Wednesday, November 16, 2011

WNW - Saving Time Edition, Part 1: Making the Most of Your To-Do List

(Guess what, friends!  There are more WNW posts popping up on the internet!  Imitation is the best form of flattery, right?  Keep an eye out for other people joining in on the Wednesday fun as we all attempt to do our part to limit our wastefulness!)

In light of the busy season (anyone else choking up with anxiety at the thought of Thanksgiving in two one weeks?  -- followed by finishing graduate school, sending out newsletters, Christmas cards, and oh yeah- CHRISTMAS SHOPPING?, traveling, etc. etc.? - Ok, breathe, Rachel...), I decided to do us all a favor and dedicate a few Waste Not Wednesday posts to saving time.

I am all about efficiency and getting things done.
I have a feeling you are, too.

The reality is that we all have to troubleshoot different methods to find the method that works in our own schedules.  I have a different life than your life, so my suggestions might not make sense.  Certainly, when I worked full time, things around the house sort of fell to the wayside -- one, because I had no time or energy, and two, because I didn't have a system.  I have since come up with a system -- no matter what the day's to-do list holds.

Here are my tips for making the most of your to-do list, in hopes that it will exude efficiency.

1) The Top Three Rule:  A while back, someone told me about an important person (don't you love my sources here?) who said he only put three things on his to-do list each day.  The theory is that people can only do three things each day really well.  My own theory is that three things is an achievable goal, so I will actually get MORE done by giving myself only three things to do.  Each day my to-do list includes at least a dozen items on it, but I highlight the top three.

If I can get the top three done, I feel like it's been a good day.

The Top Three Rule also grants me room to give myself grace.  Sometimes the top three items I assign to myself just won't get done that day, so I move stuff around.  Maybe I'll mop the floors tomorrow and just organize the shoe closet today, or something else.  Maybe I'll just read that post I've been wanting to read, or open that letter that's been sitting on my table for two days.  Whatever it is, I promise myself to get three things done.

And the other bonus to this self-imposed rule is sometimes I get many more things done.  Maybe I'll actually get five or ten things done on the list.  When that happens, I celebrate (maybe with a big mug of hot chai or by eating that gluten-free chocolate chip cookie that was number eight on my list!).

2) Scheduling:  For me, consistency is key.  Each day of the week is allotted for specific tasks.  For instance, Monday is cook-a-really-cool-meal day (ya know, the kind that take ALL day to cook) as well as family day (we work in ministry, so weekends are out for us).  Tuesday (by far, my freest day of the week as far as appointments go) is laundry/sweeping/mopping day.  Wednesday is library/homework/class day.  Thursday is bathroom-cleaning/stocking-up-on-homemade-cleaners/odds-and-ends day.  And so on and so forth.

I started scheduling my major chores because I used to get overwhelmed by the mess, think of all the many things I had to do to clean it, and just panic and cry.  Now, if I notice the floor is gathering some dust and I don't have time to clean it (or don't have guests coming over), I can just tell myself, "You'll clean that on Tuesday!" and go on with my day.  It's removed SO much stress from my life, and I think I'm a more efficient chore-doer.

3) Multitasking:  Before I go into multitasking, let me just say that I am not a multitask-er by nature.  It really overwhelms my brain to do too much at once.  I can't even have a conversation with someone if my brain is on another thought -- I have to finish my first thought before I can enter into a new conversation.  But I've learned the art of multitasking in the home.

My sister-in-law once said to me that she's never cooking just one thing in the oven.  If she's making some muffins for the day, she'll probably be throwing in the potatoes for tomorrow's dinner.  This is so smart, and I've sort of applied it to my entire life.  So it's laundry day, right?  I'll throw the laundry in the wash, and start sweeping in the meantime.  If Gwendolyn is awake and needs to be entertained, I'll probably put the broom down, stick her in the high chair, and narrate my dinner prep (with crazy voices and faces -- you know, whatever it takes to make her smile and giggle).  Once she's back down again for sleep, I finish sweeping and mopping just in time for the laundry to get done.  I usually fold laundry while Gwenny's awake because she tends to be entertained by the clothes.  It's just a matter of being able to do a couple of chores at the same time.

So those are my best suggestions for making the most of your to-do list (or, at least the ones that work for me).  Notice how I only have three things here??  I'd love to hear how you use your time efficiently -- whether it's at home, in school, on the job, or wherever! 

Stay tuned next week for WNW Saving Time Edition, Part 2: You Want Me to Exercise When, Exactly??

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