Big Time Savers

Ten ways to save big chunks of time.

Posted Oct 31, 2014

We’ve all heard tips for saving time, for example: use a to-do list, clump your errands, touch a piece of paper only once.

But here, we’re big-game hunting: How can you save elephantine time? Here are ten ways.

Sponge activities. We spend a lot of time waiting: on commute trains, bus stops, supermarket lines, doctor’s offices, etc. Sure, there are times you'll want to veg out but you can free up lots of time if you bring an activity to sponge up chunks of time in which you’d like to be productive. Examples of sponge activities: a book, an audio book, or a problem you need time to think through, for example, a complicated work project or office-politics issue.

Get help? Could you convince you boss to let you hire an intern? Should you hire a personal assistant to, for example, tutor your child, clean your home, do errands, teach you tech, look in on your elderly parent? The help needn’t be ongoing. For example, in doing a project if you get stuck, instead of struggling endlessly with it, if you haven’t made progress in a minute or two, perhaps you should get help, if only by doing a Google search?

Learn without school?  School can be a very time-inefficient way to learn. You must learn a courseful of material, much of which you don’t need or will have forgotten by the time you need it. Too, a course can proceed too quickly or too slowly. And, if’s it’s an in-person rather than online course, you must get there, find parking, get to the classroom, and after class, reverse.

Instead, might you want to learn by self-study, perhaps with a textbook, supplementing with a tutor to get you over the rough parts? True, you don’t get course credit but you may find that the improvement in learning and savings of time and money more than compensate.

Personal mission statement. Having a mission statement makes it easier to decide what to say yes and no to. For example, if a key part of your mission statement is to give priority to family over work and you aren’t afraid of losing your job, you’ll more easily say no to a boss who asks you to put in extra time. Conversely, if you value work more than family, you’ll more easily say no to spouse’s request to be home every night for dinner.

Cut time sucks.  Should you reduce or even eliminate the time you’re spending on sitcoms, sports events, video games, playing sports, getting high, or attending family events out of obligation rather than desire. For example, should you forgo the monthly cousins get-together or the trek to Topeka for your second cousin twice-removed’s third wedding?

Get out of meetings. Many people feel forced to attend meetings they believe aren’t worth the time. Should you screw up the courage to ask if you can be excused from some meetings?

Telecommute? Today’s transportation planners are trying to force us out of our cars by building far fewer roads than necessary to accommodate the population increase. And mass transit often adds greatly to commute time. So should you ask your boss for permission to telecommute at least part of the week?

Quick but healthy meals.  You may save lots of time by more often opting for a quick-prep meal: for example, a salad, broiled salmon, steamed veggies spiced to taste, and fruit or frozen yogurt for dessert? Or make a batch of something more complicated that can be frozen in meal-sized portions.

Think time-effective. Before and during any task, it may be wise to keep a little voice on your shoulder ever whispering in your ear, not “Is this the best way?, not “Is this the fastest way?” but “What’s the most time-effective way?,” the way that will yield the most benefit for the time expended.

Why does it matter?

Regular readers of my writings know that I believe the life well-led requires being quite productive, making a difference, broadly defined. If a person lived a life filled with pleasure but was only minimally productive, s/he failed to make the most of that greatest gift we’re ever given: a lifetime.

Marty Nemko's bio is in Wikipedia.