On a time crunch? Squeeze more out of your day

When I (or others) want to improve our financial situations, most excuses involve time. I am too busy to take on another job. I don't have time to start that business I've wanted to start for the last three years. I wish I could really get my financial ducks in a row, but I feel like I'm already using every spare minute of my days.

While time budgeting and money budgeting share a lot of similarities, the interesting thing about time budgeting is that, while we all have the same number of hours in each day, we just don't get the same number of days in our lives. As my life gets more full, I experience more challenges balancing the demands on my time. I want to use my time wisely so I have more time to do the things that really matter. And maybe, just maybe I will have time to start that business that I definitely was going to start in 2013. Ha.

Mind over matter

My husband and I, with some rare kid-free moments, were discussing our lack of free time and how quickly time evaporates. If I don't have goals for what I want to accomplish with our kids each day, I feed them, help them bathe, and put them to bed. Without some goals, the little minutes of each day are wasted and only the minimum gets done — at least in my house. And that's only with my kids. It doesn't count other parts of my life.

So first decide what you want to accomplish. The key word in the previous sentence is “you.” While I enjoy reading home design blogs, I have finally figured out that I prefer uncluttered rooms with few things on the walls. Once I find something I like, I don't want to repaint, I don't want to change it for a decade or two, and I want to move on with my life. Or cooking. While I enjoy knocking myself out a few times a year by hosting people and making some amazing food, on a daily basis, I prefer simple and fast meals that require minimal time in the kitchen. I just prefer to use up my time somewhere else.

This part of time management was more difficult than I expected, but it helped when I divided all activities into four categories. (Does this remind you of J.D.'s article from last week?)

  • Have to do and want to do. Seven to eight hours of sleep per night makes me feel best, so this is a priority for me.
  • Have to do, but don't want to do. We have a tax appointment with our accountant tomorrow. Getting the information together for him is a pain for me every year, but we have to pay taxes.
  • Don't have to do, but want to do. For me, most reading falls into this category, but it's one of my favorite things to do.
  • Don't have to do, and don't want to do. Cooking time-consuming meals. Need I say more?

Create a time budget

Once you have decided on what is really important to you, create a time budget (use something like this grid or another online tool). Fill in the hours of the day that you have to fill: Sleeping, working, commuting, eating, personal hygiene, exercise, and other things like that.

To help you fill out the rest of the time budget, try keeping a time journal. I actually kept a time journal for a week, writing down how I spent every minute. Like tracking your spending, it was illuminating. I had no idea how much time was spent on aimless Internet surfing. If I were using aimless Internet surfing to relax, that's one thing. But it had expanded beyond relaxation to just wasting my time — especially when I keep saying that I don't have time to start my business that could have a significant financial impact for our family.

Save time

To find more time, here are some time-saving strategies:

1. Delegate. In my opinion, all people in a family need to work together to make the home run like a well-oiled machine. Even small children can help. Our kids go to bed really early, so our first routine consisted of my husband and I getting the kids to bed and then coming back to a disaster of kitchen with dinner dishes all over. Is anything more exhausting than walking into a kitchen filled with dirty dishes?

Our second routine is much better. Now all four of us clean up the kitchen together. It's faster, the kids don't mind helping, and when we come back downstairs, the kitchen is clean.

I was also overwhelmed by laundry. To fix that, I wash and dry everything, but now my kids grab their own clothes from the pile and they fold their own clothes and put them away. Many times it would be easier to just do the jobs myself instead of helping my kids learn how to wipe sinks and wash dishes. However, I am hoping this initial investment will pay off in time savings later.

2. Bundle. Put two jobs together. If you like reading, maybe you can listen to an audio book on your commute or while you're exercising.

3. Little minutes. I found that I wasted five minutes here and there (I only have five minutes, so I may as well check my favorite blog) often. Now I have a running list of things that I can do in only five minutes: Clean a toilet, dust a room, pay a couple of bills.

4. Use technology to your advantage. Using technology like Evernote, Remember the Milk, Google Calendar and more can help streamline your life as well.

My life, just like everyone else's, is very busy. I have made some gains on streamlining and spending time in the ways that are most important to me and my family, but I have a lot to learn. How have you used time-saving strategies to have more time to meet your financial goals?

