5 Tips to gain back time every day

I recently started taking a closer look at the time we spend looking for things. The studies I looked up which evaluate time spent looking for misplaced items vary between 10 and 55 minutes a day. This means that even if we are extremely conservative, 10 minutes per day times an average of 60 adult years adds up to 3 650 hours spent searching for things we own but can’t find. That’s half a year in an average lifetime. Looking for things. Amazing in a not so positive way. 

I’d like to offer five strategies to gain back some of that time, based on the things we’re so often looking for. I’ve narrowed my attention to keys, cell phones, and paperwork.  
 
Keys 

Let’s start with a low-hanging fruit: this first tip is easy and can be done in 5 minutes flat. How many of us misplace our keys regularly? 

Installing hooks by the door you use to come into the house is essential. I’m a big fan of 3M Command hooks which don’t require holes and don’t damage the wall if you choose to remove them, but simple nails will also work.

Of course the hooks aren’t going to work like a magnet, and thus you need to ensure you follow through in the habit of hanging your keys on the hook. One hook per key set is ideal. Just like any habits, it takes anywhere between 21 and 30 days to really set in, so be patient with yourself. It may even help to put visual reminders like a post-it note written KEYS on the surfaces you tend to drop them normally to subtly remind yourself of their new home. 

Cell phones 

I’m often asked for tips on not losing cell phones in the house, especially for us ladies who don’t always have pockets on our business attire. I recommend you dedicate one home for the cell phone, and drop it off once you hang up your coat when you come home. This will be both its home and the charging station.  If like me, you have a hard time leaving work aside and you are making a conscious effort to be more present, I find it best to keep it out of view during the evening  - i.e. out of the kitchen and dining room. The entryway is a great place if you have a power outlet adjacent. And so in one swift move you can hang your keys on the hook, drop the phone at its charging station and center your attention to the present moment with your family.   

While I have the luxury of doing this now that I am an entrepreneur, the story was different while I was managing an essential service in my previous life. If you’re finding yourself in high demand even after regular work hours, informing your team what hours you are unavailable, and at what time you’ll be checking texts and phone messages is liberating and beneficial. When we set our boundaries, surprisingly team members and superiors respect it and are even positively influenced to do the same for themselves. If need be, share your home phone number with a trusted colleague who will know where to reach you in case that emergency really happens. But let’s be honest, 99% of the time there was no reason to interrupt quality time with your family.  

Paperwork 

It’s difficult (read impossible) to summarize paperwork organizing solutions in a few paragraphs, however remember that like anything else, paperwork categories need ONE home and everyone who requires access to that paperwork needs to know what that home is. I like to break it down into four categories of paperwork: daily reference, weekly reference, long-term reference and dormant paperwork stuck in boxes, closets and storage rooms. 

We’ll focus on the first two categories as they make us waste the most time on a regular basis. These are made up of the shopping list and meal plan we wrote up over the weekend and can’t find anymore now that we're leaving for the grocery store. The address to the birthday party on the invitation that’s lying around somewhere around the house since you RSVP’d  and which you know you didn’t recycle - and the party is about to begin without your (very disappointed) child. We all have our paperwork demons! Since this category is a monster, it consequently comes with three tips to help you attain paperwork sanity.   

For the immediate action required and daily reference I’m a devoted advocate of command centers where you'll pin weekly meal plans, to do lists, and any other paper you need access to every day or which require immediate action. It can be put together on a wall or inside a pantry door. It combines well with a physical or virtual family calendar so that everyone knows what is on the program. The added bonus to a virtual family calendar app is that it is available anywhere in real time and often comes with list-building capabilities.  In my case that’s just magic. I can’t lose a virtual list. Can you hear the angels singing? 

For the weekly reference, the family binder is the key to any happy family! This is where you’ll organize ‘that pile' on your countertop which includes emergency information for the sitter, the school calendar and information about the next ped day, the flyer you kept to schedule the spring window washing services, your children’s friends phone numbers on random pieces of paper, the city’s activities guide of the season, the birthday party invitations, take-out menus and the list (and pile) goes on and on… If you dedicate one binder divided into clear categories, you, your spouse and your kids will know exactly where to find the reference items. The bonus is saved time in addition to shared responsibility of any given task. And also fewer conflicts because everyone knows where to find and put away each item.   

At the end of the day, these productivity hacks enable you to gain back precious time. But I often like to remind myself to be mindful of that freed up time, and reinvest it in quality time with the family.  Let’s make sure we’re productive to do more of the things that matter: Ten minutes equates to one more story at bed time, a nice chat over a glass of wine with your spouse to debrief on the day once the kids are in bed or if you tally it up it becomes an hour long conversation with a dear friend of sibling. And that is the best reason to get organized. So which of these tips will you be putting into action? Happy organizing!  

Mylène Houle Morency is a Professional Organizer, Speaker and owner of Zen :: Organisation familiale, which specializes in organizing families with children ranging from newborn to the teenage years. She has the firm conviction that organized homes help parents become the parents they want to be, by freeing up time and diminishing stress. She has the privilege to lovingly test all her theories and organization inspirations on her husband and three children!

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