By Lyndsey Hall
We’ve all wished there were more hours in the day at one time or another, but sadly, unless a major celestial event occurs in the near-future, that’s unlikely to change. We just have to make the most of the 1,440 minutes we’re given each day.
On the positive, we’ve all got the exact same number of hours in a day, so there’s no reason we can’t all succeed. You might have heard the saying “You’ve got the same number of hours in a day as Beyoncé”, which is accurate, but not entirely helpful. The rich and famous have the resources to hire a team of staff to take care of all their admin and daily tasks. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t follow our passion and achieve our dreams, it just means we have to be a little more disciplined and structured with our time.
Here are our tips for saving time and improving your work/life balance so you can enjoy your downtime and achieve your goals.
Improve sleep quality
Getting a good night’s shut-eye is essential for being productive during the day. If you’re tired and sluggish, you won’t be working at the same speed or quality as you normally do. Unfortunately, insomnia is a common ailment in these modern times, with so much to keep us busy our brains can struggle to switch off at night. If you think you might have a real problem with lack of sleep, it’s best to speak to your doctor, but if you simply want to catch more hours of quality sleep at night, there are a few things that could help.
Your bedroom should be dedicated to sleeping – that means no TV and no devices. Leave your phone to charge in another room when you retire for the night, or if you really can’t be parted from it in case of emergency, download a silencing app that lets you choose which notifications still alert you, and which numbers can call and text you during the midnight hours.
If you wear glasses, make sure you get the blue light reducing coating to prevent your eyes from becoming tired out by staring at screens all day. You can even download an app to your phone that softens the blue light if you’re not a glasses-wearer.
Limit social media/TV etc.
Few of us are immune to the “binge watch”. Before you know it, you’ve become completely engrossed in that new hit drama and the dreaded “Are you still watching?” message flashes up on the screen. Even the most successful entrepreneurs watch the occasional TV show, but the trick is to limit the amount of time you spend watching entertainment, playing games or scrolling through social media.
Consuming content is essential for replenishing the creative stores, some of the best ideas have come on the back of another’s work, even when the connection to your own industry seems tenuous at best. As Isaac Newton said in 1676, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” A message that was inscribed around the rim of the one pound coin for years.
Don’t put yourself on a complete entertainment ban, or it might be counterproductive. Instead, allow yourself an hour/thirty minutes/however long works best for you, each day to read for pleasure, watch a favourite YouTube channel, etc. And don’t feel guilty about it! You’re not wasting time, you’re using it effectively and that includes scheduling fun as well as work on your to do list.
File important documents
Mobile phones, broadband, car insurance, life assurance – we’ve all got numerous contracts with varying renewal dates to keep on top of, legal and official documents that need to be securely kept. And that’s before you consider kids and pets into the equation! If you can, it’s best to store them all in a fire proof box, in case of—you guessed it—fire.
Assign a few hours one weekend to rooting out all of your important documents and organising them into piles. Sort them however you prefer: by date; by grouping similar ones; alphabetically. Slot them into clear, protective wallets so you can see what they are at a glance, and keep them in binders somewhere safe and easy to access.
While you’re going through your piles, set reminders on your phone for each different renewal date, or write them on your calendar, so you’ll never forget to shop around (and save money as well as time) when your contract comes to an end.
“Tidy desk, tidy mind!” Or so they say, but it is true that our environment can have an impact on our stress levels, with blood pressure often rising when we’re surrounded by disorganisation and mess.
Try the Marie Kondo method for decluttering. Go through your home and look at everything you own, piece by piece. Kondo recommends focusing on categories rather than rooms, i.e. clothes, then books, etc. Ask yourself, “is this item useful?” If yes, great, move onto the next item. If no, that’s OK, just ask yourself “do I find this item beautiful?” And if the answer is also a no, then it goes in the rubbish/recycling/charity shop pile.
Reducing clutter and organising your belongings (try Kondo’s revolutionary folding technique for clothes!) saves you time when searching for something you need, especially when you’re in a rush, helping you feel calmer and less flustered. Win, win!
If you want to find yourself down a YouTube rabbit hole, search speed cleaning videos and sit back with a cup of tea. Or, you could try The Organised Mum’s technique for blitzing the cleaning in as little as 30 minutes per day, with weekends free to enjoy yourself.
The method focuses on a different area of the home Monday to Thursday, with Friday spent deep cleaning (but still only for 30 minutes) a particular room on an eight week rotation.
This is in addition to the daily jobs of laundry, hoovering the main living spaces and giving the bathrooms a quick clean, but in less than an hour a day you can keep on top of your household chores and leave yourself more time to enjoy or work towards your goals.
Now your weekends are free from the burdens of cleaning and tidying, you can spend a few hours on a Sunday cooking up a storm and filling your fridge and freezer with healthy meals, ready to be defrosted and reheated any night of the week. See, you’ve even found a purpose for all those left over Chinese takeaway tubs cluttering up your kitchen cupboards. Unless you threw those out, Marie Kondo style…
Invest in a slow cooker and whack all your ingredients in before work, and you’ll come home to a house filled with delicious smells and a home cooked meal with minimal fuss. Plus you’ll minimise the washing up by using just one pot, saving yourself even more time!
There you have it, lots of little steps and some big ideas for saving time at home without compromising on your work/life balance. Try one or two and see how they impact on your daily or weekly schedule after a month. Not all of these tips will work for everyone, but when you find the time-saving techniques that fit into your lifestyle and help you free up more time for your family, friends and personal goals, you won’t look back.
In part two of our How to save time blog series, we’ll share some tips for saving time at work by streamlining your processes and collaborating effectively.