Sunday, March 12, 2017

All The Things: How I Tackle Productivity and Organization

ALL THE THINGS! How do you ever keep track of all the things?!

Think about all that you do in a day, a week or a month. Everything that you do requires time, whether you are thinking about it or not. Many things require a lot of time, some things we don't even realize are taking up our time.

I want to give you a glimpse at how I am now managing all of the things. :)

Here is an example of what occupies my brain on a weekly basis.

Prayer, daily Bible reading, caring for a 9-year-old, a 4-year-old, and a 1-year-old, family time, building relationships with friends and family, hospitality, theology, home education, read-alouds, writing (Hood Magazine), tutoring (CC), classroom Prep for CC and LLA, a photography business, Norwex business, CCM blog, Classical Conversations, Living Legacy Academy (LLA), lesson planning, budgeting and bill paying, sorting, editing, and storing photos, reading (50 book goal in 2017), audio books, library, online library requests, travel plans and budgeting, online ordering (Hy-Vee, Target, Amazon, friends' direct sales), activity planning, paper sorting (so. much. paper!), meal planning, ways to better my health, fitness plans, emails, texts, phone calls, Facebook, Instagram, social media plans and posts for all my work, new home searching, packing, making time for podcasts, grocery shopping, piano, appointments, Awana, sweeping, mopping, dishes, laundry, clutter cleaning, baths, new things to learn, and organizing. And there are more. There is always more.

Gah! That's a lot of brain power. And it's a common problem that many of us have. When we break down all of the thoughts we have each day, we each have our own long list of responsibilities turn into way too many tasks to keep up with on our own.

Seriously, you guys. I often will get overwhelmed to the point of tears.

I do love my life. It is exactly the life that I dreamed of having. I wouldn't trade any of it. But I also know that I am only capable of doing so much. I believe one reason for that completely overwhelmed and hopeless feeling that happens is a result of just the insane number of things there are to keep track of. I also have some mental disadvantages: lack of sleep (baby/toddler season of life), concentration issues from partial epilepsy and of course, that pesky anxiety that never seems to go away.

If I see a cluttered room, I don't just see one cluttered room. I see 100 individual things that need to be put away, donated, or thrown away. I see the hours of time that must be allotted for that one task. That causes a short-circuit in my brain. I start to panic. And I do panic.
When considering what task to do next, this is often my thought process:

Who has time to clean a cluttered room when there is laundry to do, a piano lesson to get to, English lessons to complete, and an article to work on?

Or, who has time to work on an article when there are English lessons to complete, Awana verses to memorize, dishes to do, and the living room is a mess?

Or, who has time to do English lessons when there are math lessons to catch up on, CC memory work to review, the floors are covered in pet hair, and there is a mountain of laundry that needs to be done?

Or, who has time to call a friend or meet up for coffee when there is an endless to-do list to accomplish?

It's a seemingly endless cycle of frustration.


We all know that we need to set priorities for ourselves, but how to go about it