Quick ways to streamline everything from shopping to cooking -- and give you more free time
Research by Steve Mazzucchi, Gregory Mone, Yelena Moroz, Vanessa Richardson, Lara Rosenbaum, Jenna Schnuer, Gina Trapani, and Amanda Tust, Women's Health
We're willing to accept that certain things are meant to be complicated: algebra theorems, Scorsese flicks, figuring out what Janice Dickinson actually looks like. But your entire life shouldn't be on that list. In fact, we guarantee that a major chunk of every single thing you do during your busy-as-shit day could be a whole lot easier.
So we went out in search of ways to streamline the important stuff--from shopping to whipping up a Nigella-caliber feast to catching up on sleep--and found 65 tricks to make it happen. So sit back, put your feet up, and watch your newfound free time instantly materialize.
The easiest way to...
1. Create the perfect 11th-Hour gift with a click and a card
Constantly remind your giftee that you are so not last minute with a subscription to an "of the month" club. Nowadays there's something to match every quirky obsession--lobster, neckties, salsa, even jerky. Prices vary, but you can opt for a 3-, 6-, or 12-month subscription. Visit club-offers.com for reviews of more than 120 clubs.
2-5. Score your dream wardrobe
Picking through mangled sale racks not your idea of fun? Find affordable designer duds without losing your mind.
Register at shopittome.com. Enter your sizes and must-have brands and you'll get an e-mail when a reputable online vendor like Nordstrom or Zappos posts a sweet deal.
Hunt on Thursdays. Most stores mark down their merchandise on Thursday in preparation for weekend sales.
Browse at boutiques. Managers at smaller stores are usually more accessible than they are at big department stores or chains. Ask the person in charge when a specific item is slated to go on sale (she'll usually dish), then give the shop a ring when the date rolls around.
You're more North Face than Norma Kamali? Sign up at steepandcheap.com to get a daily e-mail about one hugely discounted piece of fitness or outdoor gear on sale that day only through their site.
6. Break a pool rack without looking like an ass
Wow the bar crowd with these tricks from Randy Goettlicher, president of Cue-Tech, one of the oldest U.S. pool schools.
*Place cue ball 1 to 2 inches from right rail--left if you're a southpaw--about 2 feet from your end of the table.
*Keep grip hand--the one at back of cue--loose.
*Stand up straight with feet shoulder-width apart.
*Aim for front ball in rack. Once lined up, strike cue ball one tip width below center, at about 70 percent of your full speed.
*Keep tip as low as possible on follow-through, still pointing straight at target.
*Blow chalk off cue, Western-style.
7. Make people want to look at your ass
Increase muscle activity in your glutes by standing with your feet wider than your shoulders during squats.
8. Pick up a new sport
*Every trainer and fitness guru we know says tennis is the easiest sport to take up.
*It's cheap. Racquets start as low as $20, and balls are two bucks for a can of three.
*It's accessible. Public courts are everywhere. Practice against a wall.
*It's high intensity. It can burn 450-plus calories per hour.
*It's social. Hundreds of parks and clubs now offer cardio tennis, aerobic ball-smackin' lessons set to music. Find one near you at cardiotennis.com.
9. Throw a perfect spiral
Know your football-tossing fundamentals at the next family powwow and get out of washing dishes like the guys do. Easy, three-step plan courtesy of Karen Seimears, All-Pro QB for the three-time Women's Professional Football League champion Dallas Diamonds.
1. The Grip Hold ball a few inches from its nose with ring finger on laces. Leave a pocket of space at web of skin between thumb and index finger. Then tuck ball under ear, keeping it close to your body.
2. The Motion Assuming you're a righty, step forward with left foot in direction you want to throw. In same motion, snap hips around to right and bring right arm forward. Place most of weight on left foot and release ball when elbow's at 90-degree angle (for a short pass) or a bit earlier (for a long bomb).
3. The Release Pull right arm down--motion should end with hand coming all the way across your body. As ball rolls off fingers one by one, from pinkie to pointer, it will start to spiral.
