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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Don’t Be Ashamed to Write Down Your Routines & Post Them Throughout the House, In Your Office in a Bag Or Anywhere Else You May Need Them

My title might seem strange to you, unless you’re a born-perfectionist like me & have a brain which isn‘t quite up to snuff anymore. My memory is not what it used to be. That’s just the way it is. I try to remember everything that I need to do at all times in my head, but honestly, if it’s not written down, I may skip a step. And I won’t be skipping it on purpose- it just really won’t come to me until it’s usually too late! You’d think, as long as I’ve been doing my routines, that they’d be automatic by now. And some of them are- but it’s still easy for me to miss steps along the way. I know it’s said that if you can’t remember your routines, that they’re too complicated, but that’s simply not always correct. Not every routine can be so simplistic that the mind alone can relied upon 100%. Many a time have I started applying my eye makeup only to realize I haven’t yet put in my contact lenses- the reason being that since I only have mild near-sightedness, so it’s quite easy to forget I even need the lenses. That is, until I can’t see road signs easily when I go out for a drive! Once I’ve put the makeup on, though, odds are I’m going to have trouble putting in my contacts without something getting on them. If you’ve felt the pain of an eyelash on a contact lens stabbing you in the eyeball, you know exactly what I mean! No matter how many times I’ve done the routine, and for some of them it’s been hundreds or perhaps thousands of times now, I can still forget a step. I may remember all but one step, but the one I miss is often what can make the biggest difference.

I simply type out my routines in a size 14, easy-to-read font, the typeface colored purple in honor of The FlyLady! I space them so they’re easy to cut into simple-to-see instructions. You can put them under lamination (sheet protectors work well) & include a checkbox beside each item, then use a dry erase marker to check them off as each step is done. When the whole routine’s finished, or the next time the chore comes around, you can wipe off the dry erase ink with a damp rag & start fresh again. I don’t do all of that, though. I just printed the routines out, attached double-sided tape to the paper (since it looks neater that way), then stuck them up on my mirror in the bathroom, over the kitchen sink & wherever else I need a gentle reminder of each routine‘s steps, laid out in the right order. There would have been a time that I was too proud to admit that I can’t keep it all in my head, but those days are over.

Sometimes I’m tired, in a bit of a hurry or just have brain fog- and in those moments, I want to be able to just look at a list & go to it. Think about what a pilot has to do before lift-off can occur. They (ideally) follow a list of things to check off, a particular protocol to follow, making sure that all ground is covered on that airplane before they leave the runway. These guidelines aren’t put in place to be a noose around the pilot’s neck, which is how you may see written-out routines. No, they are a list developed after years of (sometimes deadly) in-flight trial-and-error. We should view our written-out routines with the same gratitude- someone has taken the time to make sure that everything we want to get done is laid out in an orderly manner. All we have to do is read the list, top-to-bottom & left-to-right, perform the items on the checklist, and we are given a big peace of mind for doing so. Granted, that pilot’s following of the checklist is a matter of life-and-death in some cases, and if they don’t do their job, at the very least, they could get in trouble if something wasn’t checked out & then malfunctioned. At most, a whole lot of lives could end because the checklist wasn’t followed & safety points weren’t reviewed. Many terrible accidents in history (such as the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986) were due to simple human error. The people at fault in that case didn’t deliberately do anything wrong- they never meant any harm. One of three things had to occur in these types of horrid situations- either the people didn’t have a complete list of safety precautions written out to begin with, contradictions existed in the laid-out precautions (leading to confusion or disregard), and/or the worker(s) unknowingly missed performing a vital step in an established checklist. Sometimes, a correct checklist was never even developed on a high-level basis due to laziness, or perhaps a lack of knowledge on the part of the writer. Or maybe someone in management had the checklist, but didn’t pass along the complete knowledge to everybody at the site, which would have ensured the consistency of every single worker following every step in proper order each time the routine had to be done.

You may think it’s a leap of ridiculousness for me to compare a nuclear power plant disaster to a missed step in cleaning a bathroom, for example. But even at home, not doing one step in our routines could be the beginning of a minor problem, or it could develop into a major catastrophe. Think about getting your laundry out of the dryer. If you aren’t in the habit of cleaning out your lint trap after every load, and lint builds up more & more with every passing load in that trap, never emptied out, that is a house fire waiting to happen. Granted, you probably won’t have to tape a Post-it note to your dryer to remember to clean the lint trap every time you get a load of laundry out of it. But don’t be upset if that’s exactly what you have to do. What’s more important, your pride & reputation as a “perfect” housekeeper with a perfect memory, or your safety? Sometimes we just plain get distracted while doing chores, or are absentminded that day already, for whatever reason. The occasional mistake usually isn’t cause for disaster, but when it isn’t written down somewhere that we can consult periodically, the opportunity to overlook an important practice rises again & again.

We all have stress in our lives. Don’t add to it by trying to keep everything in your head, when you know in your heart you just can‘t do it all without this kind of help. This includes doing things for our own personal grooming, cleaning the house, completing projects at our jobs on time & more. If something happens & we forget the step of, say, disinfecting our toilet bowls every time we clean them, we drastically raise the chances of viruses & other illnesses being passed on from person to person in the household. Missing a step repeatedly isn’t worth the potential price you‘ll have to pay. You shouldn’t feel like people will make fun of you if they see your bathroom swish-and-swipe instructions taped on the mirror. If they do tease you, ignore them or advise them that you simply get so much joy out of your home that you want to keep it as nice as possible- that’ll usually shut them right up! What frequently happens, though, is your guests, family & friends will see that sign & say, “Gosh, you’re so organized! Maybe I should try that trick…I might remember to do the chore more often that way.” If you feel like you just don’t want to leave signs out where all can see them, add the pages to a simple three ring binder & carry around that binder with you. Or you can use a cheap spiral memo pad & pen that you carry in your purse to jot down to-do’s & routines. Maybe you’re more of a “paperless” person. In that case, you could utilize one of the many electronic programs on modern cell phones or laptops, including alarms going off in alert & all the technology you can stand. Whatever works for you, do it. If you are brilliant enough to keep it all in your head in every case, and your routines aren’t suffering due to missed steps, then please just disregard this teaching, and more power to you. I just wanted to admit to one of my own personal weakness, and share with you how I’m overcoming it to achieve victory.

-Liz

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