As far back as I can remember, I’ve been known as someone who can get a lot done. “Efficient, hard-working, and team player. Quirky.” always showed up on my yearly reviews at work. As noted before, sitting still and twiddling my thumbs is not my style, and I get a little thrill whenever I can figure out a way to do something more efficiently. Below are some super simple ways to increase efficiency in your life.
- Own multiple laundry baskets. We have three. It is embarrassing how many years I lived as an adult before realizing this. Having more than one laundry basket for carting away clean laundry makes your life awesome. During the spring, summer, and some of fall, we almost exclusively dry our laundry on an outdoor clothesline. I can dry three loads at a time, but carting multiples loads out to the yard as they finish in the washer would be a pain in the butt using only one laundry basket.
- My first real “grown up” job was running the office of a member of the Washington State House of Representatives. I was 21. I learned a lot in that role, but the biggest takeaway I got from it came in the form of an amazing tip from a member of the IT department. I carried this tip with me to every professional job I have had since then, and I spread the word wherever I go. Let’s say you are responsible for responding to emails as part of your job. A lot of emails. And many of those emails dictate the exact same response every time. Simply save your standard response in Outlook as a “signature”. Then, when you respond to the 600th email that day asking where the FAQ section is on the website, you just click on signatures, it drops down the various options, select the one you want, and it pops right in to the email. I would often have 30+ signatures saved at my various jobs.
- At night, before I go to bed, I fill up a sippy cup with milk, and one with water and put them in the fridge. It’s so much easier to deal with a sleepy and hungry kiddo if I just have to open the fridge and drinks are ready.
- Our washing machine has a “delay start” option on it that rules my heart. I can put a load in ready to go at night, put detergent in the dispenser, schedule it to start at 6 am the next morning, and go to sleep. Technically I could just try to remember to start it at 6, but that doesn’t always happen. The delay start option ensures the washer is working for me when I want it to. Our dishwasher also has the same feature, but I rarely use it. Instead I start a load of dishes after dinner, set it to “air dry” and when it finished before I go to bed, I open the door and pull the racks out to air dry overnight. It uses less energy because I don’t have to dry the dishes, and it puts off the task I hate more than anything else.
- We have always given the kids a bed time snack. In the bath tub. Yep. When the boys are little, we feed them applesauce or yogurt in the tub. When Jack got older, he would get a dish of frozen blueberries (“cold blues”) every night. He was four before he realized that wasn’t a real dessert. It is a mini insurance policy against the “I’m hungry” BS routine that kids pull before bedtime. We call it “topping them off”. Plus, you get the added benefit of easy clean up since they’re literally IN THE TUB.
- Bennett and I take a walk almost every day. Some days dictate a short jaunt, and others call for a long stroll. Either way, I use that time as my thinking time. Sure, I listen to all my favorite podcasts, but I can also think of blog post topics, and even write some posts in my head while I push the stroller. By time I am able to finally sit down at my computer, it’s just a matter of putting words to the screen. Walks have become important to both my physical and mental health, and I compare them to the time I took up fake smoking at work.
- After years of working in a corporate culture where we were taught a communication method called “answer first”, it drives me bonkers to talk on the phone or in person to people who never get to the damn point. So, in my professional communications, and when I have to make a business call, I make sure I have my topics ready to go and structured in a way where I am not wasting other people’s time by rambling. Efficient communication is a gift to anyone who experiences it. Rambling however is a fun part of blog writing. 🙂
- FYI, for the curious out there, the “answer first” version of the above recommendation would have been as follows: It is important to make sure you have your topics and ideas organized and ready to present during phone calls and business meetings. I used to work in a culture that taught a communication method called “answer first”, and it has been extremely helpful in my day to day interactions.
- Take a quick few minutes every morning and think about the day ahead. I usually do my best thinking in the shower, and as I shampoo my hair I run through all the tasks that will need to be completed. Meals, school drop offs, work, etc., and I make sure I haven’t missed any details about the day’s events. If we’re having soup for dinner, did I make sure there is enough homemade chicken stock ready to go? Jack has baseball practice, but maybe all his pants are still dirty. I know I have a post that needs to be scheduled for Saturday, but the next few days are going to be super busy with phone calls and appointments. What can I get written ahead of time to remove the last minute stress? Just a quick rundown of your day can help you find any potential potholes.
- I buy all the same gifts for the birthday parties Jack gets invited to. I hope the kids don’t compare or notice, but honestly I don’t care if they do! They all have a variation of the same name anyway, so happy birthday Kayden, Kallen, Kaylen, Kellan, or Kiran. (Please keep in mind, I was a “Sarah” growing up in the 80’s. I get it.) Boys get a small $16 Lego set, and girls get a Goldie Blocks set. Boom, done, no need to think about it. I often pre-buy multiple sets and have them on hand.
- Have 10-15 go to meals in your repertoire, and learn to make them with your eyes closed. Make sure they are balanced, delicious, and pretty healthy. And keep the ingredients in your well-stocked pantry. If something happens to your planned meal, just serve breakfast for dinner, or popcorn. Popcorn is a whole-freaking grain people! 🙂
- What in your life can you automate? Savings, laundry, bill pay, the temperature of your house, and even some ordering (like Amazon Subscribe and Save) can take the hassle out of keeping track of lots of little details. I automated my breakfasts and lunches years ago. I’ll go a whole year or more essentially eating a variation of the same thing for breakfast. It’s important to pick something you love and can eat day in and day out, and never hesitate to jazz it up from time to time. I went from oatmeal, to homemade Greek yogurt, to my current breakfast of eggs, a carb, and fruit. Knowing what I am going to have before I even wake up, removes the responsibility of having to make one more decision that day. Lunch is always leftovers from dinner the night before. I did that while working, and saved a fortune on going out to eat throughout the week.
- Get rid of junk and clutter. Seriously. Having less stuff around makes it easier (and therefore faster) to clean. Learn to appreciate quality items that you love and that will last throughout any fads or trends. Classic, well-made pieces don’t have to cost you an arm and a leg, but they should be something you love and makes your home better instead of just filling space. I own a TV stand/console that I get compliments on all the time. I purchased it at a garage sale for $15…and later realized it was a piece worth about $1k. I bought it because I thought it was lovely and had character. The value is just a fun side benefit.
- Make organization part of a room’s decoration. Have you ever visited a Montessori preschool? The learning tools the kids use throughout the day are all visually pleasing, and easily accessible. It makes me happy. You are more likely to keep something organized and know where items are, if they look pretty and attractive. Knowing where items are located saves you time because you aren’t constantly searching for them. We store books and most toys in our small basement on large IKEA shelves. Books are generally organized based on height and if they are a part of a series. Toys are in bins with mostly similar items. I have no doubt that this shelf could easily become a giant mess if it wasn’t such a large and obvious part of the room.
- Unsubscribe from most email lists. I realized every morning I would have 15 emails in my inbox, and only a few were “real” emails. I realized I rarely bought anything from those deal of the day websites, but they cluttered my inbox and took time to delete them each day. I unsubscribed from anything I didn’t actively use, and it has been both freeing and economically smart. I’m no longer tempted by items I may be convinced I think I need based on a daily marketing onslaught.
- Learn to say no. Yep, I love to be involved in things and to help others out, but I have learned over the years that I need to occasionally say no when asked for things. Do it judiciously, and say yes when you can, but throw the guilt away when you say ‘I’m so sorry, but I’m unable to help this time. Please keep me in mind for future events”.
Now, I’ll sit back and listen to your tips on how you have made your life more efficient. I learn so much from you all!