Incredibly obvious tips to save you time

I don’t watch the television show Celebrity Apprentice, but I recently saw an advertisement for it that stunned me. In the commercial, show contestant and former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich is sitting at a computer attempting to type. I use the word “attempting” because it is obvious in the clip that Blagojevich has no idea where the keys are on the computer’s keyboard. A man who has held the highest elected office in his state cannot type (or at least couldn’t type at the time the video crews captured the scene). Forget his scandal, I cannot fathom how inefficient this one man made his state’s government simply because he can’t type. The hours he must have wasted just responding to e-mail!

After watching this advertisement, and then again after reading the article “80 Ways to Steal Valuable Minutes for Your Work Day,” I have been thinking about basic skills that increase productivity — skills that are so obvious and fundamental to my behavior that I don’t typically think about doing them. In fact, they’re so obvious that I really had a difficult time composing a list.

Eleven extremely obvious skills to save you time:

  1. Improve your typing speed.
  2. Improve the legibility of your handwriting.
  3. Write stuff down.
  4. Read the manuals on the software programs you use regularly.
  5. Read the instructions.
  6. Work while at work.
  7. Group like tasks together.
  8. Store items that are used most often in the most convenient places.
  9. When you’re finished using something, put it away.
  10. Learn and use people’s names.
  11. Use a shopping list.

I know that I’m missing even more obvious productivity skills, so please add to this list in the comments. What are the most basic of basic things each of us can do to save time?

86 Comments for “Incredibly obvious tips to save you time”

  1. posted by Lori Paximadis on

    People in these positions typically don’t write their own e-mails. They have staff for that. And he’s in that generation where men didn’t take typing class. I’m almost a generation younger, and still my academic counselor in junior high thought it was a waste of time for me to take typing since I was on the college track. She tried to talk me out of it — only secretaries needed to know how to type. (Ha!) But yeah, grossly inefficient.

    I’ll add another: Plan your errands so you can do them all at once. I know so many people who run out to do one thing. Then later they go do another. Then even later, still another. Huge waste of time and energy and gas.

  2. posted by Sue on

    Know how to do basic math without a calculator.
    Add, subtract, multiply & divide… smaller numbers without paper.

    Estimate calculations with 2-3 digits. (Do I have enough money to buy this? & calculating/estimating sales tax.)

    Understand basic fractions & be able to tell which fraction is larger/smaller.

    Calculators are nice, but do you want to carry one everywhere? Do you want people seeing you pull out a calculator to do simple math….. every time?

  3. posted by Rue on

    Work while at work…haha that’s the one I need to learn. Other than that I think I have those pretty much set!

    Definitely agree with Lori to plan your errands all at once. And make your route the most efficient possible. Obviously you won’t want to go to the grocery store first (even if it is farthest away) because you don’t want frozen foods to defrost in your car. But it’s possible to find a good way between everywhere you need to be so that you’re not driving in circles.

  4. posted by the milliner on

    I’m always amazed when other people are amazed that I can type while looking at them (and not at the keyboard). I can’t even imagine not typing properly or with only 2 fingers. Huge time suck.

    Anyhow, #9 is the one I’m currently focusing on. My mantra for it is ‘Finish what you start’. The more we follow this rule at home, the less clutter we have and we are way more relaxed.

  5. posted by Loren on

    Wow, these are all things that you SHOULD be doing, it’s nice to have a reminder though. I ALWAYS forget to write enough notes.

    * Have multiple saves of your work at different stages.
    I’m a programmer, so sometimes you can add a few lines of code in, and BREAK EVERYTHING. If it works, I usually save a version.

    * Name your computer files things that make sense.
    I was looking for an old project yesterday, ran into a full FOLDER that was just named the project # (I don’t remember what this project was about 8 months later). Inside were multiple versions of the file I’d been working on named ‘V1.fla’, ‘V2.fla’, ‘V3.fla’.
    They should have been named things like ‘calculator_v1.fla’, ‘calculator_with_radians_v2.fla’, ‘calculator_with_graphing_ability_v3.fla’.
    Computers let you put long names on your files, take advantage of it.

  6. posted by Sooz on

    Return phone calls promptly!

    And so true about the advantages of touch-typing (which I took ages ago and have never regretted). My DH types with 2 fingers (sadly, he doesn’t have a staff to do it for him!) and he’s pretty fast, but he’ll never be as fast as a good touch-typist.

    PS: Have you ever thought about the fact that when typing was mostly the province of women, it was called “typing”, yet once men had to do it, it began to be referred to as “keyboarding” — as if it were a sport, like “snowboarding”?!

