AJ: I would consider us really busy people. We both have full-time jobs, we both take on part-time job-like opportunities semi-regularly, we serve on a few boards and committees and we have everyday life stuff on top of that. If there’s a way to save time and more efficiently handle the obligatory stuff we’re accountable to, we’re all ears!
KJ: I’m a big proponent of finding new ways to do things in my life – work or personal – more efficiently. Whether it’s cutting down on the amount of time reading e-mails, doing chores around the house, or reducing the time spent on repetitive work tasks, there’s always room for improvement. Plus, the extra time saved can then be used to further develop your “human capital” – i.e. earning potential – or spent on more family time. Here are a few things that I have done that have had a large impact on my day-to-day.
Gmail ‘archive’ e-mails
KJ: I came across this about six months ago on a fellow personal finance blogger’s site (Our Freaking Budget), and it has tremendously improved my ability to stay on top of personal e-mails. Basically what you do is follow these three easy steps:
(1) Decide if an e-mail is needed for future reference, if not, delete it,
(2) Determine if the e-mail is simply an FYI and if no further action is needed, then ‘archive it’
(3) Evaluate if the e-mail has some follow-up necessary, and keep it.
Using this simple method allows me to log into Gmail (whether on the iPad, phone, or computer) and only see e-mails in my Inbox requiring further attention. Then, once the task or follow-up has been completed, then I delete it or archive it. At any given time, I may have 5-30 e-mails requiring anything from ‘pack for a trip’ to ‘download the most recent statement for a bank account,’ but it helps me stay on top of all of the e-mails and make sure I’m not missing anything.
I do a similar thing with my work e-mails where the ONLY e-mails that I keep in my inbox are ones that have some type of action or subsequent follow-up I may need to do in the future. All else gets deleted or moved to a subfolder for later reference.
Shared calendars in Gmail
KJ: Angela and I have been using the shared calendar feature in Gmail for many years now, and we would be lost without it! We have access to add something to one another’s calendar, and we use it to keep up with family member’s birthdays, workout schedules, late work schedules, trip details, alumni board meetings, reminders to go to the bank, etc. Since it’s always so hard to keep track of what day it is anyways, it’s a great tool to stay on top of all of life’s important events. Plus, if you need a reminder a day, week, or month in advance, you can have it alert you in the calendar application or have it send you a reminder e-mail (great for family birthday reminders!).
AJ: Sometimes I literally find out about dinner plans or work trips Kirby has scheduled by looking at my phone calendar. As I said, we’re busy! Sometimes it’s hard enough just to set yourself a reminder, let alone inform your significant other of the plans. Cut you and your partner some slack and share a calendar. Use it to feed your pets, take your vitamins, whatever you need!
Consider Dragon Dictation
KJ: We’ve probably all seen the commercials with the lady using the Dragon Dictation software to draft an e-mail. In case you haven’t, Dragon Dictation is a computer dictation program that allows you to speak into a headset while it transcribes what you say. While I have definitely not utilized the system to it’s fullest – and I type quite rapidly – it can be a great time saver for basic e-mails or other text related items. I got mine on the cheap (I think for about $20 after a mail-in rebate that also included a headset), so shop around and give it a try. With the way that the average person types, you can significantly improve the speed at which you communicate by speaking instead of typing. Sure, it has some nuances in that you have to punctuate as you talk, but it’s not like a keyboard was profoundly intuitive for any of us when we got our first computer, and we all learned how to use that now didn’t we?
Take an Excel class
KJ: Search for local communities to take an Excel class. You would be surprised what you can learn in an Excel class that could tremendously improve the speed (and accuracy!) in which you do something. I am a bit biased since I carpool with a coworker that works in IT, but it’s amazing the types of mundane and repetitive tasks you can eliminate with the click of a button. Need to compare two lists regularly to see if there are outliers or new entries? Need some quick statistics on the information you review weekly? There’s bound to be a better way to do it and allow you to focus your time on more important tasks like improving your work product or building your business by leveraging your relationships with business contacts. Win-win in my book. Doing a quick internet search or speaking with your local library to see if there are any Excel (or IT) groups for free is a good start.
AJ: Ditto for Power Point. Even if you’re not creating a presentation for the board of your company, learn how to manipulate images and text quickly and easily to save time when you really need it.
Flipboard – your media content aggregator
KJ: I recently discovered the app (available on the iPhone, iPad, and Droid) called Flipboard. It is a great little (FREE) tool to aggregate a lot of your data in one place. You can have a box for Twitter, Facebook, Blog feeds, News, cool pictures, LinkedIn, etc. and it is free! It’s very easy to setup all of these services, and it allows you to have one centralized place for reading all of your favorite content.
This popular app has it’s foundation on storing items in the “cloud.” We use this for work quite regularly as a conduit to transfer documents between an iPad and a computer, but I use this for personal items too – like pictures. I’m still not comfortable with cloud based storage as a permanent solution, but I like to drag/drop my photos and other documents to the cloud, then retrieve them to put onto a hard drive for more permanent, long-term storage.
And last, but certainly not least, is Mint.com. The (free) software has been a tremendous enhancement to how we budget and keep track of our expenses. It is not perfect (no system is or can be), but it helps us stay on track with our goals and budget categories each and every month. It saves us countless hours in reconciling our expenses and other items each month. We’d certainly be lost without it!
- What have you found that has helped you maximize your time?
Do/can you use the extra time to spend with family or work?
Tell us about improvements that you have seen that have changed your life.
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