Give me your rules of thumb!
August 29, 2012 5:46 PM   Subscribe

What are some quick tricks or rules-of-thumb you use to help plan/organize/live your life?

I was thinking about planning a project today and was reminded of Parkinson's law: Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. I gave myself less time than I thought I needed for the project and was able to complete it on target.

Which got me wondering...what are some other good rules of thumb, laws, adages, etc. that you use to help you make good decisions on the fly?

Another example that comes to mind:

-the Pareto Principle, aka the 80/20 rule: 80% of the value you create comes from 20% of your work, 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients, etc. A reminder to focus on the most important things.

Looking for practical, useful things, not like Murphy's Law, for instance :)
posted by Calicatt to Work & Money (65 answers total) 182 users marked this as a favorite
Try to only touch any given piece of paper once.
posted by SMPA at 5:52 PM on August 29, 2012 [6 favorites]

Pee first. [Deal with the most important thing now. Learn to triage.]

Find things to do in spare moments. Always be cleaning.

You won't remember, so write it down.

Be prepared: Know what you know, know what you have, know what you need, so you can act if the opportunity presents itself.

Have a Plan B. And C.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:03 PM on August 29, 2012 [6 favorites]

When in doubt, throw it out.

Get rid of crap that will go anyway sooner rather than later.

Quality over quantity.
posted by Michele in California at 6:08 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Measure twice, cut once.
posted by bleep at 6:14 PM on August 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

Most complex tasks fall into one of two categories: those that take 50 percent of the time allotted to get to 90 percent completed, and those that take 90 percent of the time allotted to get to 50 percent completed. Learn to tell which is which.
posted by Etrigan at 6:18 PM on August 29, 2012 [6 favorites]

It's always worth making the extra effort to be kind.

Finishing something mediocre is better than dreaming about something great. (ie Do the work, even if it isn't as good as you hoped it would be, because work in the real world is infinitely more valuable than work in your head. If you have time later to fix it, great, but if not, at least it's out there.)
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:23 PM on August 29, 2012 [7 favorites]

Remote field work will always cost π times the initial estimate.
posted by scruss at 6:28 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Plans should be organic - adapting to changes and new developments and evolving with progress - because most of us can't predict the future.

And of course,
posted by eisenl at 6:29 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Never walk across a room empty-handed.

(My grandmother's prescription for keeping a house tidy.)
posted by juliapangolin at 6:30 PM on August 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

HALT. Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired? Thirsty? Good questions to ask yourself when you're in a bad mood. This helps me triage bad feelings so I can get back to work on my projects more quickly.

Measure twice, cut once.
Phssssyeahwhatevs. Measure once, cut immediately, I say.

I also say "Whoopsies! Don't lean on that desk/chair/sturdy-seeming wall!" a lot as well.
posted by guybrush_threepwood at 6:30 PM on August 29, 2012 [24 favorites]

HALT is a mantra with me.

Do anything that takes less than five minutes immediately when you think of it unless you are late for something. Think of the overall time you spend "doing" small tasks if you include the time you spend thinking about them and not doing them. Don't let unpleasant tasks colonize your mind.

Try to stack things into time slots so that you are doing one thing while waiting for another.

Find ways to incentivize yourself to do things you dislike by getting rewarded with things you like [i.e. no afternoon coffee until you've filled all the bird feeders, in fact you can start making the coffee and then go fill the bird feeders]

If you don't know what you want, it's probably sleep, get some.
posted by jessamyn at 6:36 PM on August 29, 2012 [25 favorites]

Also: measure twice, make sure you're about to cut the right side once.

