Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Getting it All Done Tip #3: Write It Down and Work It Out

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days…
May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us;
establish the work of our hands for us –
yes, establish the work of our hands. (Psalm 90:14, 17)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Thousands of books have been written that explain the benefit of planning. I don’t have a recommendation for a particular system, but I do know that taking a few minutes to plan makes my days flow much more smoothly.
I have tried all sorts of organizers, from simply keeping a calendar and hand-written lists to store-bought organizers to computer-generated planners of my own design to the Fly-Lady system (which was even too OCD for me! How does anyone have time to keep up with all those emails??), but not one of these is worth anything if you don’t use it. And there’s nothing worse than missing an appointment because you forgot about it or incurring repair bills because you neglected to take care of your car or home. You may have to try several before you find one that works for you, but do find some method of planning out your day and keeping your to-do list organized.

If you nave never tried planning your day in advance, start by keeping some sort of pocket calendar in your purse or in a bag you usually have with you. Then get some sort of notebook which will also fit in your purse or bag (there are some very nice, small, hard-bound journals in the discount stores these days).

Make sure your calendar is updated with all the birthdays and anniversaries for which you need to send cards or buy gifts every year. Make sure all appointments are added (specifically, those appointments we tend to make months in advance, such as dentist and orthodontist appointments). Make notes in the margin for months when you need to plan on scheduling special appointments that might be difficult to schedule far in advance, such as for yearly exams or mammograms or immunizations, for each member of your family.

Now start a master To-Do list in the journal, taking a full page for each of the following headings:

  • Household Chores (stuff you have to/need to get done each day or weekly, such as cleaning the bathrooms, mopping the kitchen, or bathing the dog)

  • Laundry (list each load type that typically has to make it through a wash cycle each week)

  • Household Maintenance (stuff you have to/need to get done monthly, quarterly and yearly, including automobile maintenance)

  • Yard (and/or Auto) Maintenance (stuff you’d really prefer for hubby or son to do)

  • Miscellaneous (things you need to/want to get done but for which you can never find the time)

  • Any other topic for which you need to plan (for example, if you garden, then you could start your list of seeds you want to order or crops you want to plant, along with pertinent info such as days to maturity, companion plants, rotation ideas, etc,)

After you have made your lists, go through each one at a time, focusing on the top three first, and break each list into five smaller chunks, one for each weekday. For example, for Household Chores, you might break it down into one area of the house each day (for example, on Wednesdays I clean our den and laundry room – that day the whole area gets vacuumed and dusted and the appliances get wiped down in the laundry room – the floor gets mopped when I mop the kitchen) or one particular chore each day, such as dusting the whole house or vacuuming all the carpets. In this way, in the course of a week working for an hour or less each day, your house will be clean enough for company to visit (especially with a little touch-up on Friday evening or Saturday morning), the laundry will be done, and your weekend will be free to spend with your family. Then, add in the items from your Household Maintenance list, according to the frequency each needs to be done.

If you have real problems with time management I would recommend starting with the Fly-Lady system until you get yourself accustomed to doing a task for a set amount of time then moving on…she’ll keep you on your toes…

Right now I am using the Calendar and Tasks in MS Outlook. This current method has proven the most effective for me, because I can type more quickly (not to mention more neatly) than I can write. Although I made journals with pretty calendars and all types of pages for school planning and reading lists ad nauseum, I spent more time designing them on the computer than I actually spent using them. Now my computer will remind me of appointments and of important things I need to take care of, provided that I just set a reminder in the program when I set up the appointment or task. I can also look at my task list for the day and place each item in a time frame on my calendar. I have found that if I assign each task a portion of time in my day, instead of just having it on a to-do list, I am much more likely to complete the task.

In addition, I am able to set up recurring tasks that happen on an intermittent basis so that I don’t forget about them. For example, I have a task set up once a month to remind me to clean the coffee maker. On the day that chore appears in my task list, I make a note on my calendar to “brew” the vinegar and three rinses while I prepare lunch. Another example is changing the HVAC filter, which needs to be done every three months. The reminder for the task alerts me one week ahead of the filter change date to give me time to add a new filter to my grocery list. Then, when I mark the task as complete, a new task is generated three months afterward. This is also a great way to keep up with birthdays and anniversaries: just set a reminder for a week in advance and you have time to pick up a card or a gift before the last minute.

In my experience, my day will flow more smoothly if I do my planning the night before. In addition, except for appointments or special events that are scheduled on my calendar, I plan no further in advance than the upcoming day. This allows me to make special accommodations for difficulties the children are experiencing in their schoolwork for which I know they will need more time and attention from me.

Once I figure out how to do it, I will post my ongoing Task list and a copy of my daily schedule. But for now, the moral of the story is this: How can you get anywhere if you don’t know where you’re going? I don’t know who coined the phrase, but it makes sense: ‘Plan your Work, then Work your Plan.’

Besides, if your family is like mine, I find that Murphy’s Law is always at work, which will introduce us to Tip #4…

There’s joy on this journey, On My Way Home to My Father’s House,
Cindy <><

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