26 February 2011

How to Plan, Part 2: Dont Lose Your Focus!

Dear Lissy,

We've put a foundation under our home management by planning our week.  Each day now has a few minutes dedicated to working proactively on the tasks that can create crisis, chaos, and emergencies if we leave them until they have to be done.

Daily planning requires three dimensions of management skills.

2D:  A day without at least a basic written plan is liable to get squandered.  Your weekly plan is one piece of the puzzle.  A Calendar, routines, and a tickler make up the other three sources for writing out a daily plan. I'll cover these in your next letter.

3D:  A home that doesn't have well-defined, well-maintained storage swims in clutter and the time required for basic maintenance is overwhelming.  I'll cover this in a letter, but most of my practical knowledge comes from Julia Morgenstern's book, Organizing From the Inside Out and Deniece Schofield's Confessions of an Organized Homemaker.

4D:  A homemaker who isn't able to focus and complete tasks in an orderly fashion frustrates herself either by being busy all day without accomplishing a normal amount of work or getting caught up in leisure time and not leaving enough time for managing her home.  I want you to get focused before we cover paper planning because learning focus cuts your lists by about 80% over typical homemaking systems.

4D management consists of finding tools and techniques that motivate you to stay focused.   For many homemakers focus, not planning or organization or hard work is the real problem.  I personally struggle with ferret-brain. I work haphazardly from room to room, project to project without ever completing one, stopping to look at the computer every time I walk by.  Soooo....

I use the timer.  I like working, and don't need to reward myself for it.  If you have a task or routine you despise, consider bribing yourself!

If you know you have a tendency to lose focus, set a timer for each room you tidy that only leaves enough time to clear and clean the surfaces.
For routine tasks (wiping down the bathroom, for example) I set a time (7 min in this case) that forces me to work very quickly and not get sidetracked.  7 minutes is the exact amount of time it takes me to wipe down the tub and shower walls, clean the mirror, the sink, the commode, doorknobs and lightswitches,and straighten towels and rugs.  That doesn't give me time to re-organize the medicine cabinet, clean out the overflow holes in the sink, or mop the floor.  It also doesn't give me time to run your hairbrush and barrettes on the side of the sink back to your bedroom.  I have to put them in a pocket or caddy and take them with me AFTER the bathroom is tidied.

If you have a big project, set the amount of time you have to work on it for that day, and work JUST ON THAT PROJECT during that time. 

  1. Almost no one has hours to work on a big project like an attic, basement, or even an over-run closet.  Setting a timer for 25 minutes and taking a bite of the elephant is almost always do-able, though.  
  2. Kids respect timers.  If they know you have a set time you're stopping and can help them or play with them, they'll generally leave you alone while you work.  Honor your word and stop to help them when the timer beeps, or this effect will quickly fade.
  3. This greatly reduces the tendency to leave the work site for a drink, e-mail check, social network fix, or a phone call.
If you have time set aside for leisure or research, set a timer to remind yourself its time to get back to work.
Good books, computers, television programs, sewing projects can all cause a time-warp effect that puts us into emergency mode for the rest of the day.  

If you have an all-day project, break your work into a minutes on/minutes off pattern.
When you were little, I worked a 45 on/15 off so that you weren't deserted on days I was baking for the freezer or spring cleaning.  As you got older, I switched to a 55/5 to give myself a chance to get a glass of water and check e-mail or just sit for a few minutes.  Right now in 2011 the Pomodroido app on my phone is set up for this system.  Whether or not that will still be available when you read this, there should be something similar.

Learning to focus and completely tidy a room before you leave it, clip away at a portion of a long term project, control your leisure time or crank on an all-day work-a-thon will take your home management out of crisis mode and into cruising mode.

My timer's just gone off.  I'll write more about the daily plan in the next week or so.

Focus on Christ!

1 comment: