Friday, September 30, 2011

Time Management: Stay On-Task

So I haven't updated in a while, first because I was on vacation (just me! I visited my sisters-in-law in AZ and it was fantastic, as were the solo kidless plane rides). I got back on Sunday, and except for a couple of naps to reset my internal clock, I've been working on getting myself in gear.

Report: Black holes

I'm doing okay here. I definitely still get stuck on Pinterest a little more often than I should, but I am pausing to think before I take the computer out of hibernation. I used to get on first thing in the morning to check my email, but lets face it--nobody has anything that important to email me about. So now I'm eating breakfast with the kids, getting dressed, and checking my email (quickly) later.

I'm also following my rule that if I start trying to think of things to do online, it is time to get off.

New Goal: Stay On Task

Now that the black holes are getting a little more in line, I've added staying on task to my time management goals. My friend Jenna, who I find very efficient, suggested this to me--to just do one thing at a time.

This is really hard.

Part of being a stay at home mom is being frequently (constantly?) interrupted (unless the TV is on) and I think that combined with my natural multi-tasking tendencies has made me a little ADD. Which means I'll get halfway through folding the laundry and get distracted by a messy bedroom. Then I'll get halfway through that and give up and start on lunch.

So I'm trying to start--and then finish!--tasks before moving on to something else. I still get off track often because of that ADD thing, and because I do have to stop doing things sometimes to disentangle a kiddo fight or something, but I think this is going to make me much more productive.

Already I have noticed that cutting out internet time and trying to stay on task have made me feel like I'm getting more done, because a finished job is more visually pleasing (and emotionally rewarding) than several partially finished ones.


I know blogs are supposed to have pictures... Are you needing a picture to feel more into what I'm writing? I won't take offense, I'll just probably start adding a picture. ;)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Get Organized: The 3 Month Food Storage Plan

Okay, I realized now that I am too impatient to focus on just one goal at a time, so I think I'll focus on bits of each goal and share as I accomplish them. I know. I am ADD. Sorry. Anyway...

Oh my word does food storage intimidate me. I know we have been counseled to prepare for a rainy day (figuratively AND literally) by everyone and their mom (if by "their mom" I mean church leaders and FEMA) but hi, I can barely think of something to eat for one night, so THREE MONTHS OF ENTIRE DAYS? Yeah, I don't think so.

Then for our anniversary, we went to see Contagion (so romantic, I know--we felt so germaphobic while watching it that we didn't even hold hands! haha) and there was a scene where FEMA ran out of food to distribute and everyone went crazy.

And I just thought... Well. Maybe we should have some food storage, because it looks like FEMA might not have that handled for me for some reason.

(And for the record, we did go out to a nice romantic dinner beforehand, just so you're not worried about our marriage or anything.)

The Strategy

We are picky eaters. We are also on a super tight budget. So I didn't want to just buy a bunch of random stuff we'd never eat, like random cans of chili or what have you, because (1) I didn't want us to hate eating our food storage and (2) I wanted most of it to be able to rotate through our normal meals.

For some reason when I sat down to finally make my meal and shopping list Saturday morning, it seemed easy. I just did two things:

  1. Made a one-month menu of meals we regularly eat, following the example of a friend-of-a-friend. Some of the meals were repeated more than once (for example, pasta + veggies is one of our staple meals, and we don't mind eating it every week, so I put it on there four times).
  2. Used an auto-populate spreadsheet from Food Storage Made Easy. I just put in the meal and the amount of each ingredient it would need for a month, and it calculated what I would need for 3 months.
I tried to choose meals that had mostly shelf-stable or freezable ingredients. For example, I had a lot of things that required canned corn or black beans, and things I could freeze like shredded cheese or chicken breasts. I tried to avoid eggs or milk or anything else perishable (that I wouldn't have freezer space for), though I do plan on some powdered or boxed versions of each of those just in case.

HOT TIP: If you're looking for recipes that don't require those perishables like butter, eggs, etc. try googling "vegan" + whatever recipe you are looking for. I found some great muffin & cookie recipe ideas for my food storage this way!

Anyway, I have my list now, so once I print it out I can start adding things to my weekly shopping trips. I'm actually kind of excited! :)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Time Management: Black Holes

I do good thinking at breakfast, so while the kids and I dined on cereal (dry Cheerios only for Charlie) the other day I wrote up a list of things I could do to help me my days in order:

And since Photobooth took this mirror style for some reason, here is what it says:

  • eliminate black holes (metaphorical, not literal)
  • have a (flexible) schedule
  • make a list
  • say no when you need to
  • stay on task (or don't multi-task)
  • plan ahead
  • finish what you've started

After I wrote up that list, I left it sitting on the table because I really didn't want to deal with step number one very much because it is just so fun to click around on Pinterest all the time! But today I'm ready to get started. (Well tomorrow I guess, since today is already part-way over?)

