If you have even the tiniest productive bone in your body, you're probably interested in how to keep better track of all of your to do's. I've tried many tools over the years from digital apps to cute to do lists to a digital/analog combo, and what I've realized is that, for me, simple is best! That's why I use a bullet journal which combines my love of office supplies, my desire to be a little artistic, and my need to feel in control!
You may have read about bullet journaling or watched videos of some really elaborate ways to use a bullet journal and gotten scared because it looked too hard. I'm here to tell you that you don't have to be an artist or a productivity genius to make a bullet journal work for you.
What is a Bullet Journal?
The Bullet Journal method was designed by Ryder Carroll, a former web, app, and game designer with ADD who needed a way to stay organized. He knew that study after study had shown that writing things down by hand cemented them in our memories and provided a sense of order, so he developed a way to quickly log notes, to do's, ideas, and appointments quickly and easily in a bulleted list. In addition to capturing your thoughts and tasks, you can create all sorts of collections of related information from a food log to vacation planning. The heart of the bullet journal is reviewing your information regularly and migrating incomplete but still relevant tasks so that they stay top of mind.
What Supplies are Needed?
One of the great things about bullet journaling is that you only really have to have two things to get started: a journal of some sort and a writing utensil. Other optional supplies are additional writing utensils in multiple colors, a ruler, stencils or stickers.
With the amount of options available for journals, it can get a little confusing, so let me break it down for you. The features to consider are size, cover and binding type, paper weight, paper design, book marks, closures, and pockets. Your first decision is how big do you want your journal? There are codes that indicate the size. Common sizes are labelled A5, A6, B5, and B6 that correspond to measurements.
Covers are really a preference - do you like a hard cover or a soft cover and what material? Some come with designs or quotes on the front while others are just a plain color. There are four main types of bindings: spiral bound, saddle stitch binding, perfect binding, and case binding. Spiral bindings can have plastic or metal coils threaded through holes in the pages. Saddle stitch binding is the technique when all pages are printed and then folded in half and secured with staples. Perfect binding uses a soft cover and pages are glued to the cover. Case binding is also called hardcover binding. Pages are stitched together in sections, and the sections are glued to the cover. This type of binding allows the book to lay flat on every page.
Paper weight is another important feature to consider so the ink you use doesn't bleed through. Paper weights are measured in pounds (how much a ream of 500 sheets of paper weighs) or GSM (grams per square meter.) The higher the number, the thicker the paper. The conversion between pounds and GSM is 1 pound = 1.48 gsm. For example regular printer paper is around 20 lbs or around 30 gsm, and cardstock is around 65 lb or 96 gsm. In addition to weight, paper can be lined, have grid dots, or be blank.
Some journals have other great features like built in bookmarks (sometimes up to 3), pockets for storing loose paper, elastic or magnetic closures, pen holders, and even included rulers or stencils.
I've tried several journals over the years of different styles and now have a list of must have features in a journal. I want my journal to lay flat when it's open, have prenumbered pages, have an elastic closure, a pen holder, and multiple built in ribbon book marks. This year's journal had two new features that I think will make my list - grid dots instead of lines on the pages and a pocket for a small ruler with stencils!
Writing utensils can be pens, markers, pencils, colored pencils or a combination. I prefer pens or markers and enjoy using multiple colors to create visual separation and include some artistic flair! It's important to have paper thick enough to prevent bleeding. My current journal has paper that is 160 gsm. There are many utensils that are bleed-proof. My favorite are Sharpie felt tip fine point pens that come in assorted colors. Or if you prefer a gel pen, one of my favorites is the Sharpie S-Gel fine point.
What's the BuJo Lingo?
Whenever you try something new, the lingo can be intimidating. Here are what the basic words related to bullet journaling mean:
How to Get Started
Once you have selected your journal and writing utensils, you can quickly get started! Make sure your pages are numbered, or add in page numbers yourself before you begin.
How to Maintain Your Bullet Journal
The bullet journal is only as good as what you put in it, and just like any productivity system, it requires regular maintenance. There are only three main things to remember:
1. Use it!
At first, it may be hard to remember to have your journal with you at all times. I work in an office setting, so I keep my journal on my desk for easy access. I take it with me to meetings, and though sometimes I may take notes digitally I always transfer any to do's to my bullet journal so I have a master list of to do's with me at all times.
I often take my journal to my bedroom in the evening to review the day and mark off things I've completed or delegated, and get a jump start on tomorrow. Even if you don't do this daily, it's critical to do at least weekly. Some people do a weekly spread to force themselves to do this review. I did a weekly spread for the first few months, but found that reviewing daily worked better for me.
Migration is the thread that holds the bullet journal system together. You could do this weekly if you choose to do a weekly spread or monthly if that's enough for you. Use the symbol that you decided on (most common is >) to indicate the task is not complete but it has been moved forward to a new section so that it won't be forgotten. I also look back at any delegated tasks to determine if they are completed or not. If they are not I will move them forward with the migrated symbol and the initial of the person I delegated it to. When the migrated task is complete, I will mark it as such.
