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Achieve Your Goals by Reducing Waste, Increasing Efficiency, and Using Your Time Wisely

The following guest post is by Kevin of Invest It Wisely.

What is the most precious and valuable resource in the world? I’ll give you a hint: It does not glitter like silver and gold, there never seems to be enough of it, and if you try to catch it, it slips out of your hands.

The most precious and valuable resource in the world is time.

I want to talk about three different ways that you can increase your life expectation by using your time wisely. Each of us only has so much time to work with, and none of us are getting any younger. By making more effective use of your time, you have a better shot at achieving your personal goals.

Improve your productivity with structured time

In today’s always-connected age, we are bombarded by requests for our attention from left and right.

One of my own dreams is to work from home, but one of the problems of working from home is that there are too many distractions; the TV is nearby, there is the temptation to “take a break” to play games or to check my email every five minutes, or I end up chatting with my significant other. I can’t imagine what it would be like if I also had kids at home.

My first tip is to cut out the noise. Time spent in recreation is important, but if you are not careful, you will wonder why you didn’t have time to do everything that you wanted to do.

First, give your most important priorities the time that they need. Structure the amount of time that you need to get things done, and then find yourself a quiet space, either in your home or nearby, where you can work and study in peace.

I find that it helps when you dedicate a place to work, study, and play, for the same reasons that your bedroom should be devoted solely to rest and spending time with the significant other. I personally like to study at the library, because I can focus strongly on the task at hand without anything nearby to distract me.

Reduce “dead” time.

We should commit to reducing as much “dead” time as possible. What is dead time? Dead time is simply another way of describing all of the time spent doing something when we would rather be doing something else.

Here are five tips to reduce your dead time and simplify your life:

Do you spend a lot of time leaving home to do groceries, go to the pharmacy, and pick up packages at the post office?
With a little bit of planning and foresight, you can cut down time wasted going back and forth dramatically. Simply make a list of everything that you need to do and everything that you need to buy, and schedule a time where you do not expect big lineups at the store. Instead of leaving the house to do your errands, you can make it a part of your regular route between work and home.
Do you hate waiting in line at the store?
Learn the times when employees get off work and lineups grow exponentially longer, so you can avoid having to wait in line for ages simply to pay for your stuff.
Do you hate waiting in line at the bank?
Sign up for online banking and bank online from the convenience of your home.
Do you spend two hours cooking every day?
Plan some of your meals ahead of time, so that you can spend a Sunday afternoon cooking all of them together in bulk. By using common ingredients, you can cook several meals ahead of time without having to eat the same thing every day.
Do you find it hard to find time to exercise?
Instead of wasting time going to and from the gym, take the stairs, park as far as you can from the store, and do bodyweight exercises inside your own home.

Trading time for money

Then there are the things we do to save a bit of money here and there, without realizing how much time this is costing us. Sometimes, it can be beneficial to trade your money for additional time.

I can think of three examples off of the top of my head:

Do you spend half an hour washing and drying the dishes every day? That is time you could be spending with the kids instead, or working on your own projects. If a dishwasher costs $500 and you value your own time at $20 an hour, then it may be worth it for you to purchase one instead of toiling over the sink every day.

What about DIY repairs? If you truly enjoy DIY, then this could be time spent wisely, but what if you spend a whole day breaking your back trying to reseal your driveway? If you end up doing a sloppy job, you’re going to have to pay somebody else to fix it, anyways.

The final example that comes to my mind is ultra frugality, whether it is making your own dryer sheets or running out of the house to save $2 on a roll of paper towels. Unless you planned your trips ahead of time, the savings won’t even cover the cost of your gas, and is the time spent in making your own dryer sheets really less valuable than the extra buck you would spend on just buying some?

Trade is mutually beneficial, and both parties are better off for it. Consider trading your money for additional time when you can put it to good use.

So, reader, what additional tips could you share on making better use of one’s time? I am not perfect, and while I try to cut down on wasted time, there are times where I slip up and wonder where all of the time went. I’d love to hear your stories.

Kevin currently lives the white collar lifestyle, but his real dream is to get out of the rat race one day. He writes at Invest It Wisely, and he enjoys exploring unvisited places around the world and gaining new experiences. He believes that by properly managing our energy and time, we can learn to invest our lives wisely.

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22 comments to Achieve Your Goals by Reducing Waste, Increasing Efficiency, and Using Your Time Wisely

  • AJ

    We just had two kiddos move in with us suddenly, so time is of the essence. Here are the things we have changed:

    1) Simpler meals.

    2) Hired a college girl to help me clean once a week.

    3) Hired someone to help us finish a DIY bathroom model because we don’t have the time or energy to finish it.

    4) Shopping online for kids clothes, etc.

  • Kevin,
    It think getting a good handle on priorities and goals are the best ways to manage one’s time. It’s not easy but very rewarding!

    BTW, I think the planning grocery store visits is very important and often overlooked. It doesn’t take that much to go during subprime times for many people.

