Cut Errand Time

If your day isn't long enough to complete everything you must do, try these time-saving techniques to save precious hours.

If you don't particularly enjoy running errands, you're not alone. Most of us delay the mundane tasks of everyday life in lieu of completing more enjoyable or meaningful work. Yet some things cannot be put off forever, and if neglected, may add up to monster size that can devour a sizable chunk of a daily schedule.

Instead of allowing yourself to feel fragmented by a string of irritating tasks, try these tips to see if they don't make a difference in your day:

1. Work errands into your daily routine. For example, if you follow the same route to work or school each day, look for services along the way that you can utilize when needed. Supermarkets, fast food, gas stations, convenience stores, pet grooming, dry cleaners, and other helpful enterprises you may need to visit occasionally can be fitted into the normal day's travel when you know where they're located and the hours of operation.

2. Instead of making a special trip for an errand like buying stamps at the post office, find out if you can get stamps somewhere close to your usual route. Some grocery stores sell postage, for example, at the same or slightly elevated price as the post office does. For a few cents it may be worth getting your stamps when you buy groceries. Think of the time and fuel costs you can save by combining errands of this type.

3. Spread out your errands. Rather than rush out to get something done, see if it can wait a day or two when you next venture out. Dry cleaning can be dropped off en route to the grocery store, for example, if you don't need that clothing right away. Or you can drive through the photo mat while picking up pizza at the end of the week. The trick is to remember to combine tasks and not forget the one while completing the other.

4. Get ready in advance. Gather coupons, phone numbers, signed forms, and whatever else you need and put it in a prominent place or even in your car. Then when you drive by the doctor's office with your son's medical release for soccer practice, you won't smack your forehead when you recall leaving it on top of the microwave. Place small items in your purse or wallet, and leave larger ones out in plain view.

5. Call ahead. If you're not sure what time the shoe repair shop closes, call first before planning that errand in conjunction with the carwash and pet grooming. When trying a new service or visiting a new location, it helps to call first to be sure the hours of operation and methods of payment are convenient for you. You may even want to mention your plan of stopping by at a certain time with a specific task to be sure you have not misunderstood and that your plan will work as programmed. It's always disappointing when something happens to interfere.

6. Keep the car fueled and make a mental or written list of the day's route. Having things planned in advance makes for an easier, smoother, and time-efficient outing. Don't leave anything to chance.

Running errands is an inescapable part of living. Do what you can to minimize and combine them so you can still have a life.

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