There is much written about time management, but this article focuses on how to save time at home. Why? The point of time management is not to squeeze every bit of productivity out of each minute. Recently, I enjoyed a good laugh when I read this quote:
“Her love of books she inherited chiefly from her mother, who found it hard to sweep or cook or sew when there was a novel in the house.” – Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin
All joking aside, the point of time management is to make sure you have time for what matters to you. One of my goals with this blog is to inspire women to minimize the mundane to make more room for the sublime. What are your big goals? Maybe you want to start a home business or homeschool your kids and still have a life. Or just have time for exercise and good books! Here are some ways to do that.
How To Save Time at Home
1 – Track your time for a week (or longer)
In order to save time, you first need to know how you’re spending it. (Similar to how creating a budget is most effective after a period of tracking your spending.) Laura Vanderkam, a favorite writer of mine, explains more in her excellent book: 168 Hours, You Have More Time Than You Think.
I’ve done a few time tracking experiments and they’re always eye-opening! They show how you may be spending a lot of time on something that you don’t truly value. It may out of bad habit or fatigue or just plain mismanagement, but knowledge is power. Seeing it on paper helps you evaluate whether the way you are spending your minutes is how you truly want to be spending them.
2- How to save time at home: stop shopping and order needed things online
One of the most time-consuming (and for me, exhausting) things moms do is procure stuff for their families. Especially in a large family, it seems that every week someone needs new shoes. We’re always running out of eggs and half-and-half. Etc. Some of this is unavoidable. But I minimize the time I spend shopping by ordering as much as I can online, including using Amazon Subscribe & Save for those needed household products.
I also have my older daughters pick out their own clothes on ThredUp and Schoola. They add stuff to the cart, then I look it over before buying. (And these two companies have great return policies. We’ve taken advantage of that a few times! And bonus – I save money too, since these are online consignment stores.)
If you enjoy shopping and consider it a valuable use of time, that’s one thing. But if your budget isn’t happy, try this list of things to do instead of shop.
2 – Outline your day/week/month in a planner
I use my Bullet Journal for this and it works better for me than other systems I’ve tried. It really doesn’t matter what tool you use, just use it! Have a system for outlining your day, week and month that’s easily accessible at your fingertips. (Hint: dozens of post-it notes or loose scraps of paper in your purse isn’t a system.)
Having an idea of your goals and writing down your objectives galvanizes your mind. When you know what to do next, you reduce decision fatigue (because you’ve chosen ahead of time, and are now just following your own instructions, which makes the brain relax). And you get the important stuff done. Like reading that novel on the couch.
I owe this concept to Katy Bowman, a biomechanist who writes books about health and movement. Katy talks about “stacking your life” in order to fit more movement into your day. It’s a refreshing, less stressful alternative to multi-tasking (which your brain doesn’t do well). She explains more in this podcast.
As an example, I want to move my body every day. And I want to have some quality time with my teens. So, I take a walk or bike with my teens every day. (Even better when that walk or bike ride was to an actual destination, accomplishing an errand too!) What are some things you want to accomplish that you can stack together, instead of thinking about them as separate components?
4 – Know yourself
Managing time is also about managing energy, which rises and falls during the day. Knowing this means we can plan the activities that require more energy at peak times, and ones that don’t, at chill times.
Also, if you’re in introvert, don’t worry about having to say no sometimes. If you know that a social event will leave you exhausted for the rest of the day, well sometimes ain’t nobody got time for that. No need to apologize about prioritizing your goals.
5 – Outsource, minimize, delegate
One of the key lessons I learned from the book 168 Hours, mentioned above, is the concept of core competencies. Core competencies are things you are uniquely qualified to do. Examples: nurturing relationships, exercise, spirituality. They also include the things you excel at. But everything else?
Minimize, outsource and delegate it. Depending on your budget, you may be able to outsource a lot of tasks (I outsource my clothes shopping to StitchFix because shopping is something I intensely dislike). If not, look around and see if there are people around you who enjoy doing what you dread. Could you swap chores with them?
In a podcast, Marie Kondo recently explained that she loved tidying and organizing so much, she did it for free for friends and family. When word got around, people started offering her money to do it for them, and an international business and best-selling books have been the result.
An excellent way to minimize? Automate bill-paying by setting up auto-pay online. My utility bills are all paid automatically online. Who has time to write all those checks?
6 – How to save time at home cleaning: cut the crap
This is doubly true if you have children. And if you do, they should be helping you with household chores. Young kids can be taught how to clean their rooms, and the less stuff they own, the easier it is. Kids a bit older can do their own laundry and help you cook and clean as well.
When it comes to super-efficient household cleaning, nobody teaches it better than Don Aslett.
7 – How to save time at home: have a well-ordered kitchen
Feeding your family is another time-consuming task. One of the ways to minimize this is to spend less time in the store and less time hanging out in front of the fridge wondering what’s for dinner. Spending a few minutes making a meal plan and shopping list can save time both in the store and at home.
There are lots of ways to get food on the table faster too. Batch cooking, cook once/eat twice, freezer cooking, slow cooker and “one pot” Dutch oven meals (see my post with 3 of my favorite simple healthy cookbooks for recommendations) are all useful tricks. One of my time-saving kitchen hacks? Diced frozen veggies. See more tips here: cook dinner faster and easier.
I have a great resource to recommend here: The Well-Ordered Kitchen. It’s on sale today. Take a look!
8 – Opt for a minimalist wardrobe and simple skin/hair/makeup routine
Oh how I love having a small, well-curated wardrobe of pieces that I love (because they fit and flatter)! More about a minimalist wardrobe here. Could you shave off a few minutes a day by simplifying your skin care and makeup routine? One of the biggest reasons I stopped covering my grey is because I hated how much time it took.
9 – Minimize screen time
What a huge time thief screens can be. I doubt anyone ever went to their grave wishing they had spent more time in front of one. I think we turn on the TV or pick up our phones to scroll through Instagram more out of fatigue or boredom than anything else. (Loneliness is also a big factor.)
Try cutting out TV entirely for a week to see how it feels. My family has done several TV-free weeks and for many years, we didn’t own one at all. Put the phone in an inconvenient place. Make sure you always have a good book nearby so that when you’re tired or bored, you can pick it up and read instead. If you think you might have a problem with cell phone addiction, read this.
10 – Bonus tip for the homeschooling moms
Simplify homeschooling. Focus on the big subjects, and let your kids learn from delving deeply into their hobbies and interests. Encourage independence and buy curriculum that doesn’t require a ton of prep work from you. Reading aloud to several kids at once and creating a culture of books in your home will do more for their education than any fancy, expensive curriculum. More on simplifying homeschooling here.
What are your best tips on how to save time at home? What do you prioritize?