  • If it didn’t take so much time to find good help, we’d be hiring a personal assistant about now. The to-do list is staggering.

  • Sometimes trading money for time is the best easy way out to shorten that long to do list!

  • We can usually make more money, but we can’t make more time. Without money, life is hard. Without time, there is no life.

    These are things I remember, as I make decisions on how to spend my time, how much to metal/physical energy to focus on making or saving money, and what’s really important.

    I’ve actually been working on a post on the similar topic:)

  • Jenna

    Plan your week out ahead of time. That way if last minute issues arrive you know when you can be flexible and when you can’t.

  • It is interesting because now that school has started, I am running around like a nut. I plan dinner during the day, get it all ready, and usually take it with me to wherever I am going and feeding kids in the car. (Isn’t that terrible? My daughter ate casserole and muffins on the way to soccer the other night.) Cooking is my priority, but I have to think about portability sometimes. Now that I started writing, I have no idea what all this rambling has to do with your post. :)

    Anyway, this past week I have been pretty sick and I have not been doing the usual running and cooking I do. I have spent so much time on the couch, and I can honestly say, the break has been nice. However, it has remotivated me to better use my time. When you can’t do anything, you don’t really care. But it did give me time to think about how I can maximize my time better when I am running 100 percent again. Funny how being sick has somewhat rejuvenated me.

    Thanks for the tips. I am going to work some of them into the ‘new me’.

  • Businesses realize the interest in trading money for time. We use a “Let’s Dish” service that prepackages food items for easily making really good meals and it saves a lot of time.
    I like the exercise one. With a little thought you can get a really good workout in the time it takes to get in the car and get to the gym. With the money saved buy a treadmill and some weights at a yard sale. Put some donuts on the table and the next thing you’ll know you’ll have the neighbors over. In 30 minutes you get your workout and socializing all done.

  • I’ve been working on these same challenges myself and turning my schedule every which way to make the most of it. Inevitably something gets left out daily. As far as the cooking – one of my favorite books is Once A Month Cooking by Mimi Wilson. Even if you don’t want to go the whole plan even parts of it can save a tremendous amount of time and money in food preparation.

  • 1) I do certain things at certain times of the week – Bills, Laundry (every Weds)
    2) I Wake Up and work out early in the morning
    3) I started a morning routine
    4) Instead of grocery shopping 2-3 times per week, I do it once every 2 weeks
    5) I only retrieve the mail 2-3 times per week – and I throw it into a bin where I look at it once a week, when I review and pay bills.

    All the above has seriously opened up time but more importantly by doing certain things at certain times of the week, I have less stress b’c I know that if it’s important, it’s accounted for.

  • You make a good point about DIY vs. paying someone else (more qualified and with a warranty) to do that thing we might think we wan to do ourself to save money. The author, Thomas STanley, mentions that same thing and that our time might be worth more … due to the exact reasoning you mentioned (and having to eventually pay someone else to do “it”). Time is money, indeed!

    I trully do wish I had more time in the day. I’m sure I could manage it much more wisely if I put it down on paper. If I just had the time to do it (aka: excuse #1). Workin’ a lot doesn’t help things tho’, but if I could just discipline myself (more) to keep on track. (handy excuse #2)

    I do have to say that I reduce the dead time pretty well. I make maps and decide where to go next, saving time/gas/traffic upset … instead of making a star formation criss-crossing all over the grid.

    Good Stuff Kevin. Thanks!! :)

  • I have a few time-saving exercise tricks.

    I’m a teacher, and between classes, I go downstairs to a chinup bar and I do pullups. There have been days where I’ve gone to “the bar” before my classes started, and done two sets of them. Then between each class, I do another set or two. And then after school I’ll do a quick set. Total chinups in a day: up to 200. Total time wasted traveling to the gym: zero.

    I recently had back surgery, so doing 100 in a day is where I’m at. But whether it’s 100 or 5, it’s still a workout that doesn’t cost me time.

    After school, I usually run home. If driving home takes 20 minutes, and running home takes an hour, then I get an hour’s worth of exercise for 40 minutes. It’s actually better than that because if I drive home, I spend more time looking out the window wondering if I really want to hit the trails or not. And sometimes, I talk myself out of it.

    Currently, I’m writing a book, so every page or so, I get on the floor and do pushups. It keeps me awake, alert, and I don’t have to waste time going to a gym.

    I’ve never paid for a gym membership—ever. I refuse to. Earning the money to pay for a gym membership is also a waste of time. If I can find a tree, I have a chinup bar. If I can find monkeybars, I can do dips. Have trail or road—will run. Have floor and a matt–have ab exercises.

    Then I piss around watching TV while I eat—which really messes it all up because dinner take forever then. Ahhh, to be human.

  • @AJ, shopping online saves me so much time! That is a good point. Thanks!

    @Roshawn, I love grocery shopping really late Friday or Saturday night since Kroger is so empty. :-)

    @Nicole, those to-do lists get overwhelming – I’ve decided to just tackle 2-3 things a week and consider it okay…

    @Beating the Index, that’s why we have a biweekly housekeeper and lawn guy – it just makes sense to save us hours and hours.

