More than half (65 percent) of Americans say they are so busy they can’t make time for themselves at least once a day. A similar percentage (67 percent) are also too busy to take more breaks to enjoy the warm, summer months that are upon us.1
Does this sound familiar?
Are you constantly running to catch a train (literally or figuratively!) with little time to stop and smell the roses? It’s time for a major change, and fast, because if you can’t take at least some time to enjoy life, then, really, what’s the point?
We all have responsibilities, of course, including some you might think are fixed in the overall equation of your day – like cleaning and paying bills. But with the creative tweaks recently detailed by the featured article,2 you can carve out more time for yourself by saving time on chores and other daily necessities of living.
1. Escape the Cult of Busy
You probably aren’t as busy as you think you are. In fact, if you log how much time you spend doing various activities throughout your day, you’ll probably find extra time you didn’t know you had (like time wasted surfing the Web or watching TV). Instead of saying you “don’t have time” for the things you’d like to do – like exercise, travel or cook more – rephrase it as “exercising (for example) is a priority” for me. Make the items in your day that you really want to do a priority, and you’ll probably get them done.
2. Fit in a Workout on Any Schedule
Think you don’t have time to workout? Think again. It doesn’t take hours a day to get in shape. If you have 20 minutes, you can fit in a workout if you use high-intensity interval training (HIIT) like Peak Fitness. And you can even do it right in your own home, using your own bodyweight as your “gym.” Best of all, these short, high-intensity workouts have been shown to give you better results than slower workouts that take twice (or even three times) as long!
3. Keep Your Home Clean
This doesn’t mean you have to become a neat freak, just spend 15 minutes a day tidying up and cleaning. You’ll be shocked at how much you can get done in just 15 minutes, especially if you stick to this every day. It may be unrealistic to think you’ll keep your home spotless, but a good goal is to keep your home in a “20-minutes-to-clean state.” This way, you’ll have time to quickly make your home company-ready if an unexpected visitor drops by (and even if you don’t have 20 minutes warning, your home will still be presentable).
4. Sleep Better
High-quality sleep is essential to good health and staying productive throughout your day. If you feel fatigued in the morning, it could mean that you need to sleep better, not necessarily longer (say for six hours instead of eight). One of the best solutions? Sleep in complete darkness, as even the tiniest bit of light in the room can disrupt your internal clock and your pineal gland's production of cancer-fighting melatonin and mood-boosting serotonin. Cover up your clock radio and cover your windows—I recommend using room darkening shades or drapes. You can find even more sleep tips here.
5. Try Stress-Free Shopping
For items you buy at the grocery store, try getting your groceries online using automated delivery options that allow you to get non-perishables delivered once every month (or whatever frequency you would like). Be sure you also plan your meals ahead of time, so you only have to go shopping once to get a week (or more) worth of food for your meals. By shopping at food coops or farmer’s markets, you can also turn your shopping into an enjoyable social event while getting the highest quality food possible.
6. Prepare Better Food in Less Time
Spending some time in the kitchen (you, a loved one or someone you hire) is a necessity for optimal health. If you feel too busy to cook, try using cooking methods that allow you to prepare wholesome meals with little or no prep time, such as using a slow cooker. Fermented foods can also be made in large batches and enjoyed for weeks, or you can even try intermittent fasting, which drastically cuts down on the amount of time you spend cooking since you’ll likely be eating fewer meals. Or you can eat mostly raw and eliminate cooking all together. All my meals at home are raw and I only eat cooked when I go out to restaurants with friends.
7. Speed Through Clothing-Related Chores
Cut down on laundry by washing your clothes less often – you can often wear a shirt more than once, and jeans multiple times, before doing the wash. Save time on sorting by keeping two hampers in your bedroom, one for whites and one for colors. Another laundry trick is to put a sheet of aluminum foil under the ironing board cover; this reflected heat will take the wrinkles out of both sides of a piece of clothing at once, so you only have to iron one side.
8. Learn to Read Faster
Whether you’re reading for work, school or pleasure, you can read faster by not saying words in your head and becoming adept at skimming (or even skipping entire chapters you don’t need to read). If you feel you don’t have time to read, try scheduling reading time into your day or joining a book club with deadlines you’ll have to meet.
9. Improve Your Long Commute and Traveling
Make sure you’re taking the best, most efficient route to work. Web services like IFTTT (if this then that) can send a text message to your phone informing you of traffic issues. While you’re on the road, listen to podcasts, audio books or use a voice recorder to compile your to-do list for the day. You can even learn a new skill, such as practicing a new language. Also when traveling, make sure you combine places you need to go that are close as this will radically increase your efficiency. Rather than making two or more trips, combine them into one.
10. Pay Your Bills Automatically
Set up your bills to be paid automatically so you don’t waste time paying bills every month. Services like BillCutterz will even call your providers for you to negotiate lower bills on your behalf (for a fee). Using a software program to keep track of your household budget can also save you time you’d otherwise spend trying to track expenses. Also many banks now offer free bill payment services. This has radically decreased my bill payment time as for the last five years all utility bills are on autopayment. You also avoid using envelopes and postage. I would also strongly recommend Mint.com to further automate your financial life, as it is completely free and will help you get a good handle on your finances.
A cluttered home may make you uneasy, but a cluttered mind is a major detriment to reaching your full potential. Imagine, for a second, the relief and the pure joy you would feel if you knew that everything in your life was in its place, and all was well. In addition to the time-saving tips above, a clear mind allows you to focus, be mindful and speed through any given task at hand. Yet, many of us hold in our minds an obscene amount of information, such as:
- Regrets from our past, feelings of guilt, worries and other negative emotions (try EFT to relieve these)
- Daily tasks that need to be done
- Long-term projects yet to be completed
- Reminders for your spouse, kids and other family members
- Goals and dreams
- Deadlines for work, bills, taxes and more
One of my top recommendations for clearing these types of mind clutter is to read David Allen’s Getting Things Done. I have applied David’s principles for the last ten years or so and it has been of enormous benefit in keeping my life organized. As the first sentence of the book reads:
“It's possible for a person to have an overwhelming number of things to do and still function productively with a clear head and a positive sense of relaxed control.”
I have progressed to the point where I am a black belt in his system and attribute much of my high productivity to applying his principles. But here’s the key: this system is not only about being productive. It’s about being productive in a way that keeps your mind calm. Other simple solutions include:
- Write down the thoughts in your head (use a to-do list, a journal, a checklist, whatever works for you)
- Skip the multi-tasking and focus on just one task at a time
- The KEY to success of his program is to be diligent about doing your weekly review and going over all your projects and accumulated items in your inbox and calendar. This is absolutely critical.
- An important new collection tool is your smart phone and a free app called Evernote, which can collect all your random thoughts for you. The app syncs to your desktop so you will have access to your notes on all your electronic media, including phones, tablets and computers. I love this app. Pocket is another of my absolute favorite apps. I use it every day to capture videos on my desktop and then view them on my iPad while working out or preparing my lunch. Very convenient. And did I say it was free?
- Cut down on your daily “musts,” focusing only on the few most important, essential items
- Take a walk: the physical activity and time outdoors will help clear your mind
- Slow down: if you tend to rush through your day, make it a point to focus on each activity that comes up at your own, non-hurried pace