What Happened To All The Time Savings?

September 19, 2008

Have the time savings evaporated from your life? I know I’m feeling pretty stretched and many of my friends are too. Barbara Swafford has been saying that she feels dog tired. And Valerie Morrison is just cream crackered from rushing about and she feels like she’s always late.

So where did all those time savings go from the past; the ones that made it easier for women to go out to work, instead of spending most their waking hours washing clothes by hand, cooking and cleaning?

When I was younger, my grandmother bought a miracle machine. “It’s going to save us so much time,” she told me. And it did – it was a dishwasher. It was a real godsend because my grandparents lived on a farm. And it felt like we were constantly cooking and washing up – especially in the summer when there were extra helpers to feed and more meals to make because of the long working hours.

There was no stopping grandma after that. First the microwave arrived, then a Magimix. And she used those two gadgets for just about everything. I thought they sucked. “Stuff doesn’t taste as good this way,” I complained. “It’s quicker,” she said.

Eventually I realised it made sense. These time saving gadgets and others, like the washing machine, dryer and refridgerator, made it possible for married woman to go out to work if they wanted.

So what went wrong? One minute we were making all these time savings and the next we’re all stressed out and rushing round like the roadrunner on steroids. How come we’ve lost time again?

It seems to me that there’s too many new inconveniences. Things we expected to be time savers are time suckers. And when all these additional people joined the workforce, nobody thought about the impact all those extra cars would have on our roads.

What was once a nice, easy drive to work has turned into a long stressful roadtrip. And when you’re stuck in a jam, stressed to the eyeballs because you’re going to be 25 minutes late for work, you’re constantly interrupted by that other ridiculous invention – the mobile phone (cell phone).

I thought they were great when they first came out. I could drive from one end of the country to the other with the kids and feel safe, knowing that I had my phone if something went wrong.

Then everyone started getting mobile phones and all those calls and text messages were driving me mad. Customers would call me 24/7. “Why didn’t answer your phone?” people would ask. And I was like, “I was in the bathroom,” or “I was eating lunch.” And I’d be thinking, what the hell does it have to do with you? Did that tosser from the mobile phone company put something in the small print that waivered my rights to any privacy at all?

Eventually, I delegated the answering of the damn thing to other people while I was at work. And finally, I even began switching it off. I’ve got to the point where it’s barely switched on at all. I simply use it for emergencies only and doing that has given me huge time savings.

Email is another interruption that I sometimes feel we could do without. People hit send and expect a response immediately. But would we really receive so many emails if folk had to stop and consider the importance of what they’re sending?

I gradually began checking my email less and less. And now I don’t even check it everyday. Folk stop expecting an immediate response if you don’t give them one.

These moves might seem shocking to those of you who check your email on a regular basis and wouldn’t dream of turning off your cell-phone. But we invited these time sucking interruptors into our lives and we can only free ourselves by closing the door on them.

Do you feel stretched for time? Which time wasting devices annoy you most and what are you going to do about it?

Does this make you think differently about how you might market your business? And if you’re still looking for a business idea, will you come up with something that doesn’t interrupt your customers and gives them time savings?

Related Reading

Don’t Be Like The Women On The Titanic
Is It Time To Get Off Your Fat Ass?
Grilled Frog On Toast Anyone?

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17 Responses to “What Happened To All The Time Savings?”

  1. Scott McIntyre on September 19th, 2008 7:33 am

    This is so true, Cath.

    Nowadays, the pursuit for better productivity and ways to manage information overload often takes up more time than the problems they see to solve!

    There’s always some new gadget, internet site, or technique coming along that claims to help us achieve the goals of personal efficiency.

    The ironic thing is- finding these and then learning how to make the most of them- takes up valuable time.

    I guess, however, that investing now in these new approaches will, ultimately, pay off in the future.

    Or else, until the next latest one comes along :-)

  2. Barbara Swafford on September 19th, 2008 8:33 am

    Hi Catherine,

    Thank you for the mention.

    Like you, I rarely have my cell phone turned on. In fact, I’m not even sure where it is.

    This post has me thinking. Do all of the “modern” conveniences actually make our lives easier, or are they just more things to keep track of? I’m beginning to think it’s the latter.

    I’m finding I need to make more time to unplug and enjoy the simple things in life.

    Barbara Swafford’s last blog post..Priorities – Signatures – Open Mic

  3. Mags | Woo-Woo Wisdom on September 19th, 2008 9:54 am

    Hiya Cath

    I also hardly ever use my mobile phone :) . In fact, I haven’t updated it in ages (can’t be bothered as long as it still works ok), and I use it on a Pay As You Go basis, as GBP 10 lasts for months!

    I love dishwashers! We currently don’t have one, as we just moved house (the sellers took theirs with them) and we’re getting the kitchen redone soon anyway. Now that I’m washing by hand again, I’m realising just how much I appreciated having a dishwasher previously ;) . That said, some of my favourite childhood memories are from when we would visit my grandparents (who didn’t have a dishwasher) and the women would wash up after lunch (the main meal) – my gran would wash, my mom would dry and I would put away. It was so traditional (women in the kitchen, men in the lounge!) but yet we would talk about all sorts of things and I really got to know the other generations of women in my family well.