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  8. posted by Kristin on

    These are great ideas. One thing I do is when I make dinner, I make our lunches for the next day so I only have to clean up once (as opposed to making them before work).

    Another thing, if there is an option for recurring for anything:, prescriptions, bills, do it!

  9. posted by April on

    Have back ups of everything. And a back up means two or more copies.

    If you put the entire contents of your computer on an external HD and then delete stuff off of your computer, you no longer have a back up! It boggles my mind how people don’t understand this.

    Also, you should have more than just two copies of really important stuff, and at least one of those copies should be in a different location. If your house is broken into and your computer and your external HD are taken, you’re stuck. If you have yet another copy online or in a HD kept in a safe deposit box or at a relative’s house in another state, you’ll still have a copy.

    And you can back up more than just Word documents. Commit time to scanning and backing up other important items, like family photos, favorite recipes, your passport, etc. Keep the confidential info (like the passport image) in a password protected folder.

    Most importantly: BACK UP REGULARLY. (Partial back ups once a week, full back ups once a month.)

    When my computer crashed and my back up was really old, I lost several thousand precious photos. I’ve also had my passport gone missing (thankfully I found it again later), and a scanned image of that would have been helpful. My husband (before we were married) lived through a fire where he lost *everything.* He really wished for back ups held elsewhere (and a scan of his birth certificate would have been handy when trying to get some new ID so he didn’t have to wait as long).

  10. posted by April on


    That’s just because we stopped using typewriters about that time. No need to assume sexism.

    Another “obvious” tip:

    If it can be done in a minute or less, do it NOW.

  11. posted by weavermom on

    Turn the TV off.

  12. posted by Mara on

    great post, great list. #8 and #9 are my current focus. if you put something back after you use it, that means it has a place. the place is ideally where it is most convenient, with similar or similarly-used items. this in turn means an uncluttered area, uncluttered in the sense that items are not randomly placed or grouped. most of us have limitations of space, so there can only be so many designated “places” for objects, which in turn limits the number of objects. this naturally means a reduction of places and objects, which leads to minimalizing. reductio ad absurdum, incredibly obvious tips to save you time. (i’m not being snarky, in case this comes off all wrong.):)

  13. posted by Dawn F on

    How about “Confirm your appointments?” If a doctor’s office doesn’t call me the day before my scheduled appointment to confirm it then I call them. In that one phone call, I can make sure I have the correct appointment time, confirm their location, request registration forms via email (fill them out in advance), make sure they have test results, etc., etc.

    It’s a real pain to arrive to an appointment and find out somebody set up a different time or they don’t have your test results and you have to be rescheduled or postponed.

    This could be true for other appointments such as when you have an air conditioning company coming to check your air conditioning unit or if you have an appointment with your financial advisor, etc.

    One simple phone can prevent wasted time, energy and money.

  14. posted by Stephanie on

    Keep the bare minimum in your purse or wallet. Having to dig through either to find what you want wastes more time than occasionally not having that loyalty card. (Or use )

  15. posted by Cindy on

    If you’re going to use the “U Scan” checkout lines, learn how to use it during an off-peak hour, so you know what you are doing when there is a long line. Know that if you have something light or huge you’re going to need to push the “skip bagging” button. Be prepared, have your $/card out… Sigh. One of my pet peeves because I know how to use it efficiently, but almost no one else does 😉

    I’m also a good lane picker, when it comes to driving or checkout lines, entrance lines, etc. Watch the pace, identify potential hold-ups within the line, make the right choice. It probably only saves a minute here and there, but that adds up.

    If I didn’t work in a cubicle, I’d also go with a “close your door” while you’re working on certain projects so you can complete them without being distracted.

  16. posted by Samantha on

    Re: #11 – I recently made a custom shopping list in Excel, which felt very geeky, I have to say, but has saved us so much time and is just one of those simple pleasures of a thing that works. We have quirky food needs, and my husband does the shopping. Now I always get what I need from the store, there’s no more clueless brainstorming and no one ever has to go back a day later for “three things we forgot we needed.”

    Similar to #10, I’m a number memorizer(phone, bank account routing, credit card, etc). If you use it constantly, stop looking it up.

  17. posted by Laurie on

    I would love to improve my handwriting. Any suggestions on how to do so?

  18. posted by Suzyn on

    @Loren – yes! Make it a habit to hit Ctrl+S (or Apple+S) every time you pause, every time the phone rings, every time you get an itch, every time you switch applications… I learned this from a college roommate who grew up on an island – their power was less than reliable, so her computer would shut off from time to time. This habit has saved me from having to recreate my work after non-catastrophic computer crashes time and time again.

