Want to Optimize your Routine and Free Up a Lot of Time? Here are 29 Killer tips

 Last Updated: December 8, 2016

 December 8, 2016

Have you ever wondered if you could be more in control of your life? If you could remove clutter and free up more time so that you could focus on important things?

If yes, we are with you. It always helps to optimize your routine rather than remaining entangled in useless and repeatable stuff. 

Here is an exhaustive list for you which will help you a lot in straightening your routine. 

1. Clean Up Your Desktop

Your Desktop is your home, if you are a knowledge worker. Clearing up your Desktop simply gives you a physical sense of clean-up, just like what you get when you clean up your room or workplace.

Items that lie on Desktop suck up your attention now and then. This is the reason why many put files deliberately on Desktop so that they could remember working on them. Removing old files from there simply enables you to work on new / priority stuff. Here's how mine looks like:

clear your desktop to fee up a lot of time and optimize routine

You could also adopt some measures so that the Desktop does not get cluttered:

  • There's a 'default download location' for each browser where it automatically stores the files you download. Better to set this location as 'Downloads' folder, not the Desktop. Here's how you do it in Chrome:

change default download location of chrome away from desktop

  • While installing every software, it asks to create a 'Desktop Shortcut'. I prefer creating a shortcut only for the programs that I use very frequently as they would be available in the 'Start' menu anyways, whenever I need them. 

2. Clear Your Home Screen

Just like your Desktop, a clean home screen of your phone indirectly frees up time for you.

I tend to inadvertently use an app more if it is there on my home screen than otherwise. So not-so-important apps like social networks start consuming more time if they are right there in front of you.

Once I realized this, I cleared my home screen to look like:

clear the home screen of your phone to improve your routine and free up time

You might put up some apps there which are urgent to your workflow but I'd recommend against putting social networks up there - those could definitely be checked on a low priority. 

3. Organize Your Files

Just like physical objects, files need to be organized and you should be able to find them when needed.

Agreed that we have the Search function which reduces the need to do so but even for search, you need to know which folder the file is in otherwise you end up spending a lot of time in finding files. 

First thing is organizing files into master folders, folders, sub-folders and sub-sub-folders. Here's how my folder structure looks like:

organize your files in structured folders

As you can see, the first level represents filetypes. Further to this, you could organize them according to time (years) or according to your sphere of life, as in:

folder structure according to sphere of life to organize it

I have organized pictures here according to the places where I worked.

Secondly, choose a media to organize. You could use a physical hard drive or a cloud service like Dropbox, Google Drive, Resilio. This saves you from the effort of copying files each time you change your device

4. Manage Your Phonecalls

For an efficient workflow, phonecalls need to be managed as for many of us, they consume a lot of time per day. Here's how you could do that:

  • Know who's calling you and decide whether to take that call, even if the number isn't saved. Use Truecaller
  • Block all SPAM, which can be done using Truecaller itself. Activate DND (Do Not Disturb) for your phone. Guys at Haptik will do that for you. 
  • Home screen shortcuts: Put up your frequent contacts as a one-click dialup on home screen.
  • Train people on their expectations from your time. Click to know more about this trick.
  • Know the location of people in realtime - so that you don't have to ask "Where are you right now?" so frequently and save on a few calls. 

5. Manage Your Messages

Messages pour into our phone into different apps - SMS, Whatsapp, Hike, Line, Snapchat and a lot of other messaging apps. This needs to be controlled.

Control SMS volume using TrueMessenger. It actually works. Control messages on Whatsapp by muting people and groups. You can also set up different ringtones for different apps, denoting priority.

6. Manage Your Emails

Email volume is a pain in the neck for a lot of us and has to be managed. 

I will cover this in a separate post, in a while.

7. Organize Your Calendar

Organize your schedule. You need to get to see your schedule in a visual manner to be able to do that.

A lot of apps are available to help you visualize your schedule - Google Calendar, Calendly to name a few. Here's how it looks:

calendar view to save your time and organize your life

You might create an event as soon as you see an email you think would need scheduling. You might want to inform your colleagues to do the same / create events so that it becomes easier for you. 

Once it becomes clear to you, you manage your routine and optimize it according to the schedule. Nothing gets missed ever, while you free up your mind from remembering the whole thing.

8. Use Machines More Often

If you observe, machines save a lot of time for us. Indispensible ones are those which automate our daily repetitive tasks.

Food Processor, Dishwasher, Dryer, Washing Machine all constitute that category. Using more of them simply means more time saved. 

9. Unclutter Your Home & Workspace

Have you heard of minimalistic living by the Japanese? Here's a glimpse of it:

how japanese home looks likejapanese fold their bed and fit it into their wardrobewardrobe of a japanese minimalistic homeMore here

So you see? Less clutter in our home and workplace means nothing could ever get lost. Lesser things to think about, care about, mend, repair and replace. In fact, it is directly proportional to peace of mind and clearer line of thought.

Always try and keep things at their designated place. Don't change designated places very frequently. You should remember these places by heart, especially for routine things - where to look for an item.

10. Stop Losing Items

Some folks spend a lot of time in searching things. Free up that time by being organized on this part.

Use Sensor technology on your phone, keys and other important items. Get more ideas here, here and here

11. Identify Droppable things

From your routine, identify things that could be dropped. There must be many such things like a weekly trip serving little purpose; or a daily meeting that has gone redundant; a weekly conversation that's going nowhere or even a relationship that's killing too much of your time. 

12. Club and Defer Routine Items

Some daily tasks can be clubbed to be done once in a week. Some weekly things could be clubbed and done once toward a month's end.

Simple example can be to buy groceries - some people do it once a month from a hypermart. We buy milk only twice a week. We started keeping our doors and windows closed so that we could do a cleanup twice a week instead of doing that daily. 

