I Don’t Have Time for That! 10 Ways to Streamline Your Day and Take Back Your Precious Time

You’re feeling frazzled and you have too much to do. You want to spend time on what really matters, but the tasks keep piling up!

The following is a list of 10 tricks that have worked for me. They’ve helped me shave off wasted time and eliminate extra stress throughout my day.

10. Schedule your outfits

One of the things that always used to trip me up in the morning was picking out my outfit for work. I’d be standing there staring into a closet of perfectly acceptable clothing thinking, “I have nothing to wear!” I’d get dressed, angrily, only to realize when I got outside that I needed a sweater and had to re-think my whole outfit. Come on!

Now I plan my outfits on Sunday. I look at the weather forecast for the week and schedule each day’s look accordingly. I use an app called Smart Closet which allows me to keep track of what’s in my closet and place outfits on a calendar. I get a reminder each morning and barely give it a second thought.

9. Pre-determine Your Lunch

I was a long-time holdout when it came to meal-prep. I felt like it was too time consuming and too boring to eat the same thing every day. So every day at work I would head to lunch and wander the food hall for 10 minutes trying to decide what I wanted, and shell out up to $15 a day to get it. Finally, between dieting, trying to save money, and being bored with the cafeteria options, I got onto meal-prepping. Every Sunday I come up with a menu, go shopping, and make big portions to back into lunch boxes. In the morning all I have to do is grab and go!

8. Have a Bedtime Routine

Is there anything more frustrating than lying awake at night unable to fall asleep? You have to be up again in 8 hours and the longer you’re awake, the less sleep you’ll get. This is why I have a series of tricks to help myself fall asleep. They’re all part of my bedtime routine. 

First, I finish whatever needs to be done on my phone or computer and then put it away for the night. This is usually setting an alarm for the morning and plugging it in. Computer screens confuse the body’s signals that it’s time for bed, so this is a good place to start. Next, I put out my clothes (see above) and light a candle. Not everyone likes candles, but I find it relaxing. Then I head to the bathroom and get ready for bed. I change into my pajamas and grab a book to read. This is also the time that I decide whether or not I’m feeling tired. If I’m too wound up, I’ll take 1mg of melatonin, but please do not do this unless your doctor advises you to do so. Typically, I’m tired enough to fall asleep within 20 minutes of cracking my book. 

So what is your bedtime routine? 

7. Organize your inbox

I’ve had a Gmail account for many years. I’ve used it both for personal and for business (and even for tracking vendor info while I was planning my wedding). I can tell you that I get a lot of emails, and many of them I want to keep. Gmail’s labels and sorting rules have kept me from going insane. I set categories for each email type and set rules so that each email is labeled as soon as it arrives. I even color-code my labels so that I can tell at a glance what type of emails are new in my inbox. For example, I use several shades of green to indicate money-related emails. One shade for the emails coming from my bank(s), one for retirement, one for receipts, and one for taxes. 

6. Stop trying to remember

If you’re anything like me, you have a thousand thoughts flying around your head at any given moment. So why would you want to add to that clutter by trying to remember to stop at the bank, or go to the post office, or pick up your pet’s meds after work? Put it on your calendar! Set a time for your reminder, or even set an alarm. Now your brain is free. You can go back to wondering if The Hop extension will ever be completed.

5. Share Your Calendar

This is a hugetime saver when you’re juggling the calendars of multiple family members. My husband and I share our Google calendars so that if he has an appointment I can see it even without being sent a calendar invite. You can read more about how to share Google calendars here.

4. Set Your Tasks to Music

The idea here is to create a playlist for your morning routine. It doesn’t matter what type of music. What matters is the length of the playlist and that it’s something you enjoy hearing every day. Time the playlist to the exact amount of time you have to get ready. Then play it every day. You’ll hear the same songs every morning and you’ll start to recognize if you’re running behind, without stopping to look at the clock. When you hear song number 5, it’s time to brush your teeth. When it’s song number 6, you have 2 minutes to put on your shoes and grab your coat. 

3. Set Decision-making Rules

Have you ever sat on the couch with your S.O. flipping through movie after movie, show after show, unable to decide what to watch? Have you ever tried to make dinner plans and you don’t know where you want to go, but you don’t like any of the suggestions? You need rules!

Give yourself a time limit or a maximum number of choices. You have to pick something within 3 minutes, or you have to choose between 3 suggestions. When you’re trying to pick a movie to watch this might mean that you pick one of 3 genres, and then you have 3 minutes to pick the best suggestion (I like threes). 

2. Methodize your Madness

This involves grouping tasks together that make sense and making them inseparable. I’ll give you an example. I used to be the worstabout washing my face in the morning. I decided the only way I was going to remember it every day was to make it part of my makeup routine. I already do my makeup every day (thank-you blond eyelashes), so what’s one more step? I’m proud to report, I now wash my face every day. 

You can use this method in other areas too. Maybe every time you leave the house you check to see if the garbage needs to go out. Maybe after each time you unload groceries you put away anything else that’s on kitchen counters. It’s all about taking something that’s already a habit and adding on.

1. Stop Leaving Wiggle Room

Sure, it’s great to play it safe, and yes, you want to be on-time, but do you really to spend 10-15 minutes staring at the ceiling after the alarm goes off before you get out of bed? If your alarm went off an hour late, would you still lie there for 15 minutes? No! You’d jump out of bed and be out the door as soon as you could! So how much time do you actually need to get everything done and get out the door on time and how much wiggle room can you cut? 

There are two ways to figure this out. One is to start trimming your time by 5 minutes a day, until you’re at risk of skipping something. Another is to get up at your normal time, but hustle like it’s a race, and see how much time is left at the end. That’s how much later you can sleep in the next day and still know that you’ll be able to get to work on time. I like this method because you can’t pretend you need more time. You’ve already proven to yourself that you don’t. Bonus: now you get more sleep!

Find what works for you

Not everything on this list will resonate with you, and that’s okay. The important thing is to find where your time is being wasted and move that energy to something better. It’s time to spend time on what you love. 

I’d love to hear what streamlining strategies you’ve come up with in your own life. Comment below!

—Written by Nina Ottman

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