    Other ideas: close your applications and shut off your computer at least once every 24 hours. Empty your cache from time to time. Keep an extra pair of reading glasses at work and/or in your bag.

    And my bestest tip: MEMORIZE YOUR PEDIATRICIAN’S PHONE NUMBER. If you have reason to call in the middle of the night, that is NOT the time you want to be hunting down a phone number.

  19. posted by Suzyn on

    Oh, another one! Memorize the keyboard shortcuts (or create them) for actions that you execute time and time again. Like, closing a window. Make it your goal to touch your mouse as little as possible.

  20. posted by Beth on

    Sort your laundry as you take off the clothes. One hamper for lights/whites, one hamper for darks.

  21. posted by C Bennett on

    Sue’s comments made me think about how much teachers can directly affect the productivity of the next generation. With the economy, many schools are cutting typing teachers, classes on mastering specific computer programs, and even the basics of the three R’s. I’d like to add a few more academically-minded tips to the list:

    * Stop misspelling words. Doing spellcheck is a waste of time. If you can’t teach yourself to spell a frequently-used word, add your misspelling of it to your auto-correct list.

    * Master Boolean search terms to cut down on time sifting through search results.

    * Become comfortable computing percentages for taxes, discounts at department stores, and tips.

    * Learn keyboard shortcuts

    Think about a world of Blagojeviches, and worse, next time you’re involved in local politics when education is on the line!!

  22. posted by gypsy packer on

    Speak clearly, and use simple words. I’d rather be mistaken for dumb than be misunderstood, especially on cell phones. Not having to repeat yourself is a great time-saver.
    I hate to even mention this, but keep paper and pen or PDA near any and all phones. So many people neglect this simple step.

  23. posted by Stephanie on

    We also have a custom shopping list for our weekly Costco excursions. We just checkmark what we need and it is organized by where in the store the items are located. Saves us tons of time!

  24. posted by Happy Dogs on

    I almost can’t believe I am defending Blagovich (sp?) but….

    I think he is about my age. Which makes him about twice as old as you, Erin. In the early 70s, girls in middle school were encouraged to take shorthand and typing. Boys were encouraged to take math and football. This is pre-Title 9.

    It is no surprise that he can’t type. In my typing class, there were 90 girls and about 3 boys. If he didn’t make the effort to learn later, well, then he still can’t type.

    I remember trying to teach my father to type a few years ago. He could not understand why the keys were not in order. He really really couldn’t understand how I can type one sentence and look right at him and say another. I remember his comment: “I didn’t want you to be a secretary and I was unhappy when you took typing, but who knew back then how the world would turn out, and how important typing would become.”

    So there you go.

  25. posted by Miss Margaret Picky on

    Handle mail once. When it comes in your house, do what you need to do with it–file it, shred it, answer it.

    The time you spend getting off mailing lists and stopping junk mail is well-spent. It pays back your time invested many times over and helps reduce pollution in many ways.

    When cooking, cook with intentional leftovers. Plan for additional meals. Freeze them if you don’t like leftovers and pretend like it’s takeout a couple of weeks later.

    At home I let the answering machine pick up. My friends know I am screening calls and the other half of the calls don’t leave messages. At work I have found it is usually better to take calls rather than playing phone tag.

  26. posted by Leann on

    Listen carefully to others when they are telling you about upcoming events, directions, etc. and if you need to, write things down.

  27. posted by Caroline on

    I’ve been singing the praises of typing since taking the class as a high school freshman. The skill has brought countless time-saving rewards since then. From typing papers in college, to collaborative work groups in the office. It’s truly unmatched by hurriedly pecking with two index fingers.

    Also, keyboard shortcuts can be great time savers. I wish I was more fluent in them.

  28. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Happy Dogs — You think I’m 26 years old?!!! BWA HAHA!! Add a DECADE to that and I’ll still take it as a compliment! I was born during the Nixon administration.

    About Blagojevich … it doesn’t matter if someone learned a skill in high school or not. I certainly didn’t learn how to write web programming code in high school or send e-mails or instant message or play a DVD or 9,000 other skills that didn’t even exist when I was in school. Life is about learning. When I left high school I could only type 63 words a minute. But, I worked at it because I knew it was an important skill and now I can type more than 100 words a minute. My dad (older than Blagojevich) can type something insane like 110 or 120 words a minute. Clearly Blagojevich has the mental capacity to learn to type, and he should have worked on his skills decades ago. There is no need to make excuses for him. Or his hair 🙂

  29. posted by chacha1 on

    LOL Erin there is NO excuse for Blago’s hair.

    Re: typing, in grad school my advisor (a woman) said the best professional move she ever made, as a new associate professor, was not telling the department heads she could type.

