I am OC – organizationally challenged. I didn’t used to be. When I practiced law, I was extremely organized. Or course I had a assistance from support people who kept me on track and managed calendars and files.
When I was actively homeschooling 4 kids and writing lots of books, I was very strictly organized. That had it’s pluses and minuses. Everything got done, but it didn’t always get done with grace and joy.
Then I got disorganized. It happened gradually, but completely. I went through of phase of chaos in which I was completely overwhelmed by life. Let’s face it – there are some times when no master plan or expensive planner is going to help you. You’ve probably had these times. But you pick yourself up and try to get some order in your life once again.
As I began to look around at how other people got organized, I experienced a new kind of overwhelm. There were so many pretty planners and fancy systems! They beckoned me with their promise of helping me get a grip on life with beauty and fanciness – for only $60.
I have purchased a few of these as well and found them too complicated.
I need simple, simple, simple. Doesn’t matter if it’s stunning. It just has to work!
Life is fast moving, multi-layered and complicated. There’s a lot you can do to simplify your life and still get more accomplished. There’s a seemingly endless supply of “hacks” online. There are hacks for work, your love life, exercise, and everything else under the sun. Getting through all of the hacks requires a hack of its own.
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Keep things simple and focus on a few powerful strategies:
1. Make lists.
I need lists. If it don’t write it down, it’s gone. Yet, I struggled with how to make, organize and use lists. I tried the electronic route with Trello. While I LOVE Trello, I am an older gal and find that I just don’t like having everything electronic. I tried having an electronic calendar, and that didn’t work for me either. It’s a generational thing, I’m sure, but I have had major computer crashes and had devices run out of power just when I needed them. For me, I’ll stick to paper.
Here’s the ONLY way I can rock my lists:
Yes, I have lists of lists. It’s the only way I can organize my brain. The sheets in the back are reference checklists. So I have a list for things to research, programs to apply to, posts to write, tasks to complete and more.
Each day, I review those reference checklists and make a list of the tasks I know I can get done that day and write them on the larger Post-It note. I stick the Post-It note on the front of my calendar and I’m off for the say. The next day, I can cross items off the reference lists (which feels awesome) and create a new Post-It for the new day.
Honestly, this is the ONLY WAY I can get things done and not feel overwhelmed. As you probably know, at any given time I have about 65 ideas and projects floating around in my brain. (These go on the reference checklists.) I was having real trouble being productive until I wrote down the big ideas and broke them down into the daily steps I could do to accomplish them.
The reality is the fewer things you try to accomplish, the more you’ll get done. So, each day, make a list of the 2-3 most important things you want to get done that day.
• The act of making the list will force you to prioritize so you can accomplish the most important tasks. You won’t be overwhelmed about chasing the big dreams on the reference lists – you’ll be chipping away at them and getting them done.
2. Focus on one task at a time.
I have written before about how inefficient it is to multi-task. Switching back and forth between two or more tasks is inefficient. Learn to focus on one task until it’s complete before moving on to something else. Try this for a week and notice the difference it makes.
Multi-tasking, which served me well under different circumstances (or at least I THOUGHT it served me well) only hinders me now. By focusing on one thing at a time, I get more done.
I would love to have one big, beautiful calendar that met all my needs. I have purchased a few of them this year and ended up throwing them away or giving them away. And I would dearly love to have an electronic one, but that just doesn’t work for me.
So I have two calendars – sort of.
After lots of experimenting and being super picky about calendars, here is what works for me.
My yearly calendar has to show the whole month on one page. Because I’m so visual, I have to have an aerial view of the month before I commit my time. So, let’s say I get invited to speak somewhere on a Monday night. Great! But the next day, someone has a therapy appointment at 8 AM the next day, or I will have just returned from a trip that prior Sunday night, I will have an overview of how that Monday night gig might not be the best choice for me. (When I overextend, it hurts me in the end.) When I see it all on one page, I can make better decisions.
My calendar keeps track of places I need to go, and that’s it. I stick that day’s Post-It note on the front of the calendar book and it keeps me on track.
I like the 5 x 8 size because it will fit in my purse, usually no matter what size purse I use.
So how do I plan my blogging? (And I’m really working on getting on a schedule!) After buying courses and special planners and trying a zillion things, I have found my solution – a teacher’s lesson plan book. I picked one up for less than $10. Each column represents the week, and the days of the week are printed on the side. The square for each day is HUGE so I can write in the post titles I plan and execute and see an overview for the week all in one place. Cheap, cheap and I’m making it work. Give it a try!
What I love about having arrived at this solution is that I’m not focusing on everything at once and I’m not hauling a huge planner or reams of paper around with me. If I’m brainstorming and researching and gathering information, I use my reference sheets. If I’m planning my blogging schedule, I use the teacher plan book. When I’m ready to conquer the day, I grab my calendar with my to-do Post-It note on the cover and I’m off. None of these are pretty or sexy planners or ideas, but they work.
Try out these three hacks and see how they impact your life. What other hacks could you add? Consider where you seem to waste the most time. This is a prime area for developing a hack of your own. Keep your life simple and it will be easier to get through the day with a feeling of accomplishment.
Got a simple hack to share?
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