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Friday, July 27, 2012

The Process of Adding Monthly, Quarterly & Annual Chores to Your Calendar & Your Control Journal

A lot of times, things don't get done simply because they weren't written or typed down for someone to see them. If you and/or your family are relying on memory alone to get things done, and you find that important events & chores are getting missed, chances are it's because it's not on your paper/wall calendar + your own e-calendar. Any e-calendar works, but I love Google Calendar because I can have it send things that I need to do directly to my Gmail account on a timed based. In other words, if I have to run the vacuum at three p.m., I can have an email reminder sent to me an hour earlier (how early it's sent to me is at my choosing, and the span can be measured in minutes, hours, days or weeks). If I leave my calendar open in one window, as well, I can set up pop-up reminders (just like an instant messenger pops up). I personally find pop-ups annoying & don't use that feature, but it does work, especially if one's forgetful. Anyway, those emails from my e-calendar are one of the absolute most important things that have put me in a position to be able to write to you now. When I was trying to keep everything that ever needed to be done all in my head, I worried all the time if I was forgetting something. Even on a paper calendar, you have to remember to check the calendar- which I would remember to do in an ideal world, but life isn't always ideal. When what you have to do is written down, and you then accomplish those items, you are able to free up your brain for more exciting accomplishments. You can do what you want to do with the rest of your life! It's almost like getting out of a cage when you get organized. This freedom, which subsequently creates having more time on your hands, is wonderful. Don't schedule so much stuff for yourself and/or your family that you don't have time to just sit still & be, either. You know, time just to live in the moment & enjoy it. I'm all for organizing & simplifying- but the quest for it should have goals at the end of the rainbow. My big goal overall from the beginning was to not feel a prisoner to time emotionally. What do you want to do with the time given back to you by simplifying & getting organized?

What I'm presenting to you are my chores/to-do's, so that you can get an idea of what I mean by extras & maybe serve as a reminder of your own things that you want to get done. Monthly chores include bills that need to get paid, certain household chores & a couple of outside world obligations. Everyone's life is different, so I fully expect that not everything that I do will be applicable to your life. I know that you'll also need to add things to the list that I'm not doing, but hopefully this template will serve as a good starting point for you. Remember that these things need to be added to your control journal, a wall calendar (or some calendar that all in the household can see) & preferably an e-calendar which will sync to your email. Not everyone needs such a memory boost, but I know that I do, so stop feeling guilty for things that went undone because they were forgotten. Every day is a fresh start! With household chores, give yourself some wiggle room. My windows need to be cleaned quarterly, so I schedule them to be cleaned at the turn of every season- March, June, September & December. But I give myself the span of that month to get around to it. If you rigidly schedule something for a particular day every quarter, what could happen is that you or someone around you is sick, you're out of town or the weather just isn't cooperating. Power outages, family issues, career demands- all of these things throw curveballs at everyone. When you give yourself a more realistic window of time to get something done, chances are that you'll have greater success in life. Over-scheduling is a huge problem in today's society, as is underestimating the time it'll take to get a particular thing accomplished. For those of us that work in the corporate world, we've usually felt this acutely. There's nothing worse than having an hour-long meeting scheduled with your boss for an important discussion, only to have them running late from their previous meeting, checking their email while you're trying to talk & then interrupting the session just as it's getting somewhere because your time's up. Don't do that to yourself, your employees (if you're in a managerial position), your friends or your family. Obviously, emergencies come up occasionally for everyone- but your life should not be one giant emergency. If you're not sure whether or not you do this frequently to other people, ask them. They may not have wanted to say anything, especially if they thought you'd be resentful or spiteful about it. Learn to steer your perfectionism towards excellence, not rigidity. Excellence plans & allows for life's curveballs- perfectionism does not. If you're used to multi-tasking, doing things one at a time will not be easy at first. If you're used to overscheduling & running late, it may drive you nuts to have free time and/or be running early for appointments at the beginning. I highly recommend that you read Julie Morgenstern's Time Management from the Inside Out, if you have tried to de-clutter your time before only to run head-on into serious problems (especially emotional ones).