    I will second the tip above re: learn to spell! Bad spelling is like a thick regional accent, it causes people to assume the writer/speaker is uneducated or ignorant or just plain dumb. Seriously. Likewise, IM and text abbreviations in business writing cause readers to deduct 20 IQ points from their assessment of the writer.

  30. posted by Sky on

    Keep a list in your wallet of frequently called phone numbers. I know they are in your phone but should your phone fail or get lost, it takes quite an effort to get them again.

  31. posted by Beverly D on

    My tip/advice: learn to read a map. Even though people are relying more and more on GPS, knowing how to read a map can be very helpful.

  32. posted by Cas on

    Keep your resume updated.

    You’re much more inclined to remember specific stats, details and nuances of a job or project if you’re updating your resume during (or shortly after) your work.

  33. posted by Rina on

    @Sky — that’s a really good point. I have to admit that after more than 3 years together, I still don’t have my husband’s phone number memorized. I had dropped my landline by that point and once it went in my cell, I’ve never dailed it. BUT, I can definitely see my phone running out of juice in an emergency and having to wrack my brain trying to remember his number!

  34. posted by Marie on

    A tip to save other people’s time and earn good karma:

    If you can avoid it, don’t do errands during lunch hour. When I worked a 9-5 office job, it was infuriating to spend my entire lunch in line at the post office with twenty retired people in front of me, chatting up the clerk about their grandkids.

    Now that I work from home, I make it a point to do my banking and such during the early morning or late afternoon.

  35. posted by Louise on

    @Sooz: The keyboarding/snowboarding connection made me laugh. Brilliant!

    @April: I disagree. We didn’t stop “dialing our phones” or “sounding like broken records” when those technologies disappeared…

  36. posted by Allison on

    My engineer father started working in the 40s, and used to say (not unkindly) that he didn’t have to learn to type because “they had women for things like that.” They did, and that’s how he met my mother…

  37. posted by TanyaZ on

    Happy Dogs, I was one of those girls who took a typing class in high school. That was 20 years ago and in a different language with a totally different keyboard layout. You can’t possibly be blaming your high school, as I did not have to type in English until the age of 25 when I went to grad school in the US. Six month later I could type in English alright. Now, I can type blind in two languages with two different layouts, and I don’t think it’s that difficult to learn.

    Incidentally, my boss recently inherited two VPs with poor typing and no Excel or PowerPoint skills in a reorganization. Needless to say, he (who can type and use most software packages) is NOT happy about it. Reorganization continues, and those two will have to fight for their place under the sun and six-figure salaries. Their assistants can’t help them here – in a modern organization, assistants are supporting 3-4 people, and have bigger responsibilities than just typing.

  38. posted by April on


    While people sometimes say “keyboarding,” usually they just say “typing.” And the use of “keyboarding” has to do with the introduction of computers, not men learning to type.

    Also, it was “typing” because it was a typewriter. People now “keyboard” because we use computer keyboards. The fact that it shares “board” with “snowboard” is just because they both use flat panels/boards. Basically coincidence.

    It makes for a funny joke, but it’s hardly a case to claim sexism.

  39. posted by Anne Wayman on

    Yep, it all makes sense… and my mind often goes completely blank when it’s time to put something away… apparently I put it down while moving off to do something else… more present moment seems to be called for.

  40. posted by April on

    Computer shortcuts is definitely a must for saving time, and so obvious I didn’t think to mention it until I read the other comments! Kudos to those who thought of it first.

    I keep a few blank Post-Its in my moleskine that I carry everywhere. You never know when you need to hand someone a piece of paper with information written on it (a phone number, an e-mail address, a simple map/directions, a Web site URL, a note to leave on someone’s car, etc.). I don’t want to tear a page out of my notebook, and I won’t always be able to find a napkin. My cousin gave this idea to me and I’ve been grateful ever since.

  41. posted by Cat on

    As to men typing: My 77 year old dad can type over 200+ wpm (yes that’s right TWO hundred). He learned after he graduated from high school, when he got a job as a billing clerk in a trucking company. He is the one who convinced me to stick with the typing & take a brush-up course in high school, and he was so right.

    I took typing in the 2nd grade, back in 1969-ish. This was an experimental program designed to teach kids to read, and we used tiny little manual typewriters. We didn’t learn to read any better than other kids, but the typing skills I learned as a very small tyke have stayed with me and have been the single most important job skill I’ve ever had. I have an executive job in a university – my job can be summed up as attending meetings & writing memos. People wonder how I get so much done in the day, and I swear that being able to type 100+ wpm helps a lot.

