There is a group of people out there in the world that take deep pride in being extremely, overwhelmingly busy. You know them. They are The Busy People, and their answer to innocent inquiries of "How are you?" are met with "Sooooo busy, I can't even talk to you because in the four seconds we've interacted I just received six emails."
Sometimes, a member of The Busy People finds out about this blog. "You must have a lot of time on your hands," they say. This is one of the most disappointing things that someone can say to me, right up there with "I'm sorry, but we are out of cookie dough ice cream" at Baskin Robbins and the recorded American Airlines voicemail telling me my flight has been delayed.
The truth is, we all have the exact same amount of time in a day. How we choose to prioritize and use it is discretionary. In my humble opinion, I think The Busy People are simply lacking either the will or the means to ruthlessly prioritize their time. Quite frankly, we've all got plenty of demands on our time and if we don't have an approach to determine how best to spend it, we'd also be passing judgement on those who make it to yoga while we're combing through our thousandth email.
A few years ago, I read Greg McKewon's Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, and it changed how I thought about (and spent) my time. It helped me to become more disciplined on how I allocated it, and gave me some tactics for making space for things that add value to my life (for example, exercising, snuggling with my dog, dating my husband, or writing this blog).
Here are some of the best time-saving strategies I've found:
#1 Pre-schedule everything
Every hear of the 5 P's? Not the marketing framework, but the time management one: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. The ability to maintain my split creative-and-corporate personas, along with my personal life, is all thanks to pre-scheduling my time and sticking to a system that makes it as easy as possible for me to meet my commitments. (Although my neglect of this blog lately suggests my ruthless prioritization approach needs to be revisited...)
For work, I plan out my upcoming week on Fridays, getting my to-do lists together, blocking time on my calendar for heads-down tasks, and confirming meetings, appointments, dinners, etc. Reminders are set up in Outlook for all work and personal tasks, covering everything from workouts, nail and hair appointments and conference calls.
For writing, I plan out my content creation schedule well ahead of time, carving time out on the plane to write and on the weekends to take photos. I schedule most of my Instagram shares with Latergramme so it sends me a pre-scheduled reminder to post during a time when I can take a break to do it.
#2 Streamline your morning routine
Proper planning in the evening helps me get ready in as little as 15 minutes in the morning. Selecting my outfit, shoes, coat, laying out my jewelry, makeup and hair supplies and pre-packing my bag with everything I need before heading out the door makes this possible. Since I travel Monday through Thursday, my outfits are already selected and ready to go. Adhering to the French approach to hair care (ahem, investing in a great cut every 6-8 weeks, shampooing just a couple times per week and allowing to air dry always with no product save for a little sea salt spray) means that I'm literally wash-and-go.
#3 Automate everything
That is bill payments, rent, banking, you name it. If you can automate it, I'm on it and believe it is a true failure to have to get in the car to "run an errand." I do not run errands, partly due to my deep and undying love of Amazon. I truly believe that if you can't get it on Amazon Prime, you don't really need it. Nearly all of my pantry staples, toiletries, makeup, vitamins, etc. I order via Amazon Prime and I love that you can schedule auto-shipments for things you use often (I'm looking at you, Nespresso pods).
#4 Outsource wherever possible
Although I embrace fulfilling DIY activities, those are creative outlets and therefore deemed worthy of my time. Other activities such as doing my own web design, walking my dog, developing a fitness regimen, etc. are things that I hire professionals to do for me and it is worth every penny in the time it gives me to devote to other things.
#5 Eliminate unnecessary things from your life
Marie Kondo would agree with me when I say that every object we own - be it a kitchen appliance, a couch, or a pair of pants - requires our time and attention. Some are more high maintenance than others, but still demand care. Selling off my beloved (but perpetually parked) Honda Civic eliminated oil changes, check ups, license and registration renewals, gas station visits, insurance payments, etc. from my life and my transportation needs were replaced with low-commitment, low-cost Uber and L rides. Downsizing my wardrobe has helped save me time in processing, packing, and hemming-and-hawing about whether the item looks good. (If you're hemming and hawing, it doesn't.)
#6 Use "dead" time wisely
Many people I work with hate traveling. I've re-framed travel time to represent "me" time, and use my weekly flights to invest in my self-development. Occasionally I get a bad case of the Mondays, but usually look forward to my Americano and quality time with my Kindle. Without that time, I wouldn't be able to read a book per week. Time walking to the office from my hotel or sitting in traffic is used to think and re-assess, or call my mom, sister or friend I've been meaning to check on. When I can't sleep or am waiting in the doctor's office, I write. It's amazing how much you get back if you start to re-think the moments you waste in transit.
#7 Learn to say no
This is an extremely hard one to do, but necessary to give yourself space to devote time to who and what you really care about. Social events like weekend getaways, mimosa-filled brunches, and movie nights are things that I try to keep to a minimum so I can invest time in my family and passions. I'm extremely careful to commit to work-related requests that don't add value to either my clients, other colleagues, or my professional skills. This may sound terrible, but if my "obligation" sensors go up (as in, "I feel obligated to do this, but don't really want to") I make it a policy of saying no.
#8 Put first things first
At my consulting firm, we have an adage that gets passed around regarding life priorities that goes something like this: "Think of your life as a set of balls. Three of them are glass, and the fourth rubber. Your family, faith and health are the glass balls that will shatter if dropped. Your career will always bounce back." I fully believe this is true. My family, husband and close-knit friends are the loves of my life and I spend most of my time with them. The decisions I make in my life and career are guided by my faith and values, even when it may be counter-cultural. My health is an investment, and I'll never think twice about the money I spend on a personal trainer, the food I eat, or the sleep I demand (which I explain to my colleagues as: "I'm not a morning or night person - best between 10 and 3!" before inviting them to Bikram).
Ok folks, that's all I have for now. Would love to hear any time-saving or prioritization tricks that work well for you, as I'm always refining my approach!