    This was a great post, Cath. I think that if we find something that saves us time in one area of our life, we have to consciously choose what we’d like to fill that time with rather than letting other areas spill over into the newly opened time-slot.

    Mags | Woo-Woo Wisdom’s last blog post..Flow And Creativity

  4. Brad Shorr on September 19th, 2008 11:56 am

    What a magnificent post, Cath! It really makes you stop and think why we do what we do. Do we seek this efficiencies in an effort to be “productive”? Or is it that we really don’t know what to do with our free time? How do you feel about the Internet? That’s a time saving device par excellence when it comes to shopping, learning, conversing, etc. As I’m working through Google Reader clogged with posts (I’ll always read yours, Cath), I wonder how many hours this will consume in an another 6-12 months.

    Brad Shorr’s last blog post..How Do You See the World?

  5. Graham Strong on September 19th, 2008 2:57 pm

    Our dishwasher broke just before Christmas a couple of years ago (okay, I fell on it after our Christmas open house…) and I had to hand-wash the dishes for our family of five *plus* for the whole Christmas Dinner At Our House. I will tell you that a dishwasher is one of the biggest time savers there are. Clean them at night, and then the next morning unload it while I’m waiting for my coffee to brew. Done!

    As for cell phones, email, etc., I think that what people are finding is that these aren’t time savers at all, they are just ways of communicating faster. Think about it: in the old days you got a letter, and then you picked one day a week to reply to those letters. Now, just because the message can get through faster, people think they need to be replied to faster. That’s a mindset I think we all need to get out of.

    However, in business, I think there is no way around it. If a potential client is shopping around for quotes, I want to be the first one to get back to him or her. That means answering the phone or keeping my email on at all times (at least during business hours). Not to judge others who do things differently, but to me that seems like the professional approach. I like to get back to people as soon as possible simply because I know what it is like to sit around and wait for a reply.

    You’re right — not every email has to be answered immediately. But I prefer to read every email as it comes in, and decide for myself what its priority should be!


    Graham Strong’s last blog post..Writer’s Block: Proper Diagnosis and Treatment

  6. Hunter Nuttall on September 19th, 2008 3:03 pm

    Cath, every once in a while I learn a new British expression from you, and it cracks me up. In this case, it was “cream crackered.”

    When I searched for a definition, a found one British guy saying, “Can I assume you know what cream crackers literally are? Sometimes I have trouble knowing which comestibles are known in the USA and which not.”

    We don’t have cream crackers here, but I love the phrase, and I’m going to look for a chance to use it!

    Hunter Nuttall’s last blog post..Stress Is For Suckers, Don’t Laugh At The Life Coach

  7. Mark Dykeman on September 19th, 2008 3:47 pm

    When I stop and think about it, it seems to me that there are two camps: one group that hates all of the time sucks that have been created and another group that just loves them. I guess the second group is big enough to keep it going.

    Mark Dykeman’s last blog post..Breaking: Assistant Editors take over blogosphere!

  8. Vered - MomGrind on September 19th, 2008 3:51 pm

    One of the problems here, that as we add time-saving gadgets, we also raise our expectations. Standards of cleanliness are higher than they ever were; business response times are quicker than ever.

    Instead of using the extra time for relaxing, we use it to get more done.

    Vered – MomGrind’s last blog post..Wordless Wednesday: Mona Lisa, Enhanced

  9. Stephanie on September 19th, 2008 7:08 pm

    My cell phone I can definitely do without most of the time. Only reason I even own one is because it drove my inlaws nuts that I had two small children and no cell phone. Why, what if the car broke down??

    Suffice it to say it’s often not even charged and I forget it a lot when I go out to run errands.

    Email can drive me nuts too. Sometimes I’ll just go through a phase of being really bad about it. And I regularly have to warn family that I check it once a day most days, unless I’m expecting something. I gave up the obsessive checking a long time ago and that freed up a lot of time.

    Stephanie’s last blog post..Is a Recession a Bad Time to Start a Home Business?

  10. cathlawson on September 19th, 2008 8:12 pm

    Hi Scott – I guess you’re right – with some things, investing a bit of time to learn them will pay off. I’ve switched to GMail now, so hopefully the lack of spam will make things more manageable.

    Hi Barbara – if you feel like taking a break from technology, you’ve got to do it. I thought of one way you can save a bit of time – will email you over the weekend.

    Hi Mags – Poor you with no dishwasher. Washing up sucks, but like you say, if you’re at someone else’s house doing it, it gives you time to talk.

    Hi Brad – The internet has been a godsend to me over the years. It’s definitely saved me a lot of money and hassle. As for time though – I’ve spent far too much time on forums and blogs to claim that I’ve saving that.

    Mind you, when I had my fire and flood business, I barely ever used the Internet, aside to check the weather etc, check up on my competitors, or do a bit of reputation management.

    What kinds things to say about my blog – thank you.

    Graham LMAO – fancy falling on the dishwasher at a party.

    Emails are definitely faster than the polava of typing a letter and posting it etc. But like you say – just because it’s quicker doesn’t mean we need to respond quicker.

