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As a professional organizer, one of the services I offer my clients is life management consultations. I help clients sort through the demands on their time, identify priorities, and develop a plan that will reduce stress and increase peace. Most moms I work with suffer from feeling overwhelmed.
I’ve noticed a few things these moms have in common.
-To do lists are unreasonably long for the amount of hours in the day. Often these lists are stored in the brain. .
-With many various obligations vying for time, there is no obvious place to start.
-Avoiding things that we just don’t want to do, but need to be done.
If you can relate to any of the above statements, follow these steps toward a happier, peaceful, and more fulfilling life. During this high-level overview, I will reveal to you my trade secrets on how I help my clients. Each step of this process could be an entire chapter of a book, but I’m summarizing it for you in one blog post.
Step 1) Brain-dump
Take the time to write down every single thing you need to do that is on your mind. These can range in size from go back to college to call your sister. You spend so much time trying to retain the mental list, you lose valuable productivity. All of these things are taking up good space in your brain and when your brain starts to feel too full, you go into stress mode and things start falling through the cracks.
Step 2) Sort
Items on your list will fit into one of the following quadrants. Go through your list and number each with its corresponding number. This list is now your master to do list that you will use nightly to plan your next day, but not the list you’ll look at throughout the day.
Step 3) Plan
Each night, plan your next day. See the form below that I use to guide myself through the day. It is a pretty simple form – one page covers 2 days (I cut them apart). Let’s walk through this planning process while you fill out a form for tomorrow. Making a daily habit of this could change your life.
- Put the date on the top line.
- Start with filling in tasks and appointments that have a pre-defined time. Block off the amount of time each takes. For instance, if your child’s sport activity is from 4-5, block off a little bit before 4 until a little after 5. Block off the time it will take for meal times, bed times, and other daily routines.
- If there is anything important that you have been putting off, plan that into your day first. Maybe it is a big project that can’t be completed in one sitting. Commit yourself to do it for an allotted time, like “work on taxes for 1 hour.” Getting started is often the hardest part!
- Schedule into your day the important tasks from quadrant #2. This may surprise you that we aren’t starting with #1. If we don’t plan on these quiet, but important things, they don’t get our attention. Any of these things ignored over time, will wreak havoc on every other part of our lives. Even block in time with your kids and time with your husband. Again, set aside the entire time so it is obvious other things can’t be planned in that time-frame.
- Schedule into your day the items from quadrant #1 that are urgent and important. If an important thing is paying bills, estimate the amount of time and block it off. Do not overfill your day! If you have already run out of room in your schedule, make sure you picked the most important things to focus on and save the rest. Most things aren’t as urgent as we feel.
- Consider carefully the tasks from quadrant #3 and plan into your day what you can. Often the sense of urgency for these items is coming from an exterior source, and because of pressure to please someone else (like promptly replying to an email or phone call), some quadrant #3 tasks can go parading as #1. If left unlimited, these tasks can often steal our entire day. Be wary of quadrant #3!
*Schedule time to purge your list. Go through the entire master to do list and highlight the things that will literally only take a few minutes. Set aside an amount of time (maybe an hour) and do as many of those tasks as possible, even the unimportant ones. This helps reduce the clutter on the master to do list and consequently reduces the mental clutter.
An example day:
Step 4) Rinse and Repeat
Use up those lists and then start again. I renew my master to do list every Saturday night, so I can feel the peace of a fresh start every Sunday.
I love crossing things off as I go throughout my day. I especially love when something takes less time than I expect and I find myself with an extra few minutes to do something I enjoy. Sometimes things come up in our day that we cannot plan for, like the school nurse calling you to pick up your sick child. The list can wait – your sick child cannot. Toss aside any guilt when these valid excuses come up. Enjoy your time snuggling on the couch! Just be sure that you know the difference between those interruptions and the un-important ones.
Quit living in a frenzy. Make a plan and live it. Adapt throughout the day as necessary. Just keep trying and you will get better with practice! Once you get the hang of planning your life one day at a time, you will drastically increase your productivity, which will give you more time for the important things in your life.
My friend Katie from Building a House of Love (who actually lives locally and is an amazing elementary teacher) made an awesome printable of the daily plan. I totally use her printout EVERY DAY. I love it. Download that free printable HERE. It looks like the image below, except 2 per page, so you’ll just use a half-sheet per day. Be sure to tell me how this works for you!