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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pick Three Things That You Want to Accomplish Each Day

This is for those of us that have a constant, running to-do list that's a mile long. I don't care whether you are a full-time, stay-at-home mother, a corporate executive who flies on airplanes every week around the world or are a retiree living in a condo overlooking the ocean. I want you to set manageable, reasonable limits, goals & dreams for yourself. Part of simplicity is getting back to doing what's important, and letting go of what isn't.

I used to keep a monstrous lifetime to-do list, a yearly to-do list (five years out at a time, including the current year), a monthly to-do list, a weekly one, and finally, a daily one. They all descended like some weird food chain in my life. I followed a day-runner system- which is so aptly named- that cost me $50-$60/year to set up. I spent hours on those lists, especially in time for the new year on Jan. 1st, convincing myself the next year would be my most fruitful yet. I lived for writing down these lists. Refining them. Trying to stick to them. Beating myself up when I didn't stick to them (that was my most frequent activity, though it was oddly enough nowhere on any of my to-do lists...) I made myself crazy. I didn't live in the moment- I lived in the life that I hoped to have "someday", if God answered my prayers, if I was good enough, if I could stick to things well enough- you get the picture. And, don't get me wrong, I got things done this way. I'm not putting down this system. It just didn't work for me. If anything that I just wrote resonates with you, please read on.

I got rid of the planner. (Collective gasps are going off right now, I can just hear them.) I now own a wall calendar, use the Google calendar online & write down three things to accomplish on my to-do list every day, and that's it. I'm going to go through these things one by one, don't worry, and I'll explain how they work for me infinitely better than the old planner system did.

The wall calendar is in a spot where all in my household can see it. On it goes doctor's visits, haircut appointments, my dinner menu, birthdays- things everyone in the household needs to know about. I don't have to spell it all out for you, but this gives you an idea of what occasions should be on the calendar. Where you place this is entirely up to you. Don't be afraid to experiment. Personally, mine is within reaching distance of my desk, in my home office. My home office is my hub, and my wall calendar is an extension of that. Some people put their calendar in the bathroom- hey, think about it, everyone has to go in there at some point during the day! Others like it in the kitchen, especially because it contains their dinner menu (more to come on dinner menus in future blogs). Know in advance that I'm going to bring FlyLady up a lot. I'm not telling you to sign up for her program, I'm not affiliated with her in any way, and I'm not officially endorsing any products. I'm just letting you know what works for me. Her wall calendar is the biggest & the best that I've found. It holds almost all of the info I need to write down for each day, and then some. It's really strong & has a nice pocket in the back, to hold concert tickets, greeting cards, etc. Don't get a calendar that's too small- especially if you write big. Everyone in the family should feel free to write on it. People are incredibly creative, and if you go out on the web, you can get more awesome ideas to personalize & organize your calendar. I write in black ink for events, purple ink for my dinner menu, red for something that I have to do monthly & green to cross out the previous day (that helps me keep track of what day it is!) I love to write with fine point Sharpie pens, because they're dark & make my handwriting clearer, but use whatever you like.

The Google calendar, for me at least, is more personal. I'm in charge of it, and I alone view it. I'm not ashamed of it, but I'm able to add things like "Buy a new coat for Sabrina's graduation gift", without Sabrina knowing in advance that I'm doing that, thus ruining the surprise. My Google calendar has all the same info on it as my wall calendar, but it's also spectacular for items that repeat constantly (like working out, doing a load of laundry daily, paydays, etc.) Having to write out my routines in long-hand every day would be the biggest pain in the neck I could ever think of. I'm no genius- I need my Google calendar to remind me that today is my uncle's birthday, that I have to wash the dining room tablecloth periodically, when I last washed the bedroom comforter, and more. The Google calendar is wonderful to keep running lists on- if I know I'll be shopping on the 1st of the next month, I can add things to the list throughout the period beforehand as I think of them. Yes, of course you can do that on paper- but my Google calendar can't get lost or thrown away- paper can, of course. It works for me. I have a daytime routine of things I want to achieve around the house every day, an evening routine & a before-bed routine. With the Google calendar, I can add or delete items on these lists as needed. If they were solely on paper, I'd be going through an awful lot of Wite-Out to fix the constant changes I make to these lists!

Finally, the three items a day on the to-do list is what helps me make little personal goals for myself, things which aren't usually repeat items, and that I don't want to waste calendar space on. They may also be on my Google calendar, though. I write this on either my memo pad that goes in my purse, or on my computer's Notepad, depending upon my schedule for the day. The reason that I say three is because, on a normal day, it's a manageable amount to achieve. The goals can range from "Write Grandma an email back", "Call back Nancy about job offer" or "Eat the leftover salad in the fridge". They're important things to me, but things that I may be hesitant to get done (good old procrastination at work there). It is my personal way of pushing myself just a tad, pleasing "the planner" in me, and yet still living for today. Now, if I'm sick, have a lot to do outside the home, or am on vacation, the daily to-do list is usually not on the plate for that day. Or I may drop it down to just getting one important thing done.

As I've said before, and I'll say many more times in the future, please don't feel that you have to start doing all of this at once. It took YEARS for me to build this system up, and tweaking it is a lifelong process. Start simple. I'm giving you a picture of my daily life now, but please know that five years ago, not one piece of this puzzle was in place. Be patient with yourself, your life & your health. And, as always, adapt the system to suit your life, tastes, personality, energy level & health.

Peace to you,

Liz

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