Category Archives: Time Management

Routines for School Days

organizing for daily activities

Take managing your household to a new level of organization!

As the school year begins, busy families everywhere face the challenge of how to get out of the house on time with kids fully dressed and fed, backpacks and paperwork in order, without losing their minds – or their patience.

The key to keeping your sanity is creating simple routines around the basic tasks that have to happen every morning. The place to start isn’t the morning; making a little time to prep the night before can take lots of pressure off the morning. Take ½ hour before bed to tackle these 5 things:

  • Have kids choose their outfits (and shoes!) and set them out
  • Decide what’s for lunch and if possible get it packed
  • Make sure school bags and homework are ready to go
  • If there is an afterschool sport make sure that bag is ready too
  • Make sure your own lunch and work supplies are ready to go

Prepping clothes and supplies the night before changes the morning focus to eating and personal care.

  • Get up at least ½ hour earlier than the kids to have a little time to think and get grounded for the morning. If you have young kids that need more help with dressing/personal care you may need a little more time
  • Make quick but nutritious breakfast that doesn’t require much prep or clean-up such as cereal, yogurt and fruit, or toast w/ a nut butter or other protein spread.

Teach the kids to handle their personal care more efficiently by grouping tasks into 3 groups:

  • get completely dressed
  • wash face/brush teeth/brush hair
  • eat breakfast

You can put the 3 tasks in any order that makes sense for your family; the key is to finish one before you start another. The other key is grouping all the bathroom tasks together as one. This avoids the chaos of running back and forth to the bathroom, landing at the breakfast table half dressed, and needing to finish up all of them before leaving the house.

A few other tips to help keep your household running smoothly:

  • As notices come home from school, calendar all school dates into your master calendar so you’re never surprised by an open house, field trip, sharing day, etc.
  • Dedicate a permanent spot for backpacks and finished homework to live
  • Try out weekly meal planning to streamline grocery shopping

There are many websites that offer pre-printed forms for meal planning and calendaring. Here are just a couple we found from a simple search:

Money Saving Mom: http://moneysavingmom.com/downloads/meal-menu-planners

Simple Made Pretty Daily Routine Checklist: http://www.simplemadepretty.com/free-printable-daily-routine-checklist-for-kids/

These routines are helpful for getting children ready for school but they also apply to people of any age! Having routines for preparing your clothes, supplies, and food for the day make getting out the house in the morning a pleasure rather than a chore.

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Filed under General Organizing, Kids, School, Strategies, Time Management

Untangling Electronic Cable Clutter

cable salad

Who hasn’t opened a desk drawer to see a snarled rats nest of cables and electronic devices from the past? An intimidating and unappealing cable and device salad?

We live in a time of amazing technological advances but one of the drawbacks is that devices quickly become obsolete. Our consumer culture pressures us to keep replacing things, which creates a constant stream of electronic litter in our homes.

The charging and connecting cords that go with these items create an extra layer of frustration and confusion around the issue. Hot tip: when you get a new device, take the time to wrap the cables! Purging old electronics becomes so much simpler when you can quickly grab the device and all it’s parts and cables.

bundled cables

Many people get rid of the electronics but don’t search for the cables (and even the CDs that that go with them) to dispose of at the same time. They’re left with a box of cables they are afraid to get rid of.  There might actually be a useful one in there for a device they still have. The box of chaos becomes a project for that mythical weekend when you’re going to organize your garage, sort your photos and finally deal with that box of cables. Yeah, right.

The simplest way to bundle cables is using twist ties. You can use the grocery store variety or a heavier duty kind – silicone twist ties, which are sturdy and easy to use. Ziploc bags work well to group accessories and software with the cables making it even easier to dispose of the group when the time comes.

It sounds like such a straightforward solution, but sometimes the simplest solutions are the most elegant.  And they can save you from future frustration. Your time is precious, invest a little bit up front to save yourself hours later.

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Filed under Decluttering, disorganization, Garage, General Organizing, home organizing, Office, organizing, Products, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Technology, Time Management

Get Real With Your Goal Setting

hillsroad

Do you have hopes and dreams for a new project in the new year? Have you been inspired by the Japanese phenom, Marie Kondo and want to spark joy and tidy your life? Do you want to learn a new skill? Or have you been fantasizing about taking a trip to France to learn cooking techniques? The “what” doesn’t so much matter because the steps to make your dream a reality are pretty much the same.

An often-used concept in coaching is to set “S.M.A.R.T.” goals. Keep this in mind as you plan out your journey to success.

S – Specific

Is your goal well-defined? For some “Getting Organized” is their goal. But it isn’t specific enough. Enlisting a coach or friend to help you do big-picture planning is one way to start. Defining what you truly want and are willing to work for may be more challenging than you think. If you’ve started projects in the past and not completed them, getting specific may have been the missing piece.

M – Measurable

Identify the milestones as you progress. If you are organizing your home, emptying out one closet and re-filling it in a way that makes sense to you is a measurable task. It’s good to define your goal in a way that lets you measure your progress and success. Instead of “Get organized”….”Clear out the hall closet” or “Create 2 bags of donations from hall closet.”

A – Action Oriented

What specific actions are required to move you toward your goal? It’s difficult to take action on something that has many components, breaking the pie-in-the-sky project down into concrete, manageable bites helps. What would be the next logical first step? Is this action observable? It could be that you schedule 1 hour progress sessions. Or an action step could be to write a certain number of pages on your novel. Instead of “thinking about what your novel’s introduction would be, the action might be to write for 15 minutes on a introduction draft.

R – Realistic

Have a realistic game plan. If your specific goal is to lose 25 lbs, then telling yourself you’re going to the gym 5 times a week may not be realistic … especially if you haven’t even been to the gym once! Telling yourself you are going to organize your house in a weekend when you work full-time and have 2 kids who are active in sports isn’t realistic either. Make your plan do-able.

T – Time-Based

What is your deadline for achieving your goal?  And is there enough time to achieve it? A realistic time frame can keep you sane. Remember that trying to fit a new project in an already-full life, no matter how inspiring it may be, can be a stressor. Blocking out time to act on your plan helps ensure success. What can you NOT DO in order to create time to do what you are most excited about?

 

Enjoy the surge of motivation the new year often brings and set yourself up for success by taking the time to record your desires and spend time planning to turn those intentions into actions…and results. If you can make the journey satisfying, you’re more likely to stay on the path.

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Filed under General Organizing, Perspective, Strategies, Time Management

Is Perfectionism Keeping You From Getting Your Literal House in Order?

Do you wish your books were perfectly organized?

Do you wish your books were perfectly organized?

We’ve asked our coaching colleague Wendy Edelstein of Changeover Coaching to share some tips.

Did you once aspire to have a home where there is no excess? You know, the kind that Marie Kondo describes in her best-selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up in which there’s a place for everything – that you love – and unwanted items have been relinquished?

Perhaps you had a vision of an orderly, tranquil home when you began your tidying up project but are now frustrated and stuck midstream. To make matters worse, piles of partially sorted stuff remind you of your impasse.

As a coach who helps people perform better and become more productive, clients seek me out to meet their goals. Perfectionism, however, can be a real obstacle to moving forward.

Here are some suggestions:

Manage your project. Home organizing is a big project that can be overwhelming. Break it into manageable chunks. Marie Kondo suggests starting by pruning your wardrobe and then addressing categories such as books, papers, and personal mementos. If spending your stay-cation on tidying up is not your thing, designate 2-3 hour time blocks in your calendar to get the job done.

Practice self-compassion. If you’re a perfectionist (and I suspect that if you hear the clarion cry of organizing and decluttering, you may be among our number), go easy on yourself. Perfectionists tend to have very active inner critics. Reward yourself for each part of the project you accomplish.

Keep your goal front and center. Post images from magazines in each room that evoke how you want the room to look. Add words that represent the values you are honoring with this project (order, beauty, calm, for example) and paste them onto the image for inspiration.

Do it your way. At the risk of being heretical, Kondo’s method – which is pretty extreme – may not be your thing. Whatever works for you is perfect.

Get support. A professional organizer – or a coach – can help you navigate your project. Often, we perfectionists think there’s valor in going it alone. Admitting you would benefit from support might be just what you need to get the job done.

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Filed under Decluttering, disorganization, General Organizing, home organizing, Perspective, Strategies, Time Management

Using Goal Periods For Time Management

 

Goal Periods

Breaking a master to-do list into discreet goal periods helps manage the “too much to do overwhelm.”  Trello is a free online tool to implement this strategy.

Have you ever had that feeling of overwhelm when you look at your to-do list, see a million items, feel unsure about where to start or even that the work will never end? We have too!

Inspired by her business coach, Sean Hicks, Katherine has been experimenting with using “goal periods” to help bring focus to her workday.

A goal period is a set block of time when you plan to get things done: seeing clients, doing administrative work, paying bills, running errands, doing chores.

Depending on what’s going on, each day can have several goal periods. A typical length of a goal period is 1.5-3 hours. You decide for yourself how long it should be.  But it should be consistent for you.

Planning Session

The first step to trying this out is to set aside ½ hour 2 times a week for a planning session. This is the time where you will take stock of your giant to-do list, review your schedule for the next few days and decide when your goal periods will be and which tasks will be in them.

What To Do?

Start by having a look at your master to-do list. Ask these questions to narrow the possibilities of what you’re going to tackle this week:

  • What is time sensitive?
  • What’s most important?
  • How long will each item take?

When To Do It?

Now it’s time to take a look at your calendar and set aside some goal periods for the week. Remember, it’s a good idea to do this planning twice a week so you’ll have a chance to shift items around if needed.

  • Block out as many goal periods as your schedule allows (You can have goal periods for exercise and fun stuff too!)
  • Decide which tasks are going to happen in which blocks of time.

