I’ll let you in on a little secret.
Weekdays can be chaotic around here.
Everyone has to get out the door, with all their stuff, and to our destination in one piece and on time. Then we must return from that destination, again, with all of our stuff (hopefully), get fed, speed clean, and make sure the same stuff and the same people make it back out the door the next day.
It’s enough to raise your stress level just a bit. And make you tired before noon.
Note: If you’re one of those people who get up at 4 a.m. just bursting with energy, go ahead and skip down to number 11…
Anyway, since it’s always about preparing for the unexpected around here, I try to do whatever I can to shave off time during the week for a small time buffer.
You may not think 15-20 minutes means much at all in the grand scheme of weekly time management. But when you layer a couple of time savers together, it at least gives you a little bit of time to just…pause. And breathe. And maybe read one of my blog posts. : )
So, here goes. These are the 15 time-saving hacks I use that actually make a difference in our mornings, at dinner time, and to help us avoid a big weekend chore pileup.
Less is more with makeup (if you wear it). This is one area where I do not think that you need all the things, and in paring down the number of products you use, you can still look very presentable. To have a less than five-minute makeup routine, though, you will need to decide what your main focus will be—you simply won’t be able to do it all.
Decide what one makeup feature makes you look the most put-together and go with that; leave the rest for date nights!
Depending on the type of work you do, making a manicure last can be hard. To avoid chipping and re-applying constantly, consider using a clear polish or buffing nails to a shine followed by an application of cuticle oil or even a very thin layer of something like Vaseline. They’ll look well-groomed and work-appropriate, but without all the fuss or worry over being ruined.
Washing and drying hair the night before is the ultimate time saver, especially if you have longer hair or hair that retains a lot of moisture. If you’re worried about limp locks in the morning, a dry shampoo or root booster can revive it quickly.
Pedicures can be made to last longer by focusing on what degrades polish the most, and that is moisture. Use a spray-on drying agent after applying a topcoat, and you may notice that your polish can last up to two weeks. I encourage you to try this type of product, which is available at many chain beauty supply stores. I am very rough on any nail polish. It works.
If you brew several cups of coffee in the morning, all the grinding, measuring and brewing time can take a chunk of the morning.
Yeah, I don’t have time for that. I need that coffee in my system as soon as my feet hit the floor.
Most coffee makers today have scheduling, so take advantage of it. Coffee aficionados (ahem, snobs, you know who you are) may say the flavor is compromised, but I’m such a zombie in the mornings, I’ve never noticed.
6. Breakfast Options
Pre-made parfaits, smoothies, overnight oats or home-made breakfast sandwiches or burritos–those are the best (and perhaps only) option if you’re very time-pressed in the mornings. If it requires utensils and a plate, and more than 3 minutes of heating time, well, if you’re me, you may already be running late…
Ironing requirements may depend on your occupation, but try to pick wrinkle-free fabrics wherever you can. Once they’ve been laundered, you may have to touch them up slightly with the iron, but overall, they are much easier.
If you plan on getting out the door on time, I suggest you stay away from linen or cotton blends that leave you looking messy before 9 a.m.! If you sincerely know that you’ll never have time to iron, don’t set yourself up for failure.
I have a lot of “failure” hanging in my closet right now. A stiff cotton twill blazer? Worn twice. Lesson learned.
8. Outfit Selection
For daily outfits, have a 7-10 day rotating “uniform” or capsule wardrobe each season to eliminate decision fatigue. Of course, you don’t have to be so predictable about it that coworkers already can guess your “Tuesday shirt,” unless you really want to!
If you’re worried about getting bored, swap accessories, shoes, the belt, or tuck, half-tuck or un-tuck the shirt, and I guarantee you no one will even notice. With this, you’ll save a ton of time of blankly staring into your closet each morning or evening.
9. Shoes, Backpacks, Handbags
As obvious as this one sounds, it’s very easy to forget when you’re tired after a long day. Put the shoes you plan to wear the next day next to the door the night before. How much time is spent in the mornings running back to the closet to fetch the shoes of the day? Same goes for backpacks, handbags, and anything else you need to carry out of the house.
