Tricks for the Time-Crunched

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Life is hectic. Most people are balancing many responsibilities with little time to spare. Toss in an extra event (e.g. a relocation, a new baby, the holidays…), and time seems even more compressed. Until someone invents time travel, we’ve got to do all we can to use our time wisely.

If you are feeling a bit “pressed and stressed,” here are a few ideas on how to make the most of the 24 hours you’ve got each day.

Tricks for the Time-Crunched

Run the dishwasher every night and empty it every morning.

While I understand the desire to conserve energy, busy seasons demand a system that ensures predictability. Knowing when the dishwasher will be loaded and unloaded makes it easier for you to plan the necessary time into your day (or into another family member’s day). Furthermore, most dishwashers are now energy efficient, and use very little water. Lastly, this ensures you will clear away all dirty dishes before heading to bed, and thus be greeted by a clean kitchen in the morning.

Run a family meeting on Sundays to schedule the week ahead.

If you live alone, this isn’t necessary. However, if you are part of a multi-person household, this is a must. Much time gets wasted when you have to deal with unanticipated needs and conflicts. Gather everyone around the table and talk about who needs to be where by when during the upcoming week. Not only will you avoid having to answer questions and solve problems at inopportune moments, you may find it becomes a pleasant family time.

When in doubt, do it now.

Sometimes, although we have the time to complete a task in the moment, we put it off to another day. For example, “I could get gas today, but I really don’t feel like it, so I think I’ll just get it tomorrow.” The problem is, we never know what tomorrow will bring. You may wake up with a sick child rendering you unable to leave the house. Or, there may be an unanticipated amount of traffic, leaving you dangerously low on fuel while stuck between exits. Demanding seasons of life call for prompt action. If you are able to check something off your list in the current moment, don’t overthink it, just get it done.

Make sure all family members have some white space/downtime in their day.

As the old saying goes, “our eyes are bigger than our stomachs.” There is so much to do (both required and optional) that we overstuff the day with no margin for error. Many people are literally moving from one scheduled activity to another all day long. Unfortunately, most people can’t sustain this pace for very long. We end up missing small details, running late, and letting people down. Even the recreational activities can feel rushed and draining. When planning the day, make sure to have some space where you (and your children) don’t have to do anything. This provides a “cushion time” that can be used to catch up, rest, or zone out. In the long run, white space makes you more productive and calm.

Outsource what you can.

The business world has long embraced the idea of outsourcing, or hiring someone to perform some function that had previously been handled in house. Outsourcing is all about maximizing resources. Sometimes, time is more valuable than money. If you’ve been trying to “do it all” by yourself, step back and consider whether hiring someone to help out – even for a short period of time – might ease your burden and make a difference. For example…

  • Pick up dinner on a day when you have no margin to cook.
  • Hire a babysitter one Saturday morning so you zip through your errands.
  • Take your holiday gifts to an event where volunteers wrap gifts in return for a donation to the charity.
  • Hire a handyman to help you finally check off tasks from the list of house projects.
  • Hire a virtual assistant to help with paperwork, business responsibilities, and correspondence.
  • Hire a party planner to help run an event.

Make a list of the chores you are dreading and then consider if outsourcing might be worth it to lighten your load.

√Put boundaries on your screen time.

Most of us feel we don’t have enough time. However, in some cases, we have time but are wasting it in front of screens. Games, websites and social media sites are captivating. They attract our attention to such an extent that we lose track of time; precious minutes we don’t have to waste. It isn’t necessary to avoid screen time all together, but it is important to avoid going down the rabbit hole. If you have a tendency to squander time in front of a screen, set a timer when you begin. This will require that you make an intentional choice in advance about how much time you are willing to allocate.

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A full life is a blessed life, but nobody enjoys feeling overwhelmed. What tips do you have for making the most of the time you have each day?

28 thoughts on “Tricks for the Time-Crunched”

    1. I find I usually initiate the meeting, but in the end, the family is in a better place once we’ve looked together at the week ahead. I keep waiting for someone else to say, “Hey, isn’t it time for the family meeting?” 🙂

    1. I can now picture you and I emptying the dishwasher each morning, Janine! When I was little I used to do that at my grandmother’s house when I woke up as a “surprise.” Little did I know that I made so much noise that I woke everyone up:)

    1. I have also been caught out… mostly after I had children and didn’t really have control of my time and my schedule. I think this may be a contributing factor to the old phrase, “Busy people get more done.” If you know you have to do it now, you do!

