We know that small changes can make a big difference, but sometimes it's hard to figure out what those small things are. I was able to make a few such changes this year, and they really have made life easier.
1. Run the dishwasher every night. I have always been a "run the dishwasher when it's full" sort of person, so that often had me waiting until the next day after breakfast to run the dishwasher. But that often threw my day off - I wouldn't have the clean dishes I needed, and I'd have to unload the dishwasher later in the day, which for some reason was making me grumpy. I decided to start running it every night before bed, even if it wasn't quite full, so I could do dishes first thing in the morning, when I was in the kitchen anyway, making breakfast. I've never looked back - this has worked so well for me! These days, my dishwasher usually is full in the evening anyway, but even if it isn't, it's worth it to me to run it anyway, because it somehow makes my whole day run smoother.
2. Invest in a kid's clock. I think we actually bought this last fall (2012), but I thought a lot about it this summer, because there was such a difference between this year and last. I thought about purchasing this for a long time before I actually did, because they're pricey and it seemed a bit frivolous. But while my kids have always been early risers, it got a bit ridiculous in the summer because they were up with the sun (5 am!!). Because it was light, I couldn't just tell them "It's sleeping time - it's still dark!" like I could the rest of the year, so I was kind of at a loss at how to keep them in bed until a reasonable time. This color-changing clock seemed like something that would help them know when it was time to get up, but it was hard for me to think of forking out $50 on a clock. I finally decided to do it when I realized I could buy a "gently used" one on the company's website. Saving $15 was the incentive I needed to give it a try. I am not kidding when I say this has been one of my best purchases (and it is worth the price)! It took a couple of weeks of learning time, but it wasn't long until they not only stayed in their bed until wake-up time, but they also started sleeping longer, too.
3. Go outside in the afternoon. For some reason, I've always just thought that we should be going outside every morning. And it just never happened. I'd be busy with things I needed to get done, and then all of a sudden it would be lunch time and we never made it outside. Finally instead of always feeling guilty for not going outside in the morning, I made the decision that we would just go outside every afternoon. And it actually happened. I was able to get done what I needed to do in the morning, and then we had the time to go outside in the afternoon. This seems so silly, and it was really just a mental change for me, but it really made a big difference. We fell out of our outside time habit this fall as the weather turned and I didn't have garden work to do outside, but I'm trying to get back into the habit now, and the afternoon is still what works for us.
I know there are more, but these are a few of the big (small) things that helped this year! =)