We could all use more hours in our day, but where to start? Our to-do lists are constantly growing, along with our stress levels. There are two magic words to creating at least five extra hours of free time a week: automate and delegate. So, don’t despair any longer. 

Here are 7 easy and effective ways to add hours to your day and more “me” time to your weekly calendar: 

1. Buy groceries online. 

Between driving to and from the grocery store, waiting in line, loading and unloading the car, you could easily spend up to two hours a week just grocery shopping. A great alternative is Fresh Direct or Pea Pod. You can also look for your local Community Share Agriculture (CSA) group to receive a monthly delivery of organic and seasonal produce at a fraction of its retail cost. To learn more, go here. Also check out Debbie Meyer’s green bags, which keep your fruit and vegetables fresh longer and save you money. 

You can also purchase power foods like protein powders and goji berries at Amazon.com or Sun Warrior. Consider growing your own fresh herbs, which you can buy inexpensively at Home Depot if you’re feeling adventurous.  Growing some organic vegetables in your backyard is another option for the spring and summer season. 

2. Pay your bills online. 

Automate your bills online so you don’t have to spend time writing checks, transferring money and worrying if you’ve paid your bills on time. This task can save at least an hour of time a month if not more. Also automate your savings and retirement payments so you are paying yourself first. Lots more mental energy freed up, too!
 
3. Hire a Part-time Virtual or a Personal Assistant.  

This person can do some of those nagging administrative and business tasks and can easily save you five hours a month.  Check out Elance or Odesk to scout for prospects. These sites allow you to bid for the best professional for you. Different assistants offer all kinds of specialties and technical skill-sets. Another effective option could be to hire an intern through Craig's List or by posting on a bulletin boardat your community college. Asking for referrals from friends may be the easiest way to find the right match for you. 
 
4. Hire a Professional Organizer. 

Before you think you cannot afford one, read on. The truth is that if you’ve been dragging your heels on cleaning out the basement, the garage or your bedroom closet, it’s time to bring in reinforcements! After all, it’s nearly impossible to be happy, productive and creative in a mess.

If you feel like you can tackle a room or a section at a time, get to it! However, if the task seems too big or daunting, consider hiring a Professional Organizer. Their hourly fees typically range from $50 to $80 and many specialize in paper or non-paper organizing. The National Association of Professional Organizers can help you find an organizer near you. 

I’d recommend selecting a few people and interviewing them by phone and in person in order to be sure your personalities click. Letting go of stuff can be emotional, so you'll want someone who’ll be just right for your project. 

To organize your closets, consider purchasing Huggable Hangers. They are very sleek, inexpensive and will double your closet space, which is great if you live in a small apartment.
 
5. Get Help with Childcare. 

Having a supportive nanny or a trusted friend on speed dial is critical for your overall health and wellbeing.  It’s hard to find time for yourself when you’re the only person handling childcare. Finding a great sitter may be easier than you think, and you can probably check with your network of friends and family to find a trusted professional. Otherwise, consult the website Sitter City, or ask local schools for trusted recommendations. If your budget for child care is limited, start by hiring someone for a couple of hours every other week and see how wonderful you’ll feel having that time to yourself.

6. Hire a cleaning lady

Laundry and household chores are a huge time and energy drain.  Sometimes, by paying someone about $100 to do the housecleaning, you'll have time to sleep in, enjoy a class at the gym and have a mini-spa.  This step could easily free up four hours each week.

If you need a handyman or a lawn-mowing service, get to it. Just think of the key household tasks that you really dislike or that you’d love to outsource and find a great resource. 

If many of your clothes require dry cleaning, find a store that will pick-up and deliver for you. Look for a dry cleaner that uses environmentally friendly products.

7. Hire a part-time cooking student. 

If cooking isn’t your thing, or you’re tired of take-out and don’t have the time or patience to cook, consider hiring a cooking school student in your local area. The Natural Gourmet Institute has graduates across the country and you can access their alumni here. You can also reach out to local cooking school and place an ad through their message boards. 

Also, purchase simple-to-use cooking utensils, so that when you do cook, you can save time. Items such as a mandolin or a food processor will save time with chopping vegetables and a small grill pan will help you grill foods like chicken and veggies quickly and easily. Of course, a simple blender is a great way to make smoothies, fresh home-made soups and a crockpot makes cooking rice and stew super easy.

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If money is an issue, pick one or two of the items above and start there. Be creative. People are always looking for work and you may be able to find a way to get the help you need and stay within your budget. When it comes to childcare be diligent and follow your intuition. If you don’t feel totally confident, make another choice.

Here’s to more “me” time and to still getting everything done easily and gracefully! What about you? What time-saving techniques have you found helpful? 



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