Do not do work twice

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Reduce the time spent on maintenance tasks by avoiding doing the work twice.

We often tend to overestimate how much we can do in a few hours and underestimate how much we can do in, say, a week. This is because throughout the week there are opportunities to shave the time off things we tend to do regularly. One of the ways to do that is not doing the work more than once. Here are a few examples of what I mean:

Productive Zen Mama - Do not do work twiceIf you bring something home, put it away immediately.

Don’t drop the mail on the floor or table where it would accumulate — instead, spend a minute to recycle junk mail and divide the (usually very few) remaining envelopes into stacks for each family member. (And make a mental note to add a sign to your door requesting that no flyers make their way into your mailbox.)

Designate a place for your wallet, keys, cell phone, purse, gloves, sunglasses, lip balm — whatever you need every time you go out the door. A set of pockets (one for each family member) or a shelf near the door works well. That way you will not be looking for your keys all over the house when you are rushing out the door.

Keep a place to charge your devices – cell phone, music player, tablet, camera, etc. For devices that need frequent charging, it’s best to develop a habit of plugging them in at the same time every day (such as a cell phone or a music player), to avoid running out of power when you need it. Keep the tablet plugged in when you can, so that when you need to be mobile you can count on several hours of battery power remaining. For the camera, it’s best to charge it before any significant event where you’d like to take pictures, as well as right after such an event. Since I use mine quite regularly, I prefer setting a once-a-week reminder in my calendar to charge the camera.

I’ve been taught to remove street clothing as I enter my home and change into home clothes. It helps keep the street dust and dirt from spreading throughout your home, prevent spills and stains on work clothes (and you get plenty of both with the kids), and the joy of slipping into something more comfortable so that your skin can breathe — this is of immense importance to me now, in Canadian winter, when I’m engulfed in several layers of thick fabrics for even a brief venture outside. Sort your clothes as you take them off — straight to laundry if dirty or to a designated hanger or chair if it is to be reused. Don’t leave clothes lying around all over the floor so that kids end up painting it or the cat decides to sleep on it leaving half of his fir spread evenly over your work clothes. This will make it easier to keep up with laundry and to find clothes to wear the next time you go out. It will also take the guess work out of the cleanliness state of any given garment and lessen the number of mismatched socks.

When you bring home groceries, sort them right away:

  • non-perishable foods into the pantry so they don’t clutter up the fridge or the kitchen floor;
  • bulk items into appropriate containers so that you can easily find them and keep track of the quantities remaining;
  • frozen items into the freezer;
  • meat and dairy into the fridge.

Ideally, I like to do some food preparation right after I get groceries: I wash fruit, wash and chop veggies for snacking, put root vegetables into the oven to roast. It helps to have your meals planned for the week before you go grocery shopping, so that you know which ingredients you will need in the next couple of days.

Sort and wash dirty dishes right after the meal — either by hand or in a dishwasher, soak pots right away if needed. It’s extremely unpleasant to face a dirty, disordered kitchen when you want to cook dinner, or having it as the first sight of your day. All your desire for a healthy breakfast might evaporate and lead to a trip to the nearest coffee joint.

When you are done a project, clean up so that unnecessary items do not accumulate on work surfaces, making it harder to set a workspace for the next project. The more things accumulate in one space, the more insurmountable the task of clearing them out becomes, leading to a sense of dread and procrastination on other activities you could be enjoying.

Put things away to where they belong — there is no sense in having temporary storage locations, they’ll only irritate you and you will have to sort through them sooner or later. One of the keys to de-cluttering is to not create clutter in the first place. Generally, if something takes less than 2 minutes to do and you have all the supplies required for it — do it as soon as you discover it. The overhead of coming back to it and figuring out what needs to be done will take you at least another 2 minutes.

Make these quick tips into a habit and save your time for what you really enjoy doing.

Are there any strategies you use on a regular basis to streamline your day? Please share!


  1. For those who wear glasses, it’s horrible to misplace them. They should only have a few, finite, places where they can be (by the alarm clock at bedside, by toothbrush in the bathroom, etc.)

  2. Pingback: Declutter your space - Fingering Zen

  3. Pingback: Put things back where they belong - Fingering Zen

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