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Finding an extra hour in the day
Farah Alkhalisi, consumer and lifestyle journalist and Clare Evans, time management expert and author of the best-selling Time Management For Dummies.
When the evenings start to draw in and the clocks go back, it can feel as if we've been cheated – we lose those hours of much-needed light in the evening, and it can seem like more of a struggle to get everything done by the end of the day. Now's the time to be super-efficient and find yourself an extra hour in the day.
Get your household in order
How much time do you waste on searching for things, tidying up everyone's mess, doing the chores and generally trying to keep your house in some semblance of order? Avoid that sinking feeling as the less important tasks slip down the priority list; take control with some simple time saving tips.
1) Shop efficiently
Try doing your weekly shop online to save yourself a trip to the supermarket, as well as helping to avoid impulse buys. Shopping list apps and collection services like M&S Food to Order can also help you save yourself some time if you do prefer to do the grocery shop in person.
2) Prepare your meals in advance
Plan what you would like to cook, and shop accordingly. Why not buy a slow cooker – that way, dinner can be ready as you return home. And freeze leftovers, or cook more than you'll need and save a portion for later in the week.
3) Get your wardrobe straight
Tidy up and sort out your wardrobe so you can find an outfit straight away with shoes to match; store your out-of-season clothes to clear space; be ruthless about what you no longer wear and take the excess to the charity shop or a shwopping event; divide clothes into work and leisure.
4) Get tough with your family
Set a rota of tasks and stick to it; if incentives such as pocket money, sweets or special treats are required, so be it.
5) Sort your stuff
De-clutter and sort those cupboards, drawers and long-forgotten storage areas so you know where to locate everything including those extension cables, spare batteries, light bulbs and other items you can never find. Sacrifice space to make space – put up shelving in a recess or porch cupboard to stow away household tools.
Save time looking
after your money
Setting aside time to sorting out your finances will pay dividends, but there are ways to do this more efficiently. Here are some tips to help you:1)
Allocate a set time to do all your online banking.2)
Set up direct debits to save time on paying bills.3)
Go paperless – opt for online-only statements and save time on filing.4)
Use banking apps that give you an instant balance and mini-statement.5)
Use text alerts to warn you when you are close to your overdraft limit.
Quick morning time savers
Streamline your morning routine and get out of the house in record time. Here's how:
Pin a planner up so you know who's meant to be where – and when. (Save 5 minutes)
Put things away so you know where to find them when you need them. Store your keys, mobile and wallet together in an accessible place. (Save 5–10 minutes)
Use separate bags for gym, football and dancing kit etc. You'll avoid wasted time and frustration as you usher the children out the door and off to school. (Save 10 minutes)
Put out what you need for the following day the night before – clothes, briefcase etc. Avoid scrabbling around trying to find things before you leave. (Save 10 minutes)
To check your own time habits and find ways to create more time in your day, download Clare's free Time Audit at www.clareevans.co.uk.
How to make
your life easier
Look at your day, your week, your month. What do you want to achieve this year? Next year? Work backwards from where you want to be. 'Begin with the end in mind', as Stephen R. Covey recommends in his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Use a timer
A simple kitchen timer, phone or app (FocusBoosterApp.com) will help you stick to a time limit for tasks. “I'll just spend 10 minutes on …” often turns into half an hour. Set it when you start and see how much more focused you are when the clock is ticking.
Use your diary
For more than just meetings and appointments but also for reminders,
calls to make, notes, target dates etc. – and review it daily.
Group similar tasks together, such as emails and calls. Allocate time in the week for routine activities. Set time limits to stay focused and avoid distractions.
Add a little colour
Use colour in your diary, whether it's paper or digital, to highlight and block out different meetings, tasks and projects. Make it more creative, visual and satisfying to work with.
You may already employ an accountant to help with your taxes, but there are other routine tasks and time-consuming chores that could be delegated. While you might not want to go as far as the software developer who outsourced his entire job to a lower-paid consultant in China, you could offload the duties you dislike the most.
“It seemed a real indulgence to hire a cleaner for a few hours a week,” says Lucy Tennant, a teacher and single mother of two. “But the time she saves me is invaluable. I can spend more quality time with the kids and am also freed up to do extra work, such as exam-marking, in the evenings.”
Whether you are employed or self-employed, it's worthwhile costing out the price to outsource: depending on your own hourly or daily rate, rather than taking
time off from your work to do some DIY or decorating, it might be cheaper to hire someone else to do the job. A professional tradesperson may be able to do it more quickly, too – and to a higher standard.
One of the best ways of saving time is to multi-task. This can make some jobs more enjoyable – or bearable. Here are some ideas:1)
If you commute by bus or train, use this time to plan ahead and give yourself a head start when you get to work. You'll find that you feel more relaxed when you arrive, and it will make your day more efficient.2)
If you are ironing, driving, cooking or running on the treadmill, you could use the time to listen to an audio book, learn a language or catch up with your podcasts.3)
Consider combining exercise and social events by meeting friends for a walk or a Zumba class – and if you are on a diet, this could have the added advantage of helping you to reach your weight-loss goal.
“My husband's a shift worker, so we have to juggle things”, says Michelle Porter, a self-employed mother of two children aged three and seven, from Lewes, East Sussex. “When he's out at work, I work at home in the evenings when the children are in bed. It's actually better in the winter, as in the summer they don't want to go to bed until it gets dark at nine!”
She has to schedule herself carefully: “I look at the day and see what time I can get – I'm quite focused. I can put the dinner in the oven or stick the laundry on and do an hour's work; I've learnt to work in small chunks.”
Michelle applies her time-management skills not only to carve out time for her own creative writing, but to run an online business helping others with their self-organisation. As Porter's
Bespoke Office Services, she supplies administrative and editorial support by the hour to clients including artists, jazz singers and antiques dealers.
“Some creative types are really bad at being organised – they just sling all their receipts in a box and then panic two days before their tax return is due”, she says. “With some clients, I sort out their accounts or other paperwork and put a system in place for them to then do it themselves”.
The views expressed here are solely those of the author,
and do not necessarily reflect the views of M&S Bank.About this article