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Reducing unnecessary weight can help in a lot of ways. You'll have a shorter takeoff roll, greater climb rate, faster cruise speed, and a lower stall speed. Packing a little lighter for a trip can really save you time and money.
Having an aft center of gravity will reduce your tail down force (but remember, you need to stay within CG limits). Doing this will reduce induced drag, and increase your range and cruise airspeed.
Leaning the mixture at cruise altitude will save you a lot of fuel that would otherwise be wasted at altitude.
Choosing the right altitude has a significant effect on aircraft performance. Normally aspirated engines lose power as they climb, due to the reduction in atmospheric pressure. The higher you climb, the more time it takes, and the more fuel you burn. Finding a cruise altitude that hits the sweet spot between winds aloft and time-to-climb is the key.
Adding drag reducing devices like wheel fairings can speed you up by as much as 10 knots. When you reduce parasite drag, you can get where you're going a lot faster.
Corey is a commercial aviation student and commercial pilot with multi-engine and instrument ratings who attends the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences at the University of North Dakota. He has been flying since his junior year of high school and has since started his flight instructing training. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.