I can think of a particular form teacher I had aged 10 who would think it was hilarious I would ever be writing a post on organisation. I have found it hard to get myself organised as a creative, into-everything, pack life to the brim kind of girl but…..I AM motivated to be organised as it makes life calmer. I have therefore very deliberately searched for and found some great strategies to keep things calm and on track over the past few years as a Mum. Interested? I mean, would you rather learn about organisation from someone who it comes naturally to or from someone who had to figure it out? Exactly! And the kinder to do list is my first easy idea. Let’s have less stress and more joy in 2015!
I’ve had a to do list for years. As a visual person, it really helps to keep track of what’s going on. Two years ago, however, I found a new way of doing things which really, really helped my productivity go up and my stress go down.
I started by identifying where tasks usually came from. These are my ‘inboxes’. For me they are:
- My children’s school bags which I check for letters
- My kitchen ‘office’ where I chuck mail and random papers
- Facebook messages
- Texts on my phone
- My phone memo app where I store random ideas when I’m on the go
- The calendar – I look a few weeks ahead
- The state of the house!
- My someday/maybe list (more about that later)
- My project list – more about that later too
The main problem with to do lists is that it feels great to get everything out of your head or have a ‘brain dump’ as some people say. I like having a system which I know will capture everything from the school trip payment I need to make today and the place I don’t want to forget to visit with the kids in a couple of years when they’re a bit older.
But then you look at the list and FREAK OUT because it’s impossibly long and you know you simply can’t do it all and it’s too big to prioritise and, before you know it, you’re hyperventilating and sticking the list in a drawer! The first time you go through all the piles of paper and your e-mail box and all the other inboxes above, you will end up with a huge list of tasks. You’ll wonder if it’s best not to have all these things in one place. Panic ye not! Things are about to improve!
Here’s what I do next. I ONLY put things on my to do list that I either have to do this week or might reasonably get done. In a busy week, my list might actually be quite short. Anything that can be postponed until an easier week is.
The items on my to do list, which is one side of A4, then go into one of a few different categories. These might be different for you but I divide my page into:
- Computer jobs (usually the longest section)
- Phone calls
- Errands on foot
- Errands in the car
- Discuss with husband (I save these for when he’s got the time to concentrate)
- At home with kids around
- At home, hands-free (i.e. when they’re asleep!)
- Writing and blogging
I’ve also added a ‘creative’ section this year to remind me what project I’d like to start next. I keep this list at the front of what Americans call a ‘Home Management Binder’ but which, in our house, is simply labelled “Mummy’s Brains” in big letters!
The best thing about this approach (and there are some great apps you can use – more on that below) is that as I plan my day or spot that the kids are playing happily or that I have a moment while dinner cooks, I can grab my list and look at just a small part of it. E.g. on Wednesdays, we walk to a toddler group. We walk down the local high street to get there so I check ‘on foot’ and see I have a cheque to pay in. So I put the cheque in my bag and make sure I pop into the bank after the toddler group. Or I have a moment while the kids are occupied and see that I wanted to hang a new picture in the hall so I grab the tools and get on with it. It gives life a great flow and has saved me so many extra journeys. I can bunch phone calls or e-mails without looking at my whole list and generally be more effective without getting overwhelmed. It’s a great feeling!
Everything else on the list goes either onto the “Someday/Maybe list or onto a project list if it’s from a project that has many steps. These also go into the file. I check these once a week when I check my other ‘inboxes’ to see if there are things that should or could now be moved to my list for that week. I call it my weekly review and for me it works well after Saturday lunch but for many people Sunday evening is good.
I keep the same running “Someday/Maybe” list for a year then start again. It’s usually about 3-4 pages but I don’t worry about it from week to week as I know it’s logged an ready to act on when the time is right. Some things on it never get done and that’s fine!
I’ve got a whole series of useful and connected life hacks coming up so that you can stress less in 2015. So let me know – what is your biggest stress factor as a parent? What are your biggest hurdles? And how do you stay on top of the floods of tasks that come your way? I’d love to know in the comments!