Time Management Tip #214: Establishing A Successful Errand System

September 20, 2012

Today, tumbleweeds, the topic at hand is systematizing errand-type items. This includes, but is certainly not limited to: dry cleaning, packages to be sent out, items borrowed from friends or neighbors, library books, purchases to be returned. Basically anything that needs to exit your home and be delivered elsewhere.

The good news is that the components of the errand-stuff system are few: you’ll need to allocate a place just for things of this nature, institute a time limit, and employ a strategy for fulfillment.

1. Put all the errand-y stuff in one place- always the same place. I recommend very near the door. This will make transporting said goods from your home convenient, and will help jog your memory right before you leave. Another reason? Hopefully, in an effort to avoid messing up your entry, you’ll be further motivated to follow through on the erranding.

2. Without a time limit, you may just allow the items to loiter in your lobby for the next two years. That won’t do, dear, it just won’t do. Set a time limit, stipulating how long an item may stay in your errand zone before it absolutely must get the boot. Of course there won’t be any errand-time-limit-violating-police showing up at your door if you violate it OR WILL THERE?

3. Finally, you’ll need a strategy for conducting your errands. A few things to consider:

– Make your errand-items a priority by factoring them into your to-do lists or your calendar. Schedule time for them.

– Organize your errands by day, by location, or by type. Designate one day a week as your errand day, on which you will scurry to and fro about town, returning, sending off, dry cleaning, etc. Alternatively, you may cluster your errands by location, attending to various errands that are in close proximity to each other. Finally, you may attend to your errands by categorizing them. Perhaps tackle simultaneously all the purchases you have to return to various stores, and so on.

– If you are so truly up-to-your-ear-lobes busy (speaking of, mine have been so dry lately- just the lobes- what’s up with that?) consider outsourcing your errands. Use a dry cleaning service that has home delivery, pay a little neighbor child to run your books back to the library for you, etc.

– Be realistic about how much time you can devote to your errands and decide how to carry them out accordingly. For instance, if you know full well you won’t have time to trek to the post office to return that Zara package containing a pair of studded flats that looked so cute online you swear! but whose backs dug their sharp, cardboard-y, unforgivingly rigid way right into your heel causing gouges in flesh and shopping judgment, it may be worth it to pay a bit more to have the FedEx-man fetch the package from your home, instead.

– Sometimes, you will just need to kick you own butt. “Self,” you will have to say, “This bunt pan has been sitting in the vestibule for the past three months waiting to be returned to the lady who lives three blocks away. This is NOT Living Simply. GET ‘ER DONE.”

– Sometimes, too, it will be worthwhile to dig a little deeper into the root of your unexecuted errands. Perhaps, after some reflection, it will dawn on you that the bunt pan is still sitting in your entryway because you don’t want to have to make conversation with the lady who lives three blocks away. You’re avoiding her– breakthrough, eureka!

Now find a suitable solution: write a lovely, gracious note to the lady, then drive note and bunt over to her home, run up to the door, leave items, run away. Solved.

Image credits: Ballard Designs, Martha Stewart, BHG, Alice & Daisy, Julie Blanner

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