There’s no doubt in my mind you are becoming a trendsetting time-efficiency icon. We aren’t finished, though. This entry marks the end of our 6-part time management series — 6 final radical [sometimes counter-intuitive] tips for maximizing the one thing we all have the same amount of: time.
13. Eat in!
Besides being healthier and much cheaper, eating IN is actually more time-efficient, especially when we cook from scratch. When we make our own food we can double or even triple recipes and create multiple meals. This saves prep and cooking time; it also does our meal-planning for us.
I love to double soups, in part because they taste better over the course of a few days, and in part because I can freeze 1/3 of them to eat weeks later.
I’ve also been known to make a big batch of Mexican rice and beans and, with a little variation, eat for a week! (I never get sick of homemade Mexican food.)
Monday dinner: Burritos, avocado, jack cheese, homemade crema and cole slaw, hot sauce Tuesday lunch: Bean/rice quesadillas with sauteed peppers or mushrooms Wednesday lunch: Rice and beans in a bowl adding fried plantains Thursday dinner: Bean-only burritos adding sweet potato Friday lunch: Nachos with all the leftovers
14. Invest in a good phone headset.
Now, I want to be clear, I am not one to advocate combining talking on the phone with just any task. On the contrary — it drives me crazy when I’m talking on the phone with someone as they are simultaneously checking their email or doing anything that requires their brain. Truly connecting with each other requires both parties’ full attention. I don’t think much of the multi-tasking we do actually saves time anyway — often it just forces us to lose focus. Doing one thing at a time offers a fullness of attention, energy and effort that causes the best connection, the most accuracy, and the fewest mistakes.
There are some instances, though, when multi-tasking can really save time and no focus is compromised. Anything that requires our hands but not our brains is a great choice for putting on our headset and dialing away. An old stress of mine — finding time to call back beloved family members and friends for a catch-up conversation — has turned into a ritual I cherish. I’ll dump three loads of laundry on the bed, don my headset, and keep dialing phone numbers until someone answers. It never fails that I get to luxuriate in a long conversation while I get all my laundry folded. The same goes for any *mindless* household chore such as ironing, clothes-mending, a big sink of dishes, gardening, etc.
15. Root for your own team.
In other words, stop watching sports and start playing them. (Easy to do if you’ve already thrown out your TV.) If you added up all the time you spent rooting for college or professional teams on TV and spent that time actually playing sports, what an athlete you would be. (And, p.s., you don’t need to be very athletic to throw a ball around a bit.) Active, life-creating activities tend to stimulate, invigorate, and engage us much more than passive, life-watching ones do — that’s why too much TV or computer time can put us to sleep. One of my favorite family traditions happens on Thanksgiving. We forgo the popular TV version of football, and engage in an all-ages friendly game in a park. All that running around and piling on top of each other gets us laughing and enjoying the day, as well as good and hungry for a feast. So, get those Saturday afternoon hours back by getting your heart pumping. Like anything else, after a few weekends, you’ll be so in the team spirit, you won’t even miss the lazy-boy.
16. Cut to the chase.
One of the most obvious places we can be mindful of our (and others’) time is in how we communicate with each other. Monitor your talking. Notice how many words you are using, what kind of details you provide, how engaged you are in what you are saying, and how engaged your listener truly is. Notice how often the topic sways to one that feels like filler. Notice if what you say when you open your mouth might constitute as mindless chatter or if it is a feelings-centered message from the heart.
I’ve learned this one the hard way many times — having shown up at a gathering of friends only to dissect TV shows for 2 hours or gossip about coworkers. Sure, it’s mildly fun in the moment, but inevitably I leave feeling like I need to make one-on-one time with each person at the gathering to get the real connection I seek from my relationships. I often use the expression, “capture the essence” or “bottom-line this” when I want to get to the heart of the matter with my clients, knowing we share an understanding about the connecting and transformational power of simple, straightforward, heart-centered speech. We can capture the essence of what we want to communicate in any conversation and get spontaneity, conciseness, and the true message without all the extras.
There’s an old Quaker saying that challenges me in just the right way about this topic, “Do not speak unless you can improve upon the silence.” It reminds me just how powerful our mere presence can be without saying much at all — a concept that’s obvious when we spend time with someone very young or very old. Time feels much more expansive when we know we are communicating what’s in our hearts, versus what’s swimming around in our heads. So, as you begin to monitor your communication, ask yourself this, “if this was the last time I ever saw this person, would I be saying or asking this?…..What would I want to communicate?”
Long-hand writing as a time-saver — am I crazy? Actually, no. Journaling comes up a lot in my coaching work as many clients see the value of recording feelings, dreams, and the effect of the passage of time with a particular project or issue. When I begin working with new clients I often listen to a laundry list of ways in which they have never been “good” journal-keepers. (These are, invariably, the same clients who want to write for a living.) Regular journaling is the habit no one ever feels like starting, and I understand why. It can appear as a huge waste of time — time we don’t think we have.
In truth, working out how we feel about things on paper is not only incredibly cathartic, it also is a great tool for time management. How? 1. The journal acts as a completely objective listener – writing in it can help us discern and ultimately articulate how we feel about things so that we can truly move forward in life versus lingering in our old habits and stories. This can also help us “bottom line” things (see Tip #16) when we speak to others. 2. Hindsight is 20/20, especially when we have an accurate record of what happened in the past. The journal can be a great teacher — keeping our old processes, thoughts, and feelings available to us — so we don’t have to learn the same hard lessons over and over again.
…And the final, radical idea for having the time of your life…
18. Get yourself to an organized place, and then maintain.
Most of us feel we have the best control over our time when we can set ourselves up for organization and efficiency and then stick with it. The bottom line is, tasks seem to take less time when we do them habitually — whether we are offering up a prayer, flossing our teeth, or balancing our checkbook. What comes to mind for me is the old 30-day rule that my mom either read somewhere or conjured up to creatively coerce my brother and me to make our beds in the morning. “If you do something for 30 days, you’ll always do it.” This very simple habit-forming construct has saved me endless hours of wasted time looking for my keys or having to stop and do a whole sink-full of dishes (okay, still working on that one). In short, we don’t have to put out nearly as many fires when we proactively develop the kinds of habits that keep our minds, homes, and hearts clear. Maintaining a few small disciplines –even things as simple as keeping our resume updated or hanging our coat up when we walk in the door — positions us to spontaneously seize those really great opportunities that show up unexpectedly and make life the wonderful, wild ride that it always is.
Thank you, readers, for being with me for the time-saving tips of 2009 — it’s been fun! Stay tuned for a brand new challenge coming in January. Happy Holidays!