13 Tips to Get Your Errands Done Quicker

No one loves errands, but these tips will help you look forward to them a little more.

Errands stress you out and suck you dry of energy. They also eat up hours that would be better spent exercising, relaxing, cooking, having fun – the healthy stuff of life. So the goal here is to get you through your errands faster, easier and with less stress. Just be sure to use the time you gain wisely.

1. Group your errands. This is a golden
rule: never run a single errand at a time.
You’ll save time, gas, energy and stress
hormones by grouping your errands into
batches. If you have to drop a child at
a piano lesson, you can also go via the
bank and deposit a check, pop into the
supermarket for milk and bread or pick
up the dry-cleaning.

Plus: How to Run Errands With Your Kids

2. Run your errands at quiet times. In
other words, not at the weekend (when
the vast majority of people run their
errands). Instead, make sure your drycleaner,
bank, doctor, supermarket, etc.,
are near work so you can take care of
these mundane tasks on your way into or
out of work, or during your lunch hour.
You’ll avoid the packed shops and heavy
traffic at the weekends, and have those
two days just for you and your family.
One of the best times to grocery shop?
After dinner, when the children are in bed.
One parent stays at home and one goes to
the supermarket. You’ll be in and out in
half the time it takes with children in tow.

3. Create an errand center in your
This is where library books that
need to be returned, the dry-cleaning
that needs to be dropped off, or the
packages that need to be mailed, all live.
Everything in one place (ideally near
the door you use most often) will make
it easier to run “bulk” errands. Another
option: keep these things in your car, in
the passenger seat. They’ll be a visual
reminder of all you need to do.

how to run errands faster

4. Keep an errand list with you at all
This includes both the ordinary
errands that must be done (dry-cleaning,
library, post office), but also those
little things you keep forgetting (pick
up socks for the six year old, make vet
appointment for the dog, find organic potting
compost). Use a sturdy notebook that
you carry with you at all times, and make
sure the rest of your family knows where
it is so they can add things to the list.

5. Buy in bulk. The less often you have
to go shopping for mundane items such
as toilet paper, paper towels, dog food,
cat litter, toothpaste, deodorant, tampons,
etc., the less time you’ll spend running
errands. Storage space tight? Most of these
items will fit under the bed quite nicely.

6. Always include a little fun. List all the
things you find joyful. Maybe it’s reading
a novel, writing in your diary or hitting
a few golf balls on a spring afternoon.
Now, plan to include one of these items
in any extended errand run. Take a novel
with you as you head to the post office;
you can read it waiting in line. Carry your
diary in your glove compartment – jot
down a few lines as you’re waiting for the
car to be washed. Or ride your bike to
the shops, then take a spin around a local
park or nearby countryside.

7. Keep your grocery list on the
Most weeks, you’re buying the
same things anyway; having a master list
on your computer makes it easy to add
and subtract items. Organize the list in
the same order as the shop you usually
use. So, for instance, if the produce
section is the first area you see, fruit and
vegetables should be first on your list. Hit
the print button and off you go!

8. Use the internet for as many
errands as possible.
These days,
you can bank online, order
office supplies, buy garden
perennials, shop for shoes and
do your grocery shopping online.
The internet, used sensibly, can save
you hours of time and immeasurable
stress. Worried about giving a credit card
number over the internet? If the website
uses a secured server, then it is safer than
giving your credit card over the phone
and, in some cases, using it at a shop.

9. Keep an “errand bag” in the car at
all times.
This includes such things as
bills that need to be paid, stationery and
envelopes for writing letters (yes, letters!), pens,
an envelope of coupons, your calendar,
magazines that you haven’t read and a
good book. Then whenever you’re sitting
in a waiting room, stuck in traffic, waiting
for a child’s over-long football practice
to end, you can also be completing other
tasks on your list and/or catching up on
your reading.

10. Keep a cooler and a basket in your
The cooler is to keep frozen and
cold foods cold while you run errands; the
basket is so you can carry bags into the
house without making umpteen trips.

11. Buy yourself a treat. Your children
aren’t the only ones who need a little
motivation during errand running. So
make sure you add one more item to your
list – something nice for you. It could be
flowers, a scented bath soap, an imported
brand of beer or a fancy cheese.

12. Alternate tasks with your neighbors
or children’s friends.
For instance, one
week you do the grocery shopping for
your neighbor; the next week, she does
it for you. Or she watches your children
while you do the errands for both families
(or vice versa). Another option: do
errands with a friend. Not only will you
benefit from the social support, but your
children might just be better behaved if
there’s another adult there.

13. If you’re a dad, run errands with
your child.
An American study has
found that children who clean, cook
and do household errands with their
fathers are better behaved and have
more friends. An added bonus: the
wives of these men find them more
sexually attractive.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest