Of all the ETR essays I’ve written about self-improvement, the ones that get the most response – both positive and negative – are those that have to do with saving time. I don’t know why that is. You would think ETR readers would be very happy to get advice about how to be more productive by spending less time doing routine tasks. You would think.

The biggest fracas was in February of 2005. That’s when I suggested that ETR readers could save time by spending less time in the shower. I have friends, I told them, who spend a half-hour in the shower every day. That’s crazy, I said. Two minutes is usually plenty for me. Five minutes tops.

Readers were outraged by this. They scolded me for my insensitivity. They accused me of being arrogant, sexist, and downright dirty.

Many people are apparently quite attached to their showers. For someone to even suggest they limit their time under the hot water puts them into a rage.

But that’s not what this article is about. It’s about stealing time for yourself. So I am going to make a number of suggestions to help you find more time to invest in your future health, wealth, and happiness… if you are willing.

Limiting Your Shower to Two-Minutes

I know how much you like to stand under the hot water and soak. I know how it relaxes you. But spending 15 to 30 minutes a day in the shower (as many people do) wastes a ton of water and time.

Save the planet. Improve yourself. Take shorter showers.

Amount of time you will save by taking short showers: 79 to 170 hours a year

Eating at Your Desk

I used to like hour-long business lunches. Then I got smart and started eating at my desk. I eat lunch at a restaurant two or three times a month. That’s it. And it’s always social. Never business.

Instead of letting vendors treat you to a fancy meal, let them spend their lunch money on giving you better prices.

Bottom line: Business lunches don’t save time. They waste time! And money. Eat at your desk.

Amount of time you will save by eating at your desk: 250 hours a year

Insisting on Very Short Meetings

I figure about 80 percent of all the hour-long business meetings I have ever had need not have taken more than 15 minutes. Moreover, 50 percent of the multi-day business retreats I’ve attended could have been done in a day or a half-day.

Business meetings are like basketball games. Players spend most of the time throwing the ball back and forth while the score stays close. It’s only in the last 10 minutes that they get serious and really play to win.

If you plan them well, you can significantly reduce the time you spend in meetings. Well-planned meetings have the following characteristics:

  • They focus on a single topic.
  • That topic is expressed concisely before the meeting in a short memo.
  • The meeting is conducted by someone who encourages ideas but cuts off digressions and pushes toward solutions.
  • The right people are there – never more than seven.

Time you will save with 15-minute meetings: 75 hours (assuming 100 meetings a year)

Answering E-Mails Efficiently

I answer e-mails only once a day – at the end of the day. This saves me tons of hassles and passels of time. Why? Because three-quarters of the 100 e-mails I get every day are other peoples’ concerns. It’s much better for them, and more time-efficient for me, if I let them solve their own problems.

When I do answer e-mails, I make my answers short and to the point. When I have something difficult or negative to say, I don’t use e-mail because it can cause confusion that results in lots of extra e-mails to clear up. Positive comments can be made very quickly. And if something can’t be explained quickly, I do it in person or on the phone.

Every once in a while – maybe twice a year – I ignore my rule and start the day by doing e-mail. And I have noticed that when I do that, it takes a lot longer. That’s because in the morning I feel like I have plenty of time and tend to write longer answers when shorter ones will do. I have actually tracked the time it takes me to do e-mail both ways. When I start in the morning, it takes about 90 minutes to get through 100 e-mails. When I wait till the end of the day, it takes between 45 and 60 minutes.

Time you will save by answering e-mails for only 45 minutes a day: 185 hours (assuming you check e-mail 250 days of the year)

The Impressive Total

Tally it up. I’ve just shown you how you can save 589 hours a year, at the very least. That is the equivalent of more than 14 40-hour work weeks!

Think of all the things you could accomplish with an extra 589 hours each year. Then make the changes and get going.

[Ed. Note: Simply tweaking your schedule can give you loads of extra time. Get dozens of equally simple yet powerful strategies for accomplishing your goals with ETR’s Total Success Achievement Program. Learn the details here.] [Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]

Mark Morgan Ford

Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Wealth Builders Club. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.