December 22, 2010

Time Savers: If Not Now, When?

This time of year is when most of us, retired or not, feel the most pressure to get the most done in the least amount of time. The holidays bring their own agenda: shopping, planning, cooking, parties, decorations, did I mention shopping? Through a really bad case of foresight, the year ends at the same time. That adds the thrill of closing out your budget and financial books for this year while guessing what next year will bring. It means last minute tax maneuvers. It means more parties, cooking, plans, full calendars, and, oh yeah, shopping. Frankly, it all conspires against having a satisfying retirement.

Do you always seem to be playing catch up? Do you end your day with a longer list of things to-do than you started? Are you stressed by how you spend your time? Looking for a way to be more productive with our time is a  continuing battle. Here are some steps you can take right now to help regain control of your clock, during the holiday season, or anytime.

Cut back on what you own. Our bigger living spaces and more possessions come with a double price: the cost to purchase them and then the time to maintain them. Adopt a simpler lifestyle and you will free up time previously spent on cleaning, fixing, and replacing. If you simplify enough, you may be able to work fewer hours because you are buying less stuff.

Eliminate major time wasters. Most lists would start with the television. The typical American watches 5 hours of TV every single day. Do you realize that equals 6 days in front of the tube every month. What could you do with an extra 6 days over the next 30? Turn off the television and find out.

Keep a detailed time log. For the next week, write down what you do and for how long. The idea is to get a real handle on where your time goes. Just like you need a budget to control the money you spend, you can’t save time if you aren’t really sure how you are spending it.

Re-think your routines and habits. Every morning I used to begin the day by reading two newspapers. Often that took an hour. It finally dawned on me that morning is when I’m most productive. It was a mistake to spend an hour or more on something I could do later in the day. Changing that one habit has made a huge difference in what I accomplish before lunch. How much of your schedule is habit instead of what is most productive? Pull out your time log and look for anything that might produce better results if you make a change.

Consolidate your errands. If you make several trips in the car to run errands you are wasting money and time. With a little planning you may find you can do it all in one trip instead of several. How about waiting until tomorrow? What about running errands three days a week instead of six?

Go on a diet - an Internet and social media diet. It is likely your time log will show that you’re spending large chunks of time checking your e-mail, Facebook friends, tweets, or just surfing away on the Internet without a real purpose. If that’s the case, go on an electronic diet. Ditch the mindless wandering from site to site. Realize a tweet can go unread for more than a few minutes. E-mail doesn't spoil, so check it later. Spend time at the sites that are important to you or help you solve a problem (like Satisfying Retirement!). Just like you lose weight by cutting calories, you gain time by cutting back the time you waste on the computer.

Do some chores at different times. Some of that time you are not spending in front of the TV or computer can be used for doing chores usually reserved for weekends. Just 30 minutes a few nights a week dedicated to chores will save more of your weekend for relaxing, having fun, or being with family and friends. Grab back your weekends.

Learn to say “No” to some of the requests for your time. It is good to help others who need you, just not to excess, Learn to say “Sorry” to stuff you really don’t want to do. Be a bit choosier about the volunteer work you accept. If someone is overusing your generous nature, become unavailable. Understand you are sacrificing your time to give someone else more time. Some sacrifice is good. A lot is probably not.

Time is the single most valuable resource we have. It is irreplaceable. It is priceless. We can’t increase it, but we can make the most of what we have. What you do with your time can be the difference between a satisfying retirement and productive life, or one that is constantly stressed and unfulfilled. What is your time plan?

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  1. I like the internet and social media diet. I cannot remember the last time I was in a restaurant where people were actually talking to each other rather than texting or reading emails. Imagine what we could learn about each other if we talked real time face-to-face, like in the olden days...

  2. Morning, Dave,

    I have forced myself to put on my daily schedule when I am "allowed" to check Twitter and e-mails. It is too easy to become obsessive about it.

    I'm not sure a lot of those people on phones in restaurants would know what to talk about if faced with actual conversation. The concept of a conversation no longer involves the actual use of one's voice.

  3. Perfect. I enjoyed reading Satisfying Retirement tonight, but will move on now to save some time :--).

  4. J,

    Good one! You spent time with an important corner of the Internet, now on to other things.

  5. Good article. I have had to rethink some things lately and one of those was what I do first thing in the morning. If I get on the computer I stay to long but like you I am most productive first thing in the morning and I am trying to get myself to get busy and do my sitting later in the day. I am glad I checked in on your blog today because I was also thinking of a commitment I have made for the new year and what it would take to actually accomplish it. Your article just reinforced what I had come up with. Thanks.

  6. Sue,

    First of all, thanks a lot for the link on your blog. I really do appreciate it.

    About the morning thing, isn't it interesting how habits build up over time and it takes real effort on our part to break a less-then-productive one.

    I'll have a post next Wednesday about goal-setting for the new year. I think you'll find it interesting.

  7. Bob,
    Those are good suggestions but you probably need another one before any of these work. Get organzed about managing your life. If I could manage that one, the others wouldn't be necessary.

  8. Organization..the ultimate four letter word of life. Before almost anything else is the ability to plan what you are are going to do.

    Happy holidays, Ralph.


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