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Productivity, Frugal Girl Style | Cut Schedule Clutter

(for those of you that are new: this is a continuation of a series we started back in November. It kind of got derailed over the holidays, so we’re finishing it up this month. If you’re interested in catching up, you can read the earlier posts, which are Get Thee to Bed!, Plan Ahead and 3 Ways to be Efficient.)

How To Be Productive | Cut Schedule Clutter

People who read my blog often wonder how I can find the time to blog or the time to bake or the time to read or the time to paint furniture, or the time to do any of the stuff I write about.

Part of the way that I find time for these things is that I plan ahead, I work efficiently, and I get enough sleep (which gives me energy to help me work efficiently!).

But another secret (well, it’s not really a secret!) is that I try to cut clutter from my schedule.

Simply put, I try not to fill my life with things that don’t matter to me or that don’t mesh with the overarching beliefs and goals that shape me.

Maybe you’re wanting to read more.

Maybe you’re wanting to spend more time with your spouse/kids/family/friends.

Maybe you’re wanting to have time to craft/play music/write/paint.

And maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t have time for any of that stuff!!”.

And to that, I would gently suggest this:

If you’re wanting to do something and “can’t” find the time, you might be cluttering your life and schedule with things that are wasting your time.

(I don’t know every person’s life or schedule, of course. There are stages and phases of life that are just really, really busy, and nothing can be done to reduce the busy-ness. If you’re in that sort of situation, my advice will not apply to you. Hang in there, and may your life calm down soon!).

The things that are cluttering your schedule will probably be really different than the things that are cluttering another person’s schedule, but the point is that you need to take a good hard look at what you’re really spending your time on and then consider whether those things are what you really want to be spending your time on.

The best way to do this is to keep a time diary for a few days (a week would be great).

You can keep this very low-tech…a pencil and a piece of paper will work fine. Every day, write down, in a list format, what you spent your time doing the whole day long. Including the actual time spent on each activity is optional, but can be helpful.

For instance, my morning so far would look like this:

4:40-woke up, made bed, ironed Mr. FG’s clothes, packed his lunch

5:00-read email, checked Twitter and Facebook

5:15-read Bible and prayed

5:45-showered, dressed

6:15-read email, blogged

You can do in in less detail than that if you want. The point is just that you want to see where your time is going.

You may find that the simple act of writing it down will alert you to your time-wasting habits and will make you want to do something different (writing down that you spent an hour on the Internet doing mostly…nothing? That’s painful!).

Once you’ve got several days’ worth of time diaries finished, look them over and see if you are spending time doing things that don’t really matter to you.

You might see a lot of TV-watching. You might see more texting/tweeting/Facebooking time than you’d like to see. You might observe an inordinate amount of phone time. You might notice that you’re running around to an activity every night. You might see that you’re spending more time on the internet than you are with your family.

Whatever it is, odds are good that you’ll see some things on your schedule that aren’t really in line with what your goals and desires are, and when you do, you should think long and hard about cutting some of those things out.

If you say your children are your number one priority, but you’re spending most of your non-working hours online, you should change something.

If you say that you really want to keep your house cleaner but your time diary says you spent 3 hours watching TV over the course of a day, you should change something.

If you say that you really want to read your Bible every day but your time diary says you spent an hour on the phone every day, you should change something.

If you say family time at home is a high priority for you but your time diary says you are never at home with your family, something needs to change.


So between now and next Thursday, could I encourage you to keep a time diary?

I’m going to do it myself because I am pretty sure that I am checking my email way more often than I’d officially say that I am, and I may be wasting time in other ways without even noticing it.

Schedule clutter can be as sneaky as household clutter, and so keeping it at bay requires the same kind of constant vigilance. Clutter of all kinds has a way of creeping in, and I want to keep an eye on the time clutter that might be worming its way into my days.

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Friday 14th of January 2011

Speaking of batching errands, I have another little trick. This one may be too obvious, so if it is, just skip it! But anyways, when I write out grocery lists or Target lists, I write them geographically, according to the store.

I designate sections of the list for different aisles of the store and then map it out accordingly.

Example: I've been to the grocery store enough times to know that if I walk through the door and go to the right, I 'll walk into the produce section. I also know how the produce is generally arranged, so I write my list accordingly: lettuce is the first thing I pick up, oranges next, carrots at the end of the list because they are at the back of the produce section.

So here are the benefits of geographical lists:

1.) Increases shopping efficiency. Majorly. No more going to the produce section once or twice because I failed to read my list correctly and forgot something. Also, it just helps you get in and out of the store faster. There really is no reason to stay in the grocery store for more than 30 minutes.

2.) Keeps me out of "baddie" aisles. These are the aisles where the potato chips, soda, and ice cream lurk. I never have those items on my list, so I just never need to even go there.

3.) Keeps my food fresh and refrigerated appropriately. I am not really strict about this, but if you are, this can help! Planning your list geographically ensures that you will get ALL of your produce and packaged goods first, before trekking over to the freezer section. Then, you can just throw your frozen food and dairy products into the cart right before you check out.

Hope this helps someone!


Friday 14th of January 2011

Thanks for the reminder to go to bed.... Boy I am soooo struggling with this one! Please pray for me!! ;)


Thursday 13th of January 2011

I really liked this blog because I am constantly getting onto people for the same thing. I always hear my friends complaining that they just don't have enough time. They don't have time to cook a healthy meal, so they pull through McDonald's. They don't have time to visit multiple stores in order to save money on groceries. They don't have time to clip coupons. There is always time for something that is important aside from, as you mentioned, those extremely busy periods. I was working full time, attending school full time, and taking care of a household and a child single-handedly and I still had time to cook meals and bargain shop!


Thursday 13th of January 2011


After reading her post on going to bed on time, I made it one of my "unofficial" new year's goals to get my butt to bed at a decent hour. So far I'm doing... worse than average, but better than I was before. My goals is 10pm... Sheesh, I have less than 2 hrs--better get to it!


Thursday 13th of January 2011

I started with this post and went out to read your whole productivity series. I love every bit of it, and I will start a time journal starting now :) Tomorrow officially. Maybe if I'm brave I'll share mine, too! Scary!

I loved your "Get thee to sleep" post. It's the huge productivity booster I have the most problems with. I work 10 hours at the office. I get home by 6:40 or so, and should be in bed by 9:30 leaving me with only 3 hours free time. Temptation to stay up late to do things is high!

Loving your blog, I'll continue to come back for more.

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