More about...Budgeting, Career

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Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life
Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life
6 years ago

Even without kids, I have trouble using my time with maximum efficiency, particularly when it comes to my business. I tend to spend a lot of time on support activities- networking, social media, etc and not enough time on money MAKING activities- writing posts, pitching advertisers, etc. I think when you first start out, you’re not making money, so you spend all your time doing the support activities, then when you’re ready to make the money making transition, you’ve already established the habit of doing them every day. It’s hard to retrain yourself.

Jon @ MoneySmartGuides
Jon @ MoneySmartGuides
6 years ago

I’m a big fan of listening to podcasts on my drive to/from work to save time. I also recently started to keep a time journal myself. I found myself aimlessly wasting time and decided that I need to list out my day and see where I lose the most time. Then I can be more conscious of cutting the fat as they say.

Money Saving
Money Saving
6 years ago

Fully agree Jon – it’s all about prioritizing and multitasking if you’re trying to fit more in.

Also, it is good to remember that more is not always better. Sometimes we try to do too much and clutter the mind. This ends up decreasing our overall effectiveness. Ever heard the saying that less is more?

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
6 years ago
Reply to  Money Saving

I agree we don’t want to squeeze too much in. I like to consider what I really want to accomplish and do it. And I allow relaxation time into my schedule, since that helps me meet my goals, too.

Cookster
Cookster
6 years ago

Every night about an hour before I go to bed, I list all the chores/calls/errands I need to do the next day. That gives me a handle on what I need to accomplish. I check off each one I have finished, or add it to the next day’s schedule if I could not finish that task ie a phone call not returned or an errand not brought to fruition.
This helps me immensely.

lmoot
lmoot
6 years ago

Oh man I could write a book about time management from what I’ve learned over the last year or so. I’ve been working 7 days/wk for over a year now (the only time I get off is if I specifically request a day off, otherwise I am scheduled 7 days w/out fail). I seriously considered getting a 3rd job for Mon-Fri evenings, but decided other things were more important, like my fitness. I opted to join a dance studio and treat that as a 3rd job (it’s being paid for by one of my employers). I’m there 2-3 hours per… Read more »

Cookster
Cookster
6 years ago
Reply to  lmoot

Seriously you sound like Wonder Woman! I am amazed that you can keep up this schedule. Do you have, besides dancing, anything that you enjoy? I am truly not being rude, but I think that most people couldn’t live this way and survive.
Good luck and God bless you.

lmoot
lmoot
6 years ago
Reply to  Cookster

No, not rude at all! Trust me, if someone showed me my current schedule several years ago I’d say “yeah, right. You must not know me”. Years ago after nearly 3 years in school, I changed my major from Exercise and Food science (b/c it was “too hard”) to English and Education. Yeah I could have struggled through classes and maybe have made it, but I was not there mentally and maturity-wise to deal with the classes that I convinced myself were too challenging for me. I allowed myself this “out” but only on the condition that I would not… Read more »

Cookster
Cookster
6 years ago
Reply to  lmoot

Now I understand where you are coming from. Thanks for your thoughtful answer. Just be sure you stop and smell the roses; they are the bow on the package of life.

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
6 years ago
Reply to  lmoot

You are amazing!
And I highly recommend Pimsleur’s programs! I used them to learn a new language last year. We spent two months in the country, and I received a couple of compliments from native speakers that I was catching on to the language. I had also purchased the Rosetta Stone program, but for our needs, Pimsleur was the cheaper, but more appropriate option.

lmoot
lmoot
6 years ago
Reply to  Lisa Aberle

Thanks Lisa. And thank you for the recommendation. I don’t get to ask many people who have actually used it. I have heard it’s better at getting you to actually comprehend language, than Rosetta Stone is. I may have to suck it up and just do it.

Vanessa
Vanessa
6 years ago
Reply to  lmoot

What time do you wake up and when do you go to bed?