    Also, somebody said learn the keyboard shortcuts. YES. Every time you pick your hands up off the keyboard to grab the mouse or operate the track point, you are wasting time.

  42. posted by BethB on

    @Laurie I’m trying to improve my handwriting too and found this post really helpful:

  43. posted by Rue on

    When something breaks, don’t wait to fix it. Fix it right away (or as soon as possible). If your washing machine breaks on laundry day and you don’t fix it or get another one within a day or two, you’ll have a much larger laundry mountain or be buying new clothes if you keep waiting!

  44. posted by WilliamB on

    weavermom’s idea is the best – turn off the TV.

    Reading the manual isn’t as useful as it used to be. I’ve been a manual reader for years – you can’t say RTFM to me! – and I’ve noticed in the past 3-5 years than they don’t contain as many answers as they used to. This is not a good development.

    I have two time savers:
    1. Let your fingers do the walking.
    If you need a specific item, call the store to make sure it’s in stock. If you need to talk to a specific person, call to see if s/he’s there that day. Check store hours while you’re at it.

    2. Make an errands list.
    When you have errands to do, make a list. If you save your errands for the weekend, keep a running list during the week, so you don’t forget. The list should include:
    – the errand/stores (ideally in the order you want to do them)
    – what you want to accomplish on the errand
    – what you need with you to accomplish the errand

  45. posted by Thekla Richter on

    Great list! Here are a few I’d add:

    – Use and check your calendar meticulously.
    – Have a physical inbox for each person in the house.
    – Keep a list of the big projects and responsibilities on your plate so that you know what you’re committed to.
    – /Work flexibility into your plans in case things take longer than you expect.

  46. posted by Leta on

    Read the book, How to Have a 48 Hour Day, by Don Aslett and implement one suggestion per week. Life changing!

  47. posted by Stacy on

    I wonder how many people are wasting time because they do not know how to type. I’ll bet it wastes millions of dollars in productivity. I had a boyfriend once who used the hunt and peck two finger typing method and he worked in the computer industry. Do you think that’s why he has had 13 different jobs in the last 10 years? Do you think that is why he hates the open office floor plan at his current job, or maybe he lost that one too. It would not be too late for these people to learn to type.

    I have actually thanked my high school typing instructor for teaching me to type. It has provided me with secretarial and transcription jobs throughout college.

  48. posted by Debra on

    My time waster is dealing with tasks I am avoiding. Now, I have a to-do list and an “Items I’m avoiding list”. I don’t even mess with the avoided items during my day. Instead, I use the first work hour of the day for the “avoided stuff”. Usually, once I get started on something, then I will see it through. That way, as the day wears on I’m not goofing off to avoid a task.

  49. posted by Henave on

    I have to add making sure you get up early enough in the morning. There is a huge difference when you get up and allow yourself enough time in the morning. Going right along with this would be going to bed on time.

    Also add that minute pause as you get out of the car to confirm that you have your car keys in your hand before you lock the door! While I’m at it, there is also the pause as you enter a store or office to note where you have parked.

  50. posted by Susan in FL on

    Format your shopping list so that the items on it are arranged in the same order you pass them on your trip through the store. If you go to more than one store, make a separate list for each store as well. Here’s where one of those pre-formatted lists in Excel or Word can be really helpful.

  51. posted by Sharon on

    @Sky – excellent tip to keep a list of important numbers in your wallet! When my baby was 3 months old we went to the grocery store and I accidentally locked my keys in the trunk after loading the groceries. Thankfully, I had not put the baby in the car yet, but in my sleep-deprived state had left my cell phone at home. My list of phone numbers in my wallet was a life saver as I had to call my husband at work for help.

  52. posted by Juliska on

    I, too, was told by my high school guidance counselor (30 years ago) not to take typing. When I protested that I would need to type papers in college, she said, “You can pay someone else to type them. Typing classes are vocational; the colleges don’t like to see them on your transcript.” I did not take a typing class until the last semester of my senior year, when the transcripts no longer mattered. I got to college with a basic knowledge of typing, but wasn’t fast enough to qualify for the “good” campus jobs in the college offices. Also, if I had been “someone else to type it for you,” I could have made a small fortune.

    Every job I’ve had since college required typing; I can touch-type now, but that skill came only after several years as a legal secretary, transcribing dication. Man, I wish I’d had the guts and brains to ignore that counselor!

    One of my best friends went to a private high school that required every student, male or female, to take typing, because–drumroll, please–they would need it in college! She graduated with a typing speed of 90 wpm, and never, ever, had trouble finding a good job.

    Oh, there was one, single male student in my high school typing class: He never lost an opportunity to remind us that he was only there because he was going to be a journalist.

