Do you often find yourself short on time with a long list of things to get done? There are several ways to automate some of your to-do items that will help manage your time and make your week run more smoothly.
Every week, every month, there are many tasks we have to repeat over and over that eat into our time. No, I’m not talking about the never-ending laundry, I’m talking about tasks like paying bills, managing our finances, and meal planning. Until somebody finds a way to automate that laundry, let’s discuss a few ways we can automate the other three tasks.
Automate Your Bill Payments
Automating your bill payments is a great first step to take. With all the different due dates that are spread throughout the month and added fees if you pay late, remembering to pay your bills on time can be a huge mental drain. Last year I set up automatic bill pay for as many payments as I could. Now I don’t have to worry about forgetting to pay a bill.
While there is some time required upfront to set up your automatic bill payments, it’s usually not a whole lot more time than it would take to make a single payment anyway. You will need to set up the online bill payments with either your bank or directly with the service provider. Most banks and companies are happy to receive your payments via online transfer, and the setup is usually rather simple and hassle-free.
What types of bills should I automate? Credit card payments are a great one to automate. Unless you’re paying off dept, set the full balance each month and never worry about late fees again. Since each card company has different due dates, setting up the automated payments means you won’t miss one.
In addition, look at automating your utilities or other services like internet, cable, cell phones, etc. Another area to automate is your life and auto insurance payments. I also set up paying my mortgage every month. If you automate your mortgage payment, make sure to check at the beginning of your mortgage year to make sure there have been no adjustments with your escrow account.
Automate Your Finances
We have a number of different online savings accounts and keeping up with all of them was stressful. Now I’ve automated the transfers so that each month money is automatically moved to each of the different savings accounts. Money from our main checking account goes to the Christmas savings account, a vacation account, a home projects account, and to a fund for education fees. I don’t have to think about it and stress myself out trying to remember if I got them all each month.
The ability to automate some long term investments has also been great. We have automatic transfers into our retirement investment account to make sure that we’re regularly contributing. We have another small online investment account that adds funds from rounding up on purchases from our credit cards and then invests those funds once the minimum threshold is reached.
Between the automatic bill payments and the automatic transfers to savings and investments, I’ve been able to take more than a dozen items off my regular to-do list every month. What payments can you automate to save yourself some time and stress?
Automate Your Meal Planning
I’ll be honest here, I don’t love meal planning. I still do it, but I don’t love it. It’s purely a functional thing at this point. I also keep my meal plans basic, which saves time. We’re not in a season of our lives where planning gourmet meals is a priority, so I stick with simple things we like.
If you decide to automate your meal planning, sit down, and make a list of 15-20 family favorite meals. Distribute the various meals throughout the month, repeating as necessary. It’s perfectly find to plan nights for pizza or take-out. The ideas is to have a plan so you’re not regularly relying on take out or cereal.
Once you have a monthly plan set up, you can easily rinse and repeat every month. One good list of a month’s worth of meals can serve you for months to come. If you want to change it up a bit because the season has changed, that is totally up to you. Maybe create a summer plan that includes grilling out and a winter plan with a lot of soups and chili.
Meal planning this way doesn’t necessarily mean you are eating the same thing over and over. The initial list of 15-20 meals should have been based on your favorite means, eating them once or twice a month shouldn’t feel too limiting. Coming up with a set plan saves you from having to spend a lot of your time coming up with new ideas and scouring recipe websites looking for inspiration.
Your meal plan can save you time and money at the store as well. Knowing what you are having over the next several weeks means you can get all the ingredients in one trip. No more last-minute trips to the store or urgent calls for pizza because you don’t have that ingredient you needed. You also won’t end up wasting a lot of money buying ingredients for that new dish that no one even liked.
Now It’s Your Turn
If you’re ready to tame the overwhelming to-do list, automation is a good place to start. Once you get these tasks automated, be sure to check out my post on sneaky ways that productivity can hurt you.
So, what can you automate in your life? How can you simplify your week to give yourself more time and bandwidth to focus on what’s really important to you?