Wonder Woman, indeed!

lmoot
lmoot
6 years ago
Reply to  Vanessa

Haha. I shoot for 6-7 hours…5-6 on busy days. if I have to forgo some chores in the morning I am all for that…sleep is important to me. I love me some sleep.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
6 years ago
Reply to  lmoot

I would have LOVED to take classes at the local college but that’s not possible with my schedule. Eh! That’s nothing but good luck. You dodged a bullet. I used to teach language in college (I was in grad school, it’s how I paid for it). It’s the worst place ever to learn a language. Classes are too large for personalized coaching (so you do “activities” with other people who are just learning), high % students are more preoccupied with their grades/prerequisites than with actual learning, and classes move way way way too slow (you need to fill up all… Read more »

imelda
imelda
6 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Actually, I learned great French in college, enough to (barely) get by at a French university for study abroad. I had never studied French before, though I did speak Spanish, which helped.

Admittedly, of those 2 years pre-France, much of it was intensive study – meaning class every day, with time in the language lab most nights.

And, of course, there is still no comparison between my level before and after studying abroad; it’s definitely the best way. But I wouldn’t knock a good college class.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
6 years ago
Reply to  imelda

Well, sure, I’d like to think I taught my students something useful, and I could see the progress they made within a semester, and also over the years (sometimes I’d get them back for a different class). People who want to learn will learn. No question.

My issue is that this is probably the least cost-effective way to learn a language. Add up the price of credit-hours, plus fees, plus overpriced textbooks, plus the dilution of attending a class with another 25 people, and you can find a much better deal elsewhere.

Carla
Carla
6 years ago
Reply to  imelda

@El Nerdo – Besides independent study and small groups, what are the best ways to learn other than travel? I will need to pass foreign language for my requirements but really don’t want to spend they money taking a series of classes just to try to get through it.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
6 years ago
Reply to  imelda

@ Carla – I would need to know a bit more. What language requirement is this? Written/spoken/academic/business? What kind of test/certificate/etc? In what language? And which way do you learn best? (Everybody has a different learning style). I’ve passed all manner of language tests, but they often have little to do with “real” life. I mean you can pass any and all test and still be completely dumbstruck trying to ask a question to a bus conductor. Anyway, whatever you do, what you MUST NOT do is to “learn by translating”… that’s the worst thing ever. Like: “gato-cat”, “perro-dog”. That’s… Read more »

Carla
Carla
6 years ago
Reply to  imelda

@El Nerdo, The requirement is 4 credits foreign language, 230 or higher – academic. I’m a visual/real life learner. With ADD and cognitive dysfunction, I rarely do well in a classroom setting. I don’t pass tests, LOL! I do pass tests, but usually in writing, English and logical math. I think in order for me to pass any test, I have to learn the information logistically and not lean on memory and drilling which I’m horrible at. Basically, (at least in my fantasy world), learn on my own and CLEP though it. The language is German. Why not Spanish? I… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
6 years ago
Reply to  imelda

@ Carla If the benchmark is “230 level” then I’d borrow the 230 level book and figure out what’s in it, then reverse-engineer the thing. E.g, what moods/tenses/whatever. Talk to the department to see what they’d include in the test. If you’re a visual learner, get yourself a pictionary to learn vocabulary. that’s how I learned English– whenever I learned a new words, I drew the meaning next to it. If it was an abstract word, I’d write down the explanation in English. NEVER a translation. NEVER NEVER NEVER. Your brain needs to learn to function in the target language.… Read more »

Carla
Carla
6 years ago
Reply to  imelda

Hey El Nerdo, I’m in Portland so I don’t have the Spanish immersion opportunities I once had. I guess I’m really bored with Spanish, honestly. Also German is similar to English in terms of vowel and consonant placement.

Once I learn how to use something in real life, I can remember it – eventually.

Thanks for the link, I will check it out! If worst comes to worst, Ill go back to Spanish.

lmoot
lmoot
6 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I don’t have time at the moment (ha) But I am so gonna reply.

lmoot
lmoot
6 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I agree with you about college language courses. I took two semesters of French (and was in the French honor society in hs) and I still learned more from hearing my mom argue with my aunt on the phone. I liked the idea of interacting with other people who speak French, face to face. But yes, the problem is how they teach it. It’s hard enough learning a language, but to have to define and identify complex grammar structure at the same time (and which to me is actually harder) is a big fail. Ask the average English speaker to… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
6 years ago
Reply to  lmoot

