Read an ExcerptTHE BUSY MOM'S GUIDE TO A HAPPY, ORGANIZED HOME FAST SOLUTIONS TO HUNDREDS OF EVERYDAY DILEMMAS
By KATHY PEEL
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2008 Kathy Peel
All right reserved.
Chapter One MANAGING TIME AND SCHEDULING
We can all learn a lesson from attorneys. No doubt you've heard plenty of jokes about lawyers and their billable hours. Actually, the way they see their time-as very valuable-is the way we, as Family Managers, should look at our own time. When you view your time as a commodity, like money, you can look at your days and identify whether you spend too much in one area.
If you constantly feel breathless and behind, this chapter is a good place to begin reading to find ways to restore sanity to your life. Think back on yesterday. Did you lose an hour at the grocery store because you went at a high-traffic time of day? Did you talk too long on the phone with that friend who bends your ear about her problems when you really needed to spend time with your son? Were you late for an appointment because you spent an hour looking for your daughter's ballet shoes because she hadn't put them in their designated place? Can you think of other ways precious minutes slipped through your hands? If so, don't get down on yourself. Recognizing the problem is the first step to solving it.
Taking some time to think about how your time is spent every day is an important exercise. It will help you identify your priorities-whether you're living according to yours or someone else's, forwhatever reason-and it's the first step necessary for becoming a good manager of the minutes of your day.
Minutes is the key word in that last sentence, because to be a good manager of your family's calendar and daily schedule, you must, like an attorney, see not just the hours but the minutes of your day as valuable. Wouldn't it be helpful if someone invented a way to stop the clock for a full day so we would all have a large, uninterrupted block of time to catch up with everything we're behind on or accomplish a big project? This might make a good story line for a film, but when it comes to reality, we have to catch up and keep up in real time-which for most of us means seeing small bits of time as treasure. You'd be surprised how much you can accomplish when you start using the snippets of time you grab here and there. Granted, you may not be able to scrapbook every age and stage of your 10-year-old daughter's life, but you'll make progress every time you work on a page-which will make you feel better about yourself-and eventually the project will be finished!
It's also important to live in the present as well as the future. That's right, we need to live in two tenses. Here's what I mean.
Living in the present has everything to do with living one day at a time-being prepared for the day's responsibilities, using the minutes of the day wisely, and being alert for and enjoying each day's blessings. Living in the future means thinking ahead about what you want to happen-tomorrow, next week, or next month-and what needs to happen for a goal to be met, using small bits of time along the way to prepare for the future event.
For example, let's say today is Monday and your schedule includes taking your toddler to the pediatrician for a checkup, then dropping him by the house of a friend who said she'd watch him while you do cafeteria duty at your third grader's school. You also have a roofer coming to give you a bid in the afternoon, so when lunch is over you go back to your friend's house, pick up your toddler, go home, and put him down for a nap. You get the mail, check your e-mail, and hope that the roofer is punctual because you can't be late to pick up your third grader. If you're not near the front of the pickup line, you can't get her home in time to have a snack and get her changed into her soccer uniform before your neighbor picks her up for practice.
Let's stop here to look at what has transpired. You definitely needed to be present in the present, giving your full attention to driving, caring for your toddler, listening to the doctor, giving your friend instructions, and making sure you put the right foods on the trays at school.
But let's say you also looked at your calendar this morning and saw that your daughter's Scout troop is having an overnight campout on Friday, and you need to remind her to start gathering the stored camping gear she'll need. You also notice that the annual neighborhood garage sale is two weeks away (you remind yourself how that extra $200 came in handy last year), and you need to start a stash of items you want to sell. And you see that you made a note that Thursday is the last day to sign up for the women's retreat, and you haven't registered yet. You get the picture. We all have to consciously work on today and tomorrow at the same time.
One mom with three closely spaced children (grades one through three) told me it was hard for her to think about tomorrow and the next day because she could barely make it through all she had to do today. She wondered how she could possibly add any future tasks to her already overstuffed days. What she didn't realize-giving birth to three children in three years, who can blame her for responding slowly?-is that by looking ahead and doing what she could to prepare for tomorrow, she could make each "today" go a lot better. When she did start living in two tenses, she noticed big differences in her life.
