It’s Time to Save Time

Save TimeYesterday I survived on goldfish crackers because I didn’t have the time to go grocery shopping.

When you become self-employed, time takes on a new meaning. It’s hard to justify sitting still, because you could use that time to be improving your business.

It’s also hard to justify doing a lower-value task – say, shopping – when something more important needs accomplished. And what’s worse, time-demands start to cut into leisure and vacation time, creating stress and threatening your health.

My financial stability and flexibility have, in other words, come at the cost of more responsibility. So, over the last couple of years, I’ve been looking for ways to free myself up from many daily distractions and time sinks.

If you’re in the same boat, here are some things you might find helpful:

  • Start the day from a top-down perspective.

Instead of checking e-mail or getting on Facebook first thing in the morning, take some time to plan out your day (and not other people’s idea of how your day ought to go – e.g. e-mail). The value of this is that it forces you to prioritize your tasks and be realistic about what you’ll actually accomplish.

  • Multi-task only when waiting.

It takes quite a lot of self-control, but I try to multi-task only when I’m putting one task on hold to wait for input from someone else, or to give my mind a break.This applies to creative work as well as grunt work. For instance, I try to answer all of my e-mails at once and I even close my e-mail client(!) when I’m not doing this.

  • Batch your work.

Similarly, I try to batch my work. So – ideally – there’s a “creative” time of day when I’m working on music or writing. There’s a time of day where I’m taking care of odds and ends. There’s a time of day when I’m cleaning, etc.

  • Outsource and trade money for time.

Man this one is tough – but increasingly necessary.  I can screw around with coding for several hours, or I can actually hire someone on elance.com who knows what he’s doing.

Services like task rabbit seem mixed. I can pay someone to go shopping, but if it takes them 3 hours to leisurely stroll about the store (my experience, unfortunately) I’m getting billed for a lot of wasted time. The key seems to be to find a few reliable people who I can depend on.

  • Automate as much as possible.

From watering the lawn to automatic bill payments – set it and forget it. I even use Amazon subscribe-and-save to deliver my non-perishables every month.

Those are my big 5 things. For me, learning to hire others and automating tasks are the areas in which I can improve the most. Really, it’s embarrassing that I still sit down to write a check on my rent each month instead of just having it automatically drafted.

Then again, it’s equally embarrassing that I survived on goldfish crackers for a day. What do you think? I’m open to suggestions and tips, so if you have time-saving advice let me know in the comments below!

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