Lmoot– my department didn’t do grammar analysis but used modern language pedagogy instead– which is actually great. Problem is, groups are still too large and students must practice with each other instead of a native speaker. Say you put them in pairs to tell each other what they did yesterday (an activity that uses the past tense instead of analyzing it). They do it, but they don’t get proper feedback. When they mess up there is no instant reaction as there would be in real life e.g., horrid dialogue: -Hiersterday je venu au cinema. -Wee wee wee. Moi je venu… Read more »

Kate
Kate
6 years ago
Reply to  lmoot

My life is much more like this than what other commenters seem to experience. Way to go! I use written routines to streamline certain times of day and make sure certain things happen. As my priorities change, the tasks change. When I start to feel like I “don’t have time” for something, I’ll replace a less-important task with something that moves me toward a goal or desire.

lmoot
lmoot
6 years ago
Reply to  Kate

“When I start to feel like I “don’t have time” for something, I’ll replace a less-important task with something that moves me toward a goal or desire.” EXACTLY. That right there my friend is “THE secret” to living a meaningful life. It’s amazing how many people do not actively do life-planning. When we are kids we constantly have people in our faces asking us what we want to be when we grow up. It’s sad that when we actually grow up and no longer have someone asking us that question, we forget that we can still ask it of ourselves.… Read more »

superbien
superbien
6 years ago

Growing up, my mom cooked and we 3 kids cleaned on a weekly rotation – we set the table; did dishes; swept and cleaned the counters; when there was an exchange student we added some other chores so there were 4 buckets of kitchen chores. It could have been a never-ending source of sibling bickering (and I’m not saying that didn’t happen at all), but it was usually the best part of the day. Mom read to us pretty much every night until we became teenagers – we’d read 1 or 2 chapters of a special book, or a series.… Read more »

Brian @ Luke1428
Brian @ Luke1428
6 years ago

Yes…time and money are both finite. We only have a limited amount so we must use each wisely. Your suggestion to start a time budget is excellent. I did one for a whole year at work because I was trying analyze the tasks I was performing…see what I could delegate, improve on, etc. It helped me see where I was wasting time and decide what tasks were most important to my role.

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
6 years ago

I don’t remember where I read this, but the following time management tip has been really helpful. When I’m tackling my to-do list for the day, the first thing I do is tackle the item I’m dreading most. In the past, I would see that item there and put it off the entire day, finding myself doing dumb little time waster stuff all day just to avoid it. I didn’t realize how much time I was wasting just to avoid that one ‘dreaded’ item. Getting it over with not only gets it out of the way; it makes me feel… Read more »

Carla
Carla
6 years ago

Evernote and Todoist has really saved me when it comes to getting what I need done and planning. Since both apps syncs with my phone, its harder for me to forget. Journaling is also very useful for me.

Unfortunately my health doesn’t allow me to use ever waking minute of the day but I can still get more done when I have the energy.

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
6 years ago

all people in a family need to work together to make the home run like a well-oiled machine. Even small children can help. You must have a different definition of “small” than I do as it pertains to children. My daughter makes 90% of the mess in my house, and can’t clean it up given any length of time. Her attempts at cleaning anything generally result in more mess than you started with (“I will clean off this plate by dumping it’s contents on the floor! Plate’s all clean!”) My main problem here is that the things I really want… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
6 years ago

I know this isn’t the same as going on a nice leisurely daytime ride, but if you just need to keep in shape until Katie is a little more self-sufficient (gonna be a few years I imagine), get yourself a Schwinn Airdyne and kick some intervals. A mere 5 minutes are going to seem UNENDING.

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
6 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

It will seem unending because trainers are *SO BORING*. I’ve tried before, I hate “riding a bike” while staring at a wall.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
6 years ago

Ha ha ha, I get what you’re saying, I hate that stuff too, but Satan’s Tricycle doesn’t require you to sit there for 45 minutes staring at a wall/ boring TV screen/ etc. It’s a much swifter business.

Watch:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCl9Z2Q_cvs

Carla
Carla
6 years ago

If you’re doing true HIIT, you have no time to be bored, ha!

