I am OD – organizationally deficient. I have always been this way, in my professional life, and in my home life. This new year, I am DETERMINED…..to become organized.
Tell me if this is like a day in your life – It’s been a super long day, you’ve picked up the kids, you have dinner on the stove, you finally sit down to catch your breath to relax. But instead, you take a look around your living room and notice that it looks like a bomb went off. Sadly, “clean the house” has been on your to-do list for longer than you’d like to admit.
Then, your husband beckons you from upstairs, telling you he forgot to let the dogs out, and could you do so? As you walk to the door to let the furballs out, you realize you’re out of milk, so you stop by your desk to write it down on the grocery list….and then your child calls from the bathroom, for a little, a-hem, help.
Does this sound a little like your life?
While the requests may be different, the situation is the same. As moms and business owners, we are pulled in 800 different directions at any given moment.
For me, whether it’s my house duties, or my duties when I worked out of the home, and now that I am working from home, the fact remains that my wheels are always spinning, and I am busy, and usually stressed. But, some days I am actually not getting anything done!
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Some time ago, I decided the madness has to stop. Now that my kids are in school full time, and I am not going to an office working a typical J-O-B, I have 5-6 good hours of time to myself a day. I NEED to be able to accomplish something! In my research, I found a book called Getting Things Done by David Allen (GTD) and it looks pretty promising. In this post, I would like to break it down simply for anyone who wants to GTD too.
- Brain Dump – First and foremost, the most important thing to do is to empty your brain of all of the things that have your attention. Get Things Done calls this “Capture”. Basically what this means is that you need to record, somewhere, everything big or small that has your brain’s attention. This could be personal and professional. For example, buying milk and cleaning the living room would go on your brain dump list. How you do this is not important. You can use good old fashioned paper and pencil, or you can use your iphone notepad. Just remember where you wrote your list!
- Create Lists – I would personally recommend keeping the list count low. I have fallen victim to having lists in 3 different notebooks, plus my iPhone, and lost track of all of them. Create a To-Do list, which are things that are highly actionable. You can break those down if you wish to things like run errands, calls to make, emails to send, etc.
- Organize – Get Things Done adds “clarify” before you organize. To me, this seems like the same thing. To clarify your task means to process what it means and to see if it is actionable. For me, I will clarify and process AS I organize my lists. However, if you need some help in the clarify department, A Fine Parent likes to describe it this way; whenever something new pops up, you handle it using the 3 D’s – Do it, Delegate it, Defer it. Let’s get organized:
- Do it: You know what to do, and it will take less than 5 minutes. For example, if you’re out of milk, put it on the list and you’re done. Scan your emails and respond to the easy ones right away.
- Delegate it: You aren’t the right person for the job. For example, if your neighbor called and needs to borrow your husband’s tools, send a text off to him and let him know. Done.
- Defer it: You don’t know what to do OR It’ll take more than 5 minutes, OR it has to be done at a certain time.
“Here’s how we to defer effectively –
- If we don’t know what the next action is, add it to the collections bin.
- If we know what the next action is, and
- If we can accommodate it today, add it to today’s actions list.
- Else, if it MUST be done today, add it to today’s actions list.
- If we know what the next action is, and
- It cannot be accommodated today, decide when to do it and add it to the calendar
- It has a fixed date that it needs to be done on, add it to the calendar”
This is the organization stage. As you complete the decision to do, delegate or defer, you will place the items on your lists. Create the appropriate lists with categories like Calls, Emails, Errands. You can have one list with 3 columns. Whatever is simplest for you. I have a to-do list on paper, and my “deferred” list, which is really a project goes in Trello. Every week or few days, I look at my to-do list and Trello, and note everything down on my calendar for the week.
- Review – At the end of each week think about how it went. Were you able to feel like you did a lot? Do you feel accomplished and productive? Or was this week just a waste.
- Do – This is the last step according to GTD. Now that you have your lists and your calendar, go out and do what you set out to do!
One note about this step, that I have a lot of experience in, is to focus on one thing at a time. I have talked about how inefficient it is to multi-task. I spent my entire 19 years in the (out of the home) workforce putting out fires as a support representative and IT analyst and I can confidently tell you that it is a WASTE OF TIME. Switching back and forth between things is just downright inefficient. Focus on one thing, complete it, and move onto the next. I can’t tell you how often I want to flip to Facebook or my Inbox while writing this post, but I refuse. I intentionally have to stay focused on this page. I have learned over the years how to best manage my time, and I have written more about it here.
What Do You Think?
So do you think you could try out these tips to organize your life a bit? Think about it over the next week or two as you move throughout your week. Consider where you waste the most time. Keep your life simple and you will find it easier to get through the rest of your weeks with a feeling of accomplishment. What is your best hack? Add it to the comments below!