Do you feel yourself being pulled in many directions throughout your day? Is your schedule so full that you don’t know where to begin? Do you have so many things in your mind that you leave no room for creative pursuits?
Many of us believe that being productive with our days means filling up our schedule to bursting. We say yes to every activity or request that comes our way. We figure that we will just deal with issues as they arise.
The result is a lot of items, most of them unrelated to each other, on our to-do list. We end up running from one task, class, meeting, or problem to another. No wonder that an entire day passes and we feel frazzled, tired and unproductive.
There is a better way.
We don’t have to live at the mercy of urgent tasks. We don’t have to let other people’s schedules dictate our own. We can take better control of how we spend our own time, choosing those activities that are in line with our primary goals and interests.
How do we do that?
One all the most basic reasons that our daily lives are so disorganized is, well, that our time is disorganized. Our to-do lists are scattered in various pieces of paper, post it notes, even the backs of napkins. The thing is, in order to keep track of everything, we need a centralized depository for the lists of things that need our attention.
A lot of people already do this for their work. It only makes sense to do this for the home as well. Here are three basic tools that I’ve found to be essential for organizing my time and my thoughts.
1. Personalized Planner
I am a firm believer that every mom, student and busy person should have a personal planner. What I mean by it being personalized is that it should almost be like a diary. This planner should become an extension of your brain. It will hold all your own appointments, both for work and home, as well as other people’s appointments that you also need to remember. This includes your children’s medical checkups, school activities, and playdates. All your work deadlines are there. Any schedules for home related tasks. In other words, it should be a snapshot of your day.
The reason I believe that each person should have his or her own planner is simple. We are different people. Our schedules are different, even though they may overlap. We think differently, we organize our time differently, and we prioritize differently. Thus, the only person who will find my planner easy to use is me. My husband may be able to make sense of it, but it won’t work as well for him as it does for me.
2. Centralized calendar
Any group of people living together should have a centralized calendar. This group could be a family, students in an apartment, or an entire office or department. Because of overlapping schedules, we need to have a method for tracking common appointments and activities.
This calendar should be placed in a prominent location that everybody can access everyday. For families, the most obvious is the refrigerator.
It should be easy to use, giving important information at a glance. In my house, our centralized calendar is color-coded. Each kid’s schedule is in his favorite color, everything else is in black. This way, it’s easy to see who’s got what in which day, and it saves me from having to write their names over and over again. Besides, it’s a great way to use colored scrapbook pens!
3. Idea Catch-all
This third tool for enhancing productivity and creativity can be combined with the first one. As you generate ideas throughout your day, you need a place to put them in. A personalized planner is perfect for this.
Your planner should have a section for notes, designated specifically for jotting down ideas as they occur to you. These ideas could be for anything. They could be work-related, or they could be stuff that you want to make in your hobby. The important thing is that these ideas are written down in a permanent place, so that they don’t get lost. This is why the backs of napkins don’t work so well. They get misplaced or thrown away too easily.
These are just basic tools that will help you organize your time better, be more productive, and enhance your creativity. We will revisit these ideas in later posts. Meanwhile, let us know what kinds of tools you use to manage your own schedule and nurture your own creativity.