Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Creating my own systems

I recently started reading Get It Together Girl!: A 28-Day Guide to Practical NOT Perfect Home Organization, and was terribly disappointed.  It is another book with specific steps to home organization, which is fine, but either I'm more organized than i think i am (a realistic possibility) or the exercises were a poor fit for me.  I do a fridge purge weekly, and already group like with like in my pantry.  Under the sink is for dish towels and cleaning supplies, over the fridge is for emergency supplies.

And i thought about why i'm not doing the Kelly's Missions or monthly habits as part of FlyLady, and again, they just didn't fit for my life.

One of the reasons I think i've struggled with these sorts of things before is i was trying to follow the systems too closely, but until someone comes up with an organizational system for geeky girls who have a full time job, a role in an activist organization, live with their spouse part time, own a cat, and have an active social life there will never be a perfect fit!  And trying to adapt a life to a system is a recipe for frustration and even failure.

So what elements are working for me?
  • Write things down - This is something i learned through Getting Things Done by David Allen, and is admittedly a skill i need to keep improving.  Jotting down ideas takes minutes at the most, and prevents them from being lost in the shuffle of daily life.  
  • Create a manual - Many organizational systems encourage a journal or manual of some sort, to serve as a reference for yourself, but also anyone else should they need to step into your shoes.  I am still in the process of creating mine, but hope to share it as it grows.
  • Break things down - Many projects can seem daunting initially, but if you set reasonable time limits and work on the tasks that make up a project, anything is possible.  This method lets you tackle big projects over time, rather than exhausting yourself trying to get everything done at once.  This is where that 15 minute thing comes from, as well as the idea of breaking your home into zones.  
  • Dedicate time - When you are doing something, try to remove distractions like TV or internet chats. I like to keep music on to keep me motivated, but try not to change the station once i'm going.  If your family all working together is beneficial, do that, but if not, try to make time when you can work alone (which is usually my preference).  I make sure i build time into my weekly plans to work on the most relevant projects.
  • Follow routines - Routines mean you can rely on yourself to get certain things done.  I have a morning routine, an after work routine and a before bed routine.  They are all short, simple tasks than ensure i'm ready for the day, and can rest easy or focus on more critical things.  The scale and scope of your routines is up to you and your needs.
  • Be flexible - For me this is critical.  My schedule changes often, and my work hours are not always consistent.  I need weekday routines that are short in time span and can be done before work, after work or before bed.  I also don't follow a days of the week plan except for calendar activities (Monday yoga class for example).  Having every Wednesday be grocery day would be way too challenging!  I try to keep a few projects ready to go for when i have time, and schedule things early enough that there is a little wiggle room should something come up.  
  • Experiment - There is no one-size fits all for organization.  Be open to new ideas, and give experiments enough time to see if they work.  If they don't, try something else, if they do and it makes you happy, stick with it.  
  • Let go - Sometimes there aren't enough hours in the day.  Don't hold onto guilt or shame about not getting everything done, just be OK with what you did do and move on to tomorrow.  Let go of stuff you're not using, is bad, broken, or you just don't like.  Its not as simple as it sounds, but really, give yourself some compassion and create space for the things that make your life better.  

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