5 ways to manage your time more effectively
By Karen Childress

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We've all heard — and probably tried — the many time management tips that have been around for years: touch paperwork only once; teach the kids to do their own laundry; check in with friends by phone while driving to work; group errands in the same part of town to get them done more efficiently.

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Do you have a cable television plan?
  • 1. Yes, and I make use of it
  • 2. Yes, but I might drop it
  • 3. No, but I miss it
  • 4. No, and I don't need it

These all make sense and can save a few minutes here and there. No doubt, those minutes add up. But if you're busy to the point that you routinely wish for 30-hour days, then you need ways to save more than minutes.

Here are five ideas that may sound concurrently radical and old-fashioned, but if you're serious about taking control of your time, give them some serious consideration.

1. Cancel your cable television plan.
The average American adult watches almost three hours of TV a day. "But I only watch the news and some educational programs on PBS," is the common refrain. So be it. Three hours is three hours. What could you do with three extra hours a day? Unplug and spend that time doing something useful, physical, intellectually stimulating or just more fun than staring at a screen. (If you really can't live without Downton Abbey or Breaking Bad, you can always stream your favorite series online or order DVDs through the mail.)

2. Opt out of (or at least dramatically limit) social media.
I know, impossible, right? You need it to stay connected to friends and family, and you use it for professional networking. What did you do five years ago? You picked up the phone and engaged face-to-face with the people you care about or when you wanted to connect for business reasons. Every hour spent diddling around on Facebook is an hour that could be spent in meaningful conversation with another human being.

3. Don't spend time with people you don't enjoy.
OK, you might have to go to your brother-in-law's place for Thanksgiving, but aside from non-negotiable family obligations, you have the power to decide how you spend your social time. If you find yourself regretting having accepted invitations to tedious cocktail parties, golf with the guys, or long dinners with that boring couple from down the street, just start saying no thanks. Worried people will stop inviting you for cocktails, golf and boring dinners? If you don't want to go anyway, then you don't really have anything to worry about.

4. Downsize.
If you've fallen into the trap of working 80 hours a week to support a lifestyle that you don't have time to enjoy, take a look at the concept of "less is more." A smaller house means a smaller mortgage (or imagine the possibility of no mortgage at all). Fewer toys — cars, boats, lawn equipment, tools and miscellaneous gadgets — means less time invested in upkeep. Envision reducing the amount of physical stuff and personal financial overhead you have by 30 percent and consider how doing so would change the way you use your time.

5. Stay present.
Spending precious time reliving the past or worrying about the future is an enormous waste of time. Learn from prior mistakes and move on. Plan for the future (note the operative words there are "plan for" rather than "obsess about"), but not in lieu of enjoying the present.

Karen Childress is Colorado-based a freelance healthcare writer. Read more of her work at www.karenchildress.com.