How to Create 30 Minutes of Margin in Your Day

It is no new concept that we all live busy lives, and in order to withstand our busy-ness, people are always encouraging us to “create margins” so that we have “extra space” in our days to not feel so frantic and busy all of the time. Then we might say to those people, “but how am I supposed to find MORE time in my schedule when I’m already driving three kids around, grocery shopping, making lunches, working a full time job, taking continuing education credits, planning birthday parties/bridal showers/baby showers, responding to my e-mails and text messages and What’sAp and figuring out the new tool my company wants me to download?”

The other day, I went into Qdoba, and as I stood in an unusually long and slow moving line, all I could think about what how much more efficiently the burrito assembly line could be, and how, if we were just more efficient with our time, we could save our time and effectively make more time to do stuff.

In this post, I would like to propose a solution to creating more margins in our lives: instead of cutting things out of our lives (because we all know that next to impossible), in order to create more margins, we therefore have to create more time in our schedules, which means we must adapt our lifestyles to being more efficient with our time. Here is a list of 10 places in our lives that we can be more efficient with our time so that we can save ourselves at least 30 minutes a day:

10. The check out line: Yesterday, as I stood in (another unusually long) line at Wal-Mart, I couldn’t help but diagnose what was making the line so long. Effectively, it would work like this: while waiting for a self-check register to open, people would be diddling on their cell phones and not pay attention to when someone was finishing up; someone would walk away from the register, and 15 seconds later, the person in line would notice the empty slot, and meander over (while finishing up whatever they were scrolling through on their cell phone). Then, they would ring up their items, see the total, and fumble with their purses or wallets for 15 seconds while searching for their method of payment.

So, what if….instead of standing on our cell phones while waiting for the self check, we began preparing for our check out….we started organizing our items to scan, began pulling out our method of payment, paid attention to the register so when the first one came open, we could snatch it?…

(20 seconds) x (average of 2 daily trips to the store) = 60 seconds = 1 minute

9. Use your blinker: I think we can all agree that sitting in traffic is perhaps the biggest waste of time. The only productive thing that can be done in traffic is (a) make phone calls to your annoying aunt that you’d rather not or (b) listen to a book on tape/podcast. So, if we can eliminate traffic, then we can also add more time back into our time for making margins. I would like to propose something simple, such as using your blinker, as a way to create more time in your day. Last week, I was sitting in traffic, and noticing what a domino effect something minor, like not turning on a blinker, does to traffic. Inevitably, someone decides to get over suddenly, causing the car behind (or in front) of them to slam on their brakes, which causes all the other cars behind them to slam on their brakes as well, causing at least a 30 second slow down (I know this due to my GPS). However, if that car cutting over would have used their blinker, they could have zippered into the lane, allowing all of the other cars to maintain a steady speed, and NOT having to slam on their brakes, thus keeping the speed of traffic going, and allowing everyone to arrive to their destinations sooner.

(30 seconds) + [(1 commute to work + 1 commute away from work) x (average of 5 slow downs per commute)] = 300 seconds = 5 minutes

8. Answering the phone with your name: In American culture, the standard way to answer the phone is as follows:

Me: “Hello?” (3 seconds)
Caller: “Hi, is this Britany?” (4 seconds, or longer, depending on how many syllables your name is)
Me: “Yes, this is she.” (3 seconds)
Caller: “This is so & so calling from…I’m calling about….” (5 seconds)

Relatively, that takes me about 15 seconds to figure out who is calling and why they are calling. Instead, I could answer the phone (like the Germans do) and eliminate at least 7 seconds of that phone transaction:

Me: “Hello, this is Britany Ederveen.” (4 seconds)
Caller: “Hi Britany, this is so & so calling from…” (5 seconds)

(7 seconds) + (Average of 3 unknown phone calls a day) = 21 seconds = .35 minute

7. Carry Things To & Fro: Before I became a yoga instructor, I used to clean the yoga studio for FREE yoga (best deal ever!) Of course, the terms of the agreement where that you could not begin cleaning the studio until the last class, so it was important to be efficient with all of the tasks for cleaning so that one could get to bed at a reasonable hour. After seven years of yoga cleaning, I had it down to a science and could accomplish all of the tasks in 45-50 minutes. The key to being efficient was to be strategic about carrying things back and forth so that I was not wasting steps. Consider: one walk down the hallway takes approximately 5 seconds (depending on how long your hallway is); on one end of the hallway, I have the trashcan, and on the other end of the hallway, I have the cleaning agents. To take out the trash, I walk from one end of the hallway to the other (10 seconds). To grab a cleaning agent, I walk from the opposite side of the hallway to the other (10 seconds). That could potentially be a 20 second task. However, if I am strategic, I can pick up the trash and walk to one side of the hallway (5 seconds), drop the trash and pick up the cleaning agents that are already on the opposite side (5 seconds), and I’ve magically cut 10 seconds off my cleaning (now, times that by 12 other tasks! That’s 100 more seconds I can be sleeping!)