Eliminating Black Holes

Design Mom has been posting about having a good Work-Life Balance, and the tip that hit me was to get rid of what she calls the "internet black hole." The internet is definitely a black hole for me--it sucks me in and before I know it all the time I'd mentally allotted to doing the dishes has been spent perusing blogs and window shopping for new bedding for our room (still haven't found the one for our room anyway...).

So my goal for this week (and part of next, I guess) is to really limit my internet time. I'm going to pick a few times a day that I can surf, and other than that, no dice. Here is how I'm planning to accomplish that:

  1. Keep my computer closed except during the appointed times.
  2. Keep a pen + paper list of things I want to look up/email/etc. so I don't feel pressured to do it right away.
  3. Replace some of my "fun" or "bored" time on the internet with other fun things like working on my stash of crafts, taking the kids out, or reading something fun.
  4. Get off when I find myself searching for things to look at (no need to check facebook more than once!)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Goals & the Rules

After I clicked SEND on my email re: this blog to a few friends a few days back I felt the inevitable hot blush of fear that follows a public (or even semi-public) announcement of life change. Because now you will ALL know if I FAIL!

But that's not what this is about, right?

This is about trying, and I feel like even trying to do better will make me feel better. Because trying is hard!

So, really quick, here are my rules & goals!

The Rules

1. No guilt. This is not about feeling bad about yesterday. If I miss something, I'm not allowed to feel bad, I just have to do better today.

2. Report. I have to report once a week. I'm hoping to do it more often, to share my mini-steps in each goal, but I didn't want to put pressure on blogging when the point is progress, so my requirement is only once a week.

That's it. :)

The Goals

  • Manage my time more effectively.
  • Enjoy my children.
  • Become a better housekeeper.
  • Write a book.
  • Make and (really) keep a budget.
  • Learn more about nutritious eating (& put it into practice for our family)
  • Lose the baby fat around my waist. :)
  • Get organized.
Most of these things will take time to accomplish, so I'm going to start by focusing on improving my Time Management. Hopefully that will free me up a little more time to spend on these other fun goals.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Rock Bottom

So this stared when... Wednesday?

It had been a hard day.

I'd started with the best intentions--to not yell or snap (nasty habits I'd picked up over the past few weeks; not something I want my kids to remember about me), to pause and really be with the kids, to enjoy rather than be annoyed, to get things done instead of languishing in discouragement (or laziness).

So when Grace threw a tantrum about getting her underwear on and I snarled at her and then Charlie began an hour or so of nerve-grating, endless tears (probably because he was teething) while I was trying to get the house and dinner ready for Steve to come home, I lost it. I started crying--not just a little bit, to myself, but hard, sit-down-on-the-floor head-in-your-hands crying, right in front of Grace. Empath that she is, she burst into tears. So we were all sitting there--me on the floor, Grace in the throes of agony, Charlie distraught in his high chair--crying.

And I felt again the terrible emptiness of defeat.

It wasn't just the parenting-fail moment that brought this on, though. That was just the cherry on top of a massive guilt-over-underachieving sundae. (Sounds like the worst sundae ever, right?) Because I thought that by this point in life I would be able to keep the house clean and make it feel more home-y, cook dinner (or at least think of something to cook!), take care (physically, emotionally, spiritually) of my children, pay the bills, eat healthily and affordably, spend quality time with my children & husband, and, of course, exercise regularly so that I can both feel more energized and maybe let go of the spare tire I have leftover from being pregnant.

Oh and did I mention I am trying to pursue my ultimate all-time lifelong (or at least since I was 5) dream of writing a novel?

Maybe this seems silly to you, to worry about these kinds of things, but I hope it doesn't. We are all engaged in a constant battle to become better versions of ourselves, and I've just hit a spot where I look at where I thought I could be by now and see where I am, and the gap between those two places is dishearteningly wide.

Which is why it is time to make change a process instead of an afterthought.

So here I am. Feeling rock bottom. Ready to start fresh. I've been reading a lot about the things that I want to change, and about how to be happy, and I've decided to take the same approach Gretchen Rubin used in The Happiness Project: I'm going to do a month by month (or maybe bi-monthly) breakdown of the things I want to accomplish, and then chronicle how I am accomplishing them. I'm going to be asking for help and opinions, experiences and shout outs, so I hope you'll come along for the ride. :)

We'll lay out the rules and the goals next, and then we'll get started from there.

If you are interested in participating & pursuing goals with me, please fill out this SUPER quick form!


"And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life." - J.K. Rowling

The Fringe Benefits of Failure (via YouTube) - J.K. Rowling's Harvard Commencement Speech 2008