Mornings had been nothing short of madness. She refused to make lunches the night before school because there were too many other end-of-the-day tasks to tackle, not to mention helping her kids finish their homework and get in bed at a decent hour. Her routine was to pack lunches in the morning. Yet she felt as if from the moment her feet hit the floor, she was trying to beat the clock. Often she had to make an additional midmorning trip to school to deliver the kids' lunches. (Did I mention this mom's other routine was hitting the snooze button on her alarm three times before getting out of bed?)
She knew that madness is not the best way to start the day. A frazzled mom means frazzled kids. No mom likes sending her kids off without smiles on their faces and sandwiches in their lunch boxes.
Since it was clear that mornings weren't working, she started to experiment. What if she cut up extra veggies for the kids' lunches when cooking dinner? What if she gave her eight-year-old the job of cleaning out the lunch boxes, building and bagging turkey-and-cheese sandwiches (hold the mayo until morning), and storing them in the fridge to pack the next day? And what if her seven-year-old was in charge of readying each lunch box with a napkin, plastic utensils, and a water bottle? This simple change in routine gave her more time in the morning. Having more time in the morning made her relax. Once relaxed she could connect with her kids-instead of yelling at them. She was happier. They were happier. And she even got to have a cup of coffee. She became a staunch believer in living in two tenses, doing what she needed to do today and grabbing a few minutes here and there to make progress toward tomorrow.
Once you start living in two tenses, you realize the importance of protecting your time. When you anticipate future needs while managing those routine yet vital tasks, you naturally want to guard your minutes and spend them on what's most important to you and your family.
Yet even with the best of planning, we all can end up frustrated when projects and people who weren't even on our radar screens take up time we hadn't planned to spend. Being a mom requires flexibility and guarantees interruptions. In many ways our time is not our own, and that's one of the sacrifices and privileges that comes with being a parent. Children-and life events-are predictably unpredictable. Every hour of every day brings events, episodes, and exchanges we cannot control. But some we can. Before we can get a handle on them though, it is imperative that we know what's most important to us. This section will help you organize your day, identify time wasters, take advantage of small chunks of time, and discover new ways of multitasking.
Strategies and Solutions for Time and Scheduling
As a young mom, I collapsed into bed many nights wondering exactly what I'd accomplished that day. In essence, the Family Manager system developed out of my own sense of desperation. Over the years, I discovered three keys to managing my time rather than letting it control me: (1) recognizing and living by my priorities, (2) setting up a Control Central-a base of operations-within my home, and (3) learning how to take back control over the minutes of my day.
STEP 1: LIVE BY YOUR PRIORITIES
Every business leader sets the course for her company. She decides what's most important and establishes guidelines-things like return policies, hours of operation, and employee incentive programs-thatreflect the values she considers most important. Running a home and a family should be no different. If you aren't clear on your most important objectives for each of the seven departments, it is likely that you'll end up frustrated and find that life is controlling you, rather than vice versa.
For example, let's say you wanted to take your seven-year-old budding paleontologist to the traveling dinosaur exhibit at a nearby state park, but it's now been shipped to the next state. What happened? Perhaps you believe it's very important to notice and encourage your child's interests, but you've never actually stated that as one of your priorities. So while the day trip to the state park was an option on several Saturdays, catching up on laundry and clearing the week's clutter always seemed more urgent. As a result, you missed the opportunity for an unforgettable day with your child.
Maybe you can relate because you realize that you, too, have not been living by your priorities. All of us face numerous obstacles that keep us from setting priorities and ordering our lives the way we would like. You may relate to the big three I fight in my own life:
1. Circumstances. Until we decide it's vitally important that we take an hour or so to go someplace quiet and think about what's important to us, the natural course of life will carry us out of control along a path of minimal accomplishments, meaningless activities, frustration, and mediocrity.
2. Expectations and pressure from others. We are all prone to succumb to the agendas of others, appropriate the goals of our culture, and compromise. Let's be honest-peer pressure is not just a teenager's problem. It's a lifelong issue. And it's never too late to start standing on your own and supporting your priorities.
3. Love of the comfortable. We tend to arrange life as best we can to avoid pain and to maintain personal comfort. The problemis that, until we step out of our comfort zones, we experience no significant change for the better, no personal growth, and no relational development. It may be time to sacrifice now for a long-term payoff.
If you want things to change, there's no better time than now to begin incorporating some new tactics and activities into your life that will produce positive change.
First, for each of the seven departments, you need to choose your priorities and decide to live by them. How you spend your time in each department speaks volumes about what your true priorities are-and if you're not spending time the way you'd like, you have to ask whose priorities you're living by.
