How to Add an Hour to Your Day (Without Losing Any Sleep!)

Streamline your routine to make room for the things that usually fall off your to-do list.
Published January 14, 2016 | Updated January 26, 2023

In life’s daily whirlwind, essential-yet-not-truly-urgent tasks like flossing, exercise, and even 15 minutes of peace and quiet can fall off your priority list. Sure, you could stay up an hour later to get everything done, but sleep is yet another essential to-do that helps your body and brain self-restore and prepare to face another busy day.

A better option

Focus the way you spend your time and you can actually get more of it. “By really focusing on the task at hand — instead of doing 15 things at once — you’ll gain a few minutes here and a few minutes there,” says professional organizer Marla Cilley, aka The Fly Lady. Add up all those saved minutes, and you’ve got yourself a whole hour — or more! — to indulge in a bubble bath, take an invigorating walk or organize your spice cabinet (hey, to each her own!). 

Create a launch pad

To end the morning chaos of finding everyone’s backpacks, briefcase or gym bag, designate a place by the front door (hooks on a wall, a dresser with a drawer for each of you) where everyone puts their packed bags the night before. Spending 5 minutes tonight to get organized for tomorrow is an investment that pays great dividends, says The Fly Lady. “If your kid can’t find his homework as the bus arrives, it could take you nearly an hour to track it down and then run it to school for him,” she reasons.
Time saved: 20 minutes

Put your keys on a leash 

Have you ever up-ended your purse on the front steps in an effort to find your house keys? Wasted minutes in a parking lot digging for your car keys? Can you count the times you’ve asked the universe, “Where are my keys?” End the madness: put your keys on a lanyard keychain that’s long enough to hang outside your purse, suggests The Fly Lady. Give a tug and voila! Keys in hand — no digging, dumping or searching required.
Time saved: 5 minutes

Clean out your bag

While we’re on the subject of purses, clean out and organize yours once a week. Take a few minutes while you’re catching up on your favourite TV show or waiting to pick your kid up from soccer practice to throw away old receipts and candy wrappers, organize your wallet and agenda. Restock with a fresh pack of tissues and a tin of mints. Staying on top of your purse clutter will make it easier to find things while you’re on the go.
Time saved: 3 minutes

Pre-sort your laundry

As long as everyone in the house is tossing laundry into a basket, why not sort whites and darks as you go? “Get a hamper with several dividers so each family member can automatically presort,” says Fly Lady, or buy a set of mesh bags for each family member – one for whites, one for darks.
Time saved: 10 minutes

Buy in bulk

Sometimes, buying in bulk can backfire (see: the giant bag of tortilla chips that stares you down whenever you open the pantry). But if you strategize, it can be a real time-saver. “Keep your pantry stocked with regular necessities, such as rice, beans, paper goods, cleaning products, shampoos and toothbrushes, and you’ll spend less time dashing to the store when you run out,” says Christine Hohlbaum, author of The Power of Slow: 101 Ways To Save Time in Our 24/7 World. The Fly Lady recommends buying birthday cards in bulk (check wholesale clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club) and mailing them out once a month.
Time saved: 30 minutes (to and from the store and post office)

Soak as you go

Before you start dinner tonight, fill your kitchen sink with hot soapy water. “As you start cooking, dump in dirty utensils, plates, pans and cutting boards,” says The Fly Lady. “While your meal cooks, your dishes get a good soak.” No more scraping sticky spatulas and fry pans = More time to spend enjoying dessert!
Time saved: 10 minutes

Clean the shower while you’re in there

“It’s quicker to spray some cleaner and do a swipe and a rinse while you’re already in there naked than to scrub the shower walls fully-clothed,” says Fly Lady. Stock your shower with more than just shampoo and body wash; Stash a cleaner and sponge nearby so you can do a quick clean-up at least once a week.
Time saved: 10 minutes

Don’t get sidetracked by your computer

Email and gadgets are meant to make our lives easier, but often they’re a huge time drain. Commit to checking your email only twice a day — and responding only once. It might be hard at first, especially if you’re used to checking 50 times a day, but all those quick replies and checking messages that you know you’ll respond to later eats away at your day. Train yourself by setting your smartphone to ring only when certain important numbers are calling.
Time saved: 10 minutes

Keep wipes under every sink in the house

Wait for your bathroom to get icky with a week’s (or more!) worth of grime and you’re looking at a good hour of cleaning and scrubbing. Instead, spend two minutes each day swiping the counter, sink and toilet with one flushable wipe; use another to remove any hair from the floor. Once a month, drop an automatic cleaner tablet in the toilet bowl. Avoid getting sucked into doing more by setting a timer for 10 minutes. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be clean.
Time saved: 12 minutes

Schedule in some breathing room

“We often expect to do more than we have time for,” says Hohlbaum, “and the anxiety to make every minute count can actually waste precious moments.” Each day, take a few minutes to daydream, enjoy a cup of tea, or flip through a magazine before you move on to the next thing on your to-do list. “You’ll be able to better focus on the task that awaits you, and be less likely to bungle it and then have to re-do it,” she says. Plus, feeling relaxed and sane can go a long way in making your day feel positive and productive.
Time saved: 7 minutes of re-dos