The Benefits of the BuJo
I like the bullet journal system because it allows me to slow down and write things down legibly so I will be able to read them later! This sounds silly, but sometimes I feel like I have so much to do that writing something down takes too much time. Rushing is what leads to forgetting what I need to do and in turn getting overwhelmed. Writing things down helps my brain process and remember things.
I enjoy the opportunity to be a little artistic in a non-judgement zone! It's fun to use stencils and sometimes even stickers to decorate my pages. I enjoy hand lettering, and it's an opportunity to use and improve those skills. I also love that if I mess up, no one will see it, and I can just start a new page.
The biggest benefit of BuJo, is the sense of control it gives me knowing that all my tasks are captured and won't get forgotten. I have the ability to look back at the history of my notes and tasks. With the custom collections, I have the ability to track progress in many different areas of my life all at once.
So, do you think you're ready to give it a shot? Please reach out if you have any questions or need some more guidance to get started. If you want a deeper dive into the philosophy and process of bullet journaling, I recommend Ryder Carroll's book, The Bullet Journal Method
Carroll, Ryder. “Bullet Journal.” Bullet Journal, 2021, bulletjournal.com/.
Carrol, Ryder. The Bullet Journal Method: Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future. FOURTH ESTATE LTD, 2020.
“Commercial Printing Company in Florida: Solo Printing.” Commercial Printing Company in Florida | Solo Printing, 8 June 2021, soloprinting.com/.
“A Comprehensive Guide to Notebook Sizes.” Galen Leather, 2021, www.galenleather.com/blogs/news/notebook-sizes.
“What Does Gsm Mean When Buying Paper and Card?” Papermill Direct, 20 July 2021, www.papermilldirect.co.uk/inspire/what-does-gsm-mean-when-buying-paper-and-card.
Philipson, Samantha. “What's in a Bind? 4 Types of Book Binding – Pros and Cons.” Ironmark Blog, 2021, blog.ironmarkusa.com/4-types-book-binding.
I’ve been in a productivity slump for the past few months. I could blame it on some sad things that have happened in my family, stress at work, or on the busyness of being a working mom, and I could feel bad about the things I didn’t do during that time - like not write any new blog posts...But I’m not here to make excuses, I’m here to get my productivity groove back and help you do the same!
Motivation, like a good habit, is very easy to lose and much harder to get back! Take a shortcut and learn from others. There are so many tools and suggestions available about productivity and organization (many available in previous posts on my blog!) Don’t try to do it alone - find a blog post, grab a book, listen to a podcast, or watch a YouTube video to learn something new or reinforce what you already know. I finally started reading the book I’ve been eyeing for months, Atomic Habits by James Clear. I am about halfway done, and I LOVE it! (Book review coming soon!) There are so many tidbits of great information that have provided me much needed motivation!
"Motivation, like a good habit, is very easy to lose and much harder to get back! Take a shortcut and learn from others."
Don’t try to do it all at once, or you’ll get overwhelmed and potentially do yourself more harm than good. Pick something that is fun and attainable or something that you have to do anyway. My motivation started returning when I had something to look forward to that required planning and organization - family vacation. Once I got started planning, I could start anticipating vacation, which I think is almost as fun as going! My planning paid off, and I felt really proud of all the effort I put into it.
After a successful vacation, I knew I could tackle more. I’m embarrassed to say I’d been doing the bare minimum for taking care of routine family finances and paperwork - for months. I’d do what was absolutely necessary and stash the rest for later. Later just never arrived until this past weekend. I spent a few hours and am now all caught up with processing and filing. (Click for tips on how to get caught up with your paperwork.) My appetite for productivity and organization is snowballing now!
Once one project is done, you immediately feel a weight lifted and create space in your brain that used to be taken up by worrying about that thing that was undone. Once one task is complete, you will crave the feeling of checking another project off of your list. For me, after paperwork was caught up, I decided to cancel a couple of unnecessary subscriptions and saved myself money in the process. Now I’m hooked and am shopping for a better price on insurance. Who knows, I may be cleaning out my craft area before I know it!
What I’m relearning is that getting any little thing organized propels you to the next, bigger step. After completing that step, you gain motivation to tackle even more daunting tasks. You stop feeling sorry for yourself or bad about yourself for not accomplishing tasks. I have a suspicion, I’m not the only one who has let their “productive self” go over the past year and a half, and I want to provide you encouragement that it’s not as hard as it seems to get your life in order!
Start your snowball of productivity in the next 15 minutes:
I predict that as you repeat steps 3-5, you will gain motivation and confidence. When that list is complete, you will have room in your head to really create productive systems to help you avoid having to write another list like that!
Thanks for reading my first post in several months - it’s good to be back! I hope you’ll stick with me as I strive to get and keep My Life In Order! If you'd like to get new posts and newsletters in your inbox, please join the email list!
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash
Clear, James. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones. Penguin Random House LLC, 2018.