13. Use Browser Bookmarks

Just like keeping things on their place saves time in finding them, keeping URLs as bookmarks saves time in accessing that information later. 

Further, these URLs should be organized if you are in a habit of making bookmarks. So just like you organized your files above, you need to organize your bookmarks using your browser's bookmark manager which looks like this:

manage your bookmarks in chrome to organize themAs you can see, the left side shows folder structure within bookmarks. You could use different ideas to organize your bookmarks likewise.

14. Speed Up Your Devices

A lot of time is wasted when files on your device take time to open, apps take time to load, device takes time to boot. If all this time could be minimized, think of the bulk of time you could save. 

Sure, this could be done. Here are a few ideas:

  • Get a better RAM and processor.
  • Kill softwares that start on boot. For Windows, go to Run >> msconfig >> Startup or to Task Manager >> Startup (in recent versions)
  • Tweak your BIOS, upgrade to SSD.
  • Use 'Hibernate' instead of 'Shut Down'.
  • Remove password layer on Sleep / Hibernate. 

I'm sure you could think of more ways on this. Do let us know of them in comments. 

15. Get Better Internet

Nothing new, a bad internet wastes a lot of time. If you are the one that uses a low-speed internet, you could achieve your next level of productivity just by upgrade.

You know, it's not just about the time taken by webpages to open, but also about our lines of thought that get broken due to this delay making us start over and over again. 

16. Induce Reusability

Organize Reusable things. Identify which items or files you need the most. Then make arrangements so that you get them instantly. 

For example, you can keep glue in your bag you carry daily if you need it frequently. You can transfer needed files to your phone. You can create templates of messages / emails you need to send repeatedly - saves a lot of time if you ask me. Use sticky notes (in Windows) which comes in handy to copy stuff and just paste it whenever you need. 

17. Automate Repetitive Workflows

Use automation more and more. You would be surprised to know that most tasks on your PC and browser could be easily automated. Tools like Zapier and IFTTT have made it extremely easy to connect different services. More tools like iMacros and different browser add-ons can be searched out for different purposes. 

Whether it is about explaining a workflow via a GIF or working extensively with screenshots; bulk image editing or saving browser sessions; data scraping or automating social media - a tool is right there, waiting for you. So give it a shot!

18. Keep Your Details Handy

Details like passwords, phone numbers, account numbers, dates of birth, insurance policy numbers, email IDs - take up a lot of space in your mental hard disk. Good, if you remember them by heart, but what if they slip out?

Password managers come to your rescue. Task management tools are a lot of help here (shameless plug: try Comtify). If you want to do it offline, fine but do keep all at one place, easily accessible. 

19. Learn Keyboard Shortcuts

For this one, the more you learn them, more you save your time. You never know which one would come in handy. 

Keyboard shortcuts can be Operating System specific or app-specific. For example, here's a list of shortcuts for Gmail's web app, Chrome Browser and Mac OS

The idea is to remember at least the ones frequently used viz., Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V, Ctrl+A, Ctrl+U and maybe a few more depending on your workflow. 

20. Organize Hard Copies

Just like organizing files on your device, you should organize your hard copies. Just club them into folders like you did for soft copies.

Too many folders? Use these as master-folders:

master folders to organize papers

They are actually available on Amazon easily.

21. Go Paperless

Papers increase clutter in your life. Also considering the fact that papers are made from trees, it's always good to use as less paper as possible. 

Ask before taking a print-out - is this really necessary? Can't this record be kept as a soft copy?

Scanning papers and then discarding the hard-copies might actually be a good idea for some.

With paper, believe me, comes the recurring task of organizing it over and over again and / or carrying the bulk whenever you shift your home. So less the paper, better it is.

22. Reduce Desktop Alerts

Some alerts keep popping up, at least in Windows, at bottom-right corner of the screen. Multiple pop-ups each day - a sizeable distraction.

Just click on taskbar and stop them (Windows 10):

stop desktop notifications in windows

23. Learn Typing

Professional typing is a skill to be learnt right away, if you haven't done it already. Professional typing can help you touch a speed of say 75 words per minute in a couple years, which can't really be done without knowing the skill.

This would also help you touch-type quickly on your phone as the keypad on your phone is the same keypad - Qwerty.

You could download a typing tutor right away from the numerous ones available and save some time from each day of rest of your life.  

24. Use Waiting Time

There might be instances in a day when you have to wait. Waiting for your car in parking lot, picking up your child from school, waiting for lift. These could be utilized to check emails, instruct your delegates or in any other way; thereby freeing up time when you do actual thought-intensive work.

25. Use Driving Time

Driving time could be utilized, though only listening is the act that could be performed as driving is a task in itself.

So making your phone read out your emails or messages or news can be used to save time. 

26. Decide Fast

Make decisions quickly. Dilly-dallying before taking calls and overthinking eats up a lot of time. 

It's important to note that there's no such thing like a perfect decision. So most of the time, quick decisions make a lot of sense than thinking about the perfect way-out.

27. Minimize Decisions

If each decision takes some thinking, which in-turn consumes some time, won't it make sense if you had to make lesser number of decisions each day? Sure. 

In fact, successful people are often seen wearing same / similar clothes everyday as that means making one less decision. 

steve jobs wore same clothes to minimize number of decisions

28. Read Fast

Reading consumes a bulk of time for some of us. Wouldn't it be great if we are able to save up some time from there?

Here's a video to help you do just that:


29. Complete Routine Tasks Faster

Speed up the execution of your daily chores using specialized techniques. Ironing, folding clothes, drying clothes, cleaning the house, dressing up, tying laces, charging your phone (via this app) are some of them. 




What do you think of these? Could you adopt some of them to your benefit? Do comment and let us know. 

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