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
6 years ago

I don’t want to do high intensity interval training, I want to go for a bike ride.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
6 years ago

Yeah, I’m sorry, I can’t help you with that :/

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
6 years ago

When I first started making our kids help around the house, my son accused us of adopting them because we just wanted someone to do all our work (!). He, of course, has no idea that they create most of the mess in our house. I am not sure their help outweighs the extra work they create. But since they’re here, and since our house is more of a disaster than it used to be, they can help.

phoenix1920
phoenix1920
6 years ago

There is a danger in this “pack it all mentality.” I grew up when the women trailblazers were forging new paths and I absorbed with every fiber of my being that women can do it all. And the message that we were given is that we can have it all at the same time. I bought it hook, line, and sinker. I have been the overachiever since I can recall, from being elected as student president of my individual college, to advancing 3 times within 9 months in my first career (where I worked constant over-nighters), to law school where… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
6 years ago
Reply to  phoenix1920

Hey, Phoenix, I loved this comment. I pursue productivity not to cram more stuff into my day, but to have more time to laze about. Ha! Ha ha ha! I’m serious! We sleep about 9 hours a day in winter. But anyway, I’ve been meaning to tell you that I read your great comment on the memory/happiness thread the other day. I didn’t reply there because I didn’t know if you’d see it (as I almost didn’t see yours). Anyway, great way to bring things into the moment– reminded me a bit of James Joyce. Not sure if I should… Read more »

phoenix1920
phoenix1920
6 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

hmmmm . . . pursuing productivity to find more time to laze–I really like that!!

I think so many of us adore your posts because they challenge us. The last time I recall having the opportunity to play with deep, philosophical thoughts in my head, like Chinese baoding balls, was in college–way too many years ago. I am so glad you share your perspectives.

Carla
Carla
6 years ago
Reply to  phoenix1920

I could not have written a better comment, Phoenix1920!

Sam
Sam
6 years ago
Reply to  phoenix1920

I agree, there does have to be balance. Sitting quietly, taking a nap, even watching tv all have a place, there is a yin and a yang and you must honor both.

lmoot
lmoot
6 years ago
Reply to  phoenix1920

Awesome comment. I don’t know if I could handle your level of busy (kids and putting so many hours in at a stressful job). I’m busy but it’s mostly foofoo stuff that I could scale back anytime I wanted. I draw the line when my health becomes affected. NOTHING is worth damaging yourself. It’s a shame that our culture today rewards and encourages this, and if you’re not seen using up every second of the day you’re not aiming for your full potential. What’s the point if you burn yourself out, or can’t perform at the top of your game?… Read more »

Kasey
Kasey
6 years ago

Lisa, I always enjoy your posts. I have a request. Can you do a post that goes more in-depth with family-building and finances? I’ve tried to read all of your posts on the topic but I find myself wanting to know more. No one in our family or friend circles has adopted and it seems like the Internet only touts loans and financing options when you search the topic. I’d love to hear from someone who’s made it to the other side! 🙂

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
6 years ago
Reply to  Kasey

Thank you, Kasey. If I can make a post that is somewhat applicable to more than a few people, I would be happy to write one. If I can’t, I will write something up just for you. Look for it here in about a month. And thank you for the suggestion.

Laura
Laura
6 years ago

Great post and comments, but just reading them makes me feel tired!

Kasey
Kasey
6 years ago

That would be amazing! Thank you for considering it. I specifically wonder about things like how to choose an agency without getting scammed for fees/ knowing how to find a reputable adoption group, how does a family make themselves good candidates for the process (think modest family income and small starter home) and how do you plan the rest of your life financially when you know you’ll have to tie your resources up in this process almost entirely. (We have stopped contributing to retirement and aren’t even talking about the forever house anymore.) I don’t mean to hijack your post… Read more »

Web Design Oxford
Web Design Oxford
6 years ago

Appropriate time allocation is important. Setting deadlines (even micro managing deadlines i.e. I will get 20 SEO backlinks done before lunch). I find it can be the most effective way to get things done; especially if you make yourself finish the task at hand before getting a snack, having a cigarette, checking facebook and have them ready as a reward for when you complete the task.

That Career Girl
That Career Girl
6 years ago

It’s great to see a time saving post! I don’t have kids (and think that my friends who work, study AND have kids are absolute wonder women!) however I work full time and study. I love the idea of allocating time like a budget, I do plan to schedule out specific blocks of time for study, blogging, learning Spanish, maintaining the home, exercising, cooking, etc just so I can be less worried that I have completely overlooked something!

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