Do you have a million ideas swirling around your head at any given time? Do you tell yourself you'll remember that thing you need to do, but then forget before the day is even over? Do you see that same little imperfection or incomplete project every time you walk into the room but never seem to find the time to get it taken care of? If you answered yes to even one of these questions, I'm here with a simple idea to help!
Track your home projects room by room. It's so simple it's hard to believe it would work, but just give it a try.
If you go the Evernote route like I did, create a notebook titled Home Projects and then create a note for each room/area. Insert a checklist so that when you are done, you can simply click to check the item off!
Once you have all of the to do's out of your head and into your notebook, you will waste less of your time trying to remember what you wanted to do and can spend more time getting things done! (Getting things out of your head is great for more than just home projects - read a Brain Dump How -To for more info!)
This time next week will be a brand new year, so this is a great time to gather up all of the tasks and projects you want to get done around the house so you can be productive in 2021!
Sometimes you need a quick win to get you in the organizing groove. Organizing your bedside table gives you a lot of bang for your buck! A clean and organized bedside table can do wonders for your mood because it's one of the last things you see before you go to sleep and one of the first things you see when you wake up. This is also the reason, they have a tendency to get messy since we are usually tired when we are near them.
"Now protect that bedside table and it's pristine condition!"
Many of us have some time off coming up in the next few weeks, and this is a great time to dive into some simple organizing projects that don't take a lot of time, but give you a lot of return on your investment. Here are a few other ideas I've written about in the past that you might want to try!
Or if you have a little more time, you may want to try:
If you're all in on this organizing thing, check out my short e-book, Get Organized Head First, to help you learn how to get into the right mindset to get organized! For the month of December, 2020, you can use coupon code DEC2020 to get it for only $2!
It's easy to go down a rabbit hole of gloom, doom, and woe is me because of all that has happened in 2020. Never has there been a better time to learn to see the glass half full, find the silver lining, and look for the good in everything (no matter how small that may be!)
In the midst of everything going on in our 2020 world, we need somewhere to escape. Make your home that sanctuary! The definition of sanctuary is "a place of refuge or safety." Our homes can literally keep us safe from the pandemic, but more than that, they can provide us a sense of calm and control that it's hard to find out in the world.
Try these ideas to make your home just a little more comfortable.
Consider what will make life easier or more enjoyable if you were to get quarantined or simply have to spend more time at home because there aren't a lot of reasons to leave!
An example from my house is our bedroom TV. Prior to lock down early this spring, we had a small, 19” TV.
As soon as school went virtual in March, my husband said,” If I’m going to home with these kids for months, I'm going to need a bigger TV in our room.” We ordered a TV and wall mount that weekend and got them delivered before TVs became scarce. That was one of the best decisions we've made in a long time! That TV has provided each of us alone time from the rest of the family and has served as a way to have a movie date when we couldn’t go out.
Consider what currently frustrates you about your home and brainstorm about ways to fix it. It may take a little investment and a lot of creativity, but when you can relax and enjoy an area of your home, it will be worth it!
"Consider what currently frustrates you about your home, and brainstorm about ways to fix it."
Rearrange and Repurpose
We all had to adapt our homes to fit our new needs like working from home and housing virtual students while still keeping them comfortable for regular living. For a while, my husband used TV trays to hold his laptop in the living room, but soon we realized that was a frustration for everyone. We set up a small table in our bedroom and moved a comfortable chair there. This allowed him to have a workstation that he didn't have to tear down each evening and kept our living room for family time.
Virtual school was another challenge many of us had to overcome. I wrote about some ideas to get organized for e-learning without completely overtaking the house in a previous post. There were times this year that we had the entire family working/learning at home, so that meant I had to get really creative about my workspace which used to be in the living room. I was able to repurpose my craft area into an office. I found a cable to connect the TV I watch while I do crafts to my laptop for a second monitor, I reused an old cart to store all my sewing supplies to make room for my computer on the counter, and I got a new power strip to I could leave my power cord plugged in so setting up each day was quick. I now have a dedicated space to work that I can leave at the end of my work day. This is one of the key parts of work from home productivity!
Removing frustrations and reducing the amount of time spent in set up and tear down mode were the things our family was able to accomplish by rearranging and repurposing items in our home. Working from home is now seamless and, though our kids are back at school for now, if they need to learn from home again, it won't be a burden or impact our common living space. What can you rearrange today to help make your home fit your current situation? Do you have a space or an item you can repurpose to help remove a frustration?
"What can you rearrange today to help make your home fit your current situation?"
Over the past several months most of us have spent more time at home than ever before. It is looking like this winter will be more of the same, which means spending more time in close proximity to our families. All of this together time has probably made your home feel a little tight. Take this opportunity to get rid of some of the unnecessary stuff in your home. A clutter-free home is more pleasant to spend time in.
If the length of time it took to get materials for our deck this summer is any indication, LOTS of people have been doing home improvement projects during this pandemic, and we are no exception! From building a deck to redecorating a bedroom to installing new doors, we have kept busy for the past several months. Most of these projects were DIY to save money and fill time, though I have learned that there is still value to hiring the right person for a difficult job!
