A big part of successfully making home a haven is being very organized and prioritizing tasks. Having hundreds of things to juggle without solid organization skills will inevitably lead to some important balls getting dropped. I was talking with a woman who mentioned a mom who has eight children. I shook my head and said, “I don’t know how she does it.” She replied, “She is extremely organized and systematic.” “Kind of like a CEO of her family,” I commented. “Exactly.” she agreed, “She could be a CEO!”
Now, I will never be the kind of person who runs a household of 10 like a tight ship (or even be able to keep the ship afloat). I think God knew that, so he gave me two children. But the idea of being a family CEO and finding efficient systems that work connected with me. I’ve always been organized and efficient in my jobs throughout my career, but have not been quite as successful on the home front.
Even with just (?) two children, there are challenges. Children present so many uncontrollable variables. Sometimes Ellianna likes to entertain herself and do her art, and sometimes she is craving to do activities with Mom. Some days Weston is catching up on sleep and takes a nice long nap, and other days he may take a few catnaps. Some days the children are very well-behaved, other times it would seem they’ve forgotten everything I’ve ever told them, and extra coaching is necessary. If you have children of your own, you could probably cite a hundred more examples.
Then there’s my energy level, which may be the most important factor of all. My energy is higher some days than others. Some days I seem to get stuck in low gear, and others, I feel like super-mom.
I’m always looking for ways to be more productive. I really love organization and time management books. I consume them voraciously like page-turning mystery novels, only the mystery is how much better organized I’ll be once I’ve finished the book. Of course, applying the book is the key, not just reading it, (if reading counted, I would be president of the United States) so I’ve had some disappointing endings.
I’ve tried many techniques, like the time I made a detailed color-coded list of everything I needed to do with some new colored pencils. It was beautiful. But this system only lasted a few days. With the workload I had, the time it took to maintain wasn’t manageable. I’ve tried scheduling out my day by the half-hour to make sure I get everything done. What I’ve found is that I tend to have unrealistic expectations for my day (even before I had kids). When I got behind schedule, (it was 9 pm and I still hadn’t finished things I’d planned to be done with by 10 am – do you know the feeling?), I would end my day in frustration and defeat.
I also love to buy planners and calendars. I’ve bought countless planners from Franklin Covey and Target. Once again, I feel my dollars will buy me some new organization. But this is like buying exercise equipment, a gym membership, and the latest technology in running shoes without a solid routine to use them, and expecting to become strong and lean.
I’ve bounced around quite a bit and am still working to achieve a rhythm and routine, but overall, here are some of the best tips I’ve gleaned so far, and am practicing:
- Make a plan for my day the night before or first thing in the morning
- Pick THREE things that MUST get done for the day and do those first. This does two things: a. It forces me to choose my priorities for the day out of my long list of to-do items and tells me where to focus. b. If the day gets crazy with endless urgent activities, I will at least have done the top three important things. This is a great way to still make a little progress, even on whirlwind days.
- Make my to-do list and calendar VISIBLE. I’m finally learning that I am an out-of-sight, out-of-mind person, and if my to-do list is not handy, I will forget it and do the next urgent thing.
- Enter all appointments and events into Google Calendar and SET REMINDERS! Again, out-of-sight, out-of-mind. I think the default reminder I have on Google Calendars is 10 minutes before an event starts, which is much too late if I’ve forgotten all about it. Now I set multiple reminders so I see it coming.
- Have a designated space for an “in-box” where family members and I can deposit papers I need to process or file. This keeps all my important things together in one spot (bank statements, school activity notices, etc), ready to process. Again, this has to be in a high-traffic area for me so I will see it and be reminded to clear it out. The goal is to check the box throughout the week, but once a week, clean it out entirely. If you can do something in two minutes, do it right away, otherwise it needs to be designated as a project and scheduled for another time. (Great advice from Getting Things Done by David Allen).
- Write out a plan. I have a large desk calendar that I think through the month with by writing out everything coming up. I also use it to plan books to read (based on library due dates) and exception days to my Paleo health plan (more on this to come).
- As I plan, know that there are trade-offs: I’m such an optimist when it comes to my time and energy! I think I can get it all done, but in reality, if I’m overscheduled, something is going to go, and it may be something that shouldn’t (like sleep, tasks tied to future goals, etc.)
These are some simple strategies that are helping me to run my ship a little tighter and achieve more of my goals. I’m always continuing to learn – my next thing I want to try more is a bullet journal. I will be taking a course on it early next year. I love the fluidity and flexibility of a bullet journal.
What are your favorite strategies for being more efficient with your time? Share in the comments!