I’ve always disliked the question of how one can find an extra 15 minutes a day. The easiest way to find 15 minutes is to turn off the television which, according to the American Time Use Survey, 77 percent of Americans watch on any given weekday, and 80 percent do on the weekend. Of people who turn on the television, the average time is 3.31 hours on weekdays and 3.98 hours on weekends. That’s for television as a primary activity — meaning people are watching it, not just having it on in the background.
That said, after years of thinking about how I spend my time, I have come up with a few tiny hacks that shave some seconds off my routines. These aren’t the biggies, like “don’t watch television except on the treadmill” or “order everything you can on Amazon.” These are, instead, the little “latte factors” of time (to borrow David Bach’s phrase). When chucked, they free up a few minutes here and there — though not a lot in the grand scheme of things. Just like lattes and money. Here are a eight of mine:
1. Too-slow running. I realized that running the “slow” parts of intervals on the treadmill at 5.0 mph feels pretty much the same as 5.2 mph, but I save 30 seconds per mile. Over 3 miles that’s enough to get an extra set in on the weight machines. One reason I’m trying to get faster in general is that if I go from 5.7 mph as a normal run (10:30/mile, roughly) to 6.3 mph (9:30/mile, roughly) I can save 1000 minutes over a 1000-mile year.
2. Hair drying. If I shower at night, I wake up with dry hair, which I then curl. If I shower in the morning, I either have to dry it or wait for it to dry before I can curl it. It looks slightly better if I blow dry it, so if I have something big, I’ll shower in the A.M. But otherwise it isn’t worth it.
3. Making something new for lunch. I’ve started making one meal in the Crock Pot on Monday, which I then eat for lunches the rest of the week. Favorites include chili or chicken with mushroom, tomato and rice. Crock Pot prep takes roughly 5 minutes, and then daily lunch prep time is basically the 90 seconds it takes to heat the leftovers in the microwave. This is faster than zapping Lean Cuisine meals — which take about 4 minutes in the microwave.
4. Making the bed. Confession time: I don’t make my bed every day. There’s a whole school of thought that says making the bed first thing makes you happy or leads to a more productive day but I don’t spend much of my day (except sleeping time) in my bedroom, and no one else does either. See my post about how Your cupboard is not a metaphor for life. There’s a hilarious Ask Mr. Whys Guy column in this month’s Redbook in which a reader asks him why her husband won’t put the throw pillows on the bed when he’s making the bed. Mr. Whys Guy responds, in a rather elegant rant, that bed throw pillows are a waste of time.
5. Daily kid baths. In the winter, we’re a 2-3x/week kind of family.
6. Mid-week shopping trips. I’ve started to buy two gallons of milk at a time. We don’t always need two gallons a week, but the point is to avoid having to make that mid-week trip if I can. It doesn’t always work, because sometimes we run out of other, unforeseen things.
7. Inefficient processing. When unloading the dishwasher, rather than carry over the children’s plastic cups in small quantities to their cupboard, I stack them up and transport them all at the same time. See what I mean by tiny hacks? That saves all of 30 seconds.
8. Making and labeling specific files. I create one rough draft file each month. All my blog posts and most of my articles get written there first before being posted. Some interview notes go in there too. I back this file up, but having fewer files means less time searching for stuff. If I wrote it in February, I know where it is.
What are your lattes of time — little things that are relatively easy to trim?
Photo courtesy flickr user stevecadman