Regardless of your budget, small improvements can make your space feel fresh and special. A gallon of paint, a new piece of art on the wall, or a flea market find can do wonders for a room! An inviting space makes you feel more calm, relaxed, and happy. A freshly mowed yard, a few flowers and some bright cushions on your patio furniture can make you want to spend time outdoors. Improving your living space indoors and out can make your home feel like a retreat. Walk from room to room, and come up with a handful of quick, low-cost ideas that could make a big impact on how you feel about your home.
"Improving your living space indoors and out can make your home feel like a retreat."
Why does it matter?
Home used to be where we got to go after work and school, but now work and school have invaded. It's too easy to keep working past quitting time or jump back on your computer for just a little bit in the evening. When we turn on the TV or scroll through social media, we are bombarded with scary and upsetting news. We have to be strict with ourselves about turning off the distractions of the outside world to make our home a sanctuary where we can relax, recharge and enjoy. Take control and make your home a place you enjoy spending time, and create space in your home for both solitude and family fun. The world will be waiting for you, but make sure you have a sanctuary to come home to.
Over the past week, we have transformed my son's bedroom. It has been a whirlwind process, but because we planned well, it's gone smoothly. Read my previous post about 5 steps to a bedroom refresh .
The new room has much less storage than the previous layout. We removed a large bookshelf, got a smaller dresser, relocated a cedar chest, and got rid of a 3 drawer plastic storage unit in the closet. Less storage may sound counter intuitive, but it forced my son to have less stuff in his room. Less stuff means less time cleaning his room, less arguments with me about clutter, less time spent looking for lost items, and more room to enjoy his private space.
When you have less storage, you must have less stuff. This makes you consider each item that makes it way into your space carefully. If you have a hard time getting rid of items or feel like everything is essential, try this trick. Pack up your room as if you were moving, and when it's time to "move in," start by unpacking only the absolute essentials like clothes, bedding, and maybe an alarm clock. Then over a few days' time as you find a need for an item, go get it from your boxes and carefully place it in the location that you noticed you needed it. In his book, Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life, Joshua Fields Millburn says, “Minimalism looks different for everyone because it’s about finding what is essential to you.”
After a couple of weeks, you will notice that you did not need many of the things you had in your room before you packed it up. This is your chance to either trash, donate, relocate, or store as a memento. Getting rid of unnecessary things not only gives you more space in your home, it can also improve your happiness. Internationally recognized applied positive psychology coach, Lisa Cypers-Kamen, says, "When you're less obligated to stuff, you have more time to experience life."
Which room in your house could you try this with? An office or bedroom would be one of the best places to start because those rooms tend to be smaller and usually only belong to one or two people instead of the entire family. You owe it to yourself to feel stress-free in your own home, and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised how having less storage and less stuff will give you a sense of calm.
Millburn, Joshua Fields, and Ryan Nicodemus. Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life. Hachette Australia, 2017.
Cypers-Kamen, Lisa. “3 Reasons Why Having Less Leads to More Happiness.” Thrive Global, 3 Mar. 2018, thriveglobal.com/stories/less-really-can-be-more/.
Photo by Samantha Gades on Unsplash
Over the past few months, my teenage son has given me several hints that I've responded to with some pretty big "mom fails"!
When it finally hit me what all of these little hints added up to was when I went to his room and noticed those dresser drawers open again. As I tried to close one, I found that the dresser really WAS broken! The top is cracked in half and the middle drawer will not close! I sat down on his bed for a moment - OW! - it is uncomfortable! I looked around at the blue walls and red closet door that we'd painted before he moved into his first "big boy" room nearly a decade ago, and immediately felt guilty for being so involved in other projects that I'd ignored his hints that it was time for a room refresh!
I suggested some fresh paint, a bigger bed, and a functional dresser in return for his purging and organizing his room. It was a deal! This past weekend, he began the prep work using these 5 steps that will work for someone of any age who is ready to refresh their bedroom.
1. Review what you wear
I suggest you empty one drawer at a time and go through every item separating into piles of things you will wear and things you won't wear. If it doesn't fit or you don't like it, don't let it take up space in your dresser or closet! Put items that you will wear back in the space and relocate the items you won't wear (in our case, they will go in the basement in a tote for my younger son, but you could put them in a box for Goodwill.) Repeat with each drawer and section of your closet. Don't forget shoes, scarves, belts, bags, etc.
2. Curate your surfaces
Empty each shelf, dresser top, or drawer. Similar to what you did with your clothes, review each item and decide to keep in place, keep but relocate, or get rid of. Put the keep in place items back, the keep but relocation items in their new home, and box up other items for donation.
3. Clear the floor
Look closely at anything that touches the floor that isn't furniture. If it's trash, throw it away. If it's not trash, why is it on the floor? Find a new home for it either within your room or elsewhere in your home, or donate it.
