How Small Changes Can Lead to Big Time Savings

If you examine your workday carefully, you may find that very minor time delays are actually eating up much of your productivity.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #304

Sometimes what seems to be a foolish decision can be an amazingly good decision. It all depends on your ability to realize that little things add up. A lot.

When I’m working with coaching clients, we often need to help them find the time to pursue new initiatives in their lives. Often, the new time comes from very small changes.

A few weeks ago, my 7-year-old computer died. It was old and pokey. Programs took several seconds to launch. Maybe twice an hour, I’d switch applications and get the cute spinning beach ball for 30 seconds while the new application fired up. And woe is me if I had to switch back and forth between Mail, word processing, and diagram programs. The beach ball and I bonded. We were BFFs (emphasis on the last F).

When the system died, I screamed and screamed and screamed...in delight. Because now I had an excuse to buy a new computer! I ran right out to the Apple store and snagged a nice, new iMac. Only this time, I spent the extra few hundred dollars for lots of memory and a really fast hard drive.

BOOM! Major life change, instantly!>

Time Adds Up

Now, computing’s a breeze! I switch between applications as quickly and easily as politicians switch between deeply held policy positions when pandering for votes. Everything is snappy and responsive. And my mind is clear. I realize that I waited for my sluggish system three or four times an hour. In an eight hour day, that’s 32 times I waited 30 seconds or more for something to happen. That makes 16 minutes a day.

Using the 3/30 rule, you will quickly realize that these minutes add up to 1 1/2 weeks every year. Watching a spinning beach ball. Dreaming of—but not doing—productive work. So much for my vacation. Saving a week and a half a year more than justifies buying a new computer. A week and a half a year for 7 years is 10.5 weeks, gone forever. All because I was too cheap to shell out the bucks for a faster processor and a little more memory.

Lesson learned: buy a fast, speedy computer. It will more than pay for itself.

Key Fumbling Adds Up

Then there’s my house key. It’s in the middle of my key ring. Every time I arrive or leave, I grab my key ring and fumble around to locate the right key. In winter, it means putting my groceries down in the snow, soaking the bag through with ice water, and removing my gloves so I have the dexterity to deal with the keys. Great fodder for guilt-tripping the nieces and nephews, but…honestly. I do this 5 times a day. If it adds 20 seconds to my commute each time, that’s 4–5 minutes a day. Multiply by 365 and we get 12 hours a year. I spend a day a year fumbling for my keys.

If it adds 20 seconds to my commute each time, that’s 4–5 minutes a day. Multiply by 365 and we get 12 hours a year. I spend a day a year fumbling for my keys.

My schmoopie—whose IQ leaves me in the dust—just laughed and laughed before pointing out an easy solution: get two housekeys. Put one on each end of my bundle of keys. Then, no matter how I pick up the keyring, the very endmost key is always the door key.

Cost to duplicate a key: $1.29. Time to put key on keyring: 30 seconds.

For $1.20 and 30 seconds, I can have an extra day a year. Worth it? You bet!


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.