As winter turns to spring, weekend plans are being hatched: balmy beach days, lingering picnics, extended bike rides. But summer doesn't relieve us of the mundane chores and duties that too often keep us inside. These tips may help. Streamlining, automating and planning may not be the buzzwords of breezy fun, but they'll get you there faster.
1. Do tasks only once.
If you re-open and re-read the same invitation, bill or piece of junk mail numerous times before acting, you are multiplying your work. When you read a communication that doesn't require deep consideration, act then: Take yourself off a junk mail list, recycle the credit card offer, pay the bill or respond to the quick question now.
2. Get rid of the things you don't love or need.
You can't be efficient surrounded by piles of paper and clothes and tchotchkes. Only buy what you love. Give away, recycle or throw away anything that isn't necessary to your functioning or happiness. If you're nervous that you'll want something after you've offloaded it, put it in a donation bag near the door. If you haven't dug in after a few weeks, give it away. With too much stuff, you can't find many of the things you own anyway.
3. Automate all that you can.
Life's repeated events and duties can be huge time wasters or savers. Trips, events and bills are examples. Create a detailed list of things to pack, save it electronically and use it whenever you travel. Set recurring reminders for important events like birthdays. For bills that can be put on autopay, do so. There's no sense in micromanaging recurrent responsibilities that can be better handled by technology.
4. Ask others not just to help, but to manage.
If tasks seem to be unfairly split in your household, communicate this, but ask that any divvying of chores doesn't place you as task master: Managing is still work. Where possible, each person should have specific tasks that they handle, every time, from start to finish. Don't undercut this approach: avoid intervening and finishing someone else's work. If you continually jump in to fill in gaps and fix mistakes, the chores will soon revert to you.
5. Do chores only during the week.
Chores don't have to be weekend steamrollers. Organize, clean and put away as you go, and you'll rarely have to face an insurmountable, day-long cleaning session. For regular tasks like laundry and grocery shopping, don't waste time deciding when to complete them: Set recurring reminders. Do these errands during the week if you can: stores are more crowded, and tasks have a tendency to take longer (and to be anticipated with more dread), on weekends. It's a matter of inertia -- and of getting to that meandering Saturday bike ride.