Find an extra 60 Minutes a Day: Never Lose Anything Again

If you’re never able to clear your to-do list by the end of the day (and feeling stressed about it) this is part of the continuing series on how to gain a few minutes every day.

We spend a lot of time looking for things we know we own but can’t find at the moment we need them. A lot of time. A 2012 study of 3,000 adults by a home insurer found that we spend an average of 10 minutes a day looking for lost objects (men fared worse than women.) That adds up to a staggering a total of 3,680 hours or 153 days, spent searching for stuff by the time you hit 60-something. What could you accomplish with that time?

photo: Tile
photo: Tile

Here are some ways to keep track of your stuff.

There’s an app for that: Tile. Tiles are little tags that you can attach or drop into items that you lose frequently: laptops, wallets, keys, guitars, bikes—you name it. You can have up to ten tiles on an account. The app on your smart phone will allow you to activate the tile to make a beep. If you can hear it, you can find it. The app will also remember where you last saw it to shorten your search time and will tell you if you’re getting warmer or colder as you look for the lost object (when you’re within a 50 – 150 foot range.) You can share Tile with trusted family and friends so they can help you find objects as well.

The tiles last a year with no batteries to replace. At the end of a year, Tile reminds you to order a new set and return yours. Even better, when any Tile user is within 50 – 150 feet of your tile, your lost object will appear on the app’s map, so you have a community of almost 50,000 users to help you find your stuff. If you have teenaged children, this is a must-have. Tiles cost $19.95 and the company offers packages (buy 3, get one free.) Tile is compatible only with the latest iPhone and Apple product versions, but not with Android or Windows phones (Bluetooth compatibility issues.)

Create better digital files. Looking for digital stuff can be as frustrating as looking for tangible stuff. The secret to quick access is a better filing system. The secret to great filing is great naming. If you file the same kind of expense report every month, starting each separate file with “Expense Report” will really slow you down over time.  Better solution: create a folder for all the same reports and use a numeric system for the date file (March, 2014’s report would be named 0314, for example.)

Creating folders and subfolders takes only a second, but they will save you hours of wasted time searching for documents.  Here’s another tip: take an extra second or two to make sure what folder you have open when you save a document from an email attachment. I’ve spent frustrating minutes searching for a document where it should be when a simple error put it in a default document folder.

Develop good habits for placing objects you use all the time. The key to not losing things? Habit, habit, habit. Most items get lost because we don’t have a system for storing them every day. Organization experts recommend putting storage where it’s most needed to prompt you to put things in their place. It helps if the storage is attractive and appealing – a positive motivator to use it consistently. For instance, I pay bills once a week and try to handle them just once. When bills come in, I store them in my kitchen office in an attractive leather file box. I purchased a box for my husband’s closet shelf that allows him to dump spare change and other small items when he cleans out his pockets at night.

Courtesy: The UK Guardian
Courtesy: The UK Guardian

You could purchase attractive bowls and station them at the front and back doors for your keys. Label a set of boxes with kids’ names and train them to empty their backpacks into their own box each evening. Permission slips, notes from teachers and homework papers can all go there with no real thought on the child’s part. You can train them to load the backpack in the morning with the signed papers (that can be where their lunches are placed as well. The whole family will know where to look for those documents during the hectic morning rush.

What’s your best tip for finding (or not losing) items? Leave a comment.

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