Nancy’s Guide to an Efficient 2012

While the underlying motivation of this site is definitely environmental, efficiency is also a serious consideration, and there’s a substantial amount of overlap between the two areas. I can’t claim that I’ve accomplished every goal I’ve ever had, but I am generally responsible and goal-oriented, and if I say I’m going to make a series of dinosaur sculptures out of papier måche, get ready to see a shoddily-conceived ankylosaurus that takes up half my coffee table which you’re going to have to come up with something polite to say about. Below are my get-things-done secrets; may you use them wisely.

1. If you think of something you need to do which will take five minutes or less, do it right now.

2. Don’t buy placeholder items. If you need a set of dishes and you see one that you don’t particularly like at Target and think you’ll buy them and use them temporarily until you find a set you really like — don’t. Put in the time to get a set that is of good quality that you really enjoy. You can keep them happily for many years, and you don’t have to deal with getting rid of the placeholder item.

3. Maintain. Get your teeth cleaned, get your oil changed, polish your shoes once in a while. Clean your wood floors every week or so. Eat some vegetables. It’ll all save you time in the end.

4. If you think of something that has to be done that will take 10-15 minutes, do it by the end of the day, or tomorrow at the latest.

5. Do one more thing than you planned on every day.

6. You should not have paid storage unless you are (a) temporarily moving out of the country or (b) running a business which requires it. Unpaid storage areas (like attics or garages) should contains only items that you use, but infrequently, like camping equipment, Christmas decorations, or painting stuff. If you have furniture, clothes, or old toys in there, get rid of them.

7. Try to figure out what you are doing that is a waste of time, and stop doing it. When I turned 40 I stopped reading introductions in books and balancing my checkbook. So far, so good.

8. Working on something for ten minutes right now is better than an hour tomorrow.

9. Don’t buy something for an anticipated need, only for an existing need. I’m not saying you can’t buy a new shirt once in a while for variety’s sake. But don’t buy a parka because it’s on sale and going to Antarctica’s on your bucket list; wait until you have the ticket in hand.

10. Buy quality items without a lot of moving parts. A basic toaster will last forever; a blender/chopper/rice maker will lose some of its capabilities at some point. Make sure it’s still going to be useful to you when it does. And don’t buy a vacuum cleaner that needs bags. At some point you won’t be able to get them anymore, and the item will be obsolete.

11. Don’t spend extra money on something which isn’t going to matter. If I can buy a used paper shredder off craigslist for $15, is that going to make me less efficient or less happy than buying a new one at Staples? Doubtful.

12. Understand your priorities and act accordingly. If you really want to do something that is in your power, start on it right now. Do you dream of starting a clothing line? Whip out that sketchbook! Do you desperately miss your cousin who lives in Iowa who you haven’t seen since 1992? Get her on the phone. The less time you waste, the more you’ll have to spend on what really matters to you.

I hope you all accomplish your 2012 goals, whatever they are!


  1. Susan Harrison says:

    Nice job, Nancy!

    I am curious as to what your thoughts are regarding donating to Good Will. I take comfort in dropping off knick-knacks I no longer use with the idea that at least someone else will use it. It seems like so little overhead in terms of time and hassle. What are your thoughts on Good Will?

    ~Susan (old Classroom Connect colleague)

    • stuffyou says:

      Wow, all my friends named Susan left comments! Susan H, if you have a bunch of miscellaneous items, I think donating to Goodwill or the Salvation Army is totally fine, and probably the way to go. Just make sure you follow their donation guidelines, because anything that they don’t use they will throw out. (And what they’ll take varies by location.) Goodwill even lets you calculate the impact of your donations, though it’s anybody’s guess how accurate it is.

  2. Susan K. says:

    RE: quality items w/o a lot of moving parts
    I try to avoid anything superfluously digital. For example, nowadays washing machines and stoves and smaller appliances are available with touch-screen settings. I always go for the appliance with good old fashioned dials, buttons and knobs. When a touch screen breaks (and of course it will) someone has to come into your home to service it and, if out of warranty, you’re going to pay a hefty fee, whereas a dial or button is less likely to break and far more easily and inexpensively replaced.

    Also enormously helpful for me: Make to-do lists, include even the smallest of tasks, cross things out as you get them done. The feeling of accomplishment, no matter how small, keeps you going.

  3. Alix says:

    I’m not named Susan, but I think this is an outstanding list anyway! 🙂

  4. stuffyou says:

    Thank you, kind stranger!

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