How to Keep Errands to a Minimum

Getting things done around town takes extra planning

Last Saturday, I ran into a hitch while running errands.

After I’d left the house, I discovered I hadn’t read through the instructions completely for one of my errands. Even though you can complete the application online (which I did from my phone in a parking lot), you still have to print out the completed application and bring two forms of identification.

Fortunately, I was able to come up with both while I was out (vehicle registration counted as a form of ID) and I could complete my errands without having to go across town twice to go home. If I had been prepared, I could have gotten my errands done much more quickly.

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The Opportunity Cost of Reading a Book

Reading is good, but it’s not always the best use of your time.

I love books.

Even paper books, though I prefer digital. Most of my reading is currently done through audiobooks. I’ll listen while commuting, while out walking, and even in the shower. It’s a great way to read when you don’t have the time to sit down with a nice, warm beverage and immerse yourself. Put in the earphones, push play, and we’re off.

But there’s one situation where I’ve decided that the earphones stay off. I’m not going to read while doing something else. I want to be completely present.

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Father Forgets

“Father Forgets”, by W. Livingston Larned. As cited by Dale Carnegie in How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Listen son; I am saying this as you lie asleep, on little paw crumpled under your cheek and the blond curls stickily wet on your damp forehead. I have stolen to your room alone. Just a few minutes ago, as I sat reading my paper in the library, a stifling wave of remorse swept over me. Guiltily I came to your bedside.


Focus on the Top 20%

Separate what drives results from what takes up your time

Think of everything you did yesterday. The errands you hurriedly ran around town doing. The code you hastily checked in as soon as the unit tests passed. The two-and-a-half paragraphs of that book that you got to read because the washer had three minutes left. That meeting you weren’t quite prepared for.

What if you could have taken all week to get that done? The busy work is gone, and you have just 20% of your list left. The top 20%. Tasks you enjoy. Tasks that bring results.

How different would your life be? How different would you feel? Would you be more relaxed? Would you spend more time with friends and family?

You could.

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It is a paradoxical but profoundly true and important principle of life that the most likely way to reach a goal is to be aiming not at that goal itself but at some more ambitious goal beyond it.

—Arnold Joseph Toynbee, British Historian, 1889–1975

How to Get More Done by Walking Away from Your Desk

Keep your productivity, focus, and energy high

Are you stuck?

It’s one thing to be heads-down, in the zone, focused on a problem, and making great progress. But what about when the progress stops?

When you’re up against the wall, pushing harder is only going to cause problems. You’re going to wear yourself out. Sometimes, a change of pace is exactly what you need.

So go take a walk.

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