    I can see what you mean replying straight away for business quotes. It’s a pity there wasn’t a way you could automate that.

    Hi Hunter LOL – I never know what words you people know and what you don’t. Cream crackers are like biscuits we have with cheese. And cream crackered means knackered (only because it rhymes) – it means really tired – exhausted basically.

    Hi Mark – there’s definitely a lot of gadget addicts isn’t there. And I guess a lot of them make a fortune, promoting them and thinking up new ones for the rest, so there is a very positive side to the whole thing.

    Hi Vered – that’s a good point – everything just keeps improving and we use the time saved to do something else. My kids were joking that soon you’ll just need to stick a credit card in the TV when you see something you want to buy and it’ll come out of a dispenser at the bottom.

    Hi Steph – It sounds like you’ve got on top of the email & cell phone problem too. Like you say, it does become a problem remembering to take it with you when you barely use it though.

  11. Natural on September 19th, 2008 8:21 pm

    Cath, it seems as though those “time saving” gadgets don’t work or we’re not using them properly or we’re cramming too much in the “extra time” we do have. I didn’t like the person I was becoming, being late, not planning, not caring, just a half-arse job and attempt. I showed up places looking thrown together, evil because I was late and it was hard to enjoy the event because it was such a struggle to get there. I looked at what I was doing that was keeping me from being on time and it was stuff that could WAIT and nothing of any real importance. The inconsequential stuff pushed the important stuff out of the way and I flipped the script on my life. Of course, this didn’’t make me happy and a little part of me was suffering with how come I don’t have time to do this or that, how come I wake up so darn early and I’m never on time. Took some being honest with myself, I wasn’t putting for the effort, I was “winging it”…like cramming for a test I didn’t study for…over time it catches up to you. I’m slowly working on putting what’s important back in the center of my life and then I will add a few distractions around it. It’s not easy though, my biggest time wasters is the computer…I LOVE it…I could spend all day on the computer….not with email but just reading. There are so many interesting and fun things on the web and I think I have to see them all. Time wasters….we all need down time, but I have immersed myself too deep….time for me to crawl out from under this beast and get a grip. I need some kind of schedule, fun and goofing off included, before I go crazy. Once the essentials are taken care of, I will be in a better place. Wow this is a long response, how much do I owe you for the blogtherapy session.

    Natural’s last blog post..A Million Little Pieces

  12. Natural on September 19th, 2008 8:23 pm

    i’ma change my name to creamed cracked then. i thought that meant crazy or something. lol

    i need a nap.

    Natural’s last blog post..A Million Little Pieces

  13. Annie Anderson on September 19th, 2008 8:40 pm

    Cath -

    Great post! I’m with you on the cell phone – I hardly use mine but it’s there for emergencies and the few times I’ve really needed it, I’m so glad it’s there.

    My teenager is mainly the one who contacts me with it – she texts me from school (between classes and during lunch) if she forgets her lunch or wants to go to a friends house after school. Likewise, I’ve used mine to text her to tell her I’ll be picking her up and not to get on the bus. But it’s not something that’s always tied to my ear.

    I actually use it so little, I’ve had to call it to find it! Or went to put in my pocket when heading out somewhere only to find it needs to be charged. Mine is the pay as you go kind, too. I can’t see paying monthly when I don’t use it often enough for that. We do have a “regular” plan for the teenagers phone, though.

    And I agree with Hunter on the email – I like to keep mine open so I can respond to clients or potential clients right away. I think it’s professional to not keep them waiting. I’ve had clients tell me that when they’ve been deciding between me and another writer or designer, they’ve chosen me because I communicated well and quickly.

    Dishwashers – I love them! I’m allergic to most dish soaps and trying to wash by hand – even wearing gloves – gives me a rash. It’s currently out right now because we are having the plumbing redone in the kitchen so the husband gets to do the dishes. ;-)

    Anyway, I gotta run. The Short Dude is home from school today and he’s about ready to drive me bonkers! Gotta go for a walk or something to keep him occupied so I can actually get some work done later.

    ~ Annie

    Annie Anderson’s last blog post..Our first around the web for September

  14. Melissa Donovan on September 19th, 2008 9:03 pm

    I do feel stretched for time and sometimes it takes me awhile to return emails and phone calls, although I always answer anything business related as quickly as possible. I think that the interference of these gadgets and technologies are only as time-sucking as you allow them to be. But I do love email ;)

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..Behind the Scenes: Writing as a Business

  15. Cath Lawson on September 21st, 2008 6:03 am

    Hi Valerie – no wonder you were cream crackered. At least you’ve identified what the problem was though. It makes it way easier.

    When I first got a computer I was so addicted to reading anything I could find on the Internet. Forums were another huge timewaster too. I just loved that I could talk to all those people from all over the world.

    Hi Annie – My cellphone bills used to be enormous as everyone who worked for me had one. But now it’s just me – I’m also on pay as you go – same as you. And in the last few weeks I’ve spent zero.

    Hi Melissa – exactly. If you don’t let them control your life – they can’t

    Cath Lawson’s last blog post..Blog Marketing & Amazing People

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