Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Organize While Driving

I’ve been getting into a little habit lately when I’ve been dropping my kids off to school. Mentally, I go over the things I need to do when I get home. Out loud, I list those things in the order I need to do them. Sometimes I revise the list as I remember, for example, that it’s garbage day or laundry day.

By the time I get home, my mental checklist is ready and I go into automatic pilot. This saves me some time (not wasted on, “Now, what was I going to do?”) and I have the comfort of knowing that everything that needs to get done does get done.

Does this always work 100% of the time? No; there are instances when I forget a routine item. But it does up my game.

One quick note, however: this is to be done mentally, not in writing or on your Blackberry! Remember, you’re driving your car; let’s stay safe!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Use this Tool/Trick/Tip!

There are tons of books, websites, articles and programs out there that promise to get you organized in X days. They offer checklists, products, processes! There are a lot of great ideas out there. I like to keep on top of the latest tips because I’m always looking for a better way of doing things.

Sometimes a friend might ask, “What should I do to be more organized with __________?” My first instinct is to reach into my mental file and pull out a tip or tool that can help them. Later on, however, I find that my friend is struggling with the same problem. They didn’t take my advice.

I used to think, “What is their problem? Why won’t they listen to me? I know my solution will work!” I couldn’t figure it out. There was one person who did this continually. I knew they didn’t hate me, so there had to be something else.

Over time, I watched this person and their lifestyle. And it turned out that the key word was “lifestyle.” The person was pretty unencumbered by “things”…never had an organizer, didn’t have one place to put the things they’d need every day. There was no way they were going to go out and buy an organizer, let alone use one. In other words, traditional organizational tools are lost on people like this.

Clearly, there are people (A) who are very compartmentalized and like their ducks in a row and (B) who live life by the seat of their pants and somehow it mostly seems to work out for them. Traditional tools and tips are made for people A. But what about people B, who say they want to be more organized, but whose minds simply aren’t wired that way?

I think some of the answer lies in my belief “Use the right tool for the job.” With a person B, you need to redefine what “the job” is – what does it look like from their perspective? For example, I often use my paper organizer to plan my week and schedule my appointments. Sometimes, though, I might forget to look at my organizer, especially early in the morning (pre-coffee!). That didn’t help me when I was supposed to pick up a co-worker on the way to work. Although it turned out that it worked out for her (long story), I was mortified! And I made sure it never happened again. After that, I used my cell phone’s alarm system to ring out just before pick-up time. When I heard the alarm, I didn’t even have to check my cell phone; I remembered what I was supposed to do.

Figuring out what a person B needs to be more organized takes more work, that’s for sure, and a little more creativity. For a person A like me, that can be a challenge! But who knows? Maybe the least obvious way of doing something may actually be better!

Any B people out there? Got some funky tips for us?

Monday, May 3, 2010

List Management

“I’m home all day long, but I don’t think I’m doing as much as I should,” a stay-at-home mom friend told me recently. She spoke of starting things, but not finishing them and of feeling that she had to stop everything when the phone rang. “After all, I’m not working, so I should have the time. But it ends up that I don’t get anything done!”

When I was pregnant with my son, I was laid off from my job due to the office re-locating. On the one hand, it solved my question about maternity leave. On the other hand, suddenly having all that free time was intimidating! I had spent 8 years in the working world at that point, and I didn’t want to lose my edge or have my brain turn to mush.

I decided that I would become a manager -- of my home! No, I wouldn’t have org charts or weekly meetings. But I knew that if I viewed home management as a business, I would feel more fulfilled as I went through those daily tasks. What I came up with is the advice I gave my friend.

“Take your organizer, or if you don’t use one, just a pad of paper. Each day, write down a list of what you want to accomplish that day. This helps you focus on what you want to do,” I told her.

I got a lot done during those months before my son was born, which helped that nesting instinct! And after he was born, the lists of course got shorter, but I was still able to cross things off. Once my daughter was born and again when I took a part-time night job, the lists came in handy as I decided my daily and later weekly priorities. Where I couldn’t accomplish everything in one day, I would break up tasks (like “clean the house”) over the course of the week.

Making a list makes you set a daily or weekly goal. Why not start today? What is one thing you want to accomplish today?