I had an amazing mentor at my first job out of college. She often sagely told me to “only handle it once.” At work, that meant that if I was working on a particular project (we handled multiple projects at a time), do all the tasks related to that project while I was already looking at the file. At that particular job, I was assisting paralegals at a law firm. I sometimes had to read briefs, proofread them, check for correct legal citations, and fact check those citations. Instead of proofreading the brief and then going back to check on citations later, I did everything while I was on that one particular sentence in the brief. Sometimes this seemed tedious, but in the end it saved me a lot of time and sanity. I knew I had handled everything I needed for each sentence in the brief. Similarly, if I had a file out on a matter, I tried to handle everything I needed to do for that matter before I put it back.
That same time management skill has come in handy at home. If I’m changing the babies’ diapers, it makes a lot more sense to just change everyone at the same time. I only handle it once. I already had to get the wipes and the diapers ready for one kid, so I might as well have them ready for everyone else. Similarly, if I’ve gotten the diapers and wipes out in the morning and we are about to head out, I might as well get extra diapers to pack the diaper bag.
Similarly, I seem to take out a lot of diaper pail trash these days. Instead of taking out the diaper pail trash from downstairs and calling it a day, I take out all the diaper pail trash (upstairs and downstairs) at the same time. If someone is thirsty, I’m already getting a drink for one kid, I might as well make sippy cups for everyone at the same time.
I thought this was intuitive- save yourself time and handle it once- but someone recently told me it was not, so I’m sharing it with you. I suppose it wasn’t intuitive if my mentor had to remind me of it a few times at work! This is a subtle thing but I know it has saved me time. Good time management also makes my organized, Type-A self happy.
What do you think? Do you try and group together tasks at work? Have you noticed opportunities to do it at home? I’d love to hear how you’ve used this advice in your own life.
Photo is of my 3 current bosses.