right?

    1. I love walking into the kitchen in the morning and seeing clean space. I learned this from a college roommate who wanted to leave the room super tidy before break. When we came back, it was so pleasant that I make a conscious decision to do this every time I left for break. And then it just kind of snowballed…and now I really can’t STOP cleaning up before I leave!

  4. Great tips, Seana! My favorite “find time” tip is Leave Ready. I love finding the stage ready to hit the floor running and not have to deal with last night’s mess. I do have to get better at planning to hire help. From an extra task for my VA to the sitter, I often find myself thinking “why didn’t I ask her to do this?” 🙂
    Helena Alkhas recently posted…The Organized Pantry: A Kitchen DelightMy Profile

    1. I had a client yesterday just tell me that she was trying to remember to ask her sitter to run an errand while she was out. Her sitting was more than willing, my client just kept forgetting to ask! Sometimes good habits take a bit of time to develop, but I keep trying to get better:)

    1. Yes, walking into the messy desk is just depressing. It gives you a feeling of failure before you even get started. I love coming down in the morning and seeing everything ready to go:)

  5. Seana, your title — Searching for TIme — is making me think. (Love the illustration!) We all think we want more time. But (OK, speaking for myself) we don’t always make the best use of it even if we “find” some. What we really want is the feeling of being less stressed, less rushed, and getting the things done that we HAVE to do so that we can do (and enjoy) the things we WANT to do. RIght? And your tips really help with that!
    Hazel Thornton recently posted…Just Say No…Here’s How and WhyMy Profile

    1. I love this comment, Hazel, because it really hits the nail on the head. We don’t really need more time if we are content with the way we are using the time we have. Definitely being less stressed and rushed is a common goal! I think I enjoy my “want to’s” more when my “have to’s” are done:)

  6. Yes! Agree with so much of what you’ve said. Especially “leave it ready”, or what I call “Paying Yourself Forward”. It’s the little things you can do now that pave the way for a smoother future.

    1. Yes, paying yourself forward is a terrific way to phrase it. Why not treat ourselves the way we would treat a boss or a customer, right? I so agree that it is usually the little things, piled up over time, that make the biggest difference.

  7. Great Strategies! My favs are ‘be early’ – and spend money to gain time. One of the best things I ever did was hire someone to help me keep my house tidy… Since I run my business from home, It’s a deal-breaker for me when my home feels totally out of control and dirty. The second thing I did that really helps is find out about our local supermarket’s ‘Shop At Home’ program! For $10 I save the 2 hours of going – shopping- coming back and it’s amazing!! Thanks
    Cena Block from SaneSpaces.com recently posted…Big Picture and Perfectionist Styles of Managing TimeMy Profile

    1. I also have help cleaning my home for similar reasons. The ‘Shop At Home’ option can really be a lifesaver. I have a client who lives in an urban environment and doesn’t have a car. For $10, she can stock up and then all she needs to do is pick up a few fresh items now and then. Not only quicker, but much more efficient and pleasant!

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