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How to squeeze more time out of your day

Editor’s note: The following is a blog entry for “Ms. Simplicity” that appears on the Echo Press website under Areavoices. It is written by Melissa Schmalenberger, a professional organizer based in Fargo, North Dakota.

We all have the same 24 hours in the day and it is up to us to use those hours wisely. Some days I wonder where the time has gone. While other days I am amazed at how much I can get done.

I started to think about what I do that is natural to me that saves me time and could possibly save you time as well:

I don’t watch much television. Our family gave up cable about three years ago now. I found that I had a DVR full of shows that I recorded that seemed to just be another to do on my list. My husband would remind me that I had all of these shows to watch. I called him the DVR dictator. It wasn’t fun. I still have my few favorite shows to watch, but I now binge watch them as a series on a rainy day. I realized early on that I really don’t miss cable and my marriage is happy now that the DVR dictator has been fired.

I run errands in a circle. I usually plan my route before I run errands. I visually plan where in town I need to go. I don’t want to do any backtracking. This means that I may go to a different grocery store if it is on my route home. I know that I want to make right turns when I am leaving parking lots so as to avoid having to make a left hand turn.

I shop at off times. I rarely go to the mall area on a weekend. Only if it is a necessity. And by necessity I mean life and death. My favorite is to go to stores right when they open. I find that I need to know ahead of time what I am buying so that I can go in and out quickly. Before I buy something, I go through a quick test in my mind to see if I have time to return it if I don’t like it. I have found that this stops me from buying so many things

I don’t mail packages at the post office. My grocery store offers full service mail and I have found other places that give me options for shipping. Even though I have a PO Box that I check weekly for work, I will not wait in line to mail items or buy stamps. There are options out there if you just look.

I signed up for Amazon Prime. This service gives me free shipping and handling for many items that I already buy online. What I love it for is to send things to my son in college or gifts to my team. This way I avoid the lines to mail things all together.

We have assigned roles in our family: My husband has the kitchen and the papers. I have the laundry and making appointments. I know that every night my kitchen will be cleaned and my husband knows that he will always have clean clothes. We just do our assigned tasks and no nagging is involved.

I enter my appointments in my cell phone while I am making them. When I am asked if I want a reminder card, I say nope, just another piece of paper for me to throw away later. I also will invite others to the appointment if needed right on my phone. So, for example, if I am making a dentist appointment for my kids, I also invite them to the meeting as a required participant. They accept the appointment and I know that they are aware of it.

I make my next appointment when I leave the last one. I know that I get my hair done every five to six weeks. So when I leave I make my next appointment. This is much easier than what I used to do – call in a panic once I couldn’t take my gray hair anymore. I then needed to wait a few weeks to get in. I do this for all my dentist, eye and yearly doctor visits. I did forget to do this at my kids’ last dentist appointment as they took themselves. All of a sudden it was 12 months and they hadn’t been to the dentist. Now I remind them to make their appointments when they leave.

I ask for referrals on Facebook. I have found that I have friends that are very resourceful. If I need to find someone to wash my windows, mow my lawn or groom my dog, I simply write a post and I have many choices within five minutes.

I visit restaurants at off periods: My husband and I have turned into the early bird special people. I don’t like to waste time waiting for a table. I have found that if you go as close to 5 p.m. as possible, you don’t need to wait. The other thing I will do is go online to make a reservation while we are on our way to the restaurant or about an hour before we plan on going. This is a great time saver when going with groups of people. I want to know that when we show up that there will be a table for eight.