Get Working!

When a goal period occurs, get to work on the items designated for that time. When the period ends, stop working on those tasks.

This is essential! Once you have committed to doing something within a goal period, if you don’t finish it within that goal period you have to wait until the next planning session to schedule time to work on it.

So how do you get through tasks that will take longer than a goal period allows? Split that task up into parts and schedule those. If your goal period is 2 hours and you have a task that you think will take 6 hours, you need to break that task down into parts and schedule them into 3 different goal periods.

Maintaining these boundaries is a critical part of the goal period strategy. It has helped Katherine feel the joy of accomplishment without feeling the burden of an unending list of to-dos. This technique also helps give you permission to put a period at the end of a work session, with the opportunity to get refreshed and ready to take on the next set of pre-decided tasks.

Have questions on how to implement this for yourself? Ask them here!

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Filed under Decluttering, organizing, Perspective, Strategies, Technology, Time Management, Work

Put Your Time In The Pickle Jar

Pickle Jar Theory

A man comes into a meeting of co-workers with an empty pickle jar. He fills the jars with rocks and asks the group, “Is there any more room?”

No!   He then adds pebbles to the jar and shakes them down. “Is there any more room?”

No!   He then adds sand to the jar and fill in the cracks. “Is there any more room?”

No!   He adds water until the jar is topped off.

What is the lesson? “There is always more room than you think?”

NO!   Put in the big rocks first.

The jar represents your time. If you put the larger rocks in first (your higher priority activities) you’ll be able to fit in the smaller pebbles (those less important activities) around them. This enables you to fill your time with what’s important and make progress on your goals.  If you fill your time with sand and water (less important activities like playing on the computer, watching TV or snacking) you’ll have no room in your schedule for the big rocks (activities that make your life worthwhile such as playing with your kids, writing that article or connecting with a friend in need.)

This “Pickle Jar Theory” is a popular concept in time management circles.

How do you figure out which tasks are your big rocks? What are your important activities?  Here’s one way:

  1. Block time out to review your to-dos…write them all down
  2. Search your mind for all those things you want to do…large and small…give yourself some time to gather all those promises you’ve made to yourself and others…all those hopes and dreams you have set aside
  3. Sort to-dos into categories such as: creativity – work – family – finances – achievement – romance – community – home – friends – health
  4. Prioritize categories based on which are the most important to implement NOW to move you toward your goals. Pick only 2-3 categories to focus on
  5. Purge items from your list that you think you may not do, or that you will do “later” (which often becomes never) or things you “should do” but know you never will
  6. Pick 1-2 actual tasks from your 2 – 3 chosen categories – a “task” is a one-step item like: make a phone call, read an article, write a list
  7. Analyze your calendar and figure out where those tasks will fit in (When will you do it? * Where will you do it? * How will you do it?)
  8. Rinse & Repeat – continue this process regularly to keep moving forward in areas which truly matter to you

Remember, ideas without implementation are just entertainment!

Next week, how to translate this “Pickle Jar Theory” into how you use your space.

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Filed under Decluttering, organizing, Perspective, Strategies, Time Management

Trick Your Brain To Get Things Done

That stack of mail has been haunting you from the kitchen counter for the past week and you know you “should” go through it but somehow another day passes and it still sits there – now a day taller with the addition of today’s mail.

Do you often find yourself doing everything except the things you’re “supposed” to do? What’s happening? You actually do have the desire and the vision to not have mail piled on the counter, a part of you really wants to dig in and go through it, but something pops up and blocks you from the task.

Studies show that your “lizard brain” is likely kicking in. It is designed to keep you safe when you experience fear. Any uncertainty in our brains turns into fear and activates the lizard brain.

the lizard brain

So why can a seemly innocent pile of mail trigger this? Unopened mail represents possible decisions to make, money to spend and tasks to do. Yikes!

The key to getting started is to trick your lizard brain. You have to take such small steps that you almost don’t realize you’re actually doing part of the project. There are several ways to take steps that are so small they seem almost pointless but actually are moving you forward:

  • Set a time limit – could you tolerate working on the pile for 1 minute? Less? More? find a time amount that feels easy
  • Set an amount limit – could you tolerate looking at 1 piece of mail? Maybe 5? Again, pick an amount that feels so easy it seems ridiculous
  • Cherry pick – is there part of the pile you don’t dread at all? Catalogs, junk mail, etc? Spend a little time only focusing on the easy parts of the pile
  • Do something related but not directly part of the dreaded task – move the recycling bin near the pile, or move the pile near the recycling bin

You don’t have to be motivated. Research shows that motivation is somewhat needless. If you just start, the motivation will come behind it. The key is to keep staying below your fear response.

How low can you go?  The step you take may be TINY!

What’s the smallest baby step you can imagine for different tasks? Give us some examples!

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, organizing, Paper, Perspective, Strategies, Time Management