    @Squirrelers, I’ll definitely enjoy your post I’m sure!

    @Jenna, that is exactly why I bought a little calendar planner…it is so easy now to know what I can and can’t do.

    @Everyday Tips, I hope the new you is happy!

    @DIY Investor, I’ve been so happy with the slightly cooler weather that I took each dog for a walk yesterday – dog in one hand and my Ipod Nano in my ears to listen to an audio book – it was great! Exercise can be accomplished so easily without a gym…I feel a little stupid for being a member for about a year and barely going…

    @Carol, thanks for the suggestion!

    @Mike, we grocery shop every 2 weeks too now and it is a time saver! I need to start doing that mail thing…I like the idea!

    @ODWO, maps are a huge time saver – I don’t go anywhere without my Google Maps printout with a map of the area as well…

    @Andrew, your one comment makes me feel inferior, lol. You are driven! That’s awesome!

  • Thanks for the comments and feedback, everyone!

    @AJ
    Hiring the college girl to help you clean up definitely helps to save time and energy, and it also helps her out a bit by providing her with some lunch money and a break from studies. It’s a win-win!

    @Roshawn @ Watson Inc
    I’m reminded of when the regulations around here used to prohibit more than 4 employees total from being at a grocery store after 5 p.m. on weekends. You can imagine the huge lineups that resulted afterwards!

    @Nicole
    True that! Maybe you could consider outsourcing some of the simpler tasks?

    @BeatingTheIndex
    Thank you for inspiring some of the examples! :)

    @Squirrelers
    Great point. Even Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg cannot create more time for themselves. The best they can do is delegate!

    @Jenna
    With my current work and school schedule, things pretty much plan themselves out these days!

    @Everyday Tips
    Some off time is always important to keep things in perspective and remember what the bigger picture is all about. The casserole is much better than McDonalds every day, so don’t feel bad. :)

    @DIY Investor
    That’s pretty interesting. In keeping with the theme of pre-packaged items, what I’ll try to do is prepare a whole head of salad or something similar ahead of time, so I don’t have to repeat the steps of washing, cutting, etc…. every time I want to eat a salad for at least another 2-3 times.

    @Carol@inthetrenches
    Definitely. What my girlfriend treats me to from time to time is a whole chicken, and not the underfed ones from the chain grocery stores either, but really good ones. It is so delicious, and you can make several meals off of that one chicken alone.

    @Mike
    Yep, one way of instilling good habits is to, well, get into the habit of developing a routine of doing it! It no longer becomes something that you have to think about and stress over, but something that you just do.

    @ODWO
    Reducing dead time definitely helps, and I find that structured time definitely helps me out a lot, too. In the same 4 hour timespan I can study and finish my homework at the library, where I might only get half of it done if I’m at home and I spend time cooking, chatting with the gf about how our days went, etc….
    It is obviously important to eat and socialize, but what I mean is that by structuring your time, you actually give yourself MORE time to eat & socialize because you can get a lot more done during the times when you’re focusing strictly on the tasks at hand.

    @Andrew Hallam
    As always, I marvel at your perseverance and fighting spirit, while simultaneously feeling that I need to kick myself a little harder. :P It really comes down to the mind! Thanks for being an inspiration, Andrew.

    @Crystal @ BFS
    Thanks for sharing your own thoughts, and thanks for giving me the opportunity to guest post! :)

  • I had a very unorganised week last week and was feeling ill/hungover, behind on home DIY chores plus I was lazy with my own work and played video games for most of one day…. It felt awful and I can’t get that time back.

    However I am facing this week in a better way and today has been good so far. Looking forward to keeping this going. My diet also suffered from being unorganised as I ate random stuff and didn’t balance nutrition very well.

    I used to love my local library back in Canada but sadly I don’t have a cool library like that nearby here so it’s coffee shops for me.

  • @Forest, oh, I hate that laggy feeling I get some weeks! Hope your momentum keeps up this week. :-)

  • There are two things on your list that really burn me up about Dead Time. Those are taking all day to cook and finding time to exercise.

    I must admit that I have found that you just have to make time to exercise. What works for me is in the mornings, getting up and getting a bit of work done, getting kids off to school, then coming back and working out immediately.

    As for cooking, that is something different as it still takes me a bunch of time. I never do the prep work ahead of time. but a fellow Yakezie member, Forest, has given me a few pointers on making sure that I have a prep day during each week and this should help me out a lot with the cooking.

    Going to give it a shot and make sure I reduce my dead time!

  • @Forest

    Haha, I know about the “playing video games all day” time sucks. I haven’t updated my video card nor bought a PS3, so there’s less of that temptation around…

    @Real Estate Investing

    Regarding exercise, yep, one really just has to make the time for it. If that means an hour or more in going to a gym and back, then it’s less likely… if it’s something you can do at your home in the mornings or evening, then you have less excuses for yourself. This is what I keep telling myself… ;)

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