Act Smart!: 7 things you can do in 7 minutes or less

We run columns like this every now and again. Because sometimes, it’s about jamming the small, important stuff in between the big, important stuff to keep all the stuff running smoothly. Also, because they are reliable reader favorites!

7 minutes clearing off your computer’s desktop. Especially if, like me, you have all your downloaded items routed there (although if you route things straight to Downloads, definitely spend some 7-minute chunks of time clearing out that sucker). You will save yourself time hunting down the right sides/directions/whatever to print out, and you will enjoy a feeling not unlike that of a hot shower after a grubby day, or dislodging via floss a particularly trenchant piece of flotsam from your teeth.

6 minutes clearing out the inside of your car. Grab two bags. Throw the trash in one, and the stuff that needs to be re-routed to its proper home in the other. Showing up to an audition in an uncluttered car means more psychic space for calm. (Or for freaking out, but you don’t roll that way.) If you don’t use a car to get to auditions, take six minutes to declutter your backpack/briefcase/wallet/whatevs. And kudos to you!

5 minutes washing your makeup brushes. Ladies.

4 minutes googling, scanning, then bookmarking a list for emergency preparedness. Earthquakes (and snowstorms and hurricanes and other natural and unnatural disasters) are inevitable, meaning your status as Person of the Arts does not exempt you in the (inevitable) event of them happening. NOTE: if you, like fancy-free me, are not at all prepared now, the list itself will overwhelm you. Take heart! I have been slowly plugging away through mine, and now at least have the rudiments on hand both in my car and my apartment. No, you can’t come over when The Big One strikes.

3 minutes listening to and deleting voicemails. Because do you really want any friction between you and a really important call that might come in? I’ve tried returning calls to two people recently and been bounced both times because there was no room. Thank god I wasn’t Oprah’s people calling. Clear your voicemail inbox before the robot warning tells you to. Now. Seriously!

2 minutes bookending any of the above tasks. I learned this in my mastermind group. When faced with a dreaded item on my to-do list, I call a designated friend, tell them I’m going to do x, then call them back after I’ve done it. (Which I did not do before writing this column, because this is not a dreaded task!)

1 minute writing down your start/stop mileage. One of the things that always trips me up around tax-time (I’m one of those extension filers—another story for another day) is calculating mileage: easy to do if you’re keeping a running total, heinous if you’re forced, as I’ve been, to go back through your calendar and add it up that way. Designate a little notebook, or buy one specifically formatted for the purpose, and use it every time. You’ll save a lot more time (and money!) in the end.

For more down-and-dirty—and big & fancy!—tips, see:

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BOOK OF THE MONTH: It’s on everyone’s short list of “Best Travel Books Ever”, but somehow, I still missed reading Bill Bryson’s delightful A Walk In The Woods until just recently. A detailed recounting of his hiking of the Appalachian Trail, it’s no less wonderful for his only having hiked portions of it. In fact, while a few of the reviews grouse about this, it was one of my favorite things about the book. To me, it was also the story of a man running hard up against his fallibility, and having the grace and humility to accept it. Wonderful characters throughout, as you might expect, it’s laugh-out-loud funny in parts and deeply unsettling in others. Really, it’s just masterful storytelling, with good illumination of some grievous modern wrongs. It reminded me a lot of the late David Foster Wallace’s nonfiction in its humor and general insightfulness, only far more accessible. Highly recommended!