10/16/2014 10:17 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

3 Time-Saving Strategies To Steal From The Overscheduled

Has it been a while since you've seen the bottom of your to-do list? People who fit a lot in their lives know that time is a puzzle, and their smart strategies can help you make all the pieces of your life work together.

By Laura Vanderkam

1. Schedule tight.

woman presentation meeting

We all know when you give tasks less time, they take less time. "I don't ever schedule a meeting for more than 30 minutes," says Emma Johnson, a business journalist, single mother of two young kids and owner of the Wealthy Single Mommy website. "But I also recommend booking your meetings back-to-back as much as possible, in chunks, so you don't have a lot of free time in between." Why? These minutes often get wasted on inefficient email checking or Facebook. As for housework, instead of letting chores take over your weekend, give yourself a block of time, say, 90 minutes, to get them done. If a task doesn't happen during that time, make a note and reschedule for the next weekend block.

2. Double up.

business women walking together

Busy people make time for other people by including them in things they have to do anyway. Maureen Sullivan, the president of AOL.com and the company's lifestyle brands, often has to walk between buildings as part of her day. So she'll ask team members to walk with her. "We have power walks," she says. "We’ve turned those into mini-meetings." If you're trying to mentor someone, see if she can go with you to go grab your afternoon coffee. (Nilofer Merchant, corporate director and author, gave a TED talk on other benefits of the walk-and-talk that's gotten more than 1.5 million views.)

3. Reclaim any remaining unexpected bits of time.

woman reading book kitchen

Think you don't have a chance to read? Try grabbing a book or magazine app while waiting for food to heat up in the microwave. Even if that's just five minutes a day, that's more than half an hour per week. You can also repurpose late-night time, when people usually putter (or watch TV), for doing more productive things. The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week -- which is approximately 20 minutes per day. Wendy Clark, SVP for Coca Cola's Sparkling Brand Center, hops on the elliptical machine for a short late-night workout. Early birds may find moments of morning putter-time that can be put to similar use.

Laura Vanderkam is the author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast.

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