How do you do it? I get asked this question by married as well as single colleagues and friends almost daily. The married ones feel as if they aren’t holding it together and the single ones are overwhelmed by how much work balancing marriage, career and kids can be. But somehow, everyone thinks I have everything organized and well laid out. Hmm? Do I really? There are days I swear I am going to tear my hair out or lock myself in my room and hide under the covers. But, we all have those days, don’t we? Nonetheless, we push through; because we are women, mothers, fighters, warriors; hear us roar!
So now that I have you all excited and riled up, let’s talk about some of the habits that help me survive from day to day.
- Write a list – I live for to-do lists, checklists and shopping lists. They are extremely helpful in keeping me organized and preventing me from forgetting important things. The time management matrix is not only used at work but also at home! In case you are not familiar with them, the four quadrants of the time management matrix are:
- Urgent and important – tasks that need your immediate attention and impacts other persons. A good example of this is a baby in desperate need of feeding or a diaper change.
- Not urgent and important – these tasks may impact other persons but don’t need immediate attention, such as setting a dentist appointment or cleaning the refrigerator.
- Urgent and not important – these are distractions or interruptions such as the cable going out or the toaster oven being broken.
- Not urgent and not important – don’t add any real value and you can do without them, such as neighbours stopping by to gossip.
These guiding principles are used to prioritize tasks and have proven extremely valuable since the day I learned them. At work, I use Google™ Docs and Microsoft® Outlook tools to stay organized, but at home I have become addicted to my Out of Milk app for shopping and ColorNote for everything else. These two babies keep me in line!
- Ring the alarm! – My alarm not only wakes me up, but is set at different times of the day for different purposes, as it works hand-in-hand with my phone calendar. I have reminders for every item on my to-do list that has to be done at a specific time and place. There is even a reminder for the time to leave home so that we are not late for school or work. So no, my phone calendar and alarm are not just for meetings; it is also for shopping trips, exercise sessions, bills to pay, etc. This, along with number 1, is part of the reason why my cell-phone (AKA Sammie) is my best friend and I would be lost without her.
- Plan your meals – This part of me comes from my nutrition training. I plan my meals in advance so that I know exactly what I will be doing and when. And yes, I have a list and an app for that too! When I get home from the supermarket, I put away all the groceries except for the meat items. These I will then take the time to separate, clean, pre-season and package in Ziploc® bags according to the meal plan. This makes it easier for me when I get home from work. All I have to do is move the desired package from the freezer to the fridge when I am leaving home in the morning, and by the time I get home it is defrosted and ready to cook.
- Everything has a place and everything must be in its place. – Gabriel says I am anal retentive with a touch of compulsive disorder but I simply think that people and things should be organized. In my house, every item has a place and if used it should go back in its place when it is no longer in use. Also, wherever an item is placed must make sense. For example, my medicine cabinet is in the kitchen; most medications and vitamins must be taken with food so they are kept close to the pantry. Sounds weird but it works.
- Lysol™ it! – I keep containers of Lysol wipes in the bathrooms and kitchen; the two places they are most needed to clean up spills, spots, stains, etc. In a house with majority boys, they are a must have!
- Use “down time” wisely – When I have a “free” moment, that’s when I get to think. For example, if my work outfit was not chosen during a “free” moment before bed, while I am showering, I’m mentally flipping through my wardrobe so that when I get out I know exactly what I will be wearing. The commute to work is also a good time to organize your thoughts and things to do. Otherwise, it is a great time to catch up on reading via audio books if you are the driver. Remember to stay alert and drive safely!
- When in doubt, let the kids help out! – It is not against child labour laws for your children to help around the house. It is actually a good thing as it helps them to grow up and be more responsible husbands and wives. As long as the assigned chore is age appropriate, all is well!
- Set your clock ahead of time – All my clocks are set at least five minutes fast. This helps to keep us on time for any and everything!
- Have a set date night – Get away from the children, forget about work; date night is all about you and your other half. Whether you go for a quiet dinner, a movie or you go bowling, forget about everything and everyone and just focus on the two of you.
- Be selfish about your “me” time – It is okay to take a breather every now and then to do something that you enjoy. In fact, you need to do it to protect your sanity. Whether your “me time” has a set date each week or not, make the date and enjoy it to the fullest! It could be watching your favourite movie on Netflix™, hitting the gym, or catching up on your reading. Whatever you do, ensure that your kids and spouse are aware of this time and set boundaries so that you can maintain it.
These are just some of the things I do to stay organized (and sane), so what about you? Go ahead and leave some tips for me in the comments section below.