If you've never done so before, time your tasks (such as cleaning the windows) with a timer to see exactly how long they take you to complete. It's really easy to think, "Oh, this will only take a few minutes", when in fact it'll take three hours to complete a task. The reverse (thinking that something will take forever when it's actually a short span of time that's needed) leads more to procrastination than just about anything else. When we put things off, it's often because we dread the time it will take to perform the activity. The only way to know is to time it. You may also find that over time you need to allot more hours to a project because you have to add in additional breaks. This is true if you become disabled, have a baby, get an get my drift. Some tasks may actually take less time, though, because the more you perform them, the faster you go. It's like learning typing- when you first start on a keyboard, you're hunting & pecking slowly as you go. Eventually though, the keyboard gets learned by heart, your brain memorizes the path of QWERTY & you'll flow through a typing task with great speed. Daily & weekly household chores will often go faster with time due to this. You probably won't always have to refer to a checklist or be reminded to do every single task- some things will become indelibly imprinted on your brain with the habit of performing them over & over. In any event, timing yourself will help you to manage your days with much better skill. Your calendar will be a more realistic picture of how long you have to spend on each aspect of your job or life.

Also remember that there are outside people who can help you get certain extra tasks done for a fairly nominal cost. For example, maid services & similar companies offer window-cleaning services that are actually pretty inexpensive (the last time I checked in my area, the average cost was $36.00 for the entire job, if you had a two-story home). If you absolutely despise the chore, don't really have time for it or have a physical disability that would make it difficult (maybe even impossible) to complete the activity, seriously look into having this service done. Ask for references & make sure to choose a well-established company, but if you have the funds available, hiring these companies can be terrific. They'll send out a person or small group of people to clean every window inside & out, including all the sills. They bring their own equipment, including anything special that they need to do windows on a second floor or above in a home. With most companies, if the job is not done to your liking, they will come back & redo anything needed for free- never agree to anything with a company that doesn't stand behind superior customer service. Professional organizers can actually be surprisingly inexpensive to hire. Not everyone has the ability to transform a space on their own- and it's perfectly okay to acknowledge that you need outside help to finally get a room fully functional for yourself. It takes a lot of reading, purchasing of organizing products & time to learn how to organize a home. The same thing goes with learning how to clean properly. If the activity would be keeping you from doing something enjoyable & you have the finds available, hire people who have already done all of this learning & specialize in completely that chore.

Hiring outside help DOES NOT equate to laziness. It doesn't mean that you're spoiled rotten. If anyone tells you that, ignore them & don't believe them. You're just smart enough to know that your time is valuable, you know how to prioritize, plus you know your own strengths & weaknesses. Think about it this way- if you go to court & you're a defendant, chances are you're going to hire an attorney to be on your side because they know the laws better than you do, making sure that your rights are protected. That attorney spent years reading books on law, going to school & hearing lectures on the subject, cramming to pass the bar- something which isn't easy to accomplish. They'll argue your case better than you could (I would hope...), the attorney will know how to spot flaws in the accusations against you that you can't see & their experience translates to you getting a fair trial. No one considers you lazy if you hire an attorney when you have to go to court. So why are people (especially women) frowned upon if they hire a housekeeper or maid service to clean for them? They shouldn't be. We all have more than enough to keep us busy even before we add housework to the list of to-do's! Hopefully my analogy resolves any lingering guilt here for anyone.

For those that are feeling down on themselves about undone activities: If you're reading this, I know that you care about your home & life deeply- that's a given. Therefore, you're already on the road to excellence. Never think that you're mediocre or lazy when in fact you are doing an excellent job. A person of mediocrity doesn't do the things I'm writing about unless they're forced to- by visitors coming to the house or a similar outside pressure. They don't have an internal drive that wants a clean, organized home for themselves & their family- only outside intervention makes them do chores. They won't read blogs on organizing, buy books on simplicity or join FlyLady. They'll use any excuse in the world to get out of doing chores. And then there's the lazy bunch. These people won't do anything, period, even when the stakes are high. They don't care about their home, themselves or others. Even if important company is coming, they won't clean. Personal grooming is almost non-existent, or is done very poorly. This is actually a fairly rare group of individuals. But if you want to identify them in the future, I've just laid it out for you. So I know already that you are NOT a mediocre or worse, a lazy person. If anyone's ever told you that you're lazy, they're dead wrong. Change your beliefs about yourself- I'm telling you that you're a person of excellence, and I'm absolutely certain that I'm right. I know that the people who read this blog are those that go for the gold. Go out & proudly show that you are an excellent person to the world.

Here's to being an organized minimalist,


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