  1. Great tips to help manage time in the day. Each Sunday, I sit down with my kids and we go through the schedule for the week. It’s helpful for them and for me. We just found out why my daughter couldn’t send me appointments in her phone. It turns out that her standby mode doesn’t force the calendar appointments to go through. It’s finally working now. Now, she can send me appointments instead of me sending them to her. What a weight that has been lifted from my shoulders! Thanks to my techie hubby.
    Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…5 Tips to Get Your Home Ready for ThanksgivingMy Profile

    1. I’m learning something by reading this… I didn’t know that standby could do that to a phone! Being able to count on having everyone’s attention once a week helps avoid the tendency to constantly nag for information.

  2. What a great list of suggestions for navigating this busy season of celebrations and holidays. While this season brings lots of good things…like more time with family and friends, it also brings more demands of party prepping or going, hosting guests, and change in routines…just adding to the stress.

    Making sure there is white space or downtime in the days is so important. And of course that lets you catch your breath, while enjoying the journey.

    Also happy to see you added some of the suggestions that came up last weekend at the NERCPO conference around the putting boundaries around our “screen” time. As our digital devices can be such a pull and time grabber, putting some limits around energy spent there can help give us more time for participating in evergy producing and rejuvenating activities.
    Linda Samuels recently posted…9 Digital Overwhelm Challenges and Helpful Human SolutionsMy Profile

    1. Yes, I heard this great speaker at NERCPO who gave us some ideas about how to put boundaries on screen time and it resonated with me:) It is so easy to lose time at the screen, and more time than you realize just disappears. Digital tools increase productivity in some ways, but they can sap it as well. The holidays are such a mix of joy and stress, but we usually remember the joy!

    1. Wow, I didn’t even think of that, but such a good point! In the summer this is especially true, since there can be too much demand for electricity on very hot days. So glad you brought this up.

  3. These are great tips, Seana! I really like your suggestion of outsourcing or delegating. It feels so good when the long overdue list of things to be done around the home is completed. It’s also a good idea to delegate some things to older children or your spouse/partner. Everything does not have to be done by you (or me!).

    1. And of course, you can always call in a professional organizer, right Diane? I’m also always happy to outsource a few tasks that I’m not very good at and don’t particularly enjoy. As you said, it feels so good to finally complete a task that has been sitting on the “to do” list for a long time. Just get it done!

  4. Running the dishwasher overnight and emptying every morning seems so small, but we all know its the little things that make the difference. Growing up my family had regular family meetings, they got us on track and kept everyone on the same page. I live alone, but as soon as I have a family, we are defiantly going to have weekly family meetings. I’m all about the NOW! It’s so easy to procrastinate but so important to just do it NOW! Outsourcing is necessary for any successful person, but it’s hard to let go and trust other people.

    1. It is hard to let go and trust people! I suggest people start small, realizing they already probably outsource many things… ever pick up take-out? So start where you feel comfortable, with a resource you know and trust, and then consider what you are doing that you could possibly outsource without having it feel too risky. Sometimes simply considering an option stirs new ideas.

  5. So I don’t run the dishwasher every night, but in terms of a predictable system that I do follow is set laundry days. I do my son’s wash on Mondays and my and my husband’s along with the linens on Wednesdays. Everyone knows when their clothes will be clean and it’s built into my week so there’s no missing it.

    1. That is a great idea! I know some people – especially those who have a lot of laundry – do one load a day. I mostly do mine on Friday/Saturday. This became increasingly important when I had teenager girls in the house running their own laundry, so we knew when the machines would be available:)

    1. I think many parents learn the value of “do it now” pretty quickly into the parenting journey. You can’t plan on having time or energy or opportunity tomorrow, so might as well just do it and be finished with it!

  6. Love this list of ideas! I love that we can create routines that make our lives almost automated. So when grocery shopping happens every Sunday, or laundry happens every MWF, or pay bills every 15th of the month, you can save time and energy.

    1. It is surprising how much energy “auto pilot” can save. I know that Friday/Saturday are laundry days for me, so I don’t even think about it on the other days of the week.

    1. I’ve been in a “busy season” this past week with my daughter having tonsillectomy. Wow – what a brutal process for adults! Anyway, I’ve been thankful for the routines I have in place that I am able to take care of without too much thought. Otherwise, I think I would have missed them…

  7. Such great tips, Seana! And oncd these become a rountine they will no longer be a struggle to implement. Love routines and the structure they offer to our lives. And, I am finally starting to understand the benefits to outsourcing. Great advice for anytime of the year!
    Crystal recently posted…Home Organization Gift GuideMy Profile

    1. Routines just give us a bit of mental piece. I’m a big fan. In terms of the outsourcing, its amazing how sometimes bringing in an outsider can finally get a few project finished that have been hanging over you for years!

    1. It is such a small thing, but it makes a big difference. Sometimes getting control of the little things that we touch and look at every day is empowering. Kudos to your kids for emptying!!

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