Friday, April 29, 2011

I Can't Find My High School Diploma!

Session three of a Getting Organized at Home class I took last year made us face some of the external realities and psychological obstacles that get in the way of effectively managing our home environment. Who knew that a class on home organization would go beyond just sharing helpful tips and processes!?

Here are a couple of "external realities" that can effect our progress in this area:

Unrealistic workload: with downsizing and technology, people are expected to work more and faster, sometimes with fewer resources. At times, we must admit this is self-imposed, as we say "yes" to so many things, and don't realistically track and estimate how much time something really takes. I recently read a great article about "hidden tasks," you know, things like "walking to my office from the parking lot and stopping to talk to someone" that take up time that we forget to add to our calendar. (I'm not suggesting you write all that in your calendar, but instead, observing that we forget to allow 5 or 10 extra minutes to get to places or allow for delays and interruptions. and then are continually running late or feeling stressed.) Ironically, I can't find the article now. When I do, I'll post it for you.

Speed of life/technology: briefly mentioned above, we sink into the technology black hole, wanting to learn every feature of our new Droid (ahem) so that we can be especially efficient. Just because a gadget has a feature, doesn't mean I have to use it, unless it truly will help me with something I already do, or want to do.

Then there are some psychological obstacles to getting our home in order. Oh boy. Do any of these resonate with you?

Need for abundance: some people, having grown up feeling deprived of something, may keep lots of things because of the false sense of security and abundance it brings.

Conquistador of Chaos:
 there are people who thrill to conquering a task. They enjoy the victory so much that they will actually create new bits of chaos so they can stay on that "high" of being a warrior against it. They fear being bored.

Sentimental attachment: there's nothing wrong with keeping some meaningful items, but some of us go overboard. Some can't part with any schoolwork from a child's life, or every knick knack great-grandma handed down. We must remember that these things are just that--things. Things that someday, will be gone. The memories don't have to be. I somehow cannot find my high school diploma, cheerleading letter, or academic achievement pin. Yes, that bothers me. But, does it change the facts of my high school experience? No. I still was on the cheerleading squad. I still graduated. (As an affirmation junkie, I find it humorous that I can't find proof of graduation, academics and sports involvement. Go figure. Maybe there a lesson there?)

Homework for this week is to answer some personal questions about challenges, fears, and myself. Hmmm...I thought this was supposed to be a class on organizing my house? Maybe it starts with my getting some order in my heart.

Special thanks to Stephanie Baker, Christian Life Coach, our teacher.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Fixing Trouble Spots

To become more organized, you should occasionally give yourself a checkup. Sit back and think about the one, or two, areas of your life that cause you the most stress on a regular basis. For example,

  • I routinely arrive late to work/school.
  • Our kitchen never seems to get cleaned up.
  • My mail piles up on the counter.

Now, begin to think about a workable solution. Keep in mind that the solution must work FOR YOU, even if it is not exactly logical (i.e. your mail sorting place may be the bathroom!)

For the above examples, see the following possible solutions:

Routinely late: do you continue to work on tasks until right before you leave? Begin to stop yourself at ten minutes before your leaving time. Use that last 10 minutes to gather items, shut off lights, warm up the car, etc.

Messy kitchen: last week we talked about an ABC list. Does "clean the kitchen" need to be on this after dinner, before bed checklist? Can you occasionally use paper plates (if you will be arriving home late) or re-train family members to put dirty dishes in a dishpan with soapy water?

Mail piling: you may need to have a sorting station nearer to where you pick up the mail. For example, if you have a recycle bin in your garage, flip through the mail before going into the house, depositing junk mail promptly into the bin. If you have a p.o. box, you could sort through your mail at the post office and not even bring home items you don't need. Another solution: don't retrieve the mail until you also have two minutes to sort it into proper categories. Have spots on your desk for items needing action, separating bills and receipts if necessary.

It takes a little thought and investigation, but when you apply a solution to the actual trouble spot, over time it will become less of a problem and you will feel less stress if you forgot to brush your teeth at home!

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Secret to Getting least one, anyway

I've got a secret. I can tell you the key to being organized. Well, okay, maybe a little more organized than you currently are. Ready? All you need is your ABC's.


After dinner
Before bed

Checklists are nothing new. recommends an evening checklist. I think that certain key things help you be more organized on a regular basis, and the ABC list is one of those.

