Is your list of things you want to do always longer than the list of things you actually accomplish? I have certainly felt that way at times (and still do when I don’t follow the rules below), and it can be suffocating and discouraging. I’ve created 5 rules for myself that help me stay organized, prepared, and ultimately get more done.
Rule #1: Plan
I love what Benjamin Franklin said:
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
I have found that to be so true! I get much more done during the months, weeks and days where I plan and prepare. On the other hand, if I skip or skimp on this important step, I am far less productive. Planning gives me the opportunity to schedule the most important things first instead of just reacting as life is thrown at me. For example, I plan faith / religious activities, husband time and family time first (monthly, weekly and daily). Then, I know how much time I have left over to spend on other less important priorities. It is sort of like a budget for my time and helps me stay balanced and in control of what I spend my time on.
I plan big events monthly. On (or around) the 15th of the month, I plan and look ahead at the next month. For example, next week (around Oct 15th), I will plan big picture stuff for November 1st – 30th. This includes things such as date nights, family outings, kid’s dates, school activities, holidays, birthdays, church meetings, blog post topics, and bigger projects (like fall clothes shopping for my kids or cleaning out the garage). I get these items on my calendar and space them far enough apart that they aren’t on top of each other or conflicting with each other.
I also plan weekly. Each Saturday evening I take a few minutes (around 30) to plan the coming week. I plan our meals, shopping, small “mommy time” activities with my kids, school volunteer hours, service, play dates for the kids, when I’ll clean what, and write (very brief) outlines for that week’s posts, etc. I set up reminders to go to my email (via google calendar) and phone to help me remember what I need to get done to prepare for a certain outing / activity. I also make adjustments to any of the bigger events earlier planned as needed according to changes in our schedule.
I also plan daily. Each morning I try to take 15 minutes of quiet time to plan out my day. Things don’t always go according to my weekly and monthly plans and I find I need this daily time to adjust and re-set my priorities. I may have had a poor nights rest and need to nap or I may have a sick child or a friend in need. Mapping out my day each morning helps me put first things first.
Whether doing monthly, weekly or daily planning try be very specific. Instead of “I’ll take the kids out this week” try “I’ll take the kids to the city park on Friday afternoon.” Or instead of “I’ll clean on Wednesday,” try “I will do laundry on Wednesday morning and clean bathrooms on Wednesday afternoon.” That way, I don’t really have to think about it later. It is already completely planned.
In my opinion, the most important thing you can do when you plan is to not over plan. For most of my life I have over planned. And the results weren’t great. I ended up spending most of my time feeling guilty and trying to “catch up.” I was exhausted and honestly, miserable. But this last year, I’ve started including free time in my planning and it has made a world of difference. I will posting more about this in detail later this month (done now, find it here), but for now, just remember to leave some open spots in each day, week and month.
Rule #2: Set a timer for certain tasks
This is such a simple tip, but makes a BIG difference! When trying to accomplish a certain task, set a timer and then work on that task (and nothing else) until the time is up. You’ll be amazed at how much you can get done when you are laser focused. I do this for laundry, cleaning jobs, business facebook time, and more. Typically the timer is between 10-30 minutes. Use this for anything that you are easily distracted from.
Rule #3: Involve your kids
I remember sitting in a Mom’s group I was part of a few years ago. We were discussing ways to get housework done without making our children feel slighted or unimportant. To young ears “Just a minute hon” can sound more like “You aren’t as important as what I’m doing.” I realized that the key was to involve my kids in what I was doing. This works especially good for housework and yard work, but can be applied to other things as well.
The benefits are many! Kids learn to work. Kids feel they are worthy of your time. You get time to talk to your kids and find out how they are doing. The work often gets done quicker (because even if they can’t really help (like my 3 yr old), being involved distracts them from whining and messing up the room you just cleaned).
Rule #4: Be 100% present
I have to admit that this rule is the toughest for me. My mind tends to run a mile minute and it can be really hard for me to give 100% of my attention to the task at hand. But I have learned that this rule is also extremely affective. On days when I am easily distracted from whatever I’m doing, I do it less effectively, slower and sometimes have to go back and do it again. But when I’m truly focused on whatever it is I’m doing and not thinking about what needs to be done next, I get things done quicker and better!
There are two things that have helped me in this area:
(1) Turning off electronics. I turn off my computer, phone, etc for at least a few hours every day. Typically this is when my kids get home from school and we are playing, practicing piano, cleaning, doing homework and making dinner. I try to give them my full attention during this time. And when I do this well, they re-pay me by being okay when I need to spend time “working.” When they don’t get their quality time, I find my “work” time is far more interrupted and frustrating.
(2) Splitting tasks into two categories: With kids and without kids. There are some tasks I can do with my kids such as cleaning. There are others I can do around my kids such as business facebook time because the interruptions aren’t bothersome. But there are some things, like writing a blog post, that are extremely difficult to do well with lots of interruptions. Doing these types of things with my kids around results in lots of “in a minute” or “not right now!” comments from me.
I try to schedule those “alone time” types of tasks for while 2 of the kids are at school (I still have 2 at home), during playdates (when my kids are at others’ houses), or after the kids are in bed. When they are awake and home, I try to plan activities that can be done with or around them.
Rule #5: Have a list of to-dos for “extra” free time.
Sometimes (not often, but sometimes) I end up with some extra time I wasn’t planning on. This may be because of a long wait at the doctors office or a task taking less time than I anticipated or my husband coming home early or a cancelled appointment etc. I have a list of activities I can fill that time with so that it doesn’t become wasted time.
Some activities take just minutes such as: doing 20 pushups or texting my husband to tell him I love him, or taking my vitamins, or pulling what’s needed for dinner out of the freezer.
Others take a bit longer such as: writing a thank you note, cleaning the stove, prepping the veggies for dinner, straitening up a living space, weeding a flowerbed, or reading a few pages of a book.
And others are even bigger projects and get crossed off once done such as: ordering family pictures, cleaning out the garage, updating recipes / posts on the blog, planning a family vacation or holiday,, researching etc.
I keep this list with me and when I find myself with some extra time, I refer to it.
Anyone else have some simple tips that will help us all get more done?