(which is why my banjo has a full frailing scoop, and not just a fifth string relief. My luthier — with ~30 years experience as a shop teacher — measured and meticulously cut out a fifth string relief under the first string ...)
posted by scruss at 6:38 PM on August 29, 2012

if it hurts someone (including yourself) it's wrong, if it helps, it's right.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 6:38 PM on August 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

What begins in anger, ends in shame.
posted by lowest east side at 6:42 PM on August 29, 2012 [35 favorites]

Live without hate, but not without rage.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:43 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

What do the call the lowest ranked student on graduation day in med school? Doctor. Also, done is better than perfect. Both are reminders to not be a perfectionist.
posted by OrangeDisk at 6:44 PM on August 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

Right away is the easiest way.

I don't have "routines" or "chores" -- I have anchors.

PEEP - a place for everything and everything in its place
posted by jgirl at 6:46 PM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Don't be embarrassed to write the important shit on the back of your hand.
posted by elizardbits at 6:51 PM on August 29, 2012 [6 favorites]

You can always be honest without being rude. As true here on Ask as it is in life.

It's not possible to "over-discuss." If you're starting a relationship or project or business partnership and you're wondering if you should talk about a potential issue now, or just let it go, SIT DOWN AND TALK ABOUT IT. It might be a tiny bit awkward, but boy is it worth it.

On a related note, it's never bad to get something in writing.
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:53 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Always be mindful of and willing to revise your processes, even (especially!) the simple things you do all the time without a second thought. We waste a lot of time and effort when do things a certain way just because we've always done them that way, and we tend to resist learning and adopting more efficient ways of doing things. It seems like a waste of time to relearn something we already know how to do. Don't be that way. Instead, make evaluation and willingness to change habitual. That will keep your mind sharp, your time unwasted, and it will make you an ace problem solver.
posted by Balonious Assault at 7:07 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Never pass up a chance to sleep, pee or eat- you don't know when you'll get another.

Keep your eyes on your own work ( i.e. don't be comparing yourself or your life with others).

Something small beats nothing at all. By the same token, if there are things you want to accomplish, just commit to five minutes. It makes more difference than you'd think.

Break things down into the smallest steps neccessary to get you doing anything, even if that step is wiggling your toes.
posted by windykites at 7:13 PM on August 29, 2012 [6 favorites]

If you're trying to kick a bad habit or establish good ones, set up concrete rules. For example, "I will eat only fresh fruit or vegetables between meals"; "I will only spend a half hour a day surfing the net aimlessly and I will set a timer so I know exactly when that half hour is up"; "I will only allow myself this much spending money each month and I will do a cash withdrawal once a month and keep the money in a separate compartment in my wallet so I know when it's gone", etc. Rules work because once you commit to them you stop even thinking about options outside of them. If you really can't stick to the rule you've set up or you have and it hasn't worked the way you wanted, rethink the rule, but otherwise it's clear sailing.

Never make a trip if you can make a phone call or send an email instead.

In so far as this is possible, arrange your life so as to minimize time spend commuting.

When you make a to-do list, look for ways to multi-task or for interdependencies, then number or letter the items in order of importance. The A's are the most important or urgent items, the Bs and Cs are progressively less so. Do the tasks in order of their importance. There is an exception to this rule: I find that sometimes I just need to do something easy first to get myself into work mode and get some momentum going, even if it is one of the less important items.

Don't let problems build up.

Don't shop for recreation. It's a waste of time and money. You should know exactly what you need before you head to the mall.

Keep important information organized. Find a daytimer that works well with whatever your record-keeping style is. If you are renovating your house, set up a project binder where you can keep samples, the quotes from the roofers, your to do lists, diagrams of the garden, and torn out pages from magazines.

Don't try to do all your regular weekly housekeeping stuff in one day. You can schedule grocery shopping for one evening, laundry for another, three hours of cleaning to do on Saturday morning, etc. Break it up and it will seem a lot less onerous and time consuming, and you'll be fresher to the work and do a better job of it.
posted by orange swan at 7:15 PM on August 29, 2012 [6 favorites]

Oh, and always put your keys in the same obvious place. Seriously.
posted by windykites at 7:15 PM on August 29, 2012 [9 favorites]

Use it up, wear it out
Make it do or do without.
posted by Rash at 7:47 PM on August 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

Don't let the best be the enemy of the good.
(and, seemingly contrarily)
If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right.
posted by adamrice at 7:50 PM on August 29, 2012

Take people at face value.
Be kind.
Do things when you think of them.
Avoid drama.
Don't throw good money after bad.
Everything starts with a good sleep.
posted by yogalemon at 7:57 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Two relationship managing rules that serve us well:

When planning something big (A wedding, a big vacation) Each choose three things that are important to you, and then do everything else the easiest/cheapest way possible.

The person who cares more makes the decision (like, not for life altering stuff, but for example I care more about decorating our place. So I'll pick out new sheets; he cares more about our electronics/media set up, so he decides how that's going to be set up)
posted by Sweetchrysanthemum at 8:03 PM on August 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

Everything in its right place

Never cut what you can untie.
posted by backwards guitar at 8:07 PM on August 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

"make life easier for future [bilabial]."

This means do the dishes/make the bed/plan the grocery list ahead of time/take the trash out so that future (hungry, anxious, lonely, tired, thirsty [bilabial] is not frantically searching for a cereal bowl/battling ants in the sink, flailing in a rumpled bed, wandering the vast aisles of a grocery store, or trying to stack one more piece of trash onto an overflowing can.

My childhood sucked, and part of the suckage was that nobody cared to make anyone else more comfortable. So making the future easier is also about helping my coworkers, my boyfriend, etc, have an easier time getting through the day. It feels like a tribute also to younger me. I tolerated last minute decisions/desperation dinners/11 hour charity Easter baskets enough that there is always an extra tube of toothpaste and clean underpants available to me. Not to say that I never ever run out of things I need (I am poor, still) but that if there is a really good deal on toilet paper and I have the funds and transportation for it, future me will be very glad. Same with buying staple wardrobe pieces (khaki slacks, tee shirts, etc) at end of season clearance sales or thrift shopping, or filling the gas tank at halfway instead of putting it off till E. Discovering a hole in your favorite pants is stressful, having to search for a gas station is stressful.
posted by bilabial at 8:11 PM on August 29, 2012 [28 favorites]

Life, like baseball, is a marathon, not a sprint. It's not about a burst of activity. It's about a sustained effort over time. That goes for pretty much everything.

"Don't think, it can only hurt the ballclub." There's a point where you're overthinking things and that's the point where you're most likely to screw things up or dawdle or get paralyzed with indecision. See ball, hit ball.

(Really, between baseball and Bull Durham, you'll find everything you need to know in life).

A lot of times, the matter is as simple as Do The Thing. I write as part of my freelance work and people always want to know my secret. They're looking for a magic bullet. They have novels they endlessly turn over and dabble on and talk about. They join endless writing groups and call themselves "author" but have nothing to show for it. They page through Writer's Market and sigh wistfully. My secret is I Do The Thing. I sit down pretty much every day and I write. I send out pitches and get shot down over and over again. And sometimes things work out. And I've found that's the easiest and the hardest lesson for people to learn, in any field or endeavor.

C Is For Cookie And That's Good Enough For Me. Sometimes, it's just about getting the damn thing done, not the quality of it. A C is still a passing grade, especially if the alternative is an F for not doing it. Hell, I've worked at jobs where C-level work is strongly encouraged because A/B level work makes your coworkers feel bad. Sometimes, it's finished, it's done, we'll do better next time.

Prioritize and sacrifice. What really needs to get done? What is really important? What can wait? And how does this all fit into where I want to be in the future? The rest can wait.

A Man's Gotta Know His Limitations. I'm not saying don't try. I'm saying, know when you're beaten. For example, I cannot…cannot…live any place with a real serious winter. The SAD gets to me, the grey gets to me, the short days get to me. I am a very cranky person in the winter. I've tried it twice and it doesn't work out. It might be something I could learn to live with or tolerate, but I'm much happier when it's shorts-all-year-round. Likewise, I cannot live in small towns. Drives me up the wall. I've missed some opportunities because of it and I'm sure I will in the future, but there's some things you can't change and you'll make yourself miserable trying. Which brings me to my next point.

You can't change people. Do people change? They can, but I assume they will not. If they're an asshole, assume they're always going to be an asshole, even if you try really hard to make them not an asshole. If you're thinking about doing X for people hoping it will change behavior Y and/or induce reaction Z, assume it won't happen and decide accordingly. Saves a lot of heartache.

For general advice on life, I'm fond of Aurelius.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:13 PM on August 29, 2012 [9 favorites]

“You can do anything, but not everything.”
- David Allen

Things without all remedy should be done without regard, what's done is done. - Lady Macbeth/Shakespeare.
posted by wwax at 8:44 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Be honest: Are you ever really going to use this/wear this/fix this/read this/sell this on eBay?

If you get used to saying something inside your head, eventually you'll say it out loud.
(This one's not an affirmation - it's about NOT using rude words, slurs, and mean nicknames even when you're just talking to yourself inside your own head).

Plan the work, then work the plan.
posted by cadge at 8:47 PM on August 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

There's also "If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly." Meaning, if it's really worth doing, any attempt, even a poor first attempt, is worthwhile. Heck, if it's really truly worth doing, even a poor tenth attempt is worthwhile, as opposed to not doing it at all.

The interweb attributes that quote to G.K. Chesterton. For some reason, in my mind, it was Calvin Trillin, but he was probably riffing off Chesterton. I'm quite certain that Joel Salatin was not the originator of the thought, and I'm sure Salatin would agree.

posted by bricoleur at 8:49 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Never store anything toxic/poisonous in anything but its original, properly labeled container. This includes medications. When you're young and sharp you can get away with this, but you won't see the day coming when you finally cross the line to being muddleheaded enough to screw it up.
posted by HotToddy at 8:52 PM on August 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

"He who hesitates lives to hesitate again."--Dad
posted by scratch at 8:55 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Make all your goals SMART:
Measurable (not "I want to be healthy", but "I want to a run a mile in X:XX and be able to do 3 pull ups)
Time bound (goal date)
posted by raccoon409 at 9:23 PM on August 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

Oh, another one almost as good as the paper touching one: do NOT feed the trolls.

I also believe that the cardinal rule of driving is "don't run into anything, and don't let anything run into you." "Don't ever surprise the driver" is the cardinal rule of transportation, and fits in nicely with the "don't let anything run into you" rule (in terms of using turn signals, etc.)
posted by SMPA at 9:31 PM on August 29, 2012

A few thoughts on decision making:
When facing an enormous, life-changing decision between Option A and Option B, give equal consideration to what option C is too. There is always an option C.
When you don't know what to do, ask yourself if the voices in your head are speaking out of love, or fear.
If you really don't know what to do, flip a coin. Whichever result you find yourself hoping for in the moment you flip is the right choice.
And above all, stay classy. The classy choice is always correct.
posted by susanvance at 9:37 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Echoing "done is better than perfect".

And, when deciding what to get rid of when decluttering, think about whether you'd replace the item if you lost it or broke it. If not, and if it's not of great sentimental value, then you don't need it. I find this very freeing.
posted by purenitrous at 9:45 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

When driving, never reverse an inch more than is absolutely necessary. And always yield to the asshats (or, don't pick fights with the crazy).
posted by yogalemon at 10:55 PM on August 29, 2012

Brooks Law - "Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later."
Conway's Law - "Any piece of software reflects the organizational structure that produced it."
Mefi's darling Scott Adams (aka The Dilbert Principle) - "The most ineffective workers are systematically moved to the place where they can do the least damage: management."
Gall's Law - "A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked."
Mike Goodwin - "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one."
Murphy's Law - "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong."
Finagle's Law - "Anything that can go wrong, will—at the worst possible moment"
Hanlon's Razor - "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity."
Hofstadter's Law - "It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law."
Hotelling's law in economics - "Under some conditions, it is rational for competitors to make their products as nearly identical as possible."
Jevon's Paradox - "Technological progress that increases the efficiency with which a resource is used tends to increase (rather than decrease) the rate of consumption of that resource."
Keyne's Law - "Demand creates its own supply."
Kranzberg's First Law of Technology - "Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral."
John Bangsund - "If you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written."
Parkinson's Law - "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."
Reilly's law of retail gravitation - "People generally patronize the largest mall in the area."
Segal's Law - "A man with a watch knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure."
Lottery Paradox - "There is one winning ticket in a large lottery. It is reasonable to believe of a particular lottery ticket that it is not the winning ticket, since the probability that it is the winner is so very small, but it is not reasonable to believe that no lottery ticket will win." (aka: don't play the lottery)
Accurracy Paradox: "Predictive models with a given level of accuracy may have greater predictive power than models with higher accuracy."
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:01 AM on August 30, 2012 [19 favorites]

Reduce your choices. I have a really hard time making decisions when hungry, so I have a list of two options for lunch near work. I go wherever there's no queue. Same goes for outfits, drinks, outings with friends, exercise. Maybe it will get boring, but in stressful moments I really appreciate the simplicity this gives me.
posted by third word on a random page at 5:59 AM on August 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Put things where they need to be. Outgoing mail goes in a basket by the door, keys go in the purse, purse goes on the handle of the door.

Shoot for the element of least surprise. This came from website design, but it helps when organizing your kitchen. Where should potholders go? Right next to the stove! It also helps when driving.

531 I think I learned this here, actually. When you have two people trying to decide on something (where to eat, maybe,) one person chooses five places, the other eliminates two, and the first person picks one of the remaining three.

Remember the person you are. I know that I get upset when things are messy, so I stopped living with other people. I know that I work best early, and my efficiency and accuracy drop off precipitously after lunch, so I'm in the office at seven and lunch at three. Sometimes you have to stop thinking that that ideal version of yourself is going to fix things.
posted by punchtothehead at 6:31 AM on August 30, 2012 [7 favorites]

If a (driving, flying) trip takes longer to get back and forth than it does to actually stay there either:

a) Don't take the trip
b) Make the trip time at the destination(s) longer.
posted by sandmanwv at 6:38 AM on August 30, 2012

A little bit of cleaning is better than no cleaning.
posted by fancyoats at 6:48 AM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're having a hard time deciding between two options, those options are probably either equally as great or equally as horrible. If one was the right choice, it would be clear. So just pick one and get on with it.
posted by kidsleepy at 7:17 AM on August 30, 2012 [7 favorites]

This is an idea that a lot of other people have touched on but I like the phrasing of it:

"The smart part of us sets up things for us to do that the not-so-smart part responds to automatically." (David Allen in Getting Things Done)

And I totally disagree with sandmanwv's rule! Sometimes a two-hour dinner is well worth a three-hour drive.
posted by mskyle at 7:21 AM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

It is easy to forget long-term goals when you are busy living day to day. Make your progress and goals visible to you and others. Put posters and charts up on the wall, stuck to the mirror, magneted to the fridge, and on your computer's desktop. Chart your debts and savings. Stick personal goals ("Millionaire by age 30" or "Speak Swahili by Summer" or "130 pounds by Christmas") up in large type. Let other people see your goals. They can be your coaches and cheerleaders.
posted by pracowity at 8:40 AM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

100 Calorie Rule:
Many food portions are close enough to 100 calories that they round each other out when taken in total.

1 banana: 100 calories.
1 egg: 100 calories.
1 light beer: 100 calories.
1 piece of chicken: 100 calories.
1 small handful of nuts: 100 calories.
1 spoonful of peanut butter: 100 calories

I have a bunch of these that I've made up for my own personal use. Miles may vary.
posted by nedpwolf at 9:11 AM on August 30, 2012

From Getting Things Done: if you can do it in two minutes and it's in your mind now, just do it. Otherwise context switching and/or worrying about it will eat *far* more than two minutes.

From working in a kitchen: clean as you go. Leave things as clean as you found them, and you won't ever pile up a mess or frustration. Only exception is if you're trying to beat a very, very hard deadline.

Expanding on Brook's Law, above; "Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later." It's also stated as "nine women can't make a baby in a month."
posted by talldean at 9:19 AM on August 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

More food-related.

An ounce of water weighs one ounce.

Cooking measurements:
Rice: 2 parts water, 1 part rice.
Sauce: 1 part fat, 1 part flour, 1 BIG part liquid (1oz, 1oz, 1 cup)

Rice vs Pasta:
Rice: Add rice, then bring to boil
Pasta: Bring to boil then add pasta

The 3-5 Fried Chicken Rule:
350 degree temperature
5 minutes frying
5 minutes out of oil
5 minutes back in the oil
posted by nedpwolf at 9:24 AM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Things I've found revealing about people:
- being rude to shop or service staff
- disliking animals (not not having pets, not not being a cat/dog person, but actively disliking them)
- never reading fiction

The first two, in my experience, have led to the people in question being unpleasant or difficult to deal with no matter how charming they seem to you, and the least favourite people I've encountered fell into these categories and were also unpleasant, lacking compassion or think their status elevates themselves above manners. The latter is more of a romantic preference.
posted by mippy at 9:27 AM on August 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Not all rules, but a few quotes and thoughts and things that help me.

* Never more slides than half the number of minutes of your talk (so for a 30 minute talk, never more than 15 slides) - there are times when there are exceptions to this
* Replace everything you can with a picture
* Cut out anything that isn't aiming to change how my audience does something - so my nursing home carers need to spend 20 minutes messing around feeding each other in silly ways to see what works, but maybe they don't need 20 minutes on the anatomy of normal feeding, cos that won't change anything.

* The serenity prayer
* My brain is stupid and often tells me lies

"Learning to write is learning to think. Sure, you won't have a lot of original thoughts, very few of us do. But youu will have your original way of looking at things, which is a combination of everything you have done to this point in your life. As you read others' works and ponder, arge with, distill, reconcile yourself to, or reject them, you are growing intellectually."
This came from but it seems it no longer works.

How to live my life:
* "Reason is my prophet and it tells me that as a watch stops, so we die. It's the end. If the watch doesn't work properly, it must be fixed here and now by us." Yann Martel, Life of Pi
* "Yes, your brain feels immotral; yes, it whispers that (in the poet Walt Whitman's words) you can contain multitudes; yes, your brain says that you can have it all and do everything. These egotistic inklings are all turned up loud and proud by consumer culture's persistent promises of infinite self-realisation. But in fact no, your brain isn't immortal and you can't have it all. Those are just convictions that your head evolved to persuade your body out of bed on damp mornings. We are human and limited, and we have to live within our lives' realistic limits for them to be sustainable and satisfiable. We can hit personal bests in our time but there will be many others things that we won't ever see, be, own or do. Enoughism requires us to accept that the carrot of infinite promise will always dangle just beyond our noses. Embracing this fact is a path to contentment." (John Naish, Enough)
posted by kadia_a at 9:49 AM on August 30, 2012 [9 favorites]

T.O.D.--Think, order, do.
Forgive if at all possible.
"Cleaning up as you go along is half the fun."---L. Rust Hills
The job isn't done till you've cleaned the sink. [paraphrase] Mario Batali

Neatnik? Who?
posted by fivesavagepalms at 10:00 AM on August 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

"Under promise, over deliver."

Seriously, this turned my baseline competence into heroism more times than I can count.

It's how I tricked my wife into marrying me, anyway.
posted by Tevin at 10:19 AM on August 30, 2012 [11 favorites]

The more things you can commit to a habit, the time you have to spend thinking about them -- and the less often you screw them up.

Each night I lay out the next day's pants undies, shirt, t-shirt, socks, belt, and shoes. In the morning I don't have to think about the choice -- but I also won't end up looking for clean black socks that match! I also pack my bag each night, and when I empty out my pockets in the evening I make sure that a few items (pocket knife, phone, and wallet, among others) are always in the same place -- so if I need them late at night or if I am running late in the morning, I know just were to put my hands to find them.

Also, when it's time to buy new clothes, I often buy more than I need immediately. So I pick buy two packs of socks and throw out all the raggedy old ones, or when I found some pants I loved at a police supply store, I bought three pair. Next time I need more, I won't discover that they've been cancelled and then have to go search out something new.

Some things are worth paying extra for, and some things are worth cutting corners on and replacing frequently. Learn which is which for you.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:30 PM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

What a person does says a lot more about them than anything that comes out of their mouth. So when deciding whether or not you should rely on someone to do something, look at their past behavior and don't listen to their promises for future behavior.
posted by zoetrope at 2:38 PM on August 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Easy memory trick: put something out-of-place as a reminder.

If I'm in the car and I want to remember something (like, getting gas, or, calling someone when I get home, etc.) I pull down the passenger-side visor. When I stop the car and get out, it annoys me that the visor is down, so I remember...

When I'm in the house and I want to remember to do something in the morning, I put my keys next to the object I'm interested in, or I put them in front of the door (instead of on my dresser). In the morning as I'm hurrying out the door, my keys being in the wrong place reminds me.
posted by Terheyden at 4:13 PM on August 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Josephson's Law:
New is Worse.

Larry Niven (or maybe Jerry Pournelle, if it was The Gripping Hand) wrote a throwaway line in the early 1990s which I think should be one of these:
It always takes longer. And costs more.

My own rule, specifically for driving, but applicable everywhere (and true, it's kinda tied up with the Golden Rule, or more accurately, the negative Confucian variant):
Don't Be the Asshole.

And finally, the end of a poem you may know:
stay together
learn the flowers
go light
posted by Rash at 7:40 PM on August 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

The perfect is the enemy of the good.

Start anywhere, but start now.

Choose the people you spend your time with based on who you would like to come to resemble as a person.

Break tasks down into smaller steps.

Make it easy for people to do what you want them to do.
posted by 168 at 8:28 PM on August 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

It always takes longer. And costs more.

Realistic assessment of home improvement projects: Double the estimated cost and triple the expected time.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:14 AM on August 31, 2012

To understand business, politics, and (sometimes) personal life: Cui bono (follow the money).
posted by benzenedream at 5:26 PM on August 31, 2012

Response by poster: These are great, thanks!
posted by Calicatt at 12:37 PM on September 3, 2012

Don't watch the clock. Set alarms for getting up, going home, etc. if you need to.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 2:33 PM on September 5, 2012

Always do your best work. For client work or professional work, that is. If the client isn't worth giving your best effort to, then you've made a mistake in taking the job at all, and you should suck it up and STILL give it your best work, because it's your integrity on the line.

I also use kidsleepy's rule, though I arrived at it myself: if both choices are equally bad, then you can just pick one and forget about the regrets, because you had to do something. In that situation, even flipping a coin is good enough to feel good about your decision. (Often you can use a rule of thumb like those on this page to break that kind of a tie.)

When in doubt, take a left. This is especially true if you're driving and you're lost; if you have to wait for a left turn then you have time to think it through and figure out where you're going.

Half of life is just showing up. Even if there's no great reason to go to an event or meet someone, getting out of the house and being in the world with people is way better than not. This is especially useful for me because I can have trouble being social enough. If you're out doing something, that's when interesting things happen.
posted by lostburner at 6:20 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

« Older How to survive a marital separation arrangement?   |   Is it safe? Is it?! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.