How often do you hear yourself or others say: ‘I have no time’? Is it a lack of time or is it not optimising your time? Time is one of our most precious assets. If you’re busy trying to strike a good work-life balance, finding ways to save time is really helpful. These different ways are particularly useful if you work from home or remotely but many are equally applicable if you’re just working and living in the modern world!
Before looking at ways to save time, it is useful to know how you actually spend time.
Many of us underestimate how long we spend doing certain activities. We may underestimate how long it takes to finish a piece of work as well as how long we spend looking at our phones.
Doing a simple time audit will give you a picture of how you use the hours you have each day. It can be confronting!
Try to get specific and honest – record details about how you spend work and leisure time.
Our phones can also give us certain data on how much screen time we have spent and what apps take up most of our time.
Use the time audit not to shame yourself but to see where tweaks can be made. It brings awareness to what takes up most of your time and where you might be able to save time if you put in boundaries or reminders.
Do you know what your biggest distractions are that result in you wasting time?
Common distractions include our smart phones: notifications and message alerts from email and other apps can pull us away from our work. The addictive nature of these apps also means we end up spending a lot longer on the platforms than we intended and before we know it, half an hour or more of time has passed.
Clutter and mess around our workspace can also serve as a distraction, as can digital clutter, or even having many browser tabs open. Children, pets, neighbours, and deliveries to our homes can all prove distracting if we let them.
When you know how you get most easily distracted, you can figure out ways to eliminate or minimise those distractions so that you save more time.
The batching boost
Batching is great because you can do this in many areas of your life. It refers to batching your tasks so you can get into a good workflow. It also means you aren’t switching tasks constantly, or trying to multitask, which can see you losing time through context shifting. Your brain takes a while to switch modes and regain focus.
Think about batching your work tasks. This is mostly helpful if you have certain processes in your job that you do repeatedly. This could mean: editing several podcast episodes together or batch preparing social media posts. It might mean creating several templates in one go, or dictating or digitising all your notes rather than doing little bits here and there in a scattered fashion.
Batching can also apply to batch cooking or batch preparing snacks, which is a useful way to save time if you have a busy family.
Read the article on how to use batching for your workflow in volume 3 of The Homeworker guide.
This simple habit to get into is one of the best ways to save time in the morning. Taking a few minutes to prepare the night before means you’re not hunting for missing items or spending time making decisions about what to wear or what to do!
A few things you can prepare include:
- Getting your clothes out for the morning
- Prioritising your to-do list
- Charging up all devices
- Tidy your workspace and locate pens and essentials for the morning
Doing this gives you a head start first thing and is one of the ways to save time by eliminating the trivial decision making and minutiae.
Time-saving apps and technology are really useful to help us automate processes we often do repeatedly.
Emails are a perfect example. They could include simple auto-responders to emails after a certain time, to automatic tagging and filing of emails, to the automatic sending of emails when somebody signs up or registers with you.
Automation is often used with accounting apps and platforms but however you use it, it can help save you time by removing small processes in your day that could be delegated to technology.
Using a digital calendar for your work and sharing between family members is a simple way to use tech to save you time. You might also have a more sophisticated system set up to automate particular workflows.
The benefits are not just removing time consuming tasks from your to-do list. Automation can remove the risk of human error, allow you to integrate multiple processes, and scale by doing a higher volume of the same tasks.
Automation also means we can synch up our different devices so that we aren’t repeating the same effort multiple times.
Self-awareness, as discussed here, is really important for working from home. Knowing yourself better also saves you a lot of time. If you know when you are most alert, when you are best suited for focused work, or when you are most likely to have an energy slump, you can try to tailor your day to accommodate these peaks in energy.
It is not always possible if you have meetings scheduled with other people but it can help you to schedule your tasks. more effectively.
If you are aware that your energy levels dip at 2pm, rather than wasting that time forcing yourself to do work that will take longer and may not be to your usual standard, you can use this period to do something more passive or to go for a walk, coming back feeling more refreshed and energised.
If you know you have a productive hour from 8 am, then you can maximise your time by scheduling tasks requiring more thought in that period.
Pairing up activities
In our roundup of work from home tips, we included pairing up activities to help save you time.
This might includes exercising while listening to a book on audible or walking the dog while taking a work call.
It is one time when multi-tasking can be productive. As long as the activities are done intentionally, are compatible, and don’t detract from each other, doing them simultaneously is one of the best ways to save time in your week.