Coat. Hat. Gloves. Repeat.

Being really cold in winter is nothing new to me. I’ve lived in the Northeast of the U.S. of all my life, and January to February of every year seems to have at least one solid week of single-digit to below-zero temperatures we must endure, intermingled by “mild” days where it may get up to 40 degrees. Good times.

The challenge of winter then is in trying to be prepared on any given day for not just how cold or wet it is when I leave the house, but also how that may change during the day.

I’ve lived in Ithaca, NY for more than a decade, where the topography of steep hills carved by gorges overlooking a lake makes for some stunning scenery, but also creates a microclimate that can change our weather dramatically from one hour to the next depending where you are. It’s not uncommon to see it snowing ferociously over the campus where I work on the slope of South Hill, while only a light flurry falls on the flats of downtown half a mile below. Weather forecasts really are more of a guideline, which means taking precautions.

In winter, I’ve learned that there are only three important items I need in to be warm and comfortable no matter how cold it gets: the right coat, a warm hat, and warm gloves. I’ve also learned over the years that a warm hat and gloves are two of the easiest things to misplace or forget in the hubbub of getting to and from home and work.

But that’s not a problem any more because I’ve got a nearly foolproof method to be sure I’m never without the accessories I need to stay warm in any situation…

Here’s how it works:

  1. For every winter jacket I wear, I stow a pair of gloves or mittens in the left pocket and a warm hat in the right pocket.
  2. When I’m done wearing the gloves and/or hat with that jacket, I put them back in the designated pocket as soon as I’m done wearing them.

That’s it. I have two coats I wear most in winter, and each one has its own gloves and hat stored in the pockets at all times. I never have to waste time or energy remembering these things now because they’re always there when I need them.

Does it cost a little bit more up front? Probably, but isn’t it likely that you already have more than one hat and pair of gloves you use anyway? If you’ve lived in a cold northern climate for more than a couple years, I’m going to guess you do.

I don’t have a name for this system, but it’s a concept that can be applied to just about any routine in your life.

Just follow one simple rule: store the tools you know you’ll use in the location where you know you’ll need them, even when you’re not using them.

Wish you hadn’t left your umbrella at home? Buy a second one and leave it in your office; and maybe a third for your car. As long as you put it back where it belongs when you’re through, you’ll never be without an umbrella again.

I have notepads and pens stored together all over my office and home, in every place where I’ve found myself needing to capture an idea or a reminder. I keep a spare shirt and tie in my office just in case I happen to spill something on the one I’m wearing.

You’re probably already following this rule in a lot of ways. But how much time and brain power could you save if you found ways to do it even more? Give yourself the gift of fewer choices every day, and you’ll free up your brain for more important thoughts.

Like, perhaps, what color of winter gloves should you buy to keep with your other winter coat?

 

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