Systems & Tips

Two Contexts That Can Save You a Lot of Time

We’ve looked at how to think about your life in terms of contexts in order to make the most of every moment.

There seem to be some particular contexts that many people have problems with, but the good news is that these present a lot of potential for improvement.

Here are two such contexts to think about in terms of your life. Take a little time to consider your situation and see what plans you could implement to maximize these times.

Errands and Shopping

It seems like such common sense, but it’s been a real help for me to keep an errands folder.

Any time I’m working on something where I need to leave my home office – whether it’s buying something, going to ship something, dropping off dry cleaning, etc. – I make a note and put it in my errands folder.

When I’m going out to a meeting, I can review the folder briefly and have a list of things to do while I’m driving around town. You can even consider the location of your meeting and choose the errands that will be done nearby.

Keep a good shopping list with your errands folder. You may have to go pick up a piece of hardware for a project you’re working on – you might as well go ahead and pick up all the other items on your list while you’re in the store.

It’s also helpful for spouses to coordinate so that they can handle each other’s errands. It may not sound like a really big deal, but this has really helped my wife and me. It was a common occurrence for me to run a few errands during the day. She’d go out later, and maybe I’d even go out another time at night. A shopping list and some communication between us would have easily saved us hours.

Windows of Time

You finished a small project and now have 10 minutes before you have to leave for an appointment. Do you just leave early for the appointment? Check Email again? Take a break? What can you do to maximize that small window of time?

Some people don’t have many blocks of time like this, so it’s not a big deal for them. Others may be so covered up in Email, memos, and other minutiae that it’s not difficult to figure out what to do for 10 minutes at a time.

But for others, this is an opportunity that we don’t want to let slip by.

A little planning can go a long way here. If something can get done effectively in a small amount of time, make sure to organize it in a folder or list designated for these brief opportunities.

If you have a lot of these windows of time, you can get very strict with yourself about leaving 10-minute tasks for these 10-minute blocks. If you’re worried that an important 10-minute task may linger in the folder and not get done in an appropriate time, then just review the folder as necessary.

You could use this time to organize, clean, do some brief reading, make a quick phone call, pray, write a note to a friend, process your inbox, file, do a little exercise – or whatever. I doubt I have to give you ideas for things to do.

But here’s the key: How can you “set the table” ahead of time? How can you plan and get things ready in advance so that you can seamlessly use these small chunks of time?

If you plan to exercise, have some free weights or a jump rope close just in case. Have a list of calls ready to make or Emails to write. Have your reading materials already prioritized and ready to access.

Just like with all contexts, effectiveness doesn’t come just from what you do in the contexts but in the planning that you’ve done beforehand.

What would you do if you had 10 minutes free right now? What can you do right now to “set the table” for yourself?

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