4. Measure and plan
Measure everything! Write down the dimensions of your room and all of your furniture that you plan to keep. Create a scale model of your room and all the furniture to help decide on a floor plan. You can go old school and use grid paper to map out your room and then cut out pieces of furniture to scale or you could use a digital option like planyourroom.com. Arranging and rearranging on paper or virtually will save you time, effort, and money! It will help you clearly see how much space you have so when you buy new items, they are the correct size. You can also determine where you want to position everything ahead of time to cut down on the muscle needed to move furniture!
5. Move only once
Once you've decided what to keep and what you need to purchase, only move your furniture once. For our project, we will be ordering the new items and they will stay in the garage until after the room has been painted. On painting day, we will empty the old furniture and remove it from the room. Remaining furniture will be moved to the middle of the room until the paint is dry. The existing furniture will be moved into the location we decided on in step 4, and the new furniture will be brought to the room and assembled in it's new home.
I'm excited for my son's bedroom refresh (and a little sad to cover the paint that has complemented several little boy themes over the years) and I'm hopeful this process will help him learn how to keep his space organized and make it his own. Are you inspired to do a little refresh of your own??
We woke up early on the first day of the 2020-2021 school year only to learn that our home internet was out! Since we were all planning to spend the day learning and working online, we had a few moments of panic. Luckily the internet came back on before long and held steady the rest of the day!
I had planned every detail of virtual learning at our house, but there was still something out of my control. It's good to be reminded that no matter how well we plan, the unexpected still happens. I think this school year may teach us all that lesson many times over! Because there is so much in life that we cannot control, it is helpful to be organized because that gives us the capacity to handle the unexpected when it comes our way.
Whether your kids are doing virtual learning at home full-time or their school has a hybrid approach where just part of the week is e-learning, being a parent of a school-aged child this school year is going to be a challenge! I am trying to use organization to help make the experience as smooth as possible, and I thought I'd share some of my ideas with you.
Challenge # 1: Not enough workspace
We are excited to have my older son's best friend and his younger sister joining us for virtual learning. It gives our kids some socialization and makes their school day much more fun! But we had to get creative to fit everybody in our home and still keep distance between them.
We live in an 1800 square foot, nearly 150 year old house with no spare bedroom or office. On days when I work from home to help supervise the school day, there are six people to fit into the space! We decided that we wanted everyone on the same floor, so we are not using bedrooms as classrooms. Because of that, not every kid has enough room to have all of their books and supplies next to them at all times. We solved that problem with a set of plastic drawers labelled with each kid's name. The drawers are on wheels so if I want to get rid of the school look, I can roll them into the laundry room!
We decided that since most of the school day will be spent on Google Meets with headphones on, it didn't really matter if kids were in the same room because they rarely have to talk out loud during live class. We set the two older kids up in the kitchen and the younger two in the living room in a configuration so no one gets in anyone else's videos!
My husband works in our bedroom on a slim table that we set in front of a window, and when I'm working from home, I work in my craft area. Even though it's a little crowded, I made everyone their own nameplate for their space to define it as theirs. I got acrylic frames for photo booth pictures for less than a dollar, then used scrapbook paper and some markers to make every "desk" a little special. At the end of the day, the kitchen kids have to put everything in their drawer so my family can eat dinner at the same table, but it works!
Challenge #2: Confusing schedule
We have two different schedules with different break times for the elementary and the middle school, and then there are alternating days for certain classes - it gets confusing fast! I got two white boards and two inexpensive easels (check the photo frame section for these) to display the schedule. I used different colors to help the kids easily find their next class. For the schedules that alternate, there is a magnet that indicates what day it is. We have one white board in each room to keep kids on track.
I also created a printable daily schedule that lists each class time, class, and code for the live video session as well as check boxes for other daily requirements. These were great for the first week while everyone was getting used to their schedules. After the second week, we probably won't need these anymore and can just maintain a list of codes for the videos.
One thing I love about virtual learning is how much extra physical activity the kids are getting because they can go outside and play, go on a bike ride, or just get some sunshine during breaks. But it's important for them to stay on schedule, so setting timers is a great way to help kids manage their time and get back to their seats in time for the next session.
Challenge #3: Tech Issues
I work in IT for my day job, so I am used to tech issues! The biggest lesson here is to teach your child how to fix issues rather than fixing them all yourself. It's amazing how even young children can learn to troubleshoot an issue when you take the time to show them how. Before school starts, go through their device with them and explain the basics. Don't assume they know how to open a new tab on a web browser or even turn down the volume. Chances are you may have to show them a few times, but if you take the time at the beginning to teach them how to help themselves, you won't be needed as much later on.
We've already run into broken links, unknown passwords, and pictures and videos that wouldn't display. Teachers have been very honest that this is all new to everyone, so don't feel bad about asking them for help or letting them know when something isn't going quite right - but be nice!! Taking a photo of exactly what you are seeing on your kid's device may be more helpful than trying to explain it in words.
Slow or overloaded internet will surely be a problem at some point. If that happens, try limiting video to only when it's needed. Most teachers have a recording if something goes wrong and you can't participate live. You may have to roll with it!
"Chances are you may have to show them a few times, but if you take the time at the beginning to teach them how to help themselves, you won't be needed as much later on."
Challenge #4: I have to work!
Many of us are working parents, and work doesn't just stop when school starts. We are in unprecedented times, and employers are trying to make accommodations but still stay in business. There are some who can't work from home because of the nature of their job. This is where we have to stick together and help each other out! I'm fortunate because my husband works from home, but I am trying to be very aware that he has a full time job and as willing as he is to be a teacher as well, I need to pitch in where I can. I occasionally work from home to give him a break, and I also review schedules for the next day and make lists, monitor homework assignments, etc. the night before so the days are smoother.
No matter what kind of job you have or how high up you are in an organization, all employees are just people and many of them are parents dealing with virtual school. Even those who don't have kids themselves, have a child or teacher in their lives and can understand the challenges of juggling work and school responsibilities. Several times a week on conference calls, I hear someone's child in the background or someone on the call has to excuse themselves to help with a school issue. It doesn't bother me a bit - I get it! We are all trying to do our best, and no one can deny that our kids' education is important.
To help stay focused at work when you are at home with school-aged kids, set them up with everything they need before you start your workday. Designate your own workspace and clearly communicate when kids are allowed to enter that space and at what times they need to be quiet. You may consider a sign or visual reminder of these things for younger children. Schedule your breaks around the kids' breaks so you can check homework, answer questions, and enjoy seeing their faces in the middle of they day. You may need to talk to your boss about working an alternate schedule. If there are hours that you need to dedicate to school, is it possible you could work some in the early morning or late evening to make up for that time?
None of us know how long we will be dealing with virtual school, so I encourage you to identify your top challenges and come up with strategies to address them. Organize yourself in other areas of your life to give you more room in your day to deal with the challenges at hand.
Have a great school year!
I am not a morning person! I like to BE up early, but I don't particularly like to GET up early! Because of that, my mornings go much more smoothly when everything is ready the night before. Getting into a habit of preparing for the next day the night before was one of the single biggest boosts to my productivity!
When I was primarily working from home this spring, evening prep was pretty simple - a list of my most important tasks for the next day and sometimes I laid out a letter that needed to go to the mailbox. Since it didn't really matter what I wore and I didn't need to pack a lunch, there really wasn't that much to it. Don't get me wrong, doing that little bit of prep for the next day still went a long way, but it wasn't as critical as I knew it would be when I was back to working in my office most of the time. To set myself up for a successful transition, I really embraced evening prep - almost too much because soon it felt like my evenings were focused around tomorrow.
That first week back to the office exhausted me. Between working the same full day, commuting, wearing office appropriate attire, showering EVERY DAY, fixing my hair and makeup, packing up my breakfast, snacks and lunch, preparing my work supplies, not to mention trying to spend quality time with my family - it was exhausting! I was trying extra hard to make everything run smoothly, so I was spending 30-60 minutes preparing every detail of my morning the night before. I felt robbed of my evenings and the time with my family, so I decided something had to change!
There were two key areas I identified as time suckers, and I made a plan to fix them!
I am on a mission to get healthier and slimmer by the time I turn 40, so I take my breakfast, snacks and lunch with me everyday. For breakfast I make a protein shake, snacks are usually fruit, nuts, cheese, and lunch may be leftovers or a salad. Previously, I was spending a good 30 minutes an evening preparing food. I analyzed my evening food prep routing, and found the areas that were taking the longest and came up with ideas to streamline the process:
I now pack my lunchbox immediately after I empty it. I make my shake the night before as well and just shake it up before I drink it the next day. I've gone from 30 minute lunch prep to less than 10
I lay my entire outfit the night before - complete with jewelry, shoes - everything. I used to do it right before bed. First I would have to look at my calendar to see what was going on the next day so I dressed appropriately. Then I'd pick something out, find all the coordinating accessories, and a good 15-20 minutes later, get to bed. I wanted to get more sleep, so I decided to try to win back those few minutes before bed.
Now I pick out my clothes for the next day as soon as I change out of my work clothes, which is usually very soon after I walk in the door. Since I'm already in my closet hanging up clothes or putting them in the hamper, it makes sense to just grab an outfit for tomorrow right then. Because I always look at my calendar for the next day before I finish my workday, I can skip that step since it's fresh in my mind. By the time I'm in my comfy walking clothes, I am done preparing for the next day!
Your pain points may not be the same as mine, but take some time to think through your routine and identify what is taking you the longest or what frustrates you about your morning or evening routine. Think about the problem and how you would tell someone else to solve it. Track your time savings and celebrate the extra time in your evening - and spend it well!
Quick and Easy Protein Shake
Puree all the fruit you will need for the week ahead of time and store in airtight container in the refrigerator.
The night before combine almond milk, fruit puree, protein powder, and chia seeds in a shaker cup, put in the shaker ball, and SHAKE! Store in the refrigerator and shake well before drinking.
