I have been asked a few times lately how I manage everything on my plate, so I thought I would share. Before I dive into it, I know that everyone is busy. I don’t have some overly-busy-I’m-super-important-all-the-time kind of view of my schedule or to-do list. A lot of my busy comes from the fact that I like being busy and productive, so I take a lot on and throw some extra stuff in just for fun. Sometimes I get overwhelmed or tired and I have to pull back a little bit and I’m getting better at learning my limits.
I wish I had some terrific system to keeping myself organized, but I don’t. I like doing things more than I like planning them. I know I drive some people nuts with that trait. I drop the ball on things more than I like. I actually had a phone meeting scheduled today. The phone rang and I answered and I must’ve had that, “Oh yeah, we had a meeting, but I forgot about it until I saw your number on the caller ID” sound to my voice, because the first thing she said was, “You forgot about our call, didn’t you?” It was spooky. So, I’m going to share what I do, but don’t expect organizational brilliance.
I finally got an iPad and, other than using it to watch Netflix and play puzzle games like The Room, I use it as my planner and calendar.
It has helped me a LOT. I was always a paper calendar kind of girl and never clicked with Blackberries or Outlook calendars or Google Calendars or anything like that. The calendar on the iPad is a lot like a paper calendar, so it’s easy for me to use.
I also use it for notes and lists.
For more detailed projects, I keep an old fashioned check list. Well, I guess it’s not too old fashioned, because it’s a spreadsheet, but having a detailed checklist to track my projects and help keep me on task. I currently have 30 freelance projects I’m working on…I know. Crazy. I’m using a spreadsheet to check off every step, so I don’t get confused or miss anything.
I rarely have a set plan for what I’m doing each day. I have a general idea of what I want to accomplish in the week and then I wake up each morning and decide what I’m going to work on. Some days, I am ready to roll and know that I can tackle some big projects. Other days I just need to catch up on e-mail or editing photos or work on tedious projects, so I have a more relaxed day. It’s nice that I have the flexibility to do that. There are times when I just cannot face the sewing machine, but a paint brush in my hand is like therapy.
I try to at least have one day out of the house, usually a shopping day. And some days I have to just work on cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping and errands.
I should insert here that when I started my business, my boys were 4 months and 23 months, so both were home all day with me. Now, they are both in school all day, so I have a lot more flexibility.
Where I am strategic and more type-A, is in setting priorities. I learned to do this when my boys were home all day and most of my work was done between 8 pm and midnight. I try to squeeze as much as I can into my work day and leave small projects and things I can do at my kitchen counter for when my boys are playing happily in the afternoon or on the weekend. Sometimes they even help me with things and they’re getting old enough now to actually help. The three of us knocked out a boxwood topiary in about 15 minutes a couple of days ago.
I think the bottom line key to my productivity, though, is that I love what I do. I can’t believe it’s my job. It rarely feels like work to me. I don’t have to set goals or deadlines for myself to make sure things get done. I have to just keep myself focused on the priorities, but I usually can’t wait to get going in the morning.
Lastly, I know that reading blogs can sometimes make one feel like an unproductive loaf. Everyone is doing all of these great things and your biggest accomplishment was not getting spit up on your sweatpants and the sink is free of dishes. Just remember that there is a season for everything. And a blog can make someone look like superwoman when she’s really just another woman with fluff floating around on the hardwood floors and Cheerios under the sofa cushions. Don’t ever let the blog world make you feel like you’re somehow less.
I wrote a post When do you sleep? almost two years ago and it’s still a good answer to how I get so much done, if you’d like to read a bit more.