Photo by Alice Achterhof

Photo by Alice Achterhof

 

My normal system of organization can be a little all over the place.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a margin doodler. I make notes and references to other things in the margins of my notebook pages and worksheets. Sometimes, I draw things – shapes, poor approximations of people, flowers, stars. Notebooks I’ve filled don’t flow in a linear sequence. I hop around from corner to corner, writing on slants and edges. I circle and connect lines. If you tried to read it, your eyes may glaze over (and not just from my poor penmanship).

Notes notes notes.

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Lately, I’ve been trying to make myself more diligent with my lists. Sure, I make them all the time, but my follow through can be a little lacking. I put off errands or I make Saturdays a productivity binge, which isn’t much fun – or in some cases, isn’t as productive.

Keeping my organizational energies up during the week is tough, but I’m trying out a few strategies to see what works. Here’s what I’ve been doing:

1.) Using more of my Google Calendar to map out tasks. I do this in my professional life all the time, but rarely have I used it for my personal life. Instead of limiting my calendar space to conference calls and meetings, I’ve now been scheduling focus blocks alongside appointment reminders.

Because I rely on my calendar so much at work, it was easy to adopt this habit. I can’t believe I didn’t do this more before! Now instead of worrying about whether or not I’ll forget something, I set reminders and pop up alerts to keep me on schedule so that I never get caught off-guard.

 the to do list GIF

Scheduling things out also helps me manage my time better, so I can be more realistic with when I can be somewhere or when is actually a good time.

2.) Using Google Keep. I am a prolific note maker. If you look at my desk at work, you’ll find stacks of post it notes with lists. I have a Post It open on my desktop all the time with a list. I make lists in text files. I write lists on scraps and envelopes. I text and email myself reminders. It’s a little unweildy.

So, to rein in my list-making tendencies, I’m testing out keeping lists ONLY in Google Keep. I’ve used Google Keep before for lots of different things, but my list-making bleeds outside of technology all too often. I’m hoping that this will cut back on me remaking the same lists (and also checking off the boxes are all too satisfying!)

 app google now more use GIF

Also, how freaking great is this Google Keep gif where there’s a book about a dog named Crouton?!

Right now, I’ve got two lists: things to read and things to do. Over the next couple of weeks, I’m hoping to segment and expand more so that I can use it for things like my grocery list or household chores. We shall see!

3.) Scheduling fun. No, really! I have this desk calendar that features tips for happiness every day, curated by one of my favorite non-fiction writers, Gretchen Rubin. One of the tips that was shared was the idea of scheduling fun so that you always make times for the things that bring you joy.

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As I’ve moved from winter to spring, I find myself marking dates on the calendar for day trips and adventures, cups of tea with a friend, and brunches with people who make my heart sing. I have things to look forward to, even on the busiest of days.

I’m all for the spontaneous and sure, I’ll indulge in going off the plan, but this at least gives me the structure I need to really make time for things I love – rather than filling up my free time with things I don’t.

4.) Weekly meal planning. I love cooking, but I often find that on nights where I’m too tired or too stressed, I’ll opt for takeout instead of actually cooking a meal. It’s a bummer, because I’m denying myself of the joy of making something while also giving my body stuff that isn’t always good for it. It’s particularly hard to avoid takeout when I’m in a show or wrapped up in some project or another. To combat the desire to turn to takeout, I’m trying to do more meal planning.

 south park cooking randy marsh kitchen GIF

 

Each weekend, usually a Saturday, I sit down and come up with a list of ingredients I need from the store and ideas on what I can make that week. I check in with the Mister to see our schedules and we settle on items that we think will work for each night. Then, I’ll go to Wegman’s…on a weekend.

 the hunger games elizabeth banks effie trinket 74 hunger games hunger games 2012 GIF

Sometimes, I’ll do a crockpot meal or a big Sunday cook to stretch out our options. It’s not 100%  foolproof – we’ve still opted for sandwiches or burgers on a particularly rough day, but I feel better knowing we’re making an effort for the other weeknights!

This system isn’t perfect. Heck, I wouldn’t even consider it much of a system – more like a collection of random tactics to solve my organization stresses – but it’s something. We’ll see how it goes. And like all things, the beauty is that if it doesn’t work, we can go back to the drawing board. :)