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managing crazy


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.

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  1. So which calender program do you use?? I have not found one that i want to run away with …


  2. Thanks for sharing – I do often scratch my head and wonder how you make it all work.

    You have that rare personality mix – artistic/creative, but also motivated/organized enough to seriously make things happen.

    That combination (along with your sweet and humble character) is what has taken you so far. :)

  3. Thanks for this! I too have often wondered how you get all this done and done so well.
    But I’ve read this post at a perfect moment as I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by my little one-man business. Thanks for the tips and the reassurance.

  4. I also use the iPad calendar and love that it syncs to my iPhone. But I am curious about your photo above that shows colored tabs and a notebook look. Can you tell me what it is? It looks much more organized and thorough than mine. Thanks!

  5. thank a good reminder I know make a list…I Did it for 38 years, and lately I have been in a fog..been on and off really ill for 6 weeks…and so tired of it all…finally turning the corner…and time to get back on the horse and get with it…..

  6. I’m getting better at time management and I too still use a paper calendar and my calendar with my email to send to reminders, but I may have to look into the iPad calendar.

  7. lori sojourner says:

    Hi, can you tell me what iPad cover you have?
    Thanks, Lori

  8. So nice of you to share this! I too have been wondering how you do it all?! You are so honest and frank about it and I really appreciate that. I never even thought of using a spreadsheet to record my projects at home. I used to have a pretty demanding job working with documentation and deadlines and I would never have wanted to carry that on to my home life. But now that I’m at home it sounds like a great idea to start recording all of those projects swirling around in my head. Another great tip Marian, you made my day!

  9. I work (very old-fashioned) with lists, written on a white paper, with pencil :-). I have a household list, next to it a business list. And I underline what the priorities are. But at the start of a business, everything feels like priority. That’s the most difficult thing for me right now: accepting that I have to take baby-steps.

  10. I just read your post ‘when do you sleep’. I had to laugh out loud when I read ‘Phineas and Ferb’. It’s exactly the same here. Every morning, tired mom with two little boys, watching Phineas and Ferb. Dubbed in Dutch, and it sounds horrible compared to the original version.

    • LOL…I love that image. :) We’re doing the same thing a world apart. They boys are old enough now that they get up on their own, so I can snuggle in bed a while longer.

  11. Just read your blog and I had to laugh to my self….as I do the same thing….a paper calender, hotmail calender, my companies calender and then the trusty envelope next to me that I scribble notes on…thanks for the tips…love your bogs

  12. Isabella says:

    Yes, it does sound good to have all this in a detailed plan! Do you think that you will someday regret putting your children in daycare each day so young? I’m just saying this as a mother and grandmother. Money was very tight for us too! I’m just wondering if you could have waited a few more years to go full steam and kept at it part time. I know that it is sometimes hard to be content as a young mom, but it goes so, so (too) fast!

    • I actually never put my kids in daycare. When they were little, I just worked around nap time and worked mostly after they went to sleep. Once they each hit two, I put them in two day a week half-day preschool. I also brought a babysitter into my home one day a week. Last year and over the summer, I had someone come watch them for a few hours each day. It was perfect because I was able to work, but they were still at home. This year, they are 4 and 6, so they are in kindergarten and full-day preK.

  13. I too am curious as to what calendar you’re using on your iPad?

  14. Elaine says:

    Could you share what the headings for the six columns are on your project spreadsheet? I think this is just what I need! Thank you!

    • That is my freelance project spreadsheet, so the columns are made, photographed, written, edited, final beauty shot and turned in. This way I know what’s been completed on what project.

      • OH. My. Word.

        I think I have like 1.5 freelance project to do and that alone overwhelms me. you have 30?! But seeing your system actually makes it seem so doable, DUH, why do I put a post it on my lamp that falls off in 3 days? you are SO SMART to do the spreadsheets with the checkmarks and progress, seriously, THANK YOU, I’m so gonna do this today, now I actually feel like I can take on more projects!!

  15. I’d love to know what calendar app you use. It looks so much more useful than the standard calendar that comes on the ipad. With seven children to keep track of, plus homeschooling, business ideas, house projects, garden plans, and my hubby’s work stuff, I need all the organizational help I can get. :)

  16. Stacey says:

    I use an old fashioned calendar still. Some weeks I can tell I am on overload. With 5 children (4 teens, one 12 yr old), homeschool, lessons, sports, a class or two at a public school, 3 teens with driver’s permits and me the only licensed driver during the day, it can be overwhelming. One day I knew it was too much, when we missed the first day of school (public) and didn’t realize it until about 2:00 in the afternoon! lol

  17. This post is why I like your blog so much! Not only are your tips practical and helpful, but the way you share them is so genuine & kind. Thank you for sharing; this has given me some good ideas for my schedule.

  18. Ah yes, Cheerios under the sofa cushion. Love it! We do love to show the pretty side of things on our blogs, don’t we? And no, it’s not all sugar and roses all the time. That’s what we should all remember, otherwise we can go crazy trying to compare ourselves to the prettiness an the perfection shown on blogs, when meanwhile, there’s Cheerios under the sofa cushion.

