Everything today demands our time - Increasing work schedules, traffic, kids, cleaning the house and other daily commitments drive our stress levels to the breaking point. Below are the top ten ways that technology can help you take back some time for yourself and enjoy life just a little bit more.
1. Automate where possible – The last few years have provided quite a few options for automating daily tasks, including automatic litterboxes, robotic vacuums and mopping bots, lawnmowers that cut the grass then return to the base to charge, automatic indoor plant watering and more. These devices seem like a bargain when you factor in the hours per week they save, adding that time back into your life for things you want to do.
2. Sleep more efficiently – Several new products have come out that track your sleeping patterns and wake you gently when you’re already the most awake. You wake up feeling refreshed and can even view your sleep patterns on the computer afterwards. There’s a setting for the latest time you can wake up, so you will be woken up before that time, when the software senses you’re most awake. You may end up waking a half-hour earlier than normal if the sensors determine this is optimal, but you can always use that time to make breakfast or catch up on the news.
3. Make your tv-time count – Many people have jumped on the PVR bandwagon lately, and for good reason. If you haven’t experienced watching TV with full control of pausing, skipping commercials and jumping back (for the “what did they just say?” moments) you owe it to yourself to try one out. All your favorite shows are queued up and waiting for you, and without commercials the dramatic or funny scenes are much more effective and engaging.
4. Work from home once in a while – The benefits of working from home are well documented, and many companies have official policies with computer requirements and guidelines. Usually a VPN or document is available to have a home computer configured for work use. It never hurts to ask, especially if you have a package arriving or the kids are coming home early – The time saved by not commuting in traffic is usually spent getting more work done, so the companies benefit as well.
5. Shop online – Most of the time spent driving to a store, waiting in line and paying the often-inflated prices can be avoided by shopping online. Much of the reasoning behind shopping at a brick-and-mortar store is the instant gratification of getting the product immediately. Yet often we research, plan and realize we’re going to purchase the item days or weeks in advance. Using that lead-time to order the item online results in having the item in your hands at the same time, but usually with a substantial cost savings over waiting and purchasing at a physical location – As an added bonus, the time saved not driving to the store, waiting in line and driving home is added back into your life.
6. Make a list of things you don’t like doing, then outsource – Outsourcing isn’t just for companies anymore. An entire service industry has popped up to take care of life’s little annoyances. Everything from cleaning up after your dog to doing the grocery shopping for you is available for a moderate fee, leaving more time for you to do the things you like doing.
7. Pay bills online – Even if you already pay bills online, you can save yourself even more time by selecting the automatic payment option available from most banks. The funds are automatically set to the correct amount, and the date is adjusted to the due date, so you don’t pay any more interest on the money than necessary. If you are still paying bills through the mail or at the bank in person you stand to save even more time by eliminating it from your routine altogether. If you’re worried about making sure funds are available for these auto-payments, you can set the payment date to any date you’d like – including a day or two after your pay-cheque each month.
8. Schedule your enjoyment – Most of us are used to using Outlook or another calendar to schedule our work meetings and deliverables, so why is it that home and personal commitments don’t have the same benefit? Many excellent calendaring solutions are available for personal schedules, and by entering an important event or time with a loved one in the schedule you are much more likely to spend that time doing something you enjoy, rather than letting it fill up with the little “to-do’s.”
9. Shift your working hours – Most employers are flexible to an hour time shift in either direction from ‘normal’ hours, and a one-hour shift can make a world of difference in commute times. Saving 30 minutes each way in traffic adds up to over 20 hours per month – That’s almost an entire day per month back!
10. Quit your job – No, really. With a range of options for self-employment while working from home, everything from craft creation to website design to offering consulting services can enable you to work more flexible hours, and demand higher rates, so the net result is more time back in your life.