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Do you remember what it's like to just lie down on the couch and watch TV, without a care in the world?
Like many working moms, I feel guilty not doing anything productive with my 'free' time. If I'm watching Netflix, I'm usually also putting away laundry, washing dishes, or exercising. And, if I'm not doing those things, I'm thinking about doing them!
As a doctor, blogger and mom, I know what it's like to feel short on time, all of the time.
In this post, I'll share my time-saving and productivity tricks to make the most of your time.
1. Don't Wash Your Hair Everyday
My hairstylist warned that daily washing was stripping away my hair's natural oils, leaving it dull and dry. I've since cut down to washing every other day.
Along with healthier-looking hair, I have more time: each day I omit shampooing, conditioning, and drying, I save about 30 minutes. So, if I'm washing my hair three times a week instead of seven, that's two hours saved per week!
Granted, there are some between-wash days where my hair looks oily or flat. The fix? Dry shampoo to sop up the oil and add volume!
My current go-to dry shampoo is this powder one by Verb ($14.13, Amazon.com):
It has a barely-there, clean fragrance, and adds a good amount of volume at the scalp---the perfect remedy for post-workout, flat, sweaty hair! I remember using dry shampoo more than regular shampoo the first six months after my son was born.
If you've read my 'New Mom's Survival Kit' post, you'll know I consider dry shampoo an essential in those early postpartum days!
Another hair-related efficiency tip: shower in the evening. This cuts way down on the time it takes to get ready in the morning. For me, this means an extra half hour of sleep. (If you've read my Leesa mattress review post, you'll know how important sleep is to me!)
2. Adopt A Weekday Capsule Wardrobe (aka Work Uniform)
Think of decision-making as just another time-consuming task. I used to find that outfit selection alone could take upwards of ten minutes.
I've since decluttered my closet and drastically reduced my work wardrobe.
I kept only the pieces that I feel comfortable and confident wearing. I now have just a handful of shirts, skirts, blazers and 'dressy' jeans to choose from each morning. I'll have more on my capsule work wardrobe in a future post!
If a capsule wardrobe's not for you, consider setting out your work outfit the night before to save time the next morning. You can do the same with your kids' clothes.
There are even hanging closet organizers ($11.99, Amazon.com) that allow you to plan a whole week's worth of kids' clothes at once.
3. Adopt A Weekday Capsule Makeup Kit
I'm the kind of weirdo who doesn't leave the house (let alone answer the door) without makeup on. I also really enjoy playing with different kinds of makeup---when I have the time.
On weekday mornings, however, I limit the myself to just one of each type of cosmetic (one eyeshadow palette, one lipstick, etc.). As with clothing, eliminating makeup decision-making saves time.
My entire makeup routine takes just five to ten minutes (depending on the amount of help my son needs with his morning routine).
As you can see above, my weekday capsule makeup kit contains just eight items. The fewer products you use, the more time you'll save. Unless you're a Kardashian, you can probably do without highlighting and contouring on weekday mornings...
4. Have A Designated Spot For Your Out-the-Door Essentials
Parking your keys, wallet, headphones, transit pass (and any other things you can't leave home without) in the same place each day will save time otherwise spent frantically searching for these things on your way out.
The best way to do this is with a purse organizer insert in which you can transport your belongings, en masse, from one purse to another. This also ensures that nothing gets left behind in your 'other' purse.
Purse Organizer ($8.99, Amazon.com).
Felt Purse Organizer ($24.69, Amazon.ca).
Within my purse organizer, there's a designated spot for each item. After using one for a few days, you'll be able to fish your keys out of your purse without even looking!
For more on this, check out my post on how to use a purse organizer to declutter your handbag.
Wherever possible, automate. For us, this includes everything from automatic pre-payments from our account for recurring bills to programming our Roomba to vacuum while we're at work.
iRobot Roomba 690 ($299, Amazon.com).
You can even automate things like the delivery of groceries and household goods. Amazon has a 'Subscribe & Save' service, which allows you to customize what’s delivered to your home at set intervals (i.e. monthly deliveries of diapers, detergent, paper towels, etc.). This also saves you money, as there's a discount on items purchased via subscription.
Guess what, Canadian friends? The Subscribe & Save service is also available on Amazon.ca! This is something I'm excited to try!
6. Multitask Strategically
It may go without saying that accomplishing two tasks at once saves time. However, this is only the case if you can do so efficiently.
The key is to make sure that neither task requires a lot of concentration; the time it takes to complete both tasks simultaneously should be less than that required to do each separately.
Some good pairings include: returning calls or listening to podcasts/eBooks while putting away laundry, washing the dishes, or walking the dog. Bad combos: attempting to read or write while doing anything involving your kids.
You can also get things done on your commute. I take public transit to work; during the ride, I catch up on medical journals and podcasts, as well as write blog posts on my phone (Wix offers a user-friendly app that allows you to edit your blog on a mobile device).
I recommend Wix to anyone interested in starting a blog or website. Especially, if like me, you don't know how to code. It's intuitive and user-friendly for even the most tech un-savvy!
7. Set Firm Deadlines
If you set aside a specific amount of time to complete a task, you're less likely to dawdle and get distracted. There's a saying: a task will expand to fill the time available for it's completion. So, designating a specific amount of time for a project will improve your efficiency.
If you need help staying focused, consider the Pomodoro technique, which involves using a timer to break a task into uninterrupted work intervals with five minute breaks each half hour.
The thought is that regular breaks improve motivation and reduce distractibility. I've started doing this when writing blog posts and it's significantly improved my productivity by limiting phone-checking (my time-wasting black hole) to break periods.
Image via Life Hacker.
8. Make Lists
List-making = time-saving.
Creating a to-do list for daily goals and errands helps to mentally prepare and plan ahead. It also aids in deciding how much time to allocate to each task, which prevents you from spending too much time on any one task.
Using a shopping list for trips to the supermarket and mall also saves time; you can head straight for what you need and avoid having to return for that thing you forgot because you didn't have a list. You'll also save money if you manage stick to your list. (This is something I'm still working on...)
9. Find Efficiencies In Meal Prep
There are many things I enjoy. Cooking is not one of them! I like to batch and freeze, since it means that I get three or four meals out of one cooking session.
Using an Instant Pot to prepare batched meals reduces prep time even further. You may recall it's one of my favourite gadgets for a tidy home.
Our kitchen hero: the Instant Pot ($79.99, Amazon.com).
If you’re responsible for making your kid’s school lunch, consider preparing it alongside dinner, or immediately after, so that you only have to clean the kitchen once.
10. Get Stuff Done Even When Your Kids Are Around
Who says quality time with kids has to involve LEGO or time at the park? Just because you're getting something done doesn’t mean it doesn’t count! Even if your kids aren't old enough to be helpful, consider doing your housework and running errands with them in tow.
Admittedly, it took me a while to get the hang of this one. I used to save a lot of activities for when my son was asleep or out of the house. Most things are so much easier when your kids aren't around.
Now that my son's four, he’s able to help put away his laundry. Not only does this speed up the process (well, sort of...), but it gets him in the habit of helping out around the house.
He also has a weekly grocery date with his dad that they both enjoy, and I've started exercising with him around. He likes to follow along, attempting the moves and laughing at my attempts. When possible, I do some of the exercises with him on my back. This amounts to exercise for the both of us, time together, and tiring him out. A win anyway you slice it!
11. Just Say No
Now, I could have stopped at ‘10,’ because it’s a nice, even number. But, I think this one’s the most important tip of all. Time is your most valuable resource and it's finite (trite, but true). Saying 'yes' to something usually means having to say 'no' to something else (whether it's sleep, time with your kids, or just relaxing at home).
Your kid will be just fine if you don't take him to every birthday party or playdate! Your in-laws will get over it if you don't accompany your husband and kids to each visit!
As an introvert whose day job requires constant social interaction, I fiercely defend my alone time outside of work.
Over the years, I've learned to prioritize the people and activities that mean the most to me and have cut out or delegated everything (and everyone) else.
I'm a KonMari junkie. As with belongings, I believe in decluttering your social life---cutting out people and activities that don't serve a purpose or 'spark joy.' I know this sounds self-serving---and it is---but, you've gotta do what you've gotta do.