Simple Ways to Save Hours of Your Time

Try these timesaving ideas to streamline your day, stay better organized, and win back lost time for yourself and your family.
Save at Least 1 Hour

Jeanette Rowland of South Riding, Virginia, is a master at making every minute of her day count.

"I don't waste a lot of time. When I run errands I make a list, map out a route and, when it's possible, I try to go in the evening during the week," she says. "I pay my bills online and it cuts my time in half. I also do meal planning, which is another huge timesaver."

With two kids, it's made the difference between being stressed out and having quality time with her family. "We spend time doing the simple things like taking long walks, riding bikes, and playing board games. I also get to take a little time for myself," she says. To help you do the same, follow these tips, organized by the amount of time each strategy could save you every week.

Save at Least 1 Hour

Grocery shopping. Many grocery stores are open 24 hours a day, so take advantage of that. Avoid shopping during the peak hours of 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, and you'll cut your regular shopping time in half. That saves you about 45 minutes per trip.

Stockpile groceries in advance when deals are hot. And if you keep a supply of such products as paper goods, soaps, cereals, crackers, and canned soups, you'll save time by not running back to the store for that one necessary item you always forget to buy.

"Put your groceries through the checkout in categories and ask the courtesy clerk to bag them that way," says Teri Gault, who offers other resources to save shopping time at her Web site, www.thegrocerygame.com. "Once you get home, you can put it away quickly because it's already sorted."

Laundry. Saving all your laundry for large loads on the weekend takes away an entire day that you could be enjoying with your family.

"Do it daily, instead of wasting a Saturday," says Laura Stack, author of Leave the Office Earlier (Broadway, 2004). "You'll have just one load, which only takes 30 minutes between washing, drying, and folding."

Bills. If you prefer paying your bills by check rather than online, keep a portable bill-paying file handy. Pull it out when you're waiting for an appointment at the doctor, dentist, or beauty shop, and "maximize those minutes," says Molly Gold, whose company, GoMom, Inc., creates mom-friendly products.

"Keep a file stocked with stamps, envelopes, a calculator, your checkbook, and bills. I do 10 minutes of banking a day, five days a week," says Kristine Breese, author of Cereal for Dinner: Strategies, Shortcuts & Sanity for Moms Battling Illness (St. Martin's Griffin, 2004).

Getting out the door. If you routinely misplace your keys, hang a set on a peg near the door or attach them to a "clapper" key chain to minimize search time. Depending on how many times you use your keys, this can save you an hour per week.

"Have kids help make their lunches and pick out their school clothes before going to bed the night before," suggests Lolita Carrico, founder of the Web site modernmom.com.

Time-management expert Mark Lamendola recommends putting everything you grab in the morning in one place before you go to bed at night. "Lunch bags, briefcase, purse, and anything else you'll need. You can save 20 minutes by investing five the night before," he says.

Continued on page 2:  Save at Least 2 Hours