On a recent flight home I was feeling especially appreciative about one of my favorite all-time purchases: my suitcase. I realized how this one item simplified so many things when traveling and made the experience less stressful.
It also got me thinking about other purchases I've made or things I've done that have helped me simplify my life. Some are pricey, some I use every day and others were changes that required some getting use to. But everything listed below has greatly helped me to remove stress and save time.
As a small business owner, these are two things you pretty always need!
These may not all apply to you and your situation but I encourage you to consider how they relate and how you may be able to adopt a similar method.
1) Buying a quality suitcase that looks very unique
When I bought my (just barely) carry-on sized suitcase right after grad school it was a major purchase for me. But I knew it would be a great investment and I was sooooo right about that!
First of all, the suitcase is brown zebra stripes. Yup, no mistaking that puppy coming down the conveyor belt at baggage claim! I travel quite a bit and I've yet to actually see another suitcase with my design.
Aside from being awesomely unique though, it is also super practical. There are lots of compartments for organizing things, it's high quality and it's the perfect size for carrying on the plane or checking at baggage claim.
2) Choosing to "splurge" on groceries
When my husband and I were in college and grad school we scrimped and saved. I'm talking extremely frugal. Now that we have stable income one of the things we've decided to invest in is groceries. I mean, what's more important than what you're putting in your body every day?!
For us, that means I automatically choose the organic options at the store, even the orange juice that is twice as much as the typical juice. We buy quality meat and lots of veggies. And the quality fancy chocolate, too... because we all need balance.
So grocery shopping requires a lot less thinking and a lot more focus on enjoying my food.
3) Buying frozen vegetables
Somewhat related to above, we also try to buy things that are consistent and that we cook frequently. This means we don't have to think so much about what we're eating each day, because everything fits together well.
It also means we don't spend as much time cooking. We're busy and needed quick solutions. Frozen vegetables is an awesome solution.
We always have healthy food to eat, it doesn't take long to cook, and we can split things up in different containers for meals to go. Seriously, this has been one of my lunch and dinner life-savers!
4) Putting my calendar on my phone
In college and graduate school, I always had a paper planner. I took that thing everywhere and wrote down every assignment, deadline, my work schedule, etc.
Once I started working, I didn't need to track quite as many things going on... or so I thought.
After a few years I realized that I really did need something to help me with planning. It was too easy to forget a doctor's appointment, household things that needed to be done, car maintenance, events with friends, etc.
I went back to my trusty paper planning with an adorable planner (because buying a cute planner is half the fun of planning). However, it wasn't working out. I was getting even more busy and while the planner helped me plan ahead, it didn't remind me when things were happening.
I found it more and more difficult to track things because I needed a planner I knew I would always have with me and I needed it to literally say "You've got this going on in 30 minutes."
I needed it be more of an assistant than a planner. That's when I made the commitment to use my phone's calendar. It integrates nicely with so many things and even reads my emails and asks if I want to add appointments sent that way... a bit scary, but it works!
Now everything is in one spot, backed up by the cloud and on a device I have with me most of the time. I'm also able to integrate my client scheduler so my availability is up to date. No assistant needed!
5) Using reminders on my phone
Separate from the planner, I also use the reminders feature on my phone to give me quick reminders about quotes I like (daily inspiration), when to go to bed, what to follow up on, and when to meditate.
Yes, I often need a reminder to go to bed. Check out the "Bedtime" option on the iPhone, it's awesome.
6) Working out at home
I'm an extravert and I love going to the gym. I love being able to take a variety of fitness classes... yoga, pilates, cardio, barre, etc. However, going to the gym ends up taking much more time than the one hour of class.
Some days I would find myself simply going for a jog around the neighborhood instead because I didn't have that extra time. Or I was interested in doing an exercise that wasn't offered at my gym and instead tried out videos at home.
Eventually, I made the commitment to work out at home and not have a gym membership. This may not be an option for everyone, but it's been a huge time-saver for me.
It also helps me to maximize my ADHD strengths because I find it much more easy to write and concentrate on details after a work out. Research shows this is true for most people, but it's especially helpful for those of us with ADHD. Why waste that productivity driving home from the gym?!
7) Using one credit card for auto pay and another for regular expenses
This was a brilliant idea my husband had after the second time we experienced fraudulent charges on a credit card. It was so frustrating to go into all our online accounts (again!) and change all the info once we got our new cards with different numbers.
Now we have one credit card that we use for all our online, automatic payments or accounts (like the electric bill, Netflix and Amazon). We never use that card for anything else so it is less susceptible to getting hacked (since that typically happens at a kiosk or gas station).
We have another card we use for every day expenses out and about. And yes, that one has gotten hacked since we made this change but when we received the new cards it wasn't a big deal. No worries about changing anything with our online accounts!
Side note: Obviously, auto pay whenever it is possible is another huge time saver with less stress!
8) Creating a password template
Rather than using one of the password creation/storage services or doing the old-fashioned method of writing down passwords, my husband and I created a password template.
It's a phrase we created that includes capital and lower case letters, special characters, numbers and is easy to change on a regular basis (without forgetting what it changed to!). Identify a sentence or phrase and use only the first or last letters from that phrase so you don't have an easily identifiable word.
For example, let's say I want to use the phrase "Love your leadership role" and then I also my pet's birthday as the numbers but replace some of the numbers with special characters. We'll pretend my cat's birthday is February 5th 2010 (I have no clue when her birthday is but you get the idea!)...
The password could be:
And so on... it looks really complicated but all you have to do is remember your phrase and which numbers you want to be characters. You can also choose a longer phrase and use fewer numbers/characters.
This has made my life soooo much easier!
As a business owner you MUST find ways to simplify, automate and declutter. It's the best way to continue enjoying what you do rather than focusing on all the minutiae.
And if you can encourage your employees and contractors to do the same, you're all improving efficiency and likely saving money.
Let me know in the comments below! What are your favorite strategies for simplifying your life?