To be truly productive, it is almost imperative to have a master to-do list where you record everything you need to do and use it to prioritize your actions as you work toward completing tasks that will ultimately help you accomplish your goals. Though I believe this is true, today I want to introduce a different concept that I think is almost as important to your personal productivity - a done list!
A done list is just what it sounds like, a list of things you’ve completed. There are a couple of options on how to create a done list, but before I tell you HOW, let me tell you WHY.
Why a Done List?
1. Develops Positive Emotions
Sometimes in the midst of all the items left undone on our to do list, it’s easy to forget all that was accomplished in a day. At the end of the work day, the emotions we feel are directly related to the progress we made (or didn’t make.)
Dr. Teresa Amabile, a Harvard Business School professor and co-author of The Progress Principle found that when people recognized their small accomplishments, they experienced more positive emotions which in turn, encouraged future accomplishment. In a Harvard Business Review article, she explained a study which analyzed 12,000 employees on a daily basis. ”On days when they made progress, our participants reported more positive emotions. They not only were in a more upbeat mood in general but also expressed more joy, warmth, and pride.”
2. Creates Momentum
We tend to focus more on our failures than our successes, so keeping track of what we’ve accomplished can remind us of what we are capable of. Organizational psychologist, Karl Weick says “Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion that favor another small win. When a solution is put in place, the next solvable problem often becomes more visible.”
Completing a task feels so much better than starting 10 tasks and not quite finishing any of them! Every time you record something you’ve finished, you get a little hit of dopamine, a type of neurotransmitter in your body’s nervous system that plays a role in feeling pleasure. It actually helps us focus and improves motivation. So completing one item literally can increase our chances of completing the next one.
A Hungary-based biologist PhD, currently working in the R&D field. In line with his burning enthusiasm for productivity, Csaba Vadadi-Fulop launched his blog www.productivity95.com where he blogs about productivity and personal development.
1. Limit morning decisions
Either prepare for the morning the night before by completing tasks before bed or by creating a few standard choices for your regular morning tasks. For example you could lay out your clothes before you go to sleep or you could pre-define a few pair of pants and a few tops that match so it's very easy to pick out an outfit in the morning. You could make your lunch at night or you could have several items that you know you like, don't take any preparation, you know fit in your lunch box, and are all located in the came general area in your kitchen that you can mix and match into a lunch bag in the morning. The fewer decisions in the morning, the more energy you'll have during the remainder of your day.
I used to be a serial snoozer. I could hit a traditional alarm clock's snooze button every 9 minutes for a good hour before finally rolling out of bed. I tried using my Fit Bit as an alternative and set multiple alarms that would vibrate until I turned them off. That worked better, but I soon learned, I can turn them off in my sleep! I think I may have found the best solution for me - I have been setting an alarm on my Google Mini and when it goes off it the morning, I have to actually speak to turn it off, "Hey Google, cancel alarm." Even if I don't get out of bed immediately, having to talk out loud seems to wake me up enough so I don't fall back asleep. I like setting backup alarms to make sure I'm out of bed in time. Additional alarms throughout the morning can also keep you on track - try an "it's time for breakfast" alarm, an "it's time to dry my hair alarm", or an "it's time to load the car" alarm. Remember all those little things you do in the morning that could be wasting time - like checking email or social media on your phone or watching the news. If you want to build those into your morning, give yourself a set time so you don't get carried away!
I'm a big proponent of timing everything you do so you know how long things really take. I used to think it took SO long to do my makeup that on most days, I'd just throw my makeup bag in my purse and do my makeup at work. Once I timed myself, I realized it takes me less roughly 5 minutes for my entire regimen and there's usually plenty of time for that in my morning! I also know how much time it takes me to take a shower with and without washing my hair (so I can sleep in a little on days I don't need to wash my hair.)
4. Do things in order (or at the same time!)
Think through everything you have to do in a morning, and figure out the most efficient order of tasks. It doesn't make sense to put moisturizer on first and then put in your contacts just like it doesn't make sense to fix your hair before putting on your pullover shirt. Also consider which things can be done at the same time. Multi-tasking isn't usually a great idea, but for some mindless tasks, it's great! For example, I get my jewelry out while I'm brushing my teeth and use my Turbie Twist towel to absorb the moisture from my wet hair while I'm doing my makeup. This is one of my favorite morning hacks because it significantly reduces the time it takes to blow dry my hair!
I try to only open a drawer or a door twice a morning - once to get out what I need and a second time to put those things away. I open my top bathroom vanity drawer to get out my contacts, my hairbrush, and my makeup bag. Then I close the drawer and don't open it again until I'm done with all of those items. I open the door under my vanity to get out my curling iron and/or hair dryer and hair products, and then I close it. I don't open it again until I'm ready to put those away and while I have it open I spritz myself with body spray before closing the door for the final time.
6. Put things away as you go
I like to wake up to a clear bathroom counter and leave for work with a clear bathroom counter. It allows me to start the day with a little control. When you do your makeup, try taking out all the items you will use out and set on the counter. As you use them, put them back in a makeup bag, so when you're done, everything is back in your bag and it's easy to just put it back in its place. Try a heat proof bag or container for curling irons or straighteners, so you can put them away as soon as you're done instead of leaving cords all over the place! Keep a wastebasket next to where you get ready so you can throw away cotton swabs, tissues, cotton balls, etc. as you go.
