September 10, 2012

Time Management and Organization for the Real World

I have a guilty pleasure of reading those cheap women’s magazines that recycle the same articles every issue.  They usually have a lovely picture of a decadent dessert on the cover next to headlines like “5 days to a flat belly!” and “no more tantrums!”.  They tell you what makeup and clothes to buy, how to decorate your house, give you a few sob stories and some recipes.  Once in a while, they have a headline about time management or clutter control.  I slap down my 2 bucks, take it home, find the page with the 3 small paragraphs with giant bullet points, and then sigh.  The same for the financial advice most of the time (tip 5, stop buying coffee every morning.  Duh.)

I don’t know why I keep buying them.  I think it’s to imagine being that kind of perfect housekeeper/mom.  Hell, it’s to imagine hiring that perfect housekeeper.  Of course, I have a bit of a social phobia, so perhaps the ultimate scenario would be programming a robot housekeeper.  Snicker.  “Jane!  Will you stop this crazy thing!”

robot maid

Anyway, there are in fact techniques that work for me to keep running along as a mom, librarian, wife, friend, writer and crafter.

Time Management

The best book I’ve read on the subject is Time Management from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern.  She talks about making time maps, estimating time for projects and so on.

For work, the one I’ve referred back to the most was Getting Things Done by David Allen.  I suggest listening to it as an abridged audiobook.

Figure out what works for you.  It’s no good having some complicated system that goes against your natural style- you are not going to use it, and then you’re going to beat yourself up for not using it.  You don’t need that.

What works for me: 

  • setting written, measurable goals
  • established routine for mornings and nights
  • planning meals for the week
  • planning clothes for the week
  • set chores for family members (on Tuesday I do this…)
  • weekly family meetings to sync calendars, discuss plans
  • a table-top alarm clock to get kids on the bus
  • only go grocery shopping once a week, and always use a list
  • don’t be afraid to put lists and reminders everywhere
  • have a “plan b” or disaster plan
  • do monthly and weekly evaluations- what works and what doesn’t?
  • schedule time for your personal goals, or day to day stuff will take over
  • set priorities ahead of time- what is essential?

When you are trying to add in things to an already busy life, like writing, you have to be a planner and experimenter.  I find that I write best when I have at least twenty minutes without someone interrupting me, I’m not so tired I’m going to doze off over the keyboard, and I’m not watching the clock for an appointment I have to go to afterwards.  Not easy to manage.

Step one of improving time management is figuring out where your time-wasters are.  I’m not necessarily talking about goof-off time.  That is actually valuable in that it reduces stress.  What David Allen suggests is that you ask yourself a couple questions: “what am I trying to accomplish here?” and “did I accomplish it?”  So if your intention was to have fun, and at the end of an hour of goofing off, you didn’t have fun, you have yourself a time waster.  There are some video games I won’t play anymore because of that.

Now I’m off to a busy day – tell me about your best real-world time management tricks.

 

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