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Why You Should Ignore Some Time-Saving Tips

Eager to maximize your time? Don’t be fooled–those 10 minutes you’re trying to save on your morning commute may not be worth the effort.

Why You Should Ignore Some Time-Saving Tips
[Photo: Flickr user stuartpilbrow]

I love time-saving tips as much as anyone. I clip articles on 20-minute recipes. I’ve spent more mental energy than I care to admit figuring out a quicker way to unload the dishwasher.

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Recently, I spoke with a publication that wanted to help readers shave minutes from their routines so they could make time to exercise.

Here are more time-saving ideas to consider. More efficient wardrobe choices buys two minutes. Coffee brewed at home means skipping the coffee shop line, and that buys another five minutes or so.

As a compulsive time saver, this all makes sense. But the more I thought about it, I realized I wasn’t sure how many people would get to work seven minutes early, bundle those seven minutes with a five-minute shorter lunch, build in eight minutes with keyboard shortcuts, and use those 20 minutes to squeeze in a workout.

If most of us try to get to work seven minutes early, then we may spend those seven minutes in our inboxes. But let’s get real–we could spend our entire lives sorting out our inboxes. So what’s the point? When we have bits of time we fill them, but not with things that matter.

Two Ways To Save Time

You can find a million ways to save minutes, but you don’t build the life you want by saving time. You build the life you want, and then time saves itself.

This is why I like two different approaches to time. Rather than looking to save bits of time here and there, start by asking yourself exactly what you’re saving that time for. Make a list of anything you want to do more of in your life.

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  • Is it getting to the gym?
  • Is it hanging out with friends?

Commit to scheduling in at least one such activity per week–ideally in a way that makes it impossible to wriggle out of.

If you like watching professional basketball, and you buy tickets to a game, chances are you will move around your life to be there for tip-off. You’ll naturally end meetings earlier and not start anything complicated at 5 p.m. You won’t spend time puttering around when you need to get out the door.

Focus on the big stuff. It’s fine to figure out a more efficient way to unload the dishwasher, but a better approach is to track your time for a few days–or a week if you can–and take an honest look at what is and isn’t adding value to your life.

Do you watch TV shows at night you don’t care about? Go to bed earlier and get up earlier, and turn those unproductive evening hours into productive morning ones.

Are you running errands on weekend mornings when you could get those items delivered? Those hours can be repurposed for hobbies, or going out for brunch with your family.

Sometimes we get so obsessed with saving bits of time we fail to see the big picture staring at us. Saving two minutes doesn’t do much for you. Canceling a weekly two-hour meeting that’s long outlived its usefulness? That time really does add up.

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About the author

Laura Vanderkam is the author of several time management and productivity books, including I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time (Portfolio, June 9, 2015), What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast (Portfolio, 2013), and 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think (Portfolio, 2010). She blogs at www.lauravanderkam.com.

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