We all have them (oh hi, Angry Birds), and often we don't even know how much of our day we spend on what can only be affectionately referred to as time-wasters. Spend a few days monitoring your time so you're aware of everything you do in a day, from sending emails and shopping online to dinner prep and post-meal clean-up -- and everything in between. Every time you sneak a peek at Facebook, write it down. Document every Tweet, every text and every five minutes playing solitaire on your iPhone. Now add up the things you don't need to be doing. Chances are you waste hours each week on useless things you don't need to be doing - so kick those time-wasters to the curb.
Get organized and get more done by designating specific days for certain tasks. Make a list of all the chores you need to do in a week (laundry, cleaning, catching up on email, grocery shopping, etc.) and slot each into a different day. That way you won't waste time trying to figure out what to do -- it will be already scheduled for you. Put a large dry-erase board in your office or somewhere you'll see it daily and write out each day's tasks so you know exactly what's on the list for that day.
It's amazing how much time gets wasted because you can't remember something important you thought about yesterday afternoon but now can't recall. Keep a notepad with you -- or better yet, one in your car, one in your purse and one by your nightstand -- where you can jot down all those little things you want to get done. From recipes to try to birthday gifts to buy to weekend activities, the more organized you are when it comes to what you want to do the easier it will be to get things done.
While designating days is helpful, creating a detailed schedule takes your time-saving strategy to another level. Take your list of daily tasks and add them to your overall schedule. For example, Monday will have things like laundry and grocery shopping -- but don't stop there. Add in everything you need to accomplish that day. Notice how we didn't say "want" to accomplish? This isn't about maybes and what-ifs; it's about getting all of your must-dos crossed off your list minus a meltdown. Every meeting, every appointment, every phone call you have to make -- write it down. If you can, use Sunday afternoon to create your detailed plan for the week ahead.
While we have nothing against multi-tasking (we're been known to juggle several tasks at once on many occasions), when it comes to making the best use of your time, completing one task before you move to the next is often your best bet. That way your focus is on one thing, rather than being pulled in several different directions, which can be a drain on your energy. Plus crossing things off your to-do list feels good, whereas flitting back and forth between several tasks (more than five or six) means you may not finish any of them before the day is over.
Buying and cooking in bulk can be a huge time-saver in the long run. When it comes to shopping, look at what you need regularly and use often and buy lots of it (as long as you have the storage, of course). Things like toothpaste, tissues, shampoo, soap and laundry detergent are household essentials so if you have the room to store extra, you'll save time by not having to run out in a pinch to restock. As for cooking, make-ahead meals you can freeze are great time-savers and perfect for those days you just don't feel like cooking. You can also freeze things like sauces and stocks in ice cube trays for use when you're in a hurry. Whole-wheat pasta + pesto you made and froze in the summer = quick and delicious dinner.
Do you suffer from do-it-all syndrome? Many of us do, but you aren't responsible for the whole household all the time. Buy yourself some time by delegating tasks to your spouse and kids. Give your hubby one or two dinner-making nights (maybe nights where you want to squeeze in a Pilates class), have your kids clear the table, load/unload the dishwasher and do other simple but helpful tasks that take some of the pressure off of you.
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