    Well said, Marian!


  19. Thank you for sharing…I feel I am a MUCH more productive wife and mom when I have MORE on my plate! Crazy..but true!

    I was a teacher and knew once we started a family…I wanted to be home with them. I too am working around naptime and those rare chances when my dairy farmer husband can take both girls out for a ride and check cows (I run through here like the Tazmanian Devil!) I have had a babysitter on occasion…and our oldest goes to preschool two half days as well.

    I am trying to build a business…just as you have done. I truly appreciate all that you share…and admire how you did it. I know it can be done…one day at a time!


  20. I agree with what someone above said. The most encouraging thing about your blog and your book is that it’s full of grace. Sometimes….we are just too hard on ourselves. I love it that you promote that things don’t HAVE to be perfect. Just finished your book. LOVE IT! :) k.

  21. Heather Patterson says:

    I love you for the last 2 sentences of this post.


  22. Thank you for this post. It means a lot, especially the last paragraph. I love your blog and love checking in to see how your projects are doing. You keep me motivated to keep going on my own projects.

    Take care,

  23. This is why I like your blog, you are realistic about life.

  24. Thank you for sharing!! You’re inspiring and I’m so glad I came across your blog.

  25. Andrea says:

    Thank you so much for sharing!! Your realistic outlook on day to day life gives me hope and motivation to accomplish all the creative things I want to do with my home/apartment. Thank you for your wonderful and inspiring posts! I LOVE your blog :)

  26. thank you for writing this post! lol. honestly, i’ve needed a kick in the pants with calendar organizing and each year i try and refigure what will work for me. believe it or not, i’ve never thought of using a spreadsheet, so thank you for that tidbit. i work very much like you do in that its either a sewing machine, a paint brush or a power tool that i flex with depending on my mood. i am going to go back and reread your post so that i can really glean from it.

  27. Marian, you are super woman to me! I think I might freak out a little if I had 30 projects waiting on me. :) Love the spreadsheet out and will check out the planner you mentioned. I keep an old fashioned flat planner I bought from the dollar store on my desk and some days I forget to even look at it until the afternoon…not a plan I recommend. 😉

  28. Thank you for this beautiful and honest post. As someone who wages war with an autuomunue disease, I remind myself daily that …. Some days getting people, fed, showered and out the door is a major accomplishment for us all….

    I wish as women we could all just be a little kinder to ourselves… Even God rested :)

  29. Debbie says:


    Thank you for your sweet encouragement. You are special though, so don’t sell yourself short. I still think you are SuperWoman – just don’t over extend yourself and make yourself sick. I have always heard successful people say get into something you love – that is a passion and it won’t feel like work. Health issues can certainly keep you in the teeth sometimes, but I too believe all things happen for a reason – I just hope I get the memo soon.

    God Bless

  30. I am going to try and track down that calendar app. I’ve been using the calendar tied to my email and it just isn’t giving me enough.
    Thank you for the visual inspiration for organization!

  31. Another great post that truly hit home. Just what the doctgor ordered when I was feeling kinda down… I don’t have little ones to tend to…but I do have dogs who miss me when I am blogging away and working to get pieces to paint.

    Thank You !!

    Happy Valentines Day!

  32. I know green is not a good color for anyone, but getting up in the morning and doing what you love is a true blessing. I am constantly redecorating my house and my friends houses, hoping to one day make a living at it. Congrats on a wonderful job!

  33. Sandi says:

    I love the Ipad…..never use my lap top any more. Why? Got a Zagg case it has now taken the place of my computer! Do all calendar work emails and anything you can think of on it! So fast and easy and can take it anywhere. No more pecking around on the ipad keyboard! You picked a great calendar app.
    I love your blog and all the things you do! Thanks for sharing.
    Zagg cases are 50% off today at…..great addition to the ipad productivity!


  34. Angie Wierman says:

    What calendar app are you using? That looks wonderful!

    AND I ordered your book! I’m anxiously awaiting its arrival. I’m just giddy with anticipation!

  35. I am also a paper and pencil person. I have such a hard time with the tech stuff. It’s great you do your blog–that takes alot of know how. I have to say “Managing Crazy” is the best blog title for the appropriate blog! Love that title. While my girls were young I only did some home decor stuff. I was so busy with them I rarely sat until they were in bed. I now find with my Etsy shop that I still don’t sit until about 9:30 pm. Then in bed by 10:30pm. I am amazed at where I found so much “me” time! I like to be busy but….I hate having too much on my plate. If I feel there is never enough time in the day, I must have too much on my plate! (That’s probably life!) The problem–so many ideas, so much beautiful fabric, and so little time! I also love what I do and the balance is perfect for me.

