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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Stripping Down Your Calendar(s) to Just the Must-Do Items

This great blog entry below made me think about what I did for myself earlier this afternoon, which was to seriously strip down my calendar from a homemaking-central schedule to that of a woman preparing for a full-time college schedule & new career beginnings:

The article from the lady who wrote the above-mentioned blog is a wife, stay-at-home mom & homemaker. So you may be wondering why I'm seeing any similarities between her & myself. It's that we read both the initial ideas of FlyLady as presented & then (mostly through trial-and-error) changed them to suit ourselves. We both decided that we were not going to feel guilty for changing, adding or subtracting things from FlyLady's list of things to do or how to get them done.We've both had to drop things off of our schedules, change some priorities & adapt, regardless of our differences in lifestyle. I'm a single & child-free woman, but the narrative is always essentially the same no matter who you are or what your lifestyle may include. That is the one consistently running theme throughout all of us who learned something from and/or follow FlyLady- there is always going to be a need for adaptation.

Some changes that I'm personally making to my schedule/calendar: Unless someone is an invalid or working an insane schedule which is leaving them virtually no time at home, I'm no longer making their bed or cleaning their bathroom up every day. I'm not sorting through their papers, doing their filing or de-cluttering their spaces unless I've got a darn good reason to AND there's moula coming into my pockets under the same circumstances. Fellow adults or older kids with working brains, legs & arms need to pick up after themselves or suffer the consequences of not doing so- that is my new rule. Doormat am I no more. I'm not putting out fires for anybody who doesn't deserve it. It's not anger inspiring this, but a mere change in my own priorities. My time & energy are valuable commodities. I will not get either my hours if I spend them foolishly, even if it is done in the name of homemaking. For all of the pursuits that I've been doing for free which take up so much of my time daily & contribute no real enjoyment to my own life, I could be contributing to others that really fulfill me- like writing this blog.

This means not only a vital change in scheduling is occurring, but also that a change is happening within my own mindset, as well. It's taking time to get used to the new mindset. I now realize that if I have the income to invest in it and my time is best spent elsewhere, I'm paying someone else to clean my oven, wash windows & do major housework from now on. That is a controversial choice for a lot of working women to make, I know, and many of us still get flack if we go for that outside help. But even if I'm home, I'm minimizing these types of chores down to levels easy even for someone like me with two bum knees, fibromyalgia & little patience. Don't get me wrong- I'm not about to go hog-wild & start hoarding. I'm merciless with dumping clutter & my minimalism isn't going to die anytime soon. Actually, I'm getting even more ruthless about buying unneeded items. I live with someone whose general shopping vices are of the temporary sort, like cosmetics- thankfully, my mother has as little patience for flea-market finds & the like as I do (i.e.- none). So while I could accuse her of laziness, I can't say that my mother does a lot of household shopping, because she doesn't. My home is still going to get dusted & vacuumed once a week- if maid service isn't in the budget, then of course I'll be doing it myself. I would never advocate letting your home go entirely to the dogs due to outside interests, because it can be disconcerting & out-of-balance. Housekeeping certainly teaches one a sense of responsibility & time management, which I'm all for. But obsessing over it is a thing of the past for me.

Here's my basic point for your life: take a good, hard look at your calendar(s) today. How many of the items on there go perpetually-undone? Be honest, because there's no reason to feel guilty about anything, and facing reality is going to help you make positive changes. Maybe they're going undone because they don't need to be on your schedule in the first place. How many of the items could get delegated to someone else? How much of your schedule is actually just unnecessary busywork? I'm no longer feather-dusting my bedroom every morning, for example. Time I've spent on that pursuit can be spent on homework, research or freelance writing instead, all of which I need to accomplish. Actually, I'm going to allow a certain amount of dust to live with me (shock of shocks, right?) because at this point I'm more interested in gaining a college degree & actually being able to afford my own place someday soon than I am with seeing a spotless house. I don't believe in ignoring genuinely-needed household cleaning or maintenance. Please don't misunderstand me, because I'm not trying to be flippant, and I have as much respect as I ever did for women who choose to be homemakers & put that first. I don't mean to turn it into anything political, because it's not about that. I'm simply entering a different phase of existence for myself. I want to keep my home as organized, minimalist & clean as I need to not to be distracted by dirt or clutter as I push towards developing other areas of my life- and that's all.

When you are planning & scheduling, you need to keep realism- not idealism- at the forefront of your brain. If you're a night owl, always have been & probably always will be, you are going to have a different schedule than someone who is an early bird. There is nothing magical about being an early bird. It's a preference many in society have, but it doesn't work for everyone, and it's time someone started speaking the truth about the subject. I know what FlyLady & others say about getting up early, going to bed early, etc.- and indeed, for some people in the world it is an absolute necessity. But for others, it is impossible to do this in the long-term & to continue trying is a difficult feat. If you have been struggling with this issue for years, you're not alone. Please read the following if you're a night person & have found FlyLady's admonition to go to bed & wake early impossible:

Just to be absolutely clear, I do NOT believe that being a night owl is at all a "disorder". I think it's just how some people are wired. Thank goodness that there are people who work nights well- nurses, doctors, truck drivers, etc. The world needs all kinds of people to keep going well. For myself, I'll say the following: Without sleeping medication in my system and/or a something absolutely forcing me to get up early (which consistently requires an alarm clock and even then is hard to accomplish), I will usually not go to bed until around four in the morning & get up around noon naturally. When allowed to follow my own sleep schedule, this is consistently the schedule that I return to, and I've been that way since birth. Many people are exactly like me, and have been told for years that they are lazy or rebellious when they're actually neither. Once I understood this, years of guilt fell away, and I've been able to appreciate the quiet night hours with renewed vigor. A lot of my best writing work occurs at night. As long as you're not sleeping overly-long hours or in another way showing signs of depression, simply not waking up or going to bed early isn't in & of itself a problem. The only sense in which you would have to view this as any type of disability is if it's affecting your work life or education negatively- in which case I strongly recommend that you attempt to get them to make the necessary accommodations. I'm not giving anyone carte blanche to stay up long past the time that you're tired enough to go to bed, and then that's the reason why you can't get up in the morning. Delayed sleep phasing is different- you will absolutely know it if this is a biological pattern you've had for years (usually since a young age) & it's not just that you're staying at the computer or watching TV anyway while your eyelids are drooping downward come midnight. True delayed sleep phase people get a metabolic boost at night which enables us to stay wide awake through the moonlit hours- and even if we attempted to go to sleep at an earlier hour, we would just lie in bed thinking of all the things we could be doing instead. People who have this can rarely (if ever) revert to being a person who will go to bed naturally at what others believe is a normal hour, such as 11 p.m. & wake up at around 7 a.m. Sleeping pills & some natural aids like melatonin can change this to a degree, but they are an absolute last-resort in my opinion, and I don't think they work well for changing the hour that we awaken very well, either. Yes, they can make a night owl go to bed earlier- but I cannot find much evidence that regular sleeping pill usage makes waking up earlier any better. Anecdotally, they've never enabled me to go to bed at a "regular" hour, just sleep the normal eight- or nine-hour cycle that works for me & get up early in the a.m. I just keep on sleeping until late morning & then I missed my late-night work time, too. That is unproductive for me, and spending twelve hours sleeping each day is indulgent even by my extremely-loose standards. If someone else in your life is like this (instead of yourself), I still encourage you to read up on this info in order to gain an understanding of the physiology behind it.

Anyway, I eliminated a lot of daily-repeat items from my schedule & I condensed a lot of other activities down to more manageable bits. The way that I was doing things before, each day included a repeat email coming to me from my calendar which included to-do items involving the home. While I still need a reminder for a few of these things, a lot of them have become habit & I no longer needed that daily review. I suggest that you regularly check these types of email or calendar reminders for editing, and if you feel comfortable doing so, remove the items that you don't need a reminder for (like making the bed for example). A few of my weekly FlyLady-based tenets, such as Wednesday's Anti-Procrastination Day, also got eliminated. Why? Because I don't procrastinate over important things anymore to begin with anymore. Once I became a more skilled prepper for activities & a knowledgeable time manager, procrastination ended because the mental blockages went away on there own. Impossible, you say? No. Am I special. Again, no. I possess neither amazing willpower, exceptional devotion nor a quest for sainthood. It's really quite a simple process. Make sure that you have everything together & in front of you for a task when you begin. If it's something like making a phone call, you might need a name & phone number, your calendar & perhaps your checkbook or a bill in your possession. Make it easier on yourself- if you're using Google Calendar, for example, put what you'll need in the subject heading or in the space where additional information can be listed in a message box. It's harder to procrastinate, and you'll feel less inclined to do so, when everything you need is right in front of you. If housecleaning is the chore at hand, putting your vacuum cleaner & a caddy filled with your favorite needed cleaning items in one easy-to-reach place will help ensure that you don't have to search all over the house before the task begins.

As far as time management goes, my quickest suggestion is that every time you write down a to-do item or a goal for yourself, also write down how much time it will take. And be a generous estimator on that time. If you need breaks in-between working periods to get a lengthier chore done, make sure that time is built in to your estimate, too. For example, if you know that it takes you two hours to clean your house & that's your to-do item, write it down accordingly. If you know that after one hour of work you need to take a break & get off your feet, add the fifteen-minute break to the two-hour cleaning time. Don't overschedule yourself. When you get more generous with the time you allot yourself, patterns might start emerging which need help. You may begin to see overlaps of scheduled items occurring on certain days- and then it's important to acknowledge that you only have so many hours in one day. You'll have to decide what can truly be scheduled on that day & what needs to be moved to another time or eliminated entirely. That is true for all of us. I don't have time to do every single thing in my life that I'll ever wish to do, and I only have a finite amount of energy- the same as everyone else. And my energy changes from day-to-day, as do my hormones, the weather & a zillion other things which throw kinks into my plans. This can be challenging to accept, but it is vital to do so for your sanity to prevail. When this is all accepted, it also means that you will very likely have to begin saying no to others more often. I sat down with my mother point-blank this week & said that my life is no longer going to revolve around the homemaking, including being home every night to make dinner. I was very clear, but I said it without blame- I've subordinated my own needs long enough, and have to begin putting myself first. It was ultimately my own decision long ago to make homemaking my priority, and playing martyr would therefore be sheer idiocy on my part. But I will not have a good life in the future if I continue down the path that I've been on, certainly not the kind of life that I want, anyway. I made it known that I have opportunities that need to be opened up for myself, and I can't do that & always be here at her beck and call. She wasn't thrilled, but I knew that she wouldn't be going in. You will have to be willing to deal with others not be happy about your choices when you make these kind of sweeping changes sometimes, I must warn you.

If minimalism's broad definition is to avoid unnecessary repetitive work, purchasing & time spent, then I'm definitely on my way to achieving it. For your sake, I hope that you feel the same way, too. Enjoy your life & drop the things from it that don't bring you any sense of happiness.

Here's to being an organized minimalist,


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