Ten Hacks To Save 4 Hours A Week

It has been four weeks since the school year began. Our life is becoming quite busy with homework, project work, volunteer work, activities and events.

That’s why I am getting very serious about implementing more hacks in my daily routine. The last thing I want to be doing is slaving away at my computer when I could be building a fun project with my boys or taking my daughter out to a show!

Hacks to save 4 hours a week

I am sharing some simple hacks that have worked wonders for me. I hope they will save you time as well!

Here are 10 hacks to save 4 hours a week or more! I have created a simplified version of these ten hacks for you to download and use!

Hack 1: Automate It

One year after jumping the Windows ship, my Mac is still a revelation to me! I recently started using the built in Automator application. It can do a number of handy things. But I am mostly interested in time based automation, such as sending someone a reminder email about a task or an upcoming event. I saved 30 minutes a week by using this Application.

To create an automated task driven by the calendar (iCal), select the iCal Alarm type. Add your cascading tasks. In the below example, I am creating a reminder email message to be send out automatically.

Hacks to save 4 hours a week

Save the automation, schedule the task. Get back to your creative or analytical work and let your computer handle the admin stuff for you!

Hacks to save 4 hours a week

I believe Windows comes with a similar utility. You can read all about it here.

Hack 2: Work That Keyboard

By last year, I had become an expert Windows user. I could navigate the entire O/S and most applications just from the keyboard. I never used the mouse except to format documents and spreadsheets. Everyone should use keyboard shortcuts because they are the easiest way to reduce the time you spend at your computer.

Alas, I haven’t quite achieved the same level of proficiency on the Mac yet. But I have found numerous keyboard shortcuts that save time. Here are some standard keyboard shortcuts for the Mac and their Windows equivalent can be found here.

Working a list of standard keyboard shortcuts for the tasks you perform on a daily basis, can easily save you 1 hour per week!

Hack 3: Clip It and Snippet

Many years ago when I had a stint as a database programmer, I used to set up VI editor shortcuts to avoid having to type all the programming commands. When I moved out of programming altogether into design and project management, I had to adopt other hacks. But I never lost the appreciation for hacks that could reduce time spent in typing.

Imagine my delight when I found this neat application that creates snippets right from your clipboard! These days when I am writing, I like to use TextExpander. It may not be much, but each small snippet can save a few minutes. The total can really add up over time!

Hacks to save 4 hours a week

Hack 4: Are You A Smart Phone User?

I was extremely excited when I started using Siri 2 years ago and things have only gotten better. Nothing beats having my own personal digital assistant. Siri books my appointments, makes my calls (always through bluetooth when driving) and even launches applications.

Did that save you another 30 minutes at least?

Hack 5: Get on the Cloud

I admit, not everything needs to be on the Cloud. Good old fashioned client based applications work just as well. But when it comes to some things, cloud computing gets the job done faster and better.

My rules for using cloud based services are as follows:

  • Will any other users use this data?
  • Do I need to share a large volume of data?
  • Would it be better if I hosted it (on my own server)?
  • Will the data change frequently?
  • Do I need to distribute data or take actions based on specific triggers? Does the cloud based application provide a rules engine to handle the triggers?

If and only if the application fits my criteria, do I sign up for their services. Some of my favorite cloud based services are:

  • BaseCamp – Perfect for documents, discussions
  • Mint – My one stop financial snapshot
  • DropBox – Cloud based storage
  • Evernote – Note taking and more
  • AnyList – Simple and effective grocery list app, not to mention a marriage saver!

Get on the cloud, it could save you 30 minutes or more per week!

Hack 6: Perish The Idea Of A Zero Inbox

Yes, you heard me right, abandon the notion of a Zero inbox!

Just like the rest of the world, I couldn’t contain my excitement when I read the new MailBox app press release. The wait time seemed interminable! After almost a month of waiting, I received the app to find that it could only handle Gmail. What in the world?

It was then that I decided; I wouldn’t spend any more time fiddling around with Mail applications! I abandoned the mindset of working from my Inbox.

These days my work begins from my Task List and is constrained by my calendar. This approach is consistent with Agile methodology. I plan my sprints and timebox them.

Here are a few other tricks and tips to eliminate Mail overload

  • Eliminate subscriptions you don’t need.
  • Create labels and filters in GMail. Create a label for your mail based on context (“Boys Extracurricular Activities”) and filter all related email to that label/folder.

Hacks to save 4 hours a week

  • Sync preferences across the mail application on all your devices. Spend a few minutes setting up all of your email accounts in your default Mail app. It will save you a ton of time when you are searching for an email at midnight that can only be accessed via your laptop.
  • Add frequent mail recipients to your address book.

Did that save you at least 30 minutes in a week?

Hack 7: Tag, You Are It!

Creating hierarchical folders to organize your electronic output is a waste of time. Create a global list of tags (that matches the labels you define using Hack 6). Tag everything you create. You can tag emails, documents, pictures. Use the built in OS spotlight to locate your items and you will never have to hunt for a document again!

Hacks to save 4 hours a week

Hack 8: KISS Those Fancy Tools Goodbye!

I love technology! It is fun to play around with new technology solutions and learn all the new hacks available. But do I really need the latest and greatest tech tool that everyone else is using? No!

When I got my MacBook last year, I was all set to use my design and photography skills. I purchased Adobe Photoshop. Yes, it is an expensive piece of software!

I was using it for everything from resizing images to adding text to them. Do I need Photoshop? Heck, no! For one thing, it slows my Mac down to the speed of sound and it is just way too time consuming.

These days, I keep it simple with tools like Powerpoint (it has an easy save to Picture option) or even an online service like Pixlr to edit my images. Simple, done and moving on to other important tasks!

Was that another 30 minutes saved? I think so!

Hack 9: Speed Up Your Mac

Are you spending a lot of time staring at that beach ball? How about you take the time to perform routine maintenance and speed up your Mac instead? Windows aficionados, here is some useful information for you!

Hack 10: Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan

Perhaps I should have led with this one. :P

Those of you at corporate will have no problem with this hack. You might be Scrummasters or project leads and have your work mapped out for you.

As for us consultants and entrepreneurs, we need to be diligent about planning our work every single day. I have written about the importance of establishing a process. Whether you are writing, creating information products or consulting with clients, it is important to define and schedule your work.

  • Determine your projects. Use a tool like WorkFlowy to outline your work.

Hacks to save 4 hours a week

  • Some tasks such as creative and analytical ones need a deeper level of work. Other tasks tend to require shallow work, they can be done during your least productive hours. Block off your calendar for “Creative work“, “Analytical Work” and “Admin Work“. Plan your work according to your energy level.
  • One of my friends uses a strict time box methodology to track his work. I follow a looser interpretation of the same principle. By all means spend time on tasks that add value to your bottom line. But do you really need to spend 2 hours editing that infographic? Do you need to format that blog post for an hour?

Planning your work in advance will save you many hours per week. Another excellent trick I learned from none other than Carrie Wilkerson was to keep adding ideas to my list even during the weekend. That way you are already one step ahead when Monday rolls along.

I hope you enjoyed these 10 hacks that will save you 4 hours this week and every week quite easily. Is there an essential hack you use that I might have missed? Leave a comment below!

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