Put on your accessories on your commute or when you arrive to work. You don’t have time to deal with fussy clasps or tangles or complicated scarf tying in front of your bathroom mirror.
11. Lunch Preparation
This is the adult version of lunch prep only. Kids are a slightly different story, which I’ve intentionally excluded, because their needs are different.
I’m a huge fan of lunch meal prep the night before, if you bring your lunch to work. If you’re really strapped for time (as in, you only have five minutes to get yourself out the door) you can literally throw these ingredients into zip bags or containers inside an insulated lunch bag:
• Several crispbread crackers, such as Wasa brand
• Some protein, such as cheese, sliced roasted deli turkey/ham, or even turkey pepperoni
• Cherry tomatoes
• A few sprigs of basil or any fresh herbs you have
• A whole piece of fruit, such as an apple, banana, orange or some grapes
• A few nuts or olives if you have them
Is this the healthiest meal you’d want to bring every single day? No, but it will stop you from spending $20 on a sad desk salad.
If you want to imagine yourself at a nice downtown establishment, arrange all this on a plate kind of pretty like this charcuterie board here. Those French sure know how to make cold cuts look fancy!
12. Meal Planning and Prep
There are tons of meal planning charts and tools you can access online, so I won’t bore you with those because there are so many. But if planning that far in advance seems overwhelming, at minimum, it helps to have the most time-consuming foundations of your meals mostly prepped.
What that can mean is if it’s taco night, your main ingredients (such as fillings) are ready to reheat quickly and all the chopping is done.
Personally, on busy nights I like to use freeze and reheat dinners or hearty soups that I’ve already prepped days before, where all I have to add later is some steamed vegetables or crusty warmed bread. There are vegan options and low-fat spins on all make-ahead meals; the world of internet recipes is your oyster, here.
13. Daily Cleaning – Rule of Three and House Rules
For cleaning, there really is no magic bullet, since we all don’t have our own Rosie-the-Robot yet. So, I try to stick to the Rule of Three and using House Rules as much as I can. Over many years, I’ve learned my limits in terms of hours in the day. Does your chore limit necessarily have to be three? Of course not!
As to the House Rules, the jury is out on how much time this actually saves, as I’ve not done any scientific study (although, that would be a cool experiment). But, if you have them, and your family applies them, you’ve likely eliminated a lot of the extra movement of picking up random stuff and putting it back where it belongs.
14. Daily Cleaning – “Supplies Located by the Mess”
As for cleaning routines, the thing that immediately sends everything into chaos is not knowing where the cleaning supplies are. Besides just putting them back where they belong, have a supply caddy in each room with potential mess.
You don’t have to buy double the cleaning products for this; you can split them up between a few reusable spray bottles. Time savings: 7-10 minutes of time spent wandering between rooms in search of glass cleaner.
15. Daily Mail Management
Did you just read “daily mail management?” Yep.
Paper is my pet peeve. I believe it will serve you well to go ahead and deal with the paper the day it’s received versus letting it pile up for the end of the week. Because who really wants to come back to a pile of paper to sort through later?
Sorting mail is one of those tasks that is so utterly boring that you’ll not want to come back to it, and when you do it will take much longer (just trust me on this).
You can do some very mindless sorting of mail as soon as you walk in the door over a shredder or trash bin. Toss whatever looks like junk and distribute the rest into “bills” or “must deal with immediately,” or “business stuff” piles–whatever your typical buckets might look like.
Also, if you haven’t opted out of junk mail, I highly recommend you do so. It will change your life.
Ultimately, Time Saving Works Best in Small Chunks
Well, there’s the list, folks! Short and sweet, and pretty uncomplicated.
Are these all brilliant time hacks that no one has ever thought of? Of course not.
But perhaps when you see them clustered together in a list, and you follow some of them daily, they can save time in a way to give you just a little bit of breathing room.
I don’t know about you, but when I discover I have a half hour FREE, it is THE most exciting thing ever!
If you’ve got any feedback on how you add a few minutes to your life, I’d like to hear it below.