Over the years, the desire to find a better way (or pure laziness) has driven ingenuity and fueled creativity. It has motivated smart and useful inventions. This is not about the items that have served the betterment of humanity. This is about the small things that keep me from pulling my hair out. The 7 tricks below are small tweaks to my daily, mundane, repetitive tasks… and answers the question: how do I make my life easier?
1) The Coffee Fairy – If I try to make coffee in the morning, it takes a full four hours. 1 hour to count out 8 scoops. Another hour to fill the water. And two hours for the coffee to brew. Ok, it may not take a full two hours for the coffee to brew, but have you ever waited for coffee to brew when there are three young kids in the background?! 4 hours minimum. So we hired a coffee fairy. Just before we wake up, she flutters into our house and starts brewing our coffee. I feel like a princess when I wake up in the morning and there is fresh, piping hot coffee in our kitchen. And I feel like a downright Queen, if that coffee is Coffee Emporium’s Hazelnut. Obviously, that’s not really how it happens. I prepare the coffee night before and use the auto-brew feature. But before my first sip of coffee, I’m still groggy enough to believe a fairy made it.
2) Scissorhands Sunday – As much as I love to cook, especially chopping vegetables (seriously – so therapeutic, if I give up on the legal world one day, you can find me in a kitchen merrily chopping all the vegetables for Saturday night’s dinner service), I do not love to chop vegetables after working all day with hungry children abound. I also don’t like eating out every night. The fix? Chopping all of our vegetables on Sunday afternoon (or Monday night if that’s when I finally make it to the grocery). Already prepped veggies, makes it easier for me to prepare dinner and prevents me from making food choices I’ll regret later. This trick makes me feel like I employ a sous chef.
3) Milk About Face – A seemingly silly one, but with 3 kids, we are filling sippy cups over 3000 times annually. The other day, my mom reached in the fridge to refill a sippy cup with milk. With 8 cartons of milk staring at her (ok, maybe just 4), she asked, “Lib – which one?” My husband, who was closer to the fridge, grabbed the carton with the spout facing outward. All the other cartons had their spouts facing the wall, like misbehaving children whose noses were in the corner for timeout. He motioned to the others to show her my system. “Ah ha!” she said, “that Lib’s got her tricks.” It’s self-preservation, really. When milk is requested, it’s usually at meal-time. My sweet boys are just two low blood sugar points away from full on melt downs. Every. Second. Counts. When getting milk into their hands to ward off their passage into the land of milk-thirsty vampires. To often, I grabbed the wrong (unopened) milk. That misstep sounded the alarms (aka screaming children). I needed a plan to get the right (opened) milk while keeping my blood pressure down. Milk About Face. This little trick makes me feel like I have some control in the bottomless sippy cups.
4) Fighting the Facebook – Recently, I deleted the Facebook app from my phone. I did not shut down my account as I previously have to curb my uncontrollable social grazing. Instead, I built a barrier because I have little self control. I was finding my nose buried in my phone when it should be smelling roses, or doing laundry. This is not a knock on facebook. It is a knock on me and a hats off to Mark Zuckerberg for the undeniable appeal of his little idea. It’s like cookies and me. I can’t have them in the house. After a birthday or a celebration, we dump the left-overs in the trash. While I do not have the self-control to stay away from cookies in the house. I do have the dignity that keeps me from digging through the trash for the discarded cookies (That’s a lie. I have saved a cookie from the trash before. But those days our behind me. I swear.) Anyway, this artificial barrier helps me look at my own children, not someone else’s because opening an actual computer and signing in is so cumbersome.
5) Gymtime – Remember when you were in elementary school and your mom made you lay out your clothes the night before? Well, I still do that. Only one caveat, it is not before school, it is before the morning gym. If the clothes are laid out the night before when I still have a clear head about the wise decision to arrive at the gym before the sun rises, my chances of going increase by a factor of ten. No clothes laid out – I am snoozing through that alarm. This is no joke. Because my morning self, doesn’t agree with my night self who set that damned alarm. The crazy cousin of this method is putting on gym clothes in the am hoping I’ll actually use them at some point in the day. Less effective hit rate, but works enough of the time that I keep doing it.
6) Create, Use, Copy & Paste, Use Again – 10 years ago, when we were a little baby company with just 20 employees, I found myself inundated with questions. The luxuries of our now adult company – call center, project coordinators, technology, 400+ employees, etc. – did not exist, but the work was still there. To stay above water, I had to find a better way to answer the numerous and often repetitive client emails and questions. I started categorizing the questions and saved the answers in my own FAQ document. Like most of my “make my life easier tricks” it required a small up front investment in the time and effort department, but paid dividends later. I still use an iteration of this trick to this day (even when texting babysitters, because hey – why recreate the wheel?).
7) Old-Fashioned Bribery – I bribe myself a minimum of 20 times a day.
- I know you are hungry, but you can’t get up from this desk until you call that client.
- If you finish the dishes, you can have a glass of wine.
- No showering until you go running and no one likes a stinky girl.
Not surprisingly, I found myself using this approach with my children too. For example, my kids know who has suckers and stickers: the pediatrician, the hairdresser, the grocery. They know these are handed out when mommy pays. From my perspective, payment is not the end of the trip. No trip is over until we are in the car and everyone is strapped into their carseats. So as the cashier or receptionist is handing my kids the treat, I swoop in, intersect the treat hand-off and nicely remind my children they can have it when we get in the car. When I forget this trick, my power is gone. Sometimes that’s fine. Sometimes it isn’t. We’ve all been there – kids or no kids – relinquishing power is a gamble.
Honestly, I can’t write this without acknowledging that my life is easy. Aware that these are good, correction, great problems. As my simple tricks make my life easier, I try to balance it with small gestures to make other’s lives easier too. I didn’t intend for this to turn preachy (right now someone in my family is saying, “Libby, you don’t have to take everything so seriously!”). I just couldn’t not acknowledge how blessed we are and our obligation to help others too. To whom much is given, much is required.