Maybe you agree that living by priorities is a great idea-but you feel too overwhelmed by life to sit down and figure out what's most important to you. Perhaps you're thinking, I'm so busy I can't even take time to sort them out, let alone live by them. I urge you not to fall into this trap.
I suggest you think about one day at a time. You might even want to use a small notebook in which you write your top priorities. Then, as you make choices during the day, simply jot down a few words about the choice you made and how it did or did not fit your stated priorities. You're not doing this to beat yourself up. You're doing it to become conscious of your actions.
Establishing your priorities will give you a yardstick against which to measure the many decisions you must make about how to spend your time and resources. Whether it's a small but important decision like whether to join a Pilates class or ask a neighbor to walk with you three mornings a week, or an important life choice like whether to take a part-time job to ease monthly cash flow or spend more time tutoring a child whose grades are slipping in math and science, these nine steps will help you navigate through the decision and change processes as smoothly as possible.
1. List your options. Just brainstorm and let the ink flow. Don't edit at this point.
2. Think about your choices. Sort your feelings about the options you wrote.
3. Relate your choices to your priorities. What's really most important to you?
4. Think about how your choices will affect other members of your family.
5. Make a decision and a commitment to follow through on it.
6. Help yourself stick to your decision by telling someone what you've decided-become accountable to that person.
7. Be realistic about when you can make the change or start your new habit or action.
8. Launch your new practice as strongly and vigorously as possible. Make it a big deal.
9. Avoid too many changes at once. Whenever you can, plan major life changes-houses, jobs, adding to the people who live at your house-so they do not occur at the same time.
STEP 2: SET UP A BASE OF OPERATIONS WITHIN YOUR HOME
Every manager needs a Control Central-be it a desk, a countertop, or an office. In a company, it's the place from which he or she calls the shots. In a home, it's the place from which the Family Manager organizes, tracks the family's schedule, notes changes, responds to messages, makes lists, and keeps all those important papers in their places. By setting up your own Control Central, you can better oversee your family's comings and goings and manage the countless tasks, responsibilities, and decisions that are made every day. In short, by becoming more efficient, you'll save precious moments that can be redirected to your larger priorities.
Here are ideas to consider when setting up your own base of operations:
Choose a central location in your home. Make sure it has a desk or countertop you can work on. Install a bulletin board in this area, and place a trash can within easy reach. If possible, a filing drawer should be easily accessible.
Hang a family calendar on an adjacent wall. Record each person's appointments, activities, and important dates.
Stock Control Central with pens, pencils, a highlighter pen, and some notepads for jotting down ideas and recording phone messages.
Pull together the following supplies and keep them at Control Central: paper clips, stapler, staples, staple remover, rubber bands, scissors, tape, and letter opener. Let family members know that these supplies must stay in their new home.
Put a copy of your local phone directory here, as well as a list of the numbers your family regularly calls. This is also the home for directories from church, school, home-owners associations, clubs, and other groups.
Keep an ongoing grocery and personal-needs list here so family members will always know where to add items you're running low on.
Have an easy-access file for takeout menus and coupons.
Purchase stackable in-boxes and label one for each child. Place them near your Control Central. When kids get home from school, have them unload their backpacks right away and put important papers and forms in their in-boxes. Mom or Dad should go through kids' in-boxes each night and review contents, signing and returning any papers that need to go back to school.
Daily Hit List
One of a mom's biggest challenges is remembering all the tasks that need to be done each day. Years ago I designed the Daily Hit List to manage my own daily responsibilities. It's different from other to-do lists because it enables you to categorize your many jobs by each Family Manager department. Using a Daily Hit List will:
declutter your mind by providing a systematic way to sort through the myriad chores and responsibilities that you face every morning
clear your perspective, revealing what's trivial and what's priority
clarify which tasks only you can do and which can be delegated or shared
improve your memory through the exercise of writing details
help you remember what steps to take today so whatever's coming tomorrow will run more smoothly
As you begin to use a Daily Hit List, accept that you won't always be able to check off all of the tasks on your list at the end of the day. Move unaccomplished tasks to the next day's list, or delete the ones you deem unimportant for now.
Excerpted from THE BUSY MOM'S GUIDE TO A HAPPY, ORGANIZED HOME by KATHY PEEL Copyright © 2008by Kathy Peel.Excerpted by permission.
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