The cat’s out of the bag! I am not a go getter. I would be perfectly happy spending my days reading a good book or bingeing on Netflix. Responsibility to my kids, Mike, my family, and myself have made a life of laziness an impossibility. Though I am not very organized or super productive on most days I do have moments when the stars align. Then watch out because I am a whirlwind of focused activity. I’m not promising miracles, but for those of you who are neither driven nor posses an ounce of organization, here are some ways that I get my act together.
Write it Down
I used to try to commit everything to memory. I am, and always have been, a terrible note taker. Throughout junior high, high school, and even college. I struggled with knowing what to write down. To me it was all or nothing, so my notes were either non-existent or a short novel. Writing a short novel took forever. My hand would cramp and it didn’t help me remember the important stuff, because I was writing everything down.
My coping strategy was committing things to memory such as to-do lists and calendars. I have always had a good memory and can recall lots of random details about unimportant childhood events. Most of the time I would just remember things.
Now that I have four kids in school with activities and appointments, plus writing a blog and my sewing business, using my memory has proved to be a terrible way to stay organized. I have to write it down. I haven’t been able to make myself use a planner. It is too type A for me, but I do mark events on a calendar. We use a big white board calendar to keep track of family members and events, such as appointments, practices, parties and the like.
There is a flaw with this system. Me.
I’m the flaw.
I tend to be the one who updates the calendar. I write it all out and that is that. Most of the time the only place these events are written down is on that big calendar. I don’t make a hard copy for myself. I don’t make an electronic version to share with Mike and update as necessary. Usually I never look at the calendar again after I write it out, because everything has been committed to memory.
I’m working on it, but at least I have started to write things down. That is a step toward organization. Now if I was really on it I would have a hard copy in my purse, plus a shared electronic list with Mike. Then I wouldn’t have to rely on my memory. Mike tries to get me to use shared lists and calendars, but I’m terrible about it, but maybe in a few years I will have realized the benefits and start using them.
Make a List
Mike is a list maker and I am not, but I’m trying. I make lists for important events like vacation planning and Christmas prep, but day to day stuff I’m terrible about writing it down. When I have something coming up such as a vacation I will make multiple lists. There is a packing list, a shopping list, and a to do list to name a few.
I keep the list on my phone or a piece of paper and I will delete or check items off as I complete them. This works really well to keep me on track and organized. One long list of everything would be too chaotic and probably cause me to procrastinate. Breaking everything into smaller lists makes it more manageable. Sometimes I will put a date with each item, so that I can easily track my progress.
I have yet to make list-making a staple of everyday life. Mike does it everyday and prioritizes his list. I find it depressing. I either put too many items on my list, barely make it halfway through and feel like a failure for not finishing. Or, I put too few items on my list, complete everything in record time and then feel like a slacker because I should’ve done way more with my time. I haven’t found the sweet spot.
I do realize the benefits of daily to-do lists. It is a game plan for the day and will keep me from constantly spinning my wheels or back tracking. Every few weeks I try to implement daily to-do lists, but it usually only lasts a couple of days and then it’s back to the same old – same old. I know I should just stick with it until it becomes a habit, but I haven’t been disciplined enough to do it. I’m sure the longer I’m married to Mike the more likely I am to start making daily to do lists.
[Ed. – This sounds like I’m some sort of productivity guru, which is not the case. And I think Em is being too hard on herself, but she disagrees…]
Create a Schedule
All through school I followed a schedule and that is how I stayed on track. The school day had a specific schedule and the evening had a schedule. If we didn’t follow the schedule we would end up in detention, get bad grades and have very annoyed parents. To avoid all of that trouble, I followed the schedule.
I do have a morning routine/schedule and an afternoon routine/schedule for the kids, but the middle of the day is more of a free for all doing things as I think of them and taking breaks whenever instead of at a set time. Going without a schedule isn’t exactly organized or conducive to productivity. I have found that when I have a lot to do in a short amount of time or a big event to get ready for making a schedule is a huge help.
Sometimes it is a general schedule with blocks of time and a list of pending items. Other times the schedule is super detailed with a specific time for each item. Creating this schedule takes a bit of time and sometimes it leaves no room for unexpected events, such as traffic jams or injured kids. If everything goes as planned the detailed scheduled is a great tool for productivity.
Why don’t I do all of these things all of the time? Probably because I don’t have the right personality. I am very laid back and low maintenance and I prefer to just go with the flow, but unfortunately life doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes you have to get your S%^& together so that your life doesn’t fall apart. I wish I was more organized and more driven, but it’s just not in me. I figure if I can get it together when it really counts that’s good enough.
That’s how I’m working to be more organized. Write it down. Make a List. Schedule.
Are you a naturally organized person and do you have a system to share? Or, are you still looking for the perfect system?