News flash: You don’t have to spend your lunch break waiting in line at the DMV. No, you can’t add extra hours to your day (if only!) but you can use the hours you have more efficiently. In an effort to help you tackle that never-ending to-do list, we reached out to planning and productivity experts to get their take on the best time to visit the dentist, get a customer service rep on the phone and more. Follow their guidelines and you’ll breeze through your day — and maybe even find yourself with a few spare minutes to relax at night.
Before 8 a.m.: Exercise
The longer you put off exercising, the less likely you’ll be to actually do it, says registered dietitian and certified wellness coach Elizabeth Di Biase. Once other responsibilities get in the way, the best-laid plans to exercise often go out the window. And since most exercisers hit the gym later in the day, you're likely to score more space and available machines in the a.m. “Plus, research has shown that morning exercisers stick to their exercise plan more often than those who exercise later,” she says.
Before 9 a.m.: Place online orders
Get your Internet shopping done early in the day, suggests Paul Shrater, cofounder of e-commerce company Minimus.biz. “An order placed earlier in the day has a better chance of getting filled the same day and onto the shipping dock at the company’s warehouse,” he says.
After 9 a.m.: Call customer service
Give customer service reps a few minutes to have their coffee, too, urges professional organizer Sarah Long. If you call right at 8 a.m. (or whenever the business opens), they’ll be scrambling to answer your call while dealing with messages from the night before. Just make sure to get someone on the phone before noon, because everyone else will be calling during their lunch break. Also, try calling on a Tuesday or Wednesday, after the customer service reps have had a chance to put out fires from over the weekend.
Before 11 a.m.: Go to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
Most people try to squeeze in a visit to the DMV (and post office and other state or government agencies) before work or on their lunch break, says time coach Elizabeth Grace Saunders. If you can sneak away from the office, beat the crowds by dropping in midmorning.
After 11 a.m.: Make dinner reservations
If you call your favorite restaurant first thing in the morning, you’ll probably speak with a waitress or busboy or someone who’s doing meal prep. To finagle a reservation, try calling just after 11 a.m., when maître d's generally arrive, suggests productivity expert Neen James. Generally, the person in charge of reservations is the only one who can rearrange the books to accommodate you, so don’t waste your time dealing with the rest of the staff. If you can’t get through at 11 a.m., try back around 4 p.m. — after lunch is over, but before the dinner rush begins.
Before noon: Meet for lunch
Get your important lunch dates in early, suggests Saunders. If you meet clients between 11 and 12, before the lunch rush, the restaurant staff will be relaxed and more eager to serve you. You’ll also be able to land a choice table without waiting.
After 1 p.m.: Go to the doctor or dentist
Dentists generally reserve the earliest appointments for emergency patients, and lots of doctors spend their mornings doing rounds at a hospital, so it’s easy for either to already be behind schedule when they start officially seeing patients around 9 a.m. Instead of asking for the first appointment of the day, professional organizer Geralin Thomas suggests requesting the first slot after lunch, which is generally when doctors and dentists have “caught up” from their morning.
After 5 p.m.: Reach senior-level executives
Lots of execs have “gatekeeper” assistants manning the phones from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you feel your messages aren’t being relayed to the head honcho, such as a store’s manager or a business owner, try calling after the assistants have gone home for the day suggests Shrater. Many higher-ups get to work early and leave late, so if you call after-hours, you’ll have a shot at bypassing the assistant.
After 6 p.m.: Fuel up your car
The worst possible time to buy gas is when you’re running late in the morning, when everyone else is fueling up, says James. (Even if you’re not running late in the morning, the long lines at the gas station will likely push you into running-late territory!) Make a habit of checking your gas gauge when you leave work at night. If it’s below a quarter-tank, swing by the gas station on your way home.
After 9 p.m.: Buy groceries
If someone else can tend to the kids, head to a 24-hour supermarket late at night, suggests Teri Gault, founder of The Grocery Game, who shops for groceries even later — around 11 p.m. “It’s just me and the workers who stock the shelves,” she says. “They’re listening to music and having fun, and there’s someone to help me in every aisle.” If you can’t make it to the market at midnight, try a weekday afternoon. Just avoid the grocery store on the weekend, when people are shopping for the week, and right after work, when everyone’s picking up last-minute things for dinner.
After 10 p.m.: Get tech support
This article originally appeared on WomansDay.com and is republished here with permission.
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