I read something once about the pounds you could lose by eliminating cream and sugar in your coffee. The nutritionist wrote that the daily calorie savings were small, but it was the act of changing the habit that made a difference in the long run. She figured 100ish calories less per day added up over the course of a year to equal five pounds down or so--a potential physical benefit resulting from doing nothing other than switching to black coffee.

I believed the theory and yet it took me a long time to make the switch. For one, I'd been an avid coffee with milk and sugar drinker for as long as I can remember--back to childhood, really. The second issue was that small, incremental changes don't have the same allure for me of big, quick fix solutions. But after making the switch, I'm now convinced that small changes do in fact add up. Saving ten minutes a day adds up to more than 60 hours year- time I'd love to have back.

When it comes to time, there are days that I feel I'm managing down to ten minute increments. Getting myself and three kids out of the door in the morning is a circus. If you're not living this reality, then I'm sure you've heard from others because, as working parents, we can't stop talking about how chaotic our lives often seem to be. So little time savers are really important.

The trick? Reduce the sheer volume of mundane decisions you have to make to conserve time and energy to focus on the big, important strategic stuff. Here are a few tried and true time-savers that work for me.

  1. Create a weekly meal plan for dinner. I do this on Sunday mornings at the same time I complete our online grocery order. Trying to figure out what or where to eat at the end of the day when you're tired is one of the fastest ways to ruin an otherwise good day. It's too frustrating to shop late afternoon or early evening, and eating out gets old (and expensive) after a while.
  2. Similarly, eat the same (healthy) thing for breakfast every day.
  3. Create a Pinterest board with "go to" work outfits. Search for ideas based on pieces you already have in your closet. I love this one, this one, and this one. I've never been able to consistently build a habit around laying out clothes the night before, but if this works for you then super.
  4. Turn off all email and Facebook notifications. The even momentary distractions kill productivity. I hate it too, but it's true, and keeping email and Facebook in their place at designated times in the day pays off big!
  5. Time yourself. So timing yourself doesn't directly save time, but it does provide a clear picture of exactly how much time it takes to do routine tasks. I do this every time I empty the dishwasher (typically a six minute activity.) Knowing this makes the job seem more do-able.
  6. Of course, you know to keep your keys in the same place. For me, this means not just in my purse but the same pocket in my purse. I start to get anxious if I can't immediately lay my hands on them when we're trying to get out the door.
  7. Review your next day's calendar the night before. Review your weekly calendar once on Sundays. Knowing where you're supposed to be when lessens morning confusion and the temptation to get into your email between meetings.

And, oh. I can't leave you without throwing these in. When researching what others around the internet were touting as time savers, there were more than a few people suggesting the every-other-day approach to washing your hair and shaving. As long as we all agree to keep teeth brushing on the daily schedule, I'm good with whatever regular personal maintenance schedule works.