For too long, I let my day control me instead of getting in control of my day. I felt tossed around by the various needs of my job, my household, and my outside responsibilities. I was busy without any sense of real accomplishment. I would start too many things at the start of the day and fizzle out by the end. I felt like a chicken with its head cut off and was losing track of too much.
When I started this blog and added another thing to my plate (knowing, by the way, that another child was on the way!), I knew I needed to figure out how to master my schedule and regain control of my day.
Through the recommendations of others; books, courses, and webinars; and trial and error, I have developed habits and systems that have finally given me that sense of calm I was looking for and have helped me accomplish more than I ever have before!
Here are 8 of my best tips for taking back control of your day and your life!
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8 Tips for Organizing Your Schedule (& Getting More Done!)
Paper/Digital Planner Combo (Yes, both!)
For years I was a staunch paper planner user. I loved everything about keeping a paper planner – picking it out, flipping through it, writing in it. Yep, I was convinced I would never switch to a digital version.
But … I didn’t always have my planner on me. And sometimes I forgot to consult it. And it didn’t provide enough space to write everything I needed to write. I finally had to come to terms with the fact that a paper planner just wasn’t cutting it for me anymore.
After taking Crystal Paine’s free Make Over Your Calendar course, I switched to Google calendars. I loved being able to access my calendar at all times via my phone, and it worked well for me to schedule tasks to a specific day as soon as I thought of them. But I really missed seeing everything on my calendar at a glance, I wanted more flexibility to write things where and how I wanted, and I had recently fallen in love with time-blocking, which I found much easier to do on paper than on a device.
So now I actually use both a paper AND a digital planner. This may seem like overkill, but for someone who tends to be rather scatterbrained and needs lots of structure and organization, it works! I use a digital system to keep running to-do lists and organize big picture/long-range projects, and a paper planner for my day-to-day scheduling and time-blocking.
If you’ve tried a variety of paper planners and digital calendars and you still find yourself losing track of your schedule and to-do’s, consider trying my system!
Brain dump my to-do’s
Here’s something I’ve learned about myself: I cannot rely on my short-term memory for anything! In the past, when an idea would come in my head, I would think, “Oh, I’ll remember that.” Nope. Not anymore. I’ve been burned too many times by that pesky memory of mine. I know myself well enough now to know that I have to write things down right away or they will disappear with the wind. As soon as I think of something I need to do, I whip out my phone and take note of it. This “brain dumping” has become my best friend, and it’s one of my strongest recommendations for anyone who, like me, tends to be very scatterbrained.
For more recommendations like this, be sure to check out my free mini-ebook on how I organize my cluttered mind!
As I mentioned, I love time-blocking my days. This is something I picked up from Crystal’s course, and it seriously revolutionized my days! Some days I get lazy and decide to just fly by the seat of my pants, and I always notice a HUGE difference.
What it involves is simply breaking my day up into chunks of time and writing down exactly when I’m going to do the things on my task list. Here’s an example:
5:30 – 6:00 Quiet Time
6:00 – 7:00 Time with Levon, Aidan breakfast, start one load laundry
7:00 – 7:30 Work out
7:30 – 8:30 Shower/Get ready
8:30 – 9:30 Chore #1 from to-do list
10:00 – 11:00 Groceries
11:30 Make Lunch
12:00 – 1:00 Lunch/Play time
1:00 – 2:00 Aidan TV time/Chore #2 from to-do list
2:00-4:00 Aidan nap/Lisa blog
4:30 Start dinner
5:00 – 6:00 Dinner
6:00 – 7:00 Clean up/Play time
7:00 – 7:30 Bedtime routine
7:30 – 9:30 Evening routine (more on that later)
Time blocking is great because it keeps me focused and on-task. It also shows me when I have overestimated how much I can get done. By writing down exactly when I’m going to do everything, I can be more realistic about my to-do list.
Even though I’ve gotten away from it somewhat in favor of my Evernote system, I do still love Google Calendars. I like that I can create different calendars for different areas of my life, color code them, and layer them how I want. I like how easy it is to add events from emails and texts and that I can sync them between my computer and my phone. A final feature that I love about Google Calendars is that I can add recurring events, saving me from having to write them down every time.
Single-tasking (as opposed to multi-tasking)
I know, moms are supposed to be master multi-tackers, but I am just not. And actually, I’ve read from several productivity experts that most people aren’t capable of multi-tasking well. And there’s the key word – “well.” I can try to do lots of things at once, but I usually end up flustered and in the midst of a mess. When I try to do everything at once, nothing gets done well. I have learned that I am much more efficient when I force myself to complete one task before moving on to the next.
I have also learned the art of compartmentalizing my day, which has significantly increased my productivity. During the part of my day that I’ve designated for housework, I only do housework. During my blogging time, I only work on blog-related tasks. I’m constantly tempted when other things come up to take care of them “really quickly,” but I force myself to stick to the job at hand. I accomplish more this way, and I don’t feel so torn in a million directions.
Planning for the week on Sunday
When you’re a mom, days can fly by in a blur of meals, diapers, cleaning, and all the other things that we do. I find it really difficult to stay on top of my tasks and responsibilities one day at a time. I feel much more prepared for each day, and forget far fewer important items, when I spend a little time on Sunday planning for the week ahead. I look over my calendar, making note of activities and events, make a to-do list, and assign each task to a specific day of the week.
Another component of my Sunday planning session is meal planning. This is an absolute must for me to remain cool, calm, and collected during the week. Few things stress me more than having to scramble to figure out what to have for dinner!
Prepare the evening before
I’ve written an entire post about how I made over my evenings. Changing the way I ended my day significantly improved how much I got done and how I felt the next day. If your mornings are frazzled and frantic, maybe it’s actually your evenings that are the problem! If you want to learn how to make the most of your nights, I highly encourage you to take Crystal Paine’s Make Over Your Evenings course. To learn more about my experience with it, read my post How I Made Over My Evenings (And Restored Balance to My Life).
This is by far my #1 secret weapon for staying mentally (and digitally) organized. Want to learn more about how I use this super handy app and the life-changing system I devised with it? Get my FREE mini-ebook, How to Organize Your Entire Life: The Ultimate Answer to a Cluttered Mind!
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