  36. JaneEllen says:

    How does it feel Marian to have so many bloggers looking to you for guidance? You are very gracious and honest about how you achieve. What we all need to remember sf not every body can do as you do, they need to give themselves permission to be themselves, not as good at what you do. I noticed you did address that subject. For a young woman you are very mature and open to realizing how life is. Good for you. I so enjoy reading your blog, especially posts like this one.
    I’m not being critical, honestly, just maybe reminding many of the young women to give themselves a break. We seem to think we have to be super women (American mind set), raising kids, working, being a wife, etc. None of it is easy and some people just can’t take on too much without bending under what they think they “must” do every day. I guess the key is learning what is too much for each individual.
    Believe me I know as I raised 4 kids, 3 of them close in age, worked, sewed, thought my house had to look like a magazine page all the time, tried to give my husband some part of me at same time. The list goes on and it can be extremely overwhelming for anybody.
    I’m so glad to read you learned how to prioritize and could be a good Mom. Many people think being a good Mom means she needs to be available to her children non-stop. Kids need to learn that while Mom is essential she also has a life inside she dreams about.
    I used to wonder if I was meant to be a Mother, I was also told how selfish I was if I wanted to have lunch with a friend or do some sewing or crafting. My Mother told me that I was being selfish, how do you reconcile everything that’s needed and demanded from a woman. Ah the age old question. I applaud you addressing this as you have.

  37. Deana says:

    Thanks for this post. Boy is this in time for me and my Family. We just moved to a new home (really in between hm till we decide where we want to stay for good). And at the same time we just opened up a new business, took over a cafe for a friend to give her a break and now we just got a great STEAL on a Bed and Bath. It needs to be totally modeled on the inside and we are looking forward to doing all this.
    The PlannerPlus will really help me keep organized what needs to be done at each place and when. The store and Cafe are only opened the First Weekend of the Month. The Bed and Breakfast we will start it off that way then if business picks up it will be open all the time.

    Note to self— Get my IPAD back from my Daughter lol


  38. Love the fact that you “keep it real” and I truly appreciate the last paragraph!

  39. I love lists. I feel good when I can go back and look at my list and see what I accomplished for the day. Thanks for the IPad calendar idea. I am a pencil and paper gal, but I will certainly give it a try. I’m always looking for ways to be more efficient. I also worked at home on design projects when my boys were little. It’s amazing what you can get done during naptime! 😉 Great post.

  40. Jennifer says:

    Again, I am not a stalker but I just love you for not only your talent but also your humility. I just want to hug you right now

  41. Thank you so much for this because there are weeks when I feel like the worst blogger in the whole world. I do also find this funny because this is one of the most giving and forgiving communities I have ever known. I have been battling with holding my youngest back a year because I am so ready for the next phase of my life where he is in school all day but he is really young so even though I want to be selfish I am going to have to be logical and wait one more year for some freedom.

  42. I love the last little part of your post. I feel so very inadequate most days when it comes to the blog world and pinterest, but it is all about perspective and enjoying where you are in life and what you have accomplished yourself, and not what the other people out there have. Very good words of advice! :)

  43. Thank you for posting this! I have 2 kids under 2.5 and the spit up and dishes scenario match me perfect. Sometimes I feel helpless because all I want to do is paint and can’t find the time. I love my children and the reminder of “there is a season for everything” puts me at ease and makes me refocus on my kiddos at this time because before I know it they will be in school and I’ll have time on my hands to get things done but will probably miss them like crazy.

  44. Marian…i still feel that you accomplish so much in a 24 hour day!!!….I love your attitude!…and I think that an iPad with that amazing calendar is on my list…I am a paper calendar gal and looks like I would like the iPad version….Have a wonderful weekend!

  45. Christy says:

    Thanks for the calendar recommendation. I prefer the feel of paper but like the sharing abilities of apps. And I hate entering my to-dos & appts on the iphone or ipad. I did find one cool to-do list app that has a PC component to enter the items – Wunderlist. And they recently added the ability to add & check off sub-tasks – one item I’ve done recently is re-do’ing a child’s chair – I set it up as the project & then have sub-tasks for each stage. Sorry for sounding like a sales pitch but I don’t know many people who have an ipad & appreciate a good to-do list. :) Loving the bedroom – I know it was a ton of work but it looks wonderful.

  46. What a very helpful post. I am a major calendarer (this is most definitely not a word). However, I get muddled down in my endless scheduled items. I love the idea of the checklist on projects. Genius! I always have so many things going, and I do forget and then get overwhelmed. I need to put this on my calendar. Make a checklist. Wait, maybe I need to put make a checklist on my list of to-dos. LOL!

  47. Thank you, Marian!!!!
    I use my calendar on my cell phone and also make check lists but I loved your project checklists spreadsheet! because it is all in one and sometimes I just keep leaving one thing behind…
    ANd thank you for being so real, always. It makes me think I can do this too, or that I am normal, too!
    I hope we all have a very productive week!!!

  48. I’m curious to find out what blog system you are utilizing? I’m experiencing some minor security issues with my latest site and I would like to find something more safeguarded. Do you have any solutions?

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