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What if you could buy nothing?


A unicorn nightlight. Children’s books. A wicker hamper. Baby clothes. Costume jewelry. A yoga block. Bicycles. Sofas. Branded makeup. A Coach handbag. Succulent cuttings. 

Those are some recent offerings on Facebook’s Foster City Buy Nothing page. Your town, too, likely has a Buy Nothing page where neighbors can give away just about anything you can imagine—or ask the group if someone has an item they’re seeking. Thousands of Buy Nothing groups have sprung up all over the world, enabling people to give and receive goods without any money changing hands.

Two Bainbridge Island, Wash., friends launched the Buy Nothing Project in 2013. Their goal, they explained on their website, is to replace “the scarcity model of our cash economy” and instead foster “creatively and collaboratively sharing the abundance around us.” The founders claim that as of January, more than 1.2 million people in more than two dozen countries had participated in a Buy Nothing group. 

I joined the Foster City group a few months ago and, like more 700 of my neighbors, have been grateful to have an easy way to find homes for perfectly useful items I don’t need. I’ve even scored a few things myself, including a nearly new Homedics humidifier releasing cool mist into my office.

Neighbors and friends who post everything from furniture to coloring books say it’s much easier for them to bid farewell to surplus goods when they know they’re going to an enthusiastic recipient. And the fact that this neighbor retrieves the items your doorstep—a totally contactless experience—is a plus too during the pandemic.
 

How long does it take you to …?


Every year I dread preparing my taxes. I have to calculate expenses, deductions and income for two businesses, upload tax forms and review and complete the tax worksheets my CPA provides. I know many, many people feel the same way—even when they’re granted an extension, which was the case this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

To prevent myself from feeling overwhelmed, I break the work into hour-long “sprints” and commit to having it all done by mid-March. This year I decided I’d keep a tally of the time I devoted to preparing state and federal tax paperwork. I guessed I’d need about 10 hours to complete the job. I was stunned to learn that it took just five hours. (The average, according to the IRS, is about 13 hours—but my case isn’t typical because I rely on a CPA to do a good amount of the heavy lifting.)

Now that I know I can knock out this chore in five hours, I have a hunch that next year I’ll be much less resistant to tackling it. If you’re feeling anxious about plunging into project you, try keeping track of how long it takes you to complete it. You might be pleasantly surprised. 

Inbox Zero


Should you embrace the goal of having no emails in your in box? Imagine the relief you’d feel seeing an empty or nearly empty in box instead a reminder of the zillions of people you haven’t responded to and the scores of articles you mean to read but still haven’t. 

Productivity expert Merlin Mann, the guy behind Inbox Zero, recommends:
  • Designating times during the day to check your mail, rather than responding to emails throughout the day.
  • When you do respond, first tackle messages that require less than two minutes each to answer. These might include confirming a call or forwarding something to a colleague for their review.
  • Put all messages that require a more detailed response into a folder and then schedule time each day to answer them.

I’d add a few more tips:
  • Make a point to unsubscribe to newsletters and marketing emails that you don’t want or read or route them to your email client’s “junk” file.
  • Set aside time each month or every few weeks to read longer articles that have piled up in your email.
  • Delete ruthlessly. You don’t have to read every (or any!) joke or political rant that a friend forwards to you. The time you spend on those emails is time you aren’t spending on something you’d enjoy more.

What’s your best tip for managing email?
 
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