Capturing Small Time Savings Can Yield Significant Results Over Time

For nearly eight years, I spent almost every day sitting behind a wall of computer screens. I was a high-frequency trader, and my job was to create algorithms that would trade billions of dollars in stocks at microsecond speeds—trying to capture fractions of a penny of mathematical price discrepancies.

Over time, these algorithms would generate millions of dollars in profit for the bank I was working for. Everything I did was based on math and data. I hardly knew anything about the companies I was trading outside of their stock ticker, and it didn’t matter. It was all about the numbers.

In the world of high-frequency trading, a microsecond gained or lost can equate to millions of dollars in profit or loss. I remember being on conference calls with telecom companies, discussing the height of their new tower and trying to calculate if it was really going to send the microwave signal in the most optimal path between Chicago and New York. Those microseconds were that important.

This job taught me many valuable lessons, but the one that really changed my life was learning the true value of a second.

See, most people fail to realize that there are thousands of small opportunities to save time all around them. And just like the fractions of a penny my algorithms generated, those small time-savings can add up over time (and across groups of people) to become something significant.

Today, I am a speaker, author of the Wall Street Journal Bestseller , and the CEO of , an operational efficiency training company. My team and I have helped thousands of organizations, from seven-figure businesses to the Fortune Ten, increase their efficiency while decreasing burnout, stress and overwhelm.

I find that most clients we work with come to us looking for major wins. They want to save multiple hours on a process or implement some new tool that will save them days per week. They’re looking for gamechangers.

And while we are able to quickly save many hours per week by optimizing systems like email, Slack, Microsoft Teams, project management software, and more… The unfortunate reality is that there are only so many “game-changing” time-savers. Those opportunities do exist and should of course be prioritized. But in most organizations (and most people’s daily lives) there are a finite number of these situations.

The step that most people fail to recognize is what happens after those initial time-savings are found. What happens long term? How do you maintain that progress and continue to find time-savings year after year?

What I’ve found is that there are nearly endless opportunities to save small amounts of time, yet most people ignore them or simply don’t see them. The key is learning to recognize the value of these seemingly small opportunities and open your eyes to them. Because they’re everywhere.

Here’s how my brain works. If I can save ten seconds on a process that happens ten times per day, that’s a minute and 40 seconds saved per day. Over the course of a year, that’s ten hours saved. If I can find ten similar opportunities, that’s 100 hours saved.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of these opportunities in all of our lives. And not only are they available to us, but they’re usually pretty damn easy to implement. Yet most of us gloss over them because we don’t think about the power of a second.

Here’s an example that will apply to most people reading this. One thing my company does is train employees on how to use email more efficiently. We teach a variety of best practices, but one extremely simple tip is to use keyboard shortcuts. It might sound insignificant, but we’ve found that on average pressing the “E” key to archive an email instead of moving your mouse to click the archive button saves about two seconds per email.

According to Harvard Business Review, the average office worker receives around That means if you switch to a keyboard shortcut you could get back four minutes of your day. That comes out to 20 minutes per workweek or 16 hours and 40 minutes per year!

So, just by using a button on your keyboard, you can save two full workdays per year. And that’s not even counting your email usage outside of work. When you consider the fact that this is just one of many keyboard shortcuts, and keyboard shortcuts are just one of many strategies that can save you seconds, you can see why I’m so obsessive about this.

Here are a few other simple examples found in daily life:

Organizing daily pills into a weekly pill box instead of opening multiple bottles every morning.

Using a password manager instead of trying to manually remember passwords.

Brushing your teeth in the shower.

Using an electric kettle to boil water faster.

Setting all bills to autopay and using auto shipping whenever possible.

Taking phone calls while walking your dog or during your commute.

Canceling a work meeting in favor of sending a video recording.

Now, if you save 20 seconds every day by using a pill box, that’s equivalent to two hours per year. It’s not exactly earth-shattering on its own, but when combined with other similar tactics you can start to see real value. That’s the key mindset shift that needs to occur. One small change is insignificant, but lots of small changes can make a huge difference.

Also, if we consider that on average we work 2,000 hours a year, saving two hours per year is like being 1% more productive at your job.

This type of thinking really shines in the workplace, where the effects are compounded across an entire team of people. If you were to extend the previous email shortcut across a ten-person team, that adds up to around 167 cumulative hours saved per year. If you figure an average rate of $50 per hour, you’re looking at over $8,000 in time savings just by implementing a keyboard shortcut.

Virtually every job involves some sort of repetition. Anything you do multiple times per day or week at your job can likely be optimized—and this is easy to do when you’re thinking in terms of seconds. For example, a tool like allows you to create custom automations between softwares. It can do simple tasks that you’d otherwise have to do manually—an incredibly useful tool for saving seconds (and sometimes hours).

Let’s say you want to send out every new company blog post to your team in Slack. In just a few minutes, you could create an automation where every time a blog post is published, Zapier sends the link to a Slack channel. Now, instead of spending 30 seconds doing this manually, it’s done automatically.

And this doesn’t just apply to knowledge workers. Just the other day, I ordered a smoothie and noticed the employee had to move about three feet away from the blender to throw the banana peel into the trash. I pointed out that if he just moved the trash can directly next to the blender, he could save himself a few seconds every time he makes a smoothie.

When you start to look for these small time-savings, you’ll notice that they’re all around you. The problem is that most of us are so ingrained in doing things the way we’ve always done them, that we don’t seek them out. After working with thousands of teams, I can tell you first hand that no one wants to change the way they work. It can be frustrating, difficult, and annoying—at least initially. But once you get over that first hurdle and start to accept that there are better ways to get things done, you open yourself up to a world of possibilities

And while achieving lots of small wins in your daily life can be significant, there’s something even bigger at play here. Imagine if everyone in an organization adopted this mentality. Imagine if your entire family did. When groups as a whole embrace this type of thinking, it can be truly game-changing.

And it all starts by recognizing the true value of a second.