I recently experimented with applying a time-management step to my non-work life: cutting down on travel time. I chose this step because it was something I could do right away and it forced me to organize my non-work schedule in an efficient way.
I’m encouraged by the preliminary results, and by the benefits of more free time. When I stay on target, I have more free time for leisure activities that are important to me, like cooking dinner for my wife and me. Here’s what I did, and how to get more free time.
The Grocery Store Metric
The way I measure excessive travel time in my non-work life is to count the number of times I go to the grocery store each week. At my worst, I can hit the grocery store 12 times a week. In a month, that’s literally hours of lost time.
Step #1: Organize on Sunday
My first step to cutting down on travel time was to organize my schedule on Sunday, before the workweek started. To do it right, I needed to include meal planning and the dreaded grocery list—a task I don’t like doing—so that I wasn’t constantly foraging for food at the grocery store during the workweek.
Step #2: A Fluid Schedule
Next, I planned how grocery trips would best fit into my schedule. In my schedule, work time and non-work time can cross over. In other words, I don’t always try to fit a grocery trip into days when I’m off work.
If it cuts down on travel time for me to go to the grocery store from my office when I have a two-hour block of time between clients, I do it.
Step #3: Bunch Errands That Are Close to Each Other
Once I had my grocery shopping times set for the week, I added in other travel errands that were close to the grocery store.
For example, I would schedule a pet store and grocery store run together because both stores are in the same shopping center. Other errands, like going to the barber for a haircut, which is in the opposite direction of the grocery store, would be scheduled when I had other errands in that direction.
Step #4: Move a Client to Create Bigger Blocks of Time
The last tweak I did to cut down on travel time was to move a client to create a bigger block of time for errands.
For example, let’s say my schedule was back-to-back morning clients, followed by a two-hour block of free time, then a client in the afternoon; and my errands list was: go to the grocery store, pet store and veterinary office, which are all near each other.
Unfortunately, two hours would not be enough time to go to all three places. That’s when I would try to move the afternoon client back 30 minutes so that I would have a two-and-a-half hour block of free time.
My general rules for adjusting clients are: Adjust at most two clients, because after that it gets messy; and try not to move first-time customers and weekly clients.
Is More Free Time Worth It?
Granted, it takes some time to count up your grocery runs and organize errands in a way that minimizes travel time and gives you the benefits of more free time.
But for me, the initial time investment is proving to be worthwhile because I’m ultimately gaining more free time. My incentive to stay on track is simple: Life is short—and dinner with my wife is important.
Mark Liskey, L.M.T., C.N.M.T., is a massage therapist of 24 years, a teacher and a blogger. He would love to hear how you have gotten or plan on getting more free time and encourages you to leave a comment on his blog, makethemostofmassage.com, which provides massage therapists with the extra knowledge and specific tools they need to succeed.