Last summer on a family vacation in the Catskills, it occurred to me that I should take our kayak for a spin. Number of times I’d thought this before: at least a million. Number of years the kayak had been in the family: 16. Number of minutes I had spent in it: zero.
The reason for my lack of kayaking—and I’m not proud of this—is that I never felt like opening the garage, putting the kayak on its wheels, and dragging it for a few minutes (mostly downhill) along the road to the lake. Yes, a little elbow grease was all that stood between me and my favorite kind of boating. But I always took the easy route and went for a swim instead.
Not this time, though. Just the day before, something shocking happened. I had an idea that was immediately ratified by the whole family: Let’s keep the kayak by the water. It’s a lake surrounded by people we know, and the risk of theft is pretty much nil. How it took us a sixth of a century to realize that is a question for another day. But at least we didn’t waste time afterward. Within hours, my husband lugged the kayak downhill, tooled around in it himself, and left it on the shore. Which is right where I found it when I arrived—paddle in hand and raring to go.
Chalk up another one to the power of convenience.
Organization experts and nutritionists have extolled it for ages: Keep your recycling bin near where you open your mail so you don’t let junk mail pile up; stock your fridge with cut veggies so you’ll have healthy snacks handy. But why stop there? Why not harness the Convenience Principle to do stuff that’s a bit more involved than chucking catalogs or chomping carrots? I began asking such questions years ago, and on top of kayaking, the perks have included:
1. More time talking with friends.
Again, all it took was a simple tweak—in this case, adding headsets to our wireless phones—and I was suddenly free to chat with pals while doing chores. (Yes, to avoid disaster, I still single-task when doing anything complicated, but as long as I pair phone calls with autopilot jobs such as making salad and doing laundry, my friendships remain crisp and stain-free.)
2. Fewer missed errands.
After years of “duh” moments in which I realized that if only I had such-and-such a coupon with me, I could stop at blah-blah store and get 20 percent off on yada-yada, I began keeping coupons in the car. Since then I’ve bought countless gadgets, groceries and other things in far fewer trips than it used to take. Plus, I’m the proud owner of several shoe racks that still need to be put together. (Hey, I never said convenience cured procrastination.)
3. Bigger muscles.
By clearing a space on the floor of my walk-in closet, I’ve made it easy to drop down for some pushups while I wait for the shower (across from the closet) to warm from glacial to tepid. By keeping the side of the bathtub clear, I can fit in a few triceps dips, too. The upshot: I’m now noticeably more fit, thanks to about 10 minutes a week that I no longer spend standing around and muttering about our plumbing.
4. More ideas brought to fruition.
A bunch of 50-cent notebooks, each tucked in a purse or pocket, means I’m much less likely to forget concepts for new poems, articles or columns—including this one.
Sure, none of these steps are Nobel-worthy. But they’ve shown me how even small changes can yield big rewards.
These are my small steps to success. What are yours?