I am, half-jokingly, a model of efficiency. No matter the task I’m always on the lookout for a way to do it faster and more efficiently. I love saving time for the challenge of figuring out how, and because I get more of it!
- Can I grab all twenty plastic bags full of groceries out of the trunk so I can make one trip from the garage to the kitchen instead of two?
- While these onions are sauteing for ninety seconds is there a pot or dish I can wash, so I don’t have to clean it after dinner?
- How can I sign, stuff, address, and stamp fifty Christmas cards as quickly as possible?
Time is precious. They aren’t manufacturing any more of it, you can’t get it back, and you get the same number of hours in a week like everyone else. The following are four ways I’ve reclaimed time in my life from being lost and wasted.
1. Treat food as fuel
Have you ever sat down to watch a T.V. show or movie and eaten an entire box of crackers or chips?
It’s what I call mindless eating. I’ve done it (and still do occasionally) and don’t even pay attention to the flavors I’m shoving in my pie hole.
Eighty percent of our eating is mindless, the opposite of mindful eating:
- Cooking with friends
- Dinner with the family
- Eating without distraction (books, T.V., smartphone apps)
Which begs the question – if there are times when you’re not going to pay attention to what you eat, what does it matter what you eat?
Enter the idea of food as fuel.
Meals that provide calories and nourish the body, but aren’t intended to be enjoyed.
Four out of the five meals I eat each day I treat as fuel only.
- second breakfast (like the Hobbits from Lord of the Rings)
- afternoon snack
As an example, I’ve been eating the same breakfast for the past several years: oatmeal (carbs), eggs and or egg/whites (protein and healthy fat). It takes me 60 seconds to eat. I have preset meals for second breakfast, lunch, and my afternoon snack too. They haven’t varied by a whole lot for many years.
The intent is to power up as quickly as possible and move on. To save time.
Dinner is different. I look forward to flavors, sometimes cooking, and especially a nice, slow meal on the weekends. Not only does this hack give me hours of time each week for other higher priority things, but I’ve also learned to enjoy food much more. Along with my tips to save money groceries, you get the 1–2 punch of saving time and money.
I’ve often thought if I owned a cookie store I would grow to hate cookies because I would eat them all the time. But delaying gratification to a good cookie for dinner or on the weekend is so much tastier than eating cookies all day long.
Are you losing time on mindless eating?
2. Cook in bulk
Treating food as fuel is nice in theory, but it requires some advanced preparation to make it happen. I save time by using my Instapot to cook in bulk.
- Rice and grains
- Slow cook recipes
The Instapot is my new favorite kitchen appliance. It’s recently replaced our rice cooker and two crock pots. It can steam broccoli in five minutes.
My kids get oatmeal 3–4 days a week for breakfast. I can start a batch of oatmeal including all the flavorings (vanilla, raisins or fruit, cinnamon, etc.) in less than 60 seconds. That one batch will feed my family for 7–10 days.
It’s both cheaper and healthier than the pre-packaged oatmeal sold at grocery stores. It beats taking 15 minutes to cook bacon, which we reserve for family breakfast on Saturday morning.
Is there one thing you could cook in bulk each week to save time?
3. Delete time-sucking smart-phone apps
A few years ago I didn’t use my smartphone for anything other than directions. Over time bad habits have formed. I’ve found myself checking the phone at the dinner table, and another 40–50 times a day.
I decided this needed to change. Google News was depressing. Facebook was either people bragging about their beach vacation or spewing hatred about political issues. I never left reading Facebook happier than when I opened up the app.
So I deleted those apps from my phone.
Life doesn’t exist in a vacuum. I installed the Kindle app to read books instead. I’m much happier.
I can’t recall if I’ve ever received an email so important on my phone that it couldn’t wait to be answered until I was at my computer. I’m seriously contemplating deleting mail off my phone too.
What apps do you have on your phone that are stealing your time and making you less happy than you could be?
4. Grow your wardrobe to save laundry time
This one will seem silly, but it works. If you owned two pairs of socks how often do you have to do laundry?
Every other day (unless you don’t care about how you smell to others).
If you owned fourteen pairs of socks how often do you have to do laundry?
You got that right – every two weeks.
Workout clothes make up the bulk of my laundry. I have enough shorts and Under Armour to last me about ten days before I have to stuff the washer and hang up my clothes to dry.
It goes against the grain of minimalism, but by owning more clothes, you save time by having to do laundry less frequently. There is a balance – you can only put so much laundry into the machine at one time. For me, it’s about ten days worth of clothes.
Could a few more pairs of socks or underwear stretch out your time between washings?
Your turn: Do you have a favorite life hack that gets you more time?