How To Save Time and Reduce Your Daily Stress Level

I live by lists. I have a weekly grocery list. I have a “To Do” list. I keep a list of ideas that come to me at odd moments so that I don’t lose the thought. I make a list while sitting at the computer and working on my business, jotting down things I need to remember as I move from one task to another. Occasionally, I don’t add something to my list, thinking that I will surely remember it because it’s important. BIG MISTAKE.

Lists are our friends. They save us incredible amounts of time and help to keep us organized. Here is an example of how I organize my grocery/errand list. Every time a family member says we are out of something, it goes on the list. Whenever someone says, “Next time you’re at the store. . .” it goes on the list. Any items I need for our family meals that week go on the list. Some people group their grocery list according to location of items in their particular grocery store. I like that idea.

My errand list goes on the back of my grocery list. Usually it includes the bank, some specialty stores, the post office, etc. Before I leave the driveway, I take a pen and put numbers next to each item in order of their location. By doing this ahead of time, I know that my errands will flow in the most time efficient manner.

Where you keep your lists, whether they’re color coded, and other such considerations are a matter of personal choice. Since I spend so much time at the computer, I usually keep most of my lists at that desk. I prefer hard copy lists for most things, although I do keep business items in a software organizer that can be printed out when needed.

We lead busy lives. Trusting our memories can be a risky venture, especially when so many items compete for our attention in any given 24-hour period. Keeping lists is a great way to save time, keep in the flow of things, and reduce the stress level so many of us experience on a daily basis.

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Why am I standing here?

I placed a piece of bread in the toaster this morning and spent a few seconds staring at it as if in a dream state. Suddenly, the thought entered my head: Why am I just standing here?

I quickly changed modes and began cleaning out the coffee maker. I then wiped down the counters and range hood. All of this was accomplished before the toast popped up. I thought about how many seconds and minutes are wasted throughout a day doing just what I was doing this morning – nothing.

Recently, I read an article on how to gain an hour each day. In a nutshell, it described the very thing I experienced during the toast incident. Most people waste away seconds here and minutes there on a daily basis. By redirecting that time into something productive, we gain more time to do the things we desire. Time passed can never be regained. It’s worth thinking about.

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How to say no (and only no).

About a year ago I received a call from someone wanting me to do a mailing within my neighborhood for a charity organization. At the time, I was helping with the care of my mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s type dementia. I explained to the caller that I was the primary caregiver for my mother, that my mother had Alzheimer’s disease, and that free time did not exist in my world.

Believe it or not, the caller went on to say that it would only take me about an hour to address the envelopes and surely I could find that much time to help their organization. As I listened to all her prepackaged comebacks for subjects that didn’t answer “yes,” I thought about some sound advice I had been given years before and how I had forgotten to apply it with this caller.

When the woman finally took a breath, I interjected this question: “Excuse me, but have you ever cared for an Alzheimer’s patient, even for as little as 24 hours?” The phone went silent. After a few seconds, she mumbled what I think was an apology and hung up.

You’ve probably experienced the above scenario many times. In fact, I’m sure we’ve all been there and we’ve all regretted saying yes when we should have said no. Why is it so hard to say that little two-letter word? In most cases, it’s because we just can’t say no without following it with a long string of justifications, reasons, and excuses. It’s as if we’re on trial and must give a defense for our answer. So to avoid the whole unpleasantness of the situation, we say yes. Then we hang up the phone and wish we had never answered it in the first place.

I recently read an article that presented a number of similar situations along with sample answers that one could use in order to say no and satisfy the person making the request. However, real life experience has taught me that few (if any) justifications or reasons are ever good enough. For every reason I put forward as to why I can’t do something, the person making the request will find a way around it, informing me that I can if I just do as they say.

Here is the sage advice that came to mind during my experience with the charity caller.

1. Know your life priorities (e.g., family, friends, church, work, previous commitments, etc.)
2. When asked to do something that will compromise your time priorities, politely say “No, I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to do that.” Do not give reasons or make excuses.
3. If the person making the request asks you for a reason, simply rephrase your answer and say “I’m sorry, but I simply can’ t do (whatever it is) at this time.”
4. If appropriate, you may suggest someone who can or offer your help in the future if possible.

Personally, I have found this advice highly effective. Callers often have a prepared arsenal of rebuttals for every excuse they hear. When you don’t give any, they have nothing at which to fire back. I must warn you that it will feel awkward at first because you will be tempted to justify yourself. Don’t give in. You’ve appraised your priorities and know what you can and cannot do. When “no” is the honest answer, enjoy the freedom that honestly brings.

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Saving minutes, spending hours

I learned early in life the importance of compounding interest. Little did I know at the time that the same principal could be carried over into other areas of life. An example that sticks in my mind is from a chart I saw years ago where different snack foods were listed along with their prices. The prices were multiplied times 52 weeks, arriving at the amount of money that could be saved if an item were dropped from one’s shopping list for a year. I found its message persuasive and began to think of other ways I could apply the principal. A $3.50 bag of chips doesn’t move me, but $182.00 does!

Similarly, 5 minutes saved here and there hardly seems worth writing about. However, saving 5 minutes a day adds up to 35 minutes a week. Although 35 minutes stills seems unimpressive, 30.33 hours a year gets my attention. I have used “5 minutes” for my example because this small amount of time can be saved by anyone, even the most time-challenged person around. With a little thought, most of us could save a lot more time than that.

For me, time is a treasured asset. And the time I spend thinking about how to save more of it for the things I love is time well invested.

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