10. Build your own compass
Remove your watch. If it's set to daylight savings time, turn it back an hour. Hold a small stick perpendicular to edge of watch face, in line with hour hand. Next, turn your body until shadow from stick matches up with hour hand. The spot halfway between the shadow and noon is south. This is how the Boy Scouts do it, and they never get lost.
11. Choose an easygoing pup
The Bedlington Terrier, Maltese, and Portuguese Water Dog are quick-learning minimal shedders, says Daisy Okas, a spokesperson for the American Kennel Club. To pick a pooch tuned to your lifestyle, take the matchmaking quiz at selectsmart.com/dog.
12. Clean your place in under an hour
Here's a minute-by-minute breakdown for a one-bedroom abode
T minus 5: Set a plan. Divide 60 by number of rooms. That's about how long you should spend on each, says Jeff Bredenberg, author of How to Cheat at Cleaning.
Minutes 0 to 30: Tackle the three biggest rooms (sitting area, office, bedroom). Hit three tasks per room: clutter, dust, vacuum.
Time-saver Drizzle a cloth with olive oil and place it over wood stains. Leave overnight. In the morning, rings from glasses, etc., will wipe right off.
Minutes 31 to 40: Bathroom. Spray toilet with bowl cleaner. Shove counter clutter into a bag. Wipe down surfaces. Scrub and flush toilet.
Time-saver Prevent soap scum by spreading a very thin coat of baby oil on shower door or walls, suggests Donna Smallin, author of The One-Minute Cleaner. Reapply once a month.
Minutes 41 to 50: Kitchen. Clear countertops (dump papers into a file to be sorted later) and wipe clean.
Time-saver Nuke a cup of equal parts vinegar and water for 3 minutes. The steam will soften funk in the microwave so it'll come off in just one swipe.
Celebrate (neatly). You're done--with 10 minutes to spare.
13. Find an honest mechanic
Whether you drive a Beemer or a Bug, call a local enthusiast club and ask which shop they recommend, says Austin C. Davis, author of A Mechanic Comes Clean. Confirm that the recommended wrench-wielder has a seal of approval from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (run a zip code search at ase.com). Oh, and if you want to make sure you're getting the best possible deal: Showing up with doughnuts is more effective than wearing a short skirt, according to Davis. (For related advice, see "Prevent flashing your hoo-ha" on page 134.)
Stuff That Simplifies
Affordable products that will make your life easier
14. Data way
USB drives are obviously convenient. But the 512 MB Imation Clip Flash Drive earns big points because it's stored in a water-resistant case and attached to a carabiner. $30, imation.com
15. Count trackula
Eliminate the is-this-still good sniff test by sticking a DaysAgo Digital Counter on open jars and leftovers. Press a button and the LCD starts counting how many days have gone by. $10 for two, howmanydaysago.com
16. Stay in charge
The palm-size Charge 2 Go Power Station juices handheld devices (phone, iPod, etc.) off of two AA batteries. Connect your gizmo via the compatible cable (sold separately for $6 to $10) and you'll be set for up to 9 hours. $60, charge2go.com
17. Word on a wire
Decode exactly what's in your power strip with ID Pilot wire identification labels. Each sticker shows an icon of a gadget or appliance--from Crock-Pot to printer to MP3 player. 120 different labels available. $6 per pack, spoonsisters.com
18. Vino to go
Simply pop out the spout, press the button, and the Target Wine Cubes provide an instant party. Choose from 11 varieties. $10 to $16, available at Target
19. Perfect planner
Ideal for the constantly morphing schedule, the Week Over Week Dry-Erase Calendar includes a separate magnetic strip for each week of the month. $13, officedepot.com
20. Shadow boxes
In the Maybelline New York ExpertWear Eye Shadow Quad, each of the four colors has its own quadrant and label--"brow bone," "crease," "lid," or "outer corner"--so the question of what goes where is a no-brainer. $6, maybelline.com
For 45 more ways to simplify your life click here.