  53. posted by Sooz on

    @April, it is both sexist and funny! And I’m in a position to point it out, because I learned to type on a manual typewriter, and then was one of the first to use the earliest word-processing equipment that was ever widely installed by large corporations. That was in the early 1970’s — and we called it typing, even though it was done on a computer keyboard. But again, only women did that task back then. I still remember the male executives standing in the doorway, piles of disordered paper in hand, hoping the “girls” in the word-processing dept. could “type” their document before deadline. (If you don’t think “girls” is sexist, you weren’t working in an office in the 1970’s.)

    I toiled for many years in the word-processing departments of law firms and such, and the men never touched a keyboard and everyone called it “typing”. Only when men began having to do their own typing (on a cool desktop computer!) did the term “keyboarding” arise, which I think is funny & very telling.

  54. posted by georgetownsandi on

    I do the hardest thing on my ‘to do’ list (ok, that’s another simple thing – have a simple to do list) first thing in the morning before I let myself touch my computer and then reward myself with whatever I want (which usually does involve touching my computer and reading unclutterer, lol) I do get much more done this way.

  55. posted by Suzyn on

    @Sooz – I have found an interesting parallel in the corporate world of the 90s and 00s – it’s the “word processors” that learn things like keyboard shortcuts, whereas the “tech support” folks use the mouse for everything (with a whole lot of unnecessary clicking on random things, too – like they think they look busy and fast when I know they’re just clicking away…). I did my share of temp work both in secretarial and word processing depts, and the skills I learned – not just typing and keyboard shortcuts, but how to make Word act like a desktop publishing tool and make fancy Excel charts – have served me VERY well in my technical writing career.

  56. posted by Will on

    Learn the shortcut keys for the applications you use most. The mouse slows you down so much.

    Learn the basics of a scripting language like AutoHotKey. I write SQL code all day and the time I spent learning AutoHotKey has been dwarfed by the time I save every day by not having to type ad hoc queries in full every time.

    Learn to automate your work. The time you save allows you to focus on other problems.

    Don’t wait until something is perfect, work toward incremental improvement.

    Always improve process.

  57. posted by FutureCat on

    Not typing is a status thing for some managers. They’re *much* too important (in their own minds, anyway) to do anything that menial.

    I once was secretary to a boss like that. He didn’t even have a computer in his office (and this was only 10 years ago) – anything he wanted typed, right down to a short email, he’d dictate to me, then wait while I typed it up, then check it, make changes (he always changed his mind about what he’d said), wait again for me to make the corrections… He also refused to learn how to use the photocopier, but instead would bring the document to me, give me instructions on exactly how he wanted it copied (which normally took longer than the actual copying), and stand waiting while I copied it.

    Both things seemed to me to involve an incredible waste of his time, when if he’d just swallowed his pride and done them himself he could have freed up so much time.

  58. posted by Jane Campbell on

    12. Get your reading speed up over an 8th-grade level. I was 31 before I had the sense to do this. Mothers, tell your children . . .

  59. posted by Mikey's mom on

    @erin, no I thought you were probably in your thirties, maybe Blago is younger than I am, dunno. Yes, you are slightly less than .5MyAge Enjoy it!

  60. posted by JThompson on

    Memorize a handful of core recipes.
    Keep the items to make those recipes on hand in your pantry.

    Improve your reading. Read novels that you enjoy. Encourage your kids to read what they like (and yes, I find A Diary of a Wimpy Kid quite annoying). Yes, it may be fluff, escapism or just not literature. But your reading comprehension goes up the more you practice.

  61. posted by Sassy on

    I totally agree with chacha1.

    I have been interviewing people for a new position, and the number of people with poor or non-existant grammar astonishes me.

    I HATE text talk in emails and all my staff are aware that they will be severely reprimanded for using text talk in a business email.

    I did an 8 hour touch typing course when I was 17 and had just left school and have never regretted it. It also helped when I was working my way around England and I could get lots of office jobs doing typing and data entry.


  62. posted by kelly on

    @Laurie – Regarding handwriting, I bought this book years and years ago and it’s very helpful, full of worksheets and exercises. It’s something I keep meaning to go back to and do a refresher. Lord knows I need it again!

  63. posted by Lindsay on

    I guess I’m one of the younger ones here. My high school (class of 2004) stopped offering typing my freshman year because everyone already knew how to type. I’ve never been asked what my typing speed is, though I don’t do a lot of typing at work in E-learning development & animation.

    Most of my wasted time is time spent trying to compose e-mails in a way that is short without sounding curt or rude. I have a very blunt & to the point method of communication and it doesn’t sound very nice or polite in written form. Anybody have an useful reading suggestions for me on e-mail etiquette?

