Thursday, April 9, 2015

Spring Clean Your Schedule: Lessen the Stress

I'm going to be completely honest, these two posts about time management kind of stressed me out.  Knowing I had something extra to accomplish and not getting it done as quickly as I hoped, weighed on my mind more than I anticipated.  My problem being that writing in general is something that causes me stress because I overanalyze (does trouble or problem sound better?), strive for absolute perfection (ha ha ha!) and have a lot of insecurities (see previous 'ha ha ha' comment).  Which are all the ingredients for stress pie.  That being said, I eventually powered through and here we are with Spring Cleaning Your Schedule Part Two!

I wanted to focus on trying to find time for yourself first because I don't think we put enough importance on personal time, but a big part of taking care of yourself is trying to minimize stress.  Which is why part two is all about finding tips and tricks to accomplishing your day to day activities without all the stress.

Prioritizing Daily. Having a to do list a mile long can be overwhelming.  You want to get everything done but there are literally not enough hours in the day!  Especially if you like to do some actual relaxing during the weekend/your time off.  Which is why it helps to, as they say, divide and conquer. At the beginning of each week I'll take a look at my to do list, prioritize and then chunk the list into 1-2 projects a day, depending on the time required for each task and my available time that day.  I run most of my errands during lunch, if possible.

For example, on Monday I'll go to the grocery store and stop by the post office for stamps.  On Wednesday I'll pick up a baby shower present and schedule a few doctor's appointments.  On Thursday I'll buy a birthday card for my sister and pick up my prescription from the pharmacy, etc.  If I don't plan out what I'm trying to accomplish each day, I'll end up wasting time during my lunch break trying to figure out which task is more important and/or I'll run a random errand that I didn't really need to do.  I've also noticed that sometimes you have things to do that are not necessarily urgent but weigh on your mind a lot, creating stress.  Checking them off your to do list 'early' can take a huge weight off your shoulders.  Thank you notes always fall into this category for me.

"Multitasking".  Most articles you read will say that multi-tasking isn't actually a productive tool.  By splitting your attention, you are more likely to do things poorly or incorrect.  That being said, I found a great article on Time Management on The Huffington Post that talks about taking advantage of in-between minutes.  In-between minutes are short blocks of time between activities that are too short to do anything substantial but long enough to accomplish a quick task or take a break.  For example you could:
  • Make a phone call
  • Plan dinner
  • Have a dance party
  • Tidy up a room
  • Write an email
Find tools.  You can't be expected to remember everything by yourself!  Try finding a couple tools that help you keep your life in order.  I would cease to exist without my Google calendar and the dry erase board on our fridge.  In Google, I set up different color coded calendars within my main calendar to track family appointments, work events, birthdays and even blog posts.  A friend had the fantastic idea to send calendar invites to her husband so that they all have the family's schedule at their finger tips.  I've also heard that Cozi is a great app for organizing the entire family's schedule.

I'm obsessed with to do lists. Another eccentricity I've display since I was a kid.  I used to write out my to do lists and shopping lists in a small notebook but I've recently switched over to a to do list app.  I just started using an app called 'Jamie's To Do' that I read about in Oprah magazine but there are a bunch of them out there for your specific needs.  My other lists live on our dry erase board on the refrigerator.  It has the week's events color coded by family member, shopping lists by store and a list of all our gift certificates and expiration dates.  Any important invitations, gift certificates, coupons, etc are kept in a magnetic folder below the dry erase board.

Think ahead.  This is much easier said than done but implementing a few of those tools can help. When I'm making my to do list, I've found that having the list reach out at least a month into the future helps me get things done ahead of time.  If I write down now that I need to get a Mother's Day gift, I'm more likely to have Mother's Day on my mind and figure out a gift before it is too late and I'm scrambling.  I've also been writing down ideas for gifts when they pop into my head, even if the person's birthday isn't for 6 months. 

Also, it helps to keep a good stock of things that you find yourself either stressing out over at the last minute like gift bags, cards, batteries, and household items you go through quickly like diapers, cereal, milk, etc.  Make a list of the 10-20 items you go to the store for the most often and stock up on a few extra next time you are at the store.  Especially if they are on sale!  Amazon Prime is another one of my good friends.  Not only can you set up automatic shipments (Subscribe & Save) for items you know you are going to need on a regular basis but Amazon discounts the price of the items.  When you use Amazon as often as we do, the annual membership pays for itself in the free two day shipping alone.

It's simple. Our lives are busy and they are not getting any less busy anytime soon.  Managing as much as we do is bound to get stressful now and then but there are small tricks and tools that can be implemented into your routine that will help lessen the stress.  Prioritizing the day, planning ahead and finding useful tools are just a few examples of what have helped me manage my time.  As always, it is about finding what works for you.  I'd love to hear some of the tricks, tools or shortcuts you use to keep your life in order!

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