Once upon a time, I was a woman who had it all together. I was queen of my life, and all my subjects fell in line. My house was clean; my bills were paid two weeks ahead of time like clockwork; my daughter never went anywhere in dirty, nonmatching clothes; my work life was the perfect balance of challenge and comfort; I was completely organized; I had leisure time; and everything was in harmony. And then something happened. I don’t know what (and I don’t have time to investigate it). Ali put it best: I broke.
Chaos usurped me. I am no longer ruler of my life, and my subjects have scattered. My house is not clean; my bills are paid but just on time; my daughter, well, she creatively dresses herself, sometimes out of the dirty laundry; my work life is a game of catch-up; I am not at all organized; I have no leisure time and resent it to the point of making leisure time when I shouldn’t; and everything is out of balance. What’s awful is that I haven’t challenged Chaos for the throne; I’ve accepted my defeat. Until now.
There was a reason I was so together back in the day. I wrote the book on time management. Literally. I was a ghostwriter for a successful time management book. Managing my time effectively and efficiently was second nature to me. Not so much anymore. But I’m going to get my life back, and I’m going to start by dusting off that book.
Obviously we don’t have room in this blog post to delve deeply into time management techniques, and who has time for that anyway? So, I’m going to begin with a few easy household tips that will make a significant difference and possibly just provide me with enough motivation to move on to the next battle.
- Stick with it. I have an awful habit of creating cleaning mazes. I pick up Story’s socks in the living room, take them to the laundry, see an empty paper towel roll on the way, go into the garage to get a fresh roll and back into the kitchen to replace it, see the bowl of unfinished cereal left on the table, wash out the bowl and put it into the dishwasher, notice the dog needs water, fill it up, wonder how long it’s been since I watered the plants, fill up the watering can, and so on. The living room doesn’t get cleaned. By the time I get back into that room, my cleaning time is up, and because I haven’t made any significant progress, I get discouraged. It is much more efficient to stick with a project until it is completed or the allotted time is up. As a bonus, you’ll either reach completion or see progress, either of which could get the dopamine flowing.
- Delegate. A little while back, I saw one of those charts that depicted what chores children should be doing at what ages. I am totally not utilizing my child to her fullest. As a friend described her child, Story also has the responsibility of a toddler. I’ve always struggled with delegating. It’s just easier to do it myself most of the time. But now that Story is older, she can certainly help out more around the house. She can do those tasks that are appropriate for her age and ability, freeing up some of my time to accomplish other things.
- Plan for the week. I’m not fond of cooking or chaotic mornings. On Sunday, I would do all the cooking for the week and lay out or plan for all outfits, school lunches, and anything else that could make for a stressful morning. (I saved money by doing this, since I didn’t eat out very often and wouldn’t wash less than a washer-full load of clothes.) Also, I would create the week’s to-do list, which allowed me to prepare mentally for the upcoming chores.
- Touch paper once. I love paper. I love the look of it, the feel of it, the smell of it. And looking around my house, you’d think I’m getting dangerously close to being a paper hoarder. Back in the good ol’ days, I touched paper once. In other words, I dealt with it immediately. After getting the mail, I would sort it and put it in its proper place, most often the recycle bin, instead of laying it on the counter to deal with later and thus avoiding the piles that would take over rooms. Files were organized and I could find any document I needed when I needed it. It’s gonna take me a while to sort through all the piles I have now, but following this rule will help me avoid adding to them.
- Turn off the TV. I’m going to have a hard time with this one. TV has become my love, my partner; it’s always there for me, it’s only purpose is to please me, and it provides me a great escape from the stressors of life. Of course, Chaos controls the television as well, and I don’t have much, if any, time to watch it without losing precious sleep. But I’ve found a very clever way around this: I turn the TV on for background noise while doing household chores, reasoning that I am getting work done and getting a little quality time with my love. Except it doesn’t really work out that way. I waste a lot of time with those quick five-minute stops to catch up on what’s going on while dusting or in taking a break from all that hard work I’ve been doing “just for a minute,” which turns into an entire episode. It never ends well; I resent the television from taking me away from work and I’m disappointed in myself for giving in. However, if I just keep it turned off in the first place, I won’t have to suffer. This may require Story hiding the remote for a bit, but it will be worth it.
Once I’ve mastered these, I’ll move on to time management at work and in my personal life. Wish me luck!
If you have any time management tips you’d like to share, we’d love to hear them!