I don’t believe every aspect of life should be optimized, every day planned out and every minute used productively. Because sometimes the unexpected, spontaneous things are what makes life worth living.
BUT: I strongly believe in streamlining areas of your life that are repetitive and/or annoying, if it allows you to carve out time for the things that are more important in your life.
Here is the ultimate guide for increasing your personal efficiency in every area of your life:
- Plan your meals for the entire week and shop the ingredients in one go. This takes some time to get a hang of it but has tons of benefits in the long-run. 1) You save time by avoiding multiple runs to the grocery store, thinking what to cook and where to eat every single day.
2) You save money by avoiding food waste through careful planning and being able to strategically benefit from store promotions. 3) It is a lot easier to be healthy if you cook yourself and plan your meals instead of eating what you feel like when you are really really hungry.
Bonus: Order your groceries online to save even more time.
- Meal Prep on Sundays. If you are already planning your meals and want to go a step further, this one is for you. By spending 2–3 hours on Sunday to prepare most of your meals for the week you will save a bulk of time by eliminating daily cooking and cleaning time. It’s kind of like economies of scale for your private life. If you are not ready for prepping the full week yet, just cook double the amount at dinner and take it for lunch to the office the next day.
Some of my favourite meals to prep: over-night oats topped with fruits, big leafy salads with grilled vegetables and feta/chicken/salmon/tuna, Thai curry and other stews with brown rice, home-made wraps and flourless egg quiches.
- Have a set of default recipes. Being able to cook fast, well and healthy is one of the keys to streamlining your nutrition. By having a set of recipes that you know how to do in your sleep you are able to save time and mental energy on decision making, ingredient shopping and recipe research.
- Always have your kitchen stocked with the basics. Make sure your pantry is stocked with the basic ingredients to make your default recipes as well as other essentials like oil, salt, herbs, rice, coconut milk. Moreover, keep a few home-made meals in the freezer at all times. This will be a life saver when you need a quick meal fast — or have unexpected guests over.
- Bonus: Optimise your nutrition for optimal mental performance by experimenting what works best for you in terms of eating frequency, carb/fat/protein distribution and type of foods (watch out for sensitivities and intolerances).
- Have a basic “stock” list that you check every week. Running out of toilet paper is probably one of the most annoying things on this planet. Mostly because it always happens when you don’t have time to go to the store to buy some or the store is even closed. But running out of basic things like olive oil, shower gel and batteries can easily be avoided by having a “stock list” for every room in your house and checking it weekly. If something is about to run out, put it on the “to buy” list (see next point). This not only saves you time but also saves you from the toilet paper moments.
- Keep a running “to-buy” list. This could be a physical list on your fridge or a section on your task management tool — just make sure you have it all in one place and ideally sorted by type of shops to buy the supply.
- Buy the stuff you need once a week. While you are on your weekly grocery tour, stop by some other shops to stock up your household. Bonus points if you do it online to save even more time. You can adjust the planning cycle to 1 month or even 3 months if you have lots of storage space and are permanently living somewhere.
- Clean up after every meal and before you go to bed. Getting into the habit of putting things back were they belong every day keeps you from ending up in chaos — even if you have a very busy week.
- Make a cleaning schedule. Determine how often it makes sense to clean your flat/house and do the laundry. Then, set specific times and dates for it, mark it in your calendar and stick to it. Bonus points if you are able to outsource house work and save even more time.
- Keep a running to-do list for errands. Sounds very basic but most people don’t have a separate to-do list for their admin tasks. Instead, they try to remember it, write it on post-its or set random reminders. Save yourself some time and start to manage your errands properly.
- Batch similar tasks together. Running errands will always be annoying, but at least you can save some time if you are doing them strategically by batching similar tasks together. The idea is to categorize your errands based on type or location (e.g. post office, online bill payment, messages, purchases, etc.) and then do them all in one go.
- Get them done in scheduled time slots. The thing with errands is that they like to stay on our to-do list for a very long time, making us feel worse every time we look at it. This behavior not only impairs your productivity but also negatively impacts your happiness. Staying on top of your admin stuff is easy and can really improve the quality of your life. So after you have set up your to-do list and divided your errands into batches, assign specific time slots in your calendar for getting them done. Bonus points if you combine it with things you enjoy like having a coffee in town after picking up a parcel from the post office or listening to your favorite music while paying all your bills online. To fully optimize how you spend your time, I recommend setting up a weekly default schedule with time-blocks for all your priorities as well as admin tasks. You can download my own weekly schedule template here to give you an idea about how that could look like.
- Have a default packing list for different occasions. Business trip, city break, beach holidays or yoga retreat — identify the trips you do most often and set up a default packing list for it. Opt for fashion items that can be combined multiple ways and have your toiletry bag flight-ready with mini-versions of your cosmetics.
- Travel hand-luggage only. This is a no-brainer. It saves you time before and after your flight. But get yourself a proper cabin trolley — one that can be pushed in any direction.
- Check in online. Another no-brainer. Enough said.
- Prepare for your journey. Pack food, download podcasts, ebooks and movies and bring everything you need to sleep properly. Preparing for those WIFI-free, commute heavy times can help you save time and use your time more productively when traveling — even if it means catching up on sleep.
- Plan your workouts ahead. Having a workout schedule saves you a lot of time and increases your chances of actually working out. Define a specific time, place and type of workout and schedule it in your calendar.
- Have a set of workouts you can do at home or while traveling. 20 – 30min workouts can be extremely effective and a great way to stay fit during busy times. Use apps like Freeletics, Sweat or 7-minute workout for no-equipment exercises on the go.
- Combine working out with other things. No time for working out? Kill two birds with one stone by doing a walking meeting, taking your bike to work or meeting your friend for yoga instead of coffee.
Lost Time (waiting in line, commute etc.):
- Have a set of relevant podcasts ready. Don’t just randomly listen to podcasts on your commute. Instead, select them in advance and download them. This way, you can be sure you will make the most out of your listening time and avoid connection problems in the train.
- Have a list of articles ready to read. Use a tool like Pocket to bookmark and save interesting articles from Medium or elsewhere. This way, you’ll avoid mindless scrolling and can fully take advantage of your reading time.
- Have a running list of 1-min tasks. Make that quick phone call to reserve a table, quickly cancel a subscription, unsubscribe from a few useless newsletters or book that appointment — all in the 5 min waiting for your friend.
- Reply to messages. If you hate email and Whatsapp like I do, using lost time for catching up with messages is a win-win.
- Prepare. Go through that important meeting in your head. Review your notes. Think about your marketing strategy. Use lost time to think about your next move.