Of course, you may not be cleaning the yoga studio, but you certainly are always carrying things around your house, going from the mailbox to the trashcan, the car to the mud room, etc. If you are strategic about picking things up and dropping them off, carrying things to and fro, you can eliminate the time you spend traveling in between and therefore, create time for your margins.

(10 seconds) x (12 trips) = 120 seconds = 2 minutes

6. Fix things when they break: Let’s take the printer, for example (a very common household necessity that might break). For your job, for your social life, and for regular human duties (like paying taxes and signing papers), you need a printer. It’s very convenient, when you are at home, when you get an e-mail, print it, sign it, and put it in the mailbox or fax it right away. When the printer is broken, however, and you don’t fix it, you tack on at least 15 minutes (and probably some unnecessary stress and anxiety, because now you are in a time crunch to print your document) to finding another printer, printing your document, and commuting to pick up your document, and you will probably do this at least 10 more times until you finally remember to go to the store and fix your printer.

Lots of other things break around the house as well–the batteries in the T.V. remote go out, the garbage disposal gets clogged, the door knob falls off–and when those things get ignored, inevitably, they cost us more time later on.

(1 broken household item) + (10 minute detour)=10 minutes

5. Stop scrolling when InstaGram tells you nothing is new: I have been waiting for a long time for an ap that can limit the amount of time I spend on my social media, and I am so glad that InstaGram’s newest update allows us to know when we are no longer seeing new material. How many times have you found yourself aimlessly scrolling and then realizing you have seen the same picture at least three times? All the time. I’m not sure we can ever live in a society in which social media is null and void (this is often times where we get all of our news), BUT we can limit our exposure and the amount of time we spend on it.

(60 seconds per time logged into InstaGram) x (10 times a day) = 600 seconds = 10 minutes

4. Wear appropriate attire: When I hiked Hanging Lake a few years ago, I was astonished at the amount of people who were wearing flip flops on that very treacherous hike (since I’m working on some cognitive restructuring when encountering strangers, I told myself that perhaps they did not know they would be hiking Hanging Lake that day).  But, as they were hiking, I couldn’t help but notice how often their feet would slip out of the cheap Old Navy flip flops, they’d have to step off the trail to fix their shoe, only to continue on and have it happen about ten steps further up the trail. Each of these stops probably cost them about 5 seconds, and at 2.9 miles, that probably adds up to at least 15 minutes of foot-slipping-time-wasting-margin-crunching.

This happens too, in our daily lives, when we wear pants that are too tight, tops that are constantly falling off our shoulders, high heels that cause our gait to be shorter. Sometimes these things are appropriate, but sometimes these things only slow us down.

(3 seconds of fixing inappropriate attire) x (15 times an hour) x (8 hours a day) = 360 seconds = 6 minutes

3. Have a spot for things, and then put stuff back in it: How much time do we spend, looking for our car keys because we can’t remember where we last put them? Or, searching for our wallet because it’s not in our purse? Or, our printer IS actually working, but now we can’t find the stamps to put on the letter to mail out our contract? If  we designate places for things (keys go next to the door, wallet goes in the center console,  stamps belong in the top drawer), then we will spend less time looking for them–because they will have an always predictable location.

(3 out of place items a day) x (45 seconds of searching) = 135 seconds = 2.25 minutes 

2. Pre Order Your Large Starbucks Orders and Pick Up Inside (and not at the drive thru): Actually, this one saves those of us waiting in line more time than it actually does YOU personally, but it’s always a major pet peeve of mine when I’m waiting in the drive thru for 10 minutes, we haven’t moved, and I see the arm reaching out of the window deliver three carriers of beverages to the car in front of me. Of course, the people at Starbucks are nice, and they are all about customer service, so when you put in your order for 20 different drinks, they aren’t going to say anything. But, if you pre order, (a) you can just walk in and have your drinks ready (no waiting in line and no waiting for prep time) AND you aren’t holding up the drive thru line.

(2 extra minutes of waiting in the drive thru line) x (1 Starbucks trip a day) = 2 minutes

1.Wash your dishes right when you are done eating: This was always my biggest pet peeve with college room mates. Someone would eat oatmeal for breakfast, realize they were running WAY late for class, stick the bowl in the sink, and then four hours later, come back to realize that the oatmeal flakes were now crusted all over the bowl. Had they just taken two seconds to rinse out the bowl when the food was still wet, then they would have saved themselves at least 21 seconds per dish at the end of the day by scrubbing out old, crusty, dried up food. So, if we wash our dishes right away, we can eliminate this time and give back at least 21 seconds per dish we eat out of into our margins.

(21 seconds per plate) x (4 plates a day)* =84 seconds= 1.4 minutes
*breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert 

The experts recommend we create margins in our lives so that we have “time to reflect”, “we have extra time in case something happens”, “we can stop and smell the roses and meet our neighbors”. As we all know, in this ever-growing world, it’s difficult to cut things OUT to create margins, but rather, if we are more efficient with our time, we can therefore create more time to have this space.

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