Notice that this list begins "after dinner." For those of you (like me) who are not night owls, it is best to get some of this list done right after you finish eating. Others can wait until the 15-30 minutes before bed. Be sure to attach this process to your best energy level after dinner.

Create a list of 5-10 (no more than ten, no less than 5) items that, if they were done when you woke up, would make you smile and feel that little sense of relief. These will be different you than they are for me. They will relate to your lifestyle and schedule. Here are a few ideas:

  • lunches made
  • laundry done
  • dishwasher empty
  • clothes laid out for next day
  • desk picked up
  • menu figured out for next day
  • personal grooming completed
  • appointments confirmed/calendar updated
  • outgoing items packed (i.e. mail to send out, items to bring somewhere, etc.)
  • gym bag ready
  • phone, laptops, etc. charged

You get the idea. Not all of these suggestions will apply to you. For example, if you have time after getting kids off to school, you may do some of the chores in the morning. But if you have to be gone all day, you will love to have these things done before you go.

Your ABC list will probably be modified from time to time. It's important to have a list that reflects what is most valuable to you. When you get up in the morning, it will be a great feeling to have these things done, especially if you happen to sleep in! And if your plans happen to change (i.e. a morning appointment gets cancelled) you'll have even more time to do something else to--gasp--maybe even get ahead!

What should be on your ABC list?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Progress, not Perfection

Not so much.

Perfection is overrated. Perfection is a form of pride. The only perfect person was Jesus, and His grace provides for us because our performance will never measure up. So lighten up on yourself!

Here are some dangers of perfectionism in your home:

You'll have a hard time delegating. You'll have a specific way to do things in mind and can't trust others to "do it right."

Your home atmosphere may look great but feel tense. It's very hard for people to enjoy themselves when someone is constantly cleaning behind them, or expecting them to be perfectly neat.

You'll fear making mistakes. Even if you get your house to look perfect, you'll walk on eggshells (not literally, since you'd never leave them on the floor) trying to keep it that way. You'll always be fearing the thing that will ruin the perfect image.

You'll wear yourself out. Things always decay, thus you can't rest long with a perfect house. Trying to keep it that way will wear you out physically, mentally and emotionally.

So, instead of seeking perfection, aim for progress. Progress means you are moving in a positive direction, and making improvements regularly. Perfect? Not so much. Progress? Realistic and attainable.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Why I Use the Outlook Task List (Most of the Time)

I'm on Outlook a lot. It makes sense to use a system that you are in front of frequently. If you sit at a desk or in front of a mobile computing device as much as I do, using it to manage tasks is logical. For you, using a steno pad for an ongoing list, or a small portable notebook may be best. The key is to use something with which you are already comfortable.

I can easily create a task out of an email. Since I utilize email a lot, it is helpful when I can drag an email into a task and create a deadline for it. This not only puts it into my task pipeline, it removes it from my in-box (I like to keep my email inbox at zero!)

I do a lot of recurring tasks. I love how Outlook lets me set a pattern for repeating tasks. I'd say that about 3/4 of my tasks repeat regularly (weekly, monthly) By setting up a pattern, I know the reminder will show up again the next week (or after the programmed period of time.)

I can include details. The notes field allow plenty of space to put notes, links to the websites I'll need to use for that task, etc.

I can look ahead. When I know I have an event or other plans that will keep me away from my desk on a certain day, I can look ahead to that day and either do that day's tasks (working ahead) or discard or reschedule them. That way, when that busy day comes, its task list is already empty (or nearly so!)

I mentioned that I use Outlook "most of the time." I keep tasks related to one part-time workplace on that desktop. I keep tasks related to home and home business on the desktop at home.

For the remaining 10-20%, of the time, I use two apps on my Droid. Taskos allows me to make a list of things I need to do in the "third space" of errand running (primarily.) This also syncs with Google tasks if I happen to want a copy "in the cloud."

Bug Me Lite is a little post it note app that allows me to make a quick note in handwriting using my finger. It's not great for long tasks with details, but if I can scribble something that I'll remember, it works fine. I set a custom alarm for the note to pop up on my phone when I am at a place where I can complete the task (such as at my desk at home or my job.)

I also sometimes use VocaNote, which allows me to record an audio message that is translated to text and sent to my email box. This is good for thinking of something on the go that I want to do or remember later.

What have you found helpful for keeping track of your tasks?