Becoming more efficient
March 7, 2005 10:27 PM   Subscribe

I'm giving a presentation on things that people can use to be more efficient. I've already covered things like google maps, google calculator, google dictionary, and metafilter and (of course) basecamp. Do any of you have any little thing you do to make your life more efficient.

I'm not looking so much for computer programs anymore (unless they are web-based) but things you do/have that make your life smoother/more efficient.
posted by sirsteven to Society & Culture (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
google weather is a new one. query:

weather Philadelphia, PA
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:46 PM on March 7, 2005

Best answer: Try to live on the third floor. If you live somewhere that goes any higher, they're likely to have an elevator and it's easy to be lazy and use it. Two flights of stairs may seem inconvenient until you realize just what good it is. Walking up those stairs every day, that's exercise. Taking in the groceries is good enough to be a light workout. Not sure how good this would be for your presentation, but it's a great example of a little inconvenience in exchange for a lot of benefit. Living on the third floor helped me lose about 20 lbs one year. Moving to the first floor, it came right back.
posted by Saydur at 10:49 PM on March 7, 2005

Best answer: Having an easy, logical place to put everything has saved me an enormous amount of time. But it has to be where you'll automatically look for it later or you'll spend too much time and effort trying to adapt to the new system. For instance, having a bowl on a table by the front door saves me at least 20 minutes of looking for my keys every day.
posted by cali at 10:50 PM on March 7, 2005

Tadalist, for check-off lists.

Google movies. It doesn't have a direct link, but you google for the film and get reviews (eg. "movie:ghostbusters") or for your city and get showtimes (eg. "movie: san francisco, ca").
posted by tracicle at 10:53 PM on March 7, 2005

I ride my bike (I don't even have a license let alone a car) and I live in a small basement apartment. I don't think that is the kind of efficiency you mean though :P

I sometimes collect things which are not recyclable in my neighborhood and give them to relatives who live in neighborhoods that do recycle those things. I don't think that is the kind of efficiency you are talking about either...

I regularly walk my street on garbage night, I have picked up (stolen from the city if you prefer) a TV for my kitchen, an Altec Lansing 904-8A speaker with box (this is my subwoofer), a Marantz 2275 receiver, a Samsung DVD player, and several useful PCs. All working! That isn't the kind of efficiency you are looking for either :)

So I offer you Dave's Quick Search Deskbar! Even though you did say you don't want any software, especially if it isn't web based...
posted by Chuckles at 11:12 PM on March 7, 2005

David Allen's two (five?) minute rule. If, in making your list of things to do, you find something that could be accomplished in less than two minutes, do it immediately.

That and letting the shop down the road wash, dry, and fold my laundry have been the things that I've noticed made the most difference in efficiency.

Oh, and always buy two bags of kitty litter at once.
posted by ontic at 11:41 PM on March 7, 2005

Duh, I knew basecamp and tadalist were the same, honest.
posted by tracicle at 12:07 AM on March 8, 2005

Response by poster: Here's some I really like for google:
half a cup in tablespoons
23 kilometers per hour in furlongs per fortnight
speed of light

posted by sirsteven at 12:25 AM on March 8, 2005

For me, trying to keep the place neat is always a struggle because I really hate housework... So here are the things I do:
  • Every single time I go into the kitchen — even if it's just for a glass of water — I try to wash a least one item (plate, glass. etc.)
  • Where I live, clothes dryers are not so common, and we don't have one. We do however, have a lot of good, hot sunshine, so when I hang up towels and sheets to dry, I fold them wet and then they dry (mostly) wrinkle-free and pre-folded.
  • Just before I take a shower, I spray the bathroom floor with the shower head, and mop it up to clean it (which cleanliness lasts approximately two minutes because we have white porcelain tile in the bathroom. :( Oh, well. I try.)
  • I keep a full glass of water around all the time to remind me to drink water — but if it's been sitting there too long, I want to replace it with fresh water, so on my way to get new water, I use the old to water the plants, which means I don't forget (or "have to remember") to water them.
  • I use quilts or duvets on the bed so I can just pull the sheet straight and throw on the bedcover instead messing around with tucking and smoothing a bedspread.
  • While I'm waiting for my coffee to brew in the morning, I empty the dishwasher so that it's ready to start filling with the day's dirty dishes (yes — only two people, yet I need to use both the dishwasher, and hand-washing to keep the dirty dishes under control. Amazing.)
  • I don't know if this is "efficiency" but when I change the trash liners, I use bug spray in the trashcan to discourage any possible ugly "attraction".
  • I keep a bottle of alcohol in the bathroom, and after I use the toilet, at least once a day I'll wipe down the toilet lid, seat, etc. before I wash my hands. In general, every time I need to wash my hands, I try to incorporate something else into the action - like wipe down the sink, or dust a coffeetable just before I wash my hands. In other words, it's kind of a "trigger" — "Need to wash your hands? Do something else that just takes a minute at the same time".
  • When transferring leftovers, or any new groceries, to the fridge, I try at the same time to find at least one thing in there that needs to be thrown out.
Still, things pretty much tend to be a half-mess most of the time. I'd love to hear any housekeeping efficiency tips for dustbunnies and dirty windows, or anything else for the reluctant housekeeper!
posted by taz at 12:36 AM on March 8, 2005

I hated constantly nagging myself to pick clothes up off the floor, chair, etc., but I also hated having to hunt through the room to find a pair of pants. So I stacked a couple of boxes about waist high just inside the closet, put a clean towel over top of them, and now I just dump all my clothes there. Much less hassle than hanging and folding. And with the closet door closed, there's no mess. Oh, and the boxes double as storage.
posted by Clay201 at 1:51 AM on March 8, 2005

Best answer: I know of a guy who has two dishwashers.

He doesn't keep his plates etc. in kitchen cupboards.
He just takes it out of the dishwasher that is currently clean, uses it, and puts it into the other one.

When it gets full of dirty dishes, he runs it.
Now he has one machine full of clean stuff again, and one which is empty and ready to be filled with dirty plates.

Brilliant :)
posted by Katti at 4:58 AM on March 8, 2005

I'm giving a presentation on things that people can use to be more efficient. I've already covered things like ... metafilter ...

I don't know about anyone else, but Metafilter is exactly how I keep from being efficient.

I'd say the biggest boon to my efficiency in the last couple months has been to start using an RSS feed aggregator. Personally, I prefer Bloglines, so I can use it seamlessly from work and home, but the benefits would be there with any aggregator. I only have to hit a single page to see if the webcomics I read have been updated, or if Snopes has a new urban legend up, or if the Slashdotters are missing the point on some new tech. It's freed up a ton of space on my bookmarks toolbar, and it seriously probably saves me an hour a day of surfing, which means more time that I can actually get work done.

Either that, or I just post to Mefi more often..
posted by Plutor at 5:10 AM on March 8, 2005

Best answer: Have a place in your house, preferably near the fron tdoor, with a surge protector and a shelf. One of those big surge protectors with plenty of space between the sockets for wide AC adapters. Use this for your "charging station." Keep the cords for all your rechargeable doodads plugged in with tags on the ends of the cords to tell you what device it's for. Keep your phone, Palm Pilot, iPod, digital camera, camcorder, etc here. You'll always know where these things are and they'll always be fully charged.

When you're cooking, every time you have more than a minute to spare, clean something. You'll have a lot less dishes to clean when dinner is done.

Set a task in your PDA of choice for, say, 2:30 every Friday afternoon or some other point when work tends to be slow. The task should say "plan meals." Then go to Bloglines and check the updates from the four or five food blogs you've subscribed to. Find some interesting new meals or pick some old favorites and make a shopping list for the weekend.

Teach your child to put one toy away before he plays with another. You'll need to be flexible, obviously, but at the end of the day there will be a lot fewer toys to put away.
posted by bondcliff at 5:32 AM on March 8, 2005

When I walk through the house I always grab something in the room I am in that belongs in the room I am going to.
posted by LarryC at 6:48 AM on March 8, 2005

Best answer: Plutor beat me to it: metafilter is anti-efficient.

The one little timesaver that has served me well is that I always keep frequently used objects--my keys, cellphone, wallet, camera, etc--in exactly the same places so I don't have to go looking for them.

I have several different craftsy-type activities. I bought a 4-pack of flat stackable plastic boxes for fishing gear and keep a complete set of tools and hardware for each activity in its own box, even though this means some duplication of tools. With each box clearly labeled, I can just grab the box I need and get to work.
posted by adamrice at 8:10 AM on March 8, 2005

Get a mobile phone that will sync with your computer & learn how to use them.

Use the phone calendar, to do & alarms as appropriate when you need to make appointments, reminders etc.

Making an appointment at the hairdressers? Get it in the phone. Need to remember to call your friend, mother, customer service centre? Set up an alarm. Sync your computer & phone regularly. Use the computer to keep your address book up-to-date (far easier than entering stuff via the computer).

Get a laptop if at all practical. One that you can sleep/wake up easily. And broadband & wireless. Now you can use some slobbing in front of the TV/listening to music time to catch up on your banking, household budget, e-mails, finding out about stuff etc as well.

Ah yes. Banking and budget. Do them. I've avoided keeping a budget for years and the only thing that got me into the habit was having my first laptop & the time to set one up in a spreadsheet. (I was taking a 6-month vacation in various places.)
posted by i_cola at 8:27 AM on March 8, 2005

I shop and cook on Sundays for the following week. When you prepare everything in parallel, it really saves time: it takes me 2-3 hours to make fourteen meals, depending on how fancy I get.
posted by symbebekos at 8:29 AM on March 8, 2005

My biggest efficiency boon has been to not have television. When you get home exhausted from work, it is just far to difficult to not simply fall into the couch and turn on the TV - not because of what is on, but because it's easy. Next thing you know, you've wasted your entire evening, and then your entire week. (I do have a television set, but there is no antenna or cable hookup, just a DVD/VCR player). Funnily enough, it's not at all the loss I thought it would be, the time savings are immense, and all my movies are commerical-free.

A less drastic thing I do, since I'm rarely far from a computer, is to have a shortcut in the start menu and/or taskbar that opens a text file that I use as an extension of my memory. The point being that this file is always easily and instantly accessable.
Any info I need to store for a short time goes there. Eg the usual list of things to do in a day, plus stuff like addresses and emails I'll only need to use once or twice, component lists for projects, etc. Just keep adding to the top of the notes, and every now and then scroll down (ie back through time) to get an interesting "big picture" perspective from the minutae of your life.
Basically the traditional notepad-on-the-kitchen-fridge, but on the computer to allow cut&paste functions.

I third meta-filter being anti-efficiency :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 8:31 AM on March 8, 2005

Before I start cooking, I fill up the sink with hot, soapy water. As I'm done with a bowl, or whisk, or whatever, I toss it into the sink. When there's a pause time (e.g., waiting for water to boil), I'll wash as many items in the sink as I can. By the time dinner is ready, most (if not all) of the dishes are washed and sitting in the drainer. Even if you have a dishwasher, this can be useful, since some things can't go in it (e.g., blender parts).
posted by pragmatist at 8:50 AM on March 8, 2005

A food processor. I know someone who spent 5 hours grating potatoes for latkes for a party, when I made them at home in a night with only minutes of grating. For anyone who wants to cook, usually prep time increases exponentially without a food processor, leading to many new cooks giving up after a few exhausted tries.

I always make notes on any recipie I make; what worked what didn't, how it actually comes out. That way I avoid making the same mistake twice.

Having 2 Brita pitchers. If one is empty, there is always the other one, for those of us who drink a lot of water.

I always have floss around and thus always floss. There's always one in my bag, and one on the coffee table. So if I'm at work doing nothing, or in front of the TV, I can also floss.

I made a file of grocery items I always need around, or have to replenish often. I print it out, it is on the fridge, and thus I can always make sure that I have everything I usually need, so no getting home and forgetting that we're out of brown sugar.

Having iCal remind me to water my plants, autorefills at the pharmacy, writing down the dates of when I opened a new pair of contacts, and when I cleaned the litterbox. These are all things I forget about.

And yes, having a place for everything and keeping it there.
posted by scazza at 9:57 AM on March 8, 2005

I've tried using software-based calendars and schedules for appointments but nothing has been as useful to me as having a real paper calendar on the wall by the phone. The phone (and hence the calendar) are right by the spot where I make my coffee in the morning, so I can see right away what I have scheduled.

I arranged for my pharmacist to renew my prescriptions for me and call me when they arrive, so I don't have to visit the doctor and pay $10, and because I forget otherwise and the prescription lapses. I don't know if pharmacists normally do this, but I go to the good old neighbourhood pharmacy run by the stereotypical sweet old married couple. :)

And also yes to having a set place where the keys always go. I have yet to get into the same habit with my cellphone/sunglasses, but at least I know where my keys are at all times.

Storage boxes are your friend: my son's room has a box for his stuffed toys, one for cars, and so on. He loves sorting so they stay in good order. I do the same as adamrice for my craft projects, except I have an old chest of drawers with a drawer for each set of equipment.
posted by tracicle at 11:30 AM on March 8, 2005

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