7. Empty your head
Whenever you think of something you need to do, either write it down in a place you will see before you walk out the door or set a reminder on your phone that will create a notification so you can feel confident you won't forget. If I need to take food for a carry in or return a library book or drop my car off at the repair shop, I set a reminder for early that morning so that when I look at my phone before I walk out the door, I'll see the notification. This helps me sleep better not trying to remember what I have to do in the morning. I also set reminders at times all throughout the day for things I need to buy, errands I need to run, phone calls I need to make, etc. It's nice to get them out of my head and into a system I trust.
I needed some vertical storage, so I looked for some tall plastic cups. I found 4 for $1! Make sure to measure your shelves first and measure the diameter of the bottom AND top of the cup to make sure you can close the door all the way. I used cups to store an entire bag of cough drops, tubes of toothpaste, small bottles of lotion, and my husband's electric trimmer. To make it easy (dare I say foolproof) for my family, I labelled the cups! I like the idea of cups because if they get gross, they can be popped in the dishwasher!
I bought a set of modular drawer organizers and was able to use the small and medium sizes in my cabinets (I used the large ones in my vanity drawers so they didn't go to waste!) I put things like nail clippers, first aid ointments, and bottles of medicines in these organizers and added a label as well!
I found a 3 pack of food storage containers for a great deal. I didn't need the lids, but the oblong size was perfect. I like clear storage so you can see what you're getting. This is especially helpful for top shelves. Consider taking items out of their original packaging to store in a more accessible way. I emptied all the adhesive bandages out of their cardboard boxes and separated into large and small sizes (and of course, labelled the containers!) I also emptied out flossers into one of these containers. Since there is a wide mouth opening, it is more likely that my kids will grab one and actually floss their teeth than if they had to get them from the original package.
I got a set of Command hooks for the inside of one of the doors and used them to hang a razor. My door has an inset area that was perfect to tuck the razor in! You could even hang toothbrushes or tubes of toothpaste with a binder clip attached to the end of the tube. Take note of where your shelves are situated to make sure there is room for the items you want to hang from inside the door. I also like to tape a little inspiration on the inside of my doors - a sweet note from my kids and a picture of me at my ideal weight!
I found adorable little lantern shaped glass tea light candle holders that were just shallow enough to fit in my cabinets for a dollar each! I used them for our thermometers. Because the container is glass, it won't tip over. I used the second one for a few of my random items I use on a daily basis.
Each chapter of the book is one of the 10 steps to ultimate productivity. For each step, you will be taught why it is important, learn from some real life examples, receive tips about how to put the step into practice in your own life. There are also bonus materials that you can access online to help with your own personal productivity system.
The ten steps are:
- Clear Your Mind
- From Tasks to Projects
- Focus on What's Most Important
- Be Productive Anytime and Anywhere
- Delegate Tasks to Achieve More - Work in a Team
- Group Your Tasks and Shift Gears
- Take Control Over Your Documents
- Check Your System Regularly
- Master Your Emails
- What Else Can You Improve?
I have a busy life just like most of you. A wife, mother, daughter, granddaughter, sister, aunt, cousin, friend, volunteer, employee, boss, entrepreneur, piano teacher - there are so many roles I play. I enjoy having all these varied experiences, but there is one area that I tend to neglect - ME!
This week between Christmas and New Years is one of the best times to recharge your battery. During my time off, I plan to reflect on the past year, plan for the new one, rest, relax, enjoy things I want to do, make memories with my family, declutter and purge, and reorganize. Try this quick list of tasks to help you transition from the holidays to the new year!
2. Purge - after receiving Chirstmas gifts, you are more likely to be willing to part with old items around the house. I start with my kids' rooms where most of the new "stuff" from the holidays tends to end up. We do a system of 20 minutes at a time of hard core work, going through every item and nook and cranny. I have two kids so while one kid is decluttering with me in their room, the other gets some screen time. We alternate until we are done. I can't wait to complete the purging process in my own space as well - look out small appliances, your days may be numbered!
4. Reflect - try the exercise I did last year of asking yourself questions about the past year to help set your focus for the new year. Look back through your calendar as a family and reminisce about all the things you did over the past year. This is a great time to review your photos and make a family photo album. Review the goals you set for yourself last year and note your progress.
6. Relax - choose some things that you love to do, and make the time to do them. For me this includes taking bubble baths, reading, getting a massage or a pedicure, writing, watching TV, going to the movies, organizing (I know, I'm a geek!), playing board games, playing the piano, getting together with friends, and hanging out with my kids and husband.
By next week's post I should have finished steps 1-5 and will still be enjoying step 6! I will share with you some of my reflection and planning process next time. Happy Holidays!
A woman with many roles in life who knows the necessity of keeping things in order!
My Life In Laughter