  64. posted by JThompson on

    Car maintenance. I suppose you could argue that a series of planned trips will not save you time over one large unscheduled fix.
    I am nonplussed when coworkers “can’t” get to work because of entirely avoidable problems with their transportation.

  65. posted by JThompson on

    If you live in snowy climate and you have a garage, park your car in it. Taking time to scrape frost, ice and snow off the car daily for five months of the year in your nice office clothing is silly if you have a better option.

  66. posted by JThompson on

    Remain in basic good shape. Can you walk down that trail with your kids? Can you move the heavy box down off the shelf? Can you shift most of the furniture to clean under it?
    Retaining basic independence means you do not have to wait for someone to help you.

  67. posted by JThompson on

    Great topic. Completely agree with Sue, basic math skills are absolutely a time saver.

  68. posted by trillie on

    Great tips. And so simple! You often read about “10 amazing techniques and tricks you didn’t know that are absolutely fantastic and that you should apply in your life to become fantastic, too” but these articles often forget that it’s the basics that have the most impact.

    Oh, and a funny anecdote concerning the “doesn’t know how to type” thing: The boss of a large company I used to work for had his secretary print his emails, he hand-wrote a reply on them, she scanned the page and emailed the scan back. There was a rumor that once, he reviewed a long document and wrote notes and revisions on every paper page, and his secretary had to scan all the pages and she sent them all back to everyone involved in the project, including all the people on the CC: list, and caused a major mail server breakdown. This was ten years ago. I remember thinking that as long as someone’s the boss, they can get away with stuff like this, because all problems caused will be defined as someone else’s problem.

  69. posted by LizA on

    Something really obvious maybe: take your time. We have a saying in my country that a person in a hurry is unlucky, and it is true. As soon as you start to hurry mistakes occure, things fall on the floor or are forgotten, knots appear out of no-where etc. So slowing down a bit is actually a huge time saver!

    Also shedule time for things like facebook. If you dedicate a certain amount of time for the internet, you will waste less time than if you just sneak in every now and then….

    I actually have a laptop and a netbook these days. I disconnected the laptop from the internet and boy have I started to use my time more rationally! This is true for other distractions too: Remove them/swtich them off whaterver.

  70. posted by Keith on

    While you are waiting at the grocery store arrange all the barcodes facing forward and group like items. All the time you use to do this is time the cashier doesn’t waste while checking you out and you weren’t doing anything anyway.

  71. posted by Mletta on

    In an age of electronic devices, texting, etc. I’m still amazed at how many people can’t type. It should be a requirement for college. (You wonder why kids are late and turn in papers full of spelling errors? And their excuse is: I can’t type!)

    And I totally disagree with those who say you shouldn’t let people know you can type.

    I taught myself to type when I had a very low-paying job inbetween high school and college at a management consulting firm (something akin to what an internship is today).

    I did it as a lark, because I was not required to type anything.

    It came in very handy because in college, everyone in our Journalism major had to pass a minimum 50WPM typing test. Or take a course.

    And fyi, because I could not only type, write and edit, I got a great part-time job at that same management consultant firm when I went to college. And later, when I graduated, a full-time job in the communications department!

    Over the years, as a professional writer and editor, typing fast has saved my ass many a time on deadline and in making changes prior to publishing.

    It’s also allowed me to work, in the early lean years, as an office temp, where I met some great people and got offered some great jobs.

    To this day, I still consider my ability to type quickly and accurately as one of my top skills.

    Give me a QWERTY keyboard on a phone (forget the touch pads) and I can post a story in minutes.

  72. posted by Betharu on

    Two things my mother insisted that my brother and I take in High School –

    1 – Typing
    2 – Latin

    The first is obvious – I often chuckle when I see my boss using the two finger method. In fact, she will often have me type up things because I am so much faster.

    The second helped me in school, particularly when taking a 2nd foreign language. It helped me in English – all those vocab words and definitions. And it definitely helped me on my SAT’s!

  73. posted by Andrea on

    Great post.
    I just started using roboform for storing all my passwords. If you are like me and have a lot of projects that involve passwords online, it comes really handy.

  74. posted by PW on

    I live in Chicago area, IL. There is nothing effecient about any government here. If they can hire a family/friend/$contributor to do the typing for them for $150,000 a yr. they do. If the taxpayers question it, they just say that they can’t do it themselves, they need that person. Then the next year they increase their salaries to $200,000. That is Chicago politics. That is why they will lay off firemen, policemen, teachers etc. well before they would lay off administrative staff because they are filled by friend,family, and campaign contributors. Sad to say, but that is how it works. Which is why I am moving to Indiana. Each household owes $80,000 to pay for pensions of all these wonderful people. I am out of here.

