Updated 30 August 2013

10 shortcuts through life

In the end it’s the little things that make the big difference. A saved cellphone number, a headache tablet, a raincoat for a sudden storm.

In the end it’s the little things that can make a big difference. Whether you remembered to take headache tablets to work, saved the cellphone number of your friend, or remembered to buy dog food.

You know that feeling of despair when you have to drive all the way back home, because you left the street address and telephone number of your dinner party hosts lying on the kitchen table.

Here's how to make life a good deal easier for yourself.

Live by the book

See your diary like a heart-lung machine. Go nowhere without it. Write down all appointments, addresses and telephone numbers. Have a list in the front of all bank account numbers, customer numbers account numbers from shops to the municipality. Photocopy this list and keep one in your handbag, one in your diary and one next to your homephone. It's fine to duplicate all this on your cellphone, smartphone, your laptop, or whatever. But these can get stolen, and regularly do. No one is going to steal your diary, unless you're a huge celebrity.

Mightier than the sword

Always have a pen next to the phone. Write down important numbers in a book that also lives next to the phone. Tie the pen down with a piece of string, so it can't disappear. Tie a pen or pencil to your desk at work, too. That way it can't be 'borrowed' by colleagues in an open office.

Cut and paste

Tie a pair of scissors and sellotape to your desk at home. Last minute gift-wrapping is often fraught with peril as the family go on an archaeological dig through the house to try and find these items. Or even simpler, next time you're at the supermarket, remember to buy 10 gift bags. They're cheap, and you'll be grateful for them in a wrapping crisis.

Become hooked

Have a hook for keys at the front door. Imagine stringing together all the time you spend looking for keys. You’re probably looking at a couple of days every year. Get into the habit of hanging up your keys as you get home. But not too near the front door. You don't want them landing in the wrong hands.

You’ve got mail

Deal with post only once. Either file it, pay the bills, or throw or throw the letters away. There is nothing more demoralising than searching through heaps of junk mail in search of the gift voucher you were sent by your sister. Reduce the stream of paper in your life (and save a few trees) by asking for your accounts to be sent to you online.

Be cellwise

Write down all the numbers you have stored in your cellphone. Thousands of cellphones go missing every year and people get caught without important phone numbers of family or business connections.

Get set

Keep a spare set of keys for your house and your car in an accessible place, such as at a neighbour's house. Make sure your address is never written on keys, because if they get stolen, you are giving directions to the thief. Don't hide the keys anywhere on the outside of your property like people used to do - thieves will find them eventually.

Presents of mind

Always have a few possible gifts in a drawer. Writing paper, cards, soap, a few gadgets such as bottle stoppers and openers. These could be gifts for anyone and you never know when you need to find a gift in a hurry. And this happens often.

Get listed

Have a list in your diary of your GP, gynaecologist, plumber, electrician and handyman. Crises that involve them never happen at conveniently scheduled times. Or when you are necessarily at home.

Emergency supplies

In your desk at work, keep the following things: headache tablets, tampons (if you're a woman), antiseptic cream, a public telephone card, a list of emergency telephone numbers, breath freshener, hairbrush, lipstick, a spare phone charger, a little supply of crucial medication, at least R100, a small penknife, a tweezer and a nail file.


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