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13 Must-Follow Tips to Get Your Errands Done Faster Than Ever

Errands eat up hours that would be better spent doing things you actually enjoy. Enter—these pointers, which will get you through your errands faster, easier, and with less stress.

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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 to the bank and deposit a check, pop into the supermarket for milk and bread or pick up the dry-cleaning. Try these other time-managements tips that successful people use.

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Run your errands at quiet times

In other words, not on the weekend (when the vast majority of people run their errands). Instead, make sure your dry cleaner, 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.

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Create an errand center in your house

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.

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Keep an errand list with you at all times

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.

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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.

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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.

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Keep your grocery list on the computer

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!

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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.

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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.

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Keep a cooler and a basket in your trunk

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.

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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. Saving time on errands can give you a little more “me” time. Try these other tips to sneak even more “me” time into your day.

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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.

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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. Check out these other tips that will make running errands easier.