Do you feel as if you’re always running late? Do you constantly feel rushed throughout your day? With the new year right around the corner, it’s a great time to start thinking about how to save time and get ahead of your to-do list.
In this blog post, I’ll share my favourite tips to save time in everyday life. We’ll look at some creative and simple ways to help you cut corners in your daily routine. Working on similar tasks in batches, prepping for the next day before you leave work, and planning your meals and outfits are just some of the ways you can stay more organised and shake that hamster-wheel feeling.
Ready to make the most of your time? Implementing some or all of these time-saving tips can help you make the most of your day. I’ve bucketed the tips in Home and Work sections, but you might find there’s a lot of overlap. Pick and adapt the tips that work best for you!
Saving Time at Home
Everybody has their own personal cheat sheet for saving a bit of time at home. Here are the tips to save time that I find most helpful in my own household.
Meal Prep Ideas to Save Time
Meal prepping is a great way to save time in the kitchen. Prepare meals in advance, and you’ll always have something ready on those nights when you don’t feel like cooking after a crazy long day.
There are several ways you could tackle meal prepping. Some folks like to do all their cooking for a whole week on Sunday afternoon. Others prefer batch prepping a single type of meal such as chili. If you’re new to meal prepping, there’s a beginners’ guide on the Meal Prep Manual you might find helpful.
Here are just a few ideas that can help you save time cooking:
- Plan out your dinners for the week ahead and make a grocery list so you know exactly what to buy on your shopping day.
- Next time you’re cooking a stew or casserole, make an extra big batch and freeze it in smaller portions so that you can thaw and reheat it when needed.
- Make your own snacks like these super quick granola bars or trail mix and store them in airtight containers. Grab and go throughout the week whenever the munchies strike. They’re healthier than processed food, too, and will save you some money to boot.
- Soak and cook grains and beans for your recipes the week ahead. You’ll save a lot of time on weeknights by being able to cut right to chase with your main dish. Plus you can easily customise these staples with different proteins and spices.
- Meal prep your lunches’ sides. Obviously, you don’t want to be schmearing your sandwiches days ahead because they’ll dry out. But, you can wash and chop crudites, set aside your La Croix or juice boxes, and portion out things like nuts, cookies, or cheese cubes ahead of time.
By following these tips, you’ll be able to save time and money on your meals and make cooking less of a chore.
Schedule Time for Non-Negotiables
Everyone has important stuff they have to do no matter what. It might be picking up your kids at a certain time on a certain day, or making sure you’re at your physical therapy appointment on time every Friday morning before work. These are non-negotiable tasks that have to be pencilled into your diary.
While you can’t save time on these tasks per se, you can use the time around them in an efficient manner. Planning ahead, factoring in things like traffic or waiting room time, and having any gear you need ready to go before you leave can all ultimately save you time.
Create a Cleaning Schedule
Like meal prepping, creating a cleaning schedule can help alleviate some stress all throughout the week. Plus you’ll avoid feeling as if your home is a constant disaster zone. Overall, it’s probably one of the best tips to save time because if you schedule in a little bit of cleaning or laundry during the workweek, you won’t be faced with a mountain of stuff to do on your day off.
Schedule small tasks for your weekdays, and try to stick to your plan as best you can. If you live with others, delegate some of the cleaning tasks to them so that everyone pitches in. Check out my weekly cleaning schedule for a single person even if you don’t live alone. You can easily adapt it to your personal living situation, and it’s a good starting point if you’ve got a perpetual case of the messies at home.
Of course, there will always be times when your schedule totally goes out the window. That’s fine. Don’t beat yourself up. Just pick up where you left off and carry on.
Doing a deep cleaning of your home every once in a while can also help you save time in the long run. And daily decluttering bursts are another super simple way to keep your place tidy all throughout the week so that you have more time for fun stuff at the weekend.
Pick Your Outfits for the Coming Week
Getting dressed in the morning should be easy. You don’t want to be ironing, sweating over a missing button on your shirt, or dismayed to find the jacket you wanted to wear to the big meeting has a stain on its lapel.
Take a few minutes at the weekend to check your weather app and your schedule, and plan out your outfits accordingly for the coming week. It’s honestly a total game-changer to be able to blindly don “ready-made” outfits Monday-Friday without having to think about it. I originally started doing this when I was travelling heavily for work. Then I discovered it works equally well at my home base, too. I make a note of my weekly outfits on my phone or in a little Moleskine I keep in my nightstand. Then I just put on whatever outfit is slated for the day. I don’t even have to think about accessories or shoes because it’s all in my notes.
If you have activities outside of school or work which require outfit changes, prep those clothes as well. Get your yoga kit, dance class outfit, or gym bag ready for the week.
Fave Tips to Save Time: Hire Help
If it’s in your budget, hiring help for your household is a great way to save time, especially if you are a busy professional or have a family. Having a cleaner, gardener, dogsitter or nanny can free up a great deal of time that you can use for work or personal projects. There are personal assistants out there who will help you with daily to-dos like grocery shopping, ironing, cooking, running errands, fetching the kids, you name it.
I consider hiring help to be money wisely spent. Even when I was a poor student on a shoestring budget, I chose to pay for a housekeeper to come for a couple of hours a week. This really took a load of my shoulders so I could spend my time focusing on my studies instead of the dirty bathroom. Plus, professional hired help does what they do for a living. That means they’re fast and time-efficient with tasks that might take you at least twice as long to knock out.
Monotask Instead of Multitasking
We’ve been taught to believe multitasking is an admirable skill to have. In reality though, it’s inefficient for most of us and can hamper our productivity. By spreading yourself thinly, you’re not focusing on what’s important and not performing the best you could.
You can still utilise pockets of time while you’re waiting on other things. Getting the ironing done while you wait for the next load of laundry to finish, for example. Or reading a chapter of that new business book on your Kindle while you’re in the dentist’s waiting room. That’s time well spent, which ultimately saves you time.
When you multitask though, you’re dividing your attention instead of prioritising. Try focusing on one thing at a time and finishing it before you move on to the next task. You’ll find you get into a good flow of deep concentration in which you use your time more effectively and efficiently.
Batch Similar Tasks
Speaking of getting into the flow: batch your to-dos whenever possible so you can do them in one sweep. If you find yourself working on similar tasks at different times during the week such as laundry, running errands, or dusting, try batching those tasks into one larger session.
By combining tasks, you’ll be able to work more efficiently. You’ll spare yourself from having to stop, think about, and take care of multiple singular tasks during the week.
Saving Time at Work
Who doesn’t want to work smarter, instead of longer? Here are a few super simple habits you can incorporate into your workday, and some of my personal best tips to save time.
Setting daily and weekly goals at work helps you save time and stay organised. When you set goals, you’re able to prioritise your tasks much more concisely and focus on what’s most important. This prevents you from dawdling on tasks that aren’t that important or can wait.
Having clear goals also gives you a sense of direction and makes it easier to stay motivated and focused. Additionally, setting goals allows you to keep track of your progress and measure your success. And nowadays, it seems everybody wants you to be data-driven.
Even if no one is explicitly asking you for key performance indicators at work, tracking weekly goals and outlining your monthly or quarterly goals is especially helpful when working on a long-term project or striving for a particular milestone. Try it out and you’ll find that the enhanced focus and productivity save you time.
Develop Routines and Scripts
Creating routines and scripts for recurring situations at work is another one of the best tips to save time. We all have redundant tasks that crop up again and again. Or certain things that we find ourselves sending on repeat to different people.
Identify any common tasks or situations that occur regularly in your role or department. These could be anything from handling customer inquiries to responding to emails. Once you’ve identified the tasks, the next step is to develop a routine or script to field them.
You might want to write and programme some snippets, for example, to answer the same type of questions clients regularly send you. Or create a simple script in Automator to re-name all those packs of JPEG files the marketing team always sends you. Whatever your case may be, by creating and implementing routines and scripts for recurring situations, you can save a good amount of time that allows you to focus your energy on more important tasks.
Put Technology to Work
One of the best tips to save time at work is probably simply harnessing the right tools. Make use of technology whenever you can to streamline your workflow for redundant, monotonous tasks. There are so many apps, software as a service, plugins and scripts out there that you can utilise to make mundane tasks more efficient. You just need to pick the right tool for the job.
Some tasks like data extraction, data entry, billing, and scheduling can be automated to save you time. Cloud-based applications allow you to access information quickly and easily, no matter where you are.
AI-based tools can help with mundane tasks like sorting through emails or transcribing audio. And mobile apps are great for tracking to-dos, tracking time, or just staying organised in general. If your company doesn’t have these tools yet, see what’s out there yourself and if you find something good, there’s a high chance of having your cost centre foot the bill.
Keep Your Workspace Organised and Decluttered
When you can’t find things on your desk or your computer, it can be incredibly frustrating. And a huge waste of time! Having everything in its place and sticking to a coherent file-naming system can save you a few minutes of time each day. Those minutes add up over the course of a month or year!
Keep your work setup to a minimum, and don’t allow things to pile up on your desk. It really pays to tidy up your desk every Friday evening when you close up shop for the weekend. It only takes a few minutes yet it will make it so much easier for you to settle right into your workflow on Monday morning again.
Be Consistent with Your Digital Filing
Having an organised filing system on your computer can also save you a lot of time and hassle. By organising your files in folders and sub-folders with a logical and consistent hierarchy, you can quickly find documents, images, PDFs and the like without having to scour your hard drive. My article on going paperless has some easy tips for nailing your file structure.
You could also create shortcuts to your most important folders so they’re easily accessible. This makes it a snap to quickly find what you need when you’re in a hurry. A nice side effect of keeping your computer decluttered is that it keeps your disk cleaner by preventing duplicates from hogging up your drive.
Question Every Meeting
I think internal meetings are likely the number one time and productivity killer in the workplace. They prevent you from getting real work done and burden you with pseudo-work (you’re expected to coordinate your schedule around them, sit through them, take notes and actively participate in them). In most cases, they do not address anything that cannot be taken care of in an email or on Slack.
Question every invite you get to a meeting. The person who organised it should have an agenda and a goal set for the meeting. If they don’t, they shouldn’t have called the meeting.
If you’re organising the meeting, ask yourself first if you need to pull everyone away from their actual work. Can you address the issue at hand in an email, shared Google doc or Miro board instead? If you absolutely have to call a meeting, make sure you also send an agenda and intention for the meeting to your invitees.
Our brain takes up to 20 minutes to refocus after we’ve been distracted. It’s not possible to avoid all distractions of course, but knowing what sets you off can help reduce potential distractions. I know that I lose my focus all too easily when people chat near my desk or even walk by it, for example. So I don’t work in open office spaces or cafés.
If you work from home and have family or roommates, it’s a good idea to set boundaries so that you can focus on your work.
Organise Your To-Dos for the Next Day Before Leaving Work
Organising your tasks for the next day before you leave work is another one of the best tips to save time at work because it simply helps you stay on top of your workload. Running through your to-dos for the next day before you leave work not only helps you reflect on what you accomplished that day, but it allows you to prioritise tasks, identify potential pitfalls, and create your plan of action for the following day. You’ll basically feel more in control of your workload.
By taking a few minutes to plan ahead, you’ll start the following morning with a clear understanding of what needs to be done and how you’ll accomplish it. The upshot? You’re more focused and less stressed about something falling through the cracks. And this saves you time. Try it out! It’s a great habit to get into.
Keep Social Media Use in Check
Mixbloom estimates that in 2022, people spent an average of 2.5 hours a day on social media. That’s a heck of a lot of time. Time you could spend on cranking out a report, balancing the books, or learning something new to get ahead or just get creative on your next campaign.
Even if you don’t work outside the home, it’s still a colossal waste of time. Think of all the things you could have done in 2.5 hours. That’s 17.5 hours a week. 910 hours a year! Crazy, right?
You don’t need to scroll mindlessly for hours on LinkedIn or Instagram to maintain your business presence. Try scheduling a moderate amount of social media time to check what you need to check and then close the app. Disabling push notifications can also help tremendously. I’ll wager you’ll be surprised how much time you can save when you curb social media use.
Delegate Work When Possible
Delegating tasks is an obvious way to save time at work, but it can be tricky, especially if you’re an A-type personality who likes to do everything herself. The key is to identify which tasks can be delegated, and assign them to the right people.
Start by making a list of all your tasks, then prioritise them in order of importance. Next, assess which tasks can be done by someone else and identify the person who can do it best. Once you have found the right person, clearly communicate the task, the timeline, and any necessary resources.
Finally, provide feedback and support throughout the process to ensure that the delegated task is completed properly and on time. With effective delegation, you can save yourself time and stress, as well as free up resources for other projects.
You Control Your Day, Not the Other Way Around
My final tip to save time can be filed under intentional living. When things get crazy—and they do sometimes—I think it’s crucial for your well-being to remember that the day isn’t running you. You are running the day. And that begins when the day actually starts. In other words: how you start your day can make a huge difference in how it goes.
Yes, I know most folks are not able to sleep in as long as they like and start their workday off whenever they please. There are still things you can do, though, to stay in control of how your day unfolds. Not turning on your corporate mobile before work, for example, so that you can breakfast in peace. Or spending ten minutes before you go to work to let your thoughts flow in a journal. That alone can do wonders for your psyche!
Time is a precious commodity you probably don’t want to be squandering. There are many ways to save time in daily life, including building habits to stay more organised, setting priorities, and using time-saving technology.
Being more efficient with your time not only makes you more productive. What’s more important is that it can lead to a more fulfilling life. One with less stress, less rushing around, and more quality time for yourself.