  75. posted by Jessiejack on

    Keith – what a great idea about the bar codes! I will try that next time to see if it makes a difference-that will keep me occupied so I don’t get annoyed about having to wait in line

  76. posted by Annette on

    I have to say that writing stuff down has really done wonders for me. I write everything I have to down in notepad and then I never have to try and think about what I’ve forgotten and what I’ve missed. I simply just go down the list rapid fire. I’ve been doing this so much lately with everything and I love it.

  77. posted by MAM on

    In addition to the many wonderful suggestions already posted, here’s my contribution. If there’s a store or building you visit regularly, always park in the same basic area of the parking lot. (Example, when I go to my regular grocery store I always park in the first row on the driveway entry side.) It saves time when you arrive because you don’t drive around looking for a “good spot,” and it saves time when you leave because you don’t have to remember where you parked. –Mary

  78. posted by s on

    I totally agree with Typing AND Latin. I’ve used both to great advantage for over 20 years!

    I don’t think that you want to hide your typing skills if that’s your qualification for a job. But, especially in the “olden days,” you might not have wanted to let others know that you could type if that might cause them to see you as “just the typist” (no matter how valuable that really is!) rather than seeing you for the other professional skills you bring to the team. It’s kind of a generational issue. These days, typing skills are critical to any professional, and our Admin professionals contribute many other skills, like file management, professional formatting, research capabilities, etc. I regret that I don’t use my secretary to her full potential because I do all my own typing (often better than she does), and I don’t assign her more challenging tasks often enough.

  79. posted by s on

    And Latin has helped on everything from college entrance exams to understanding context in a book or newspaper article to even figuring out how a word in a foreign language translates to English or the other Romance languages. My one semester of Latin also helps me to improve my spelling, all these years after I took it in high school.

  80. posted by Rae on

    Taking Latin in high school (and typing) was one of the best things I’ve ever done. This is a wonderful list and (mostly) fantastic comments! (It was a joke, April. Enough about sexism. Sheesh.) Thanks!

  81. posted by Chris on

    I refill pill minders for more than one family member late on Saturday nights. Any bottles running low are set aside and the refills are immediately called in to the pharmacy’s 24-hour refill service. Then I can pick them up first thing Monday and never run out of any important medications.

  82. posted by Jann Schott on

    If you use a purse, store similar items together. For instance, the purse I have, I store ‘medical’ items (band-aids, lip balm, pills in a small container) in one pocket, key rings in another pocket, etc. This saves me time in fishing around my purse trying to find something.

    Oh, and speaking of keyrings, I have a separate one for my club-cards. It has ONLY the club cards on that ring, along with a little screwdriver that has a philip’s head on one end & a flat tip on the other (for glasses!)…and speaking of those club cards, I put a piece of clear cellophane tape over each bar-code to keep it intact.

    As far as keeping passwords and such, for awhile I was using an index card box with the alphabetic tabs. Each time I’d create a new website registration, I’d fill out an index card…name of website on top, with user ID, password, email address, etc. on the card.

    Then I found “Splash ID” from which works on my Palm Treo & on the desktop. Password protected, and has really helped me stay organized! I even put my medication list in this, and refer to it whenever I have to fill out forms w/ other doctors.

  83. posted by Speedlinking – April 9, 2010 « Thoughts of Resurrection on

    […] Unclutterer presents Incredibly obvious tips to save you time […]

  84. posted by E on

    I know I’m late jumping on the bandwagon here…. I think everyone should know how to count change. Also be able to do quick math to calculate the change you’re due for a transaction. Then you can quickly check the clerk’s math (if the register doesn’t calculate for them), and make sure they’ve handed you the correct change.

  85. posted by Organization Links « The Wooden Spoon on

    […] Incredibly Obvious Tips to Save You Time (Unclutterer) […]

  86. posted by Mrs.Mack on


    You’re not the only “young ‘un.” I’m 25 years old (class of ’03). 😉

    As for how to make your e-mails sound less rude, try reading them out loud to yourself. If that doesn’t work because you find yourself putting inflection into your voice where you know it isn’t easily read, have the computer read it back to you. I’m not sure on a PC, but all Macs have a speech function (under System Preferences) that will read things back to you in various voices (monotone, to a tune, etc., where there won’t be your assumed inflection).


    That wasn’t very kind of you to say that about April. You implied that all of the comments were fantastic except for hers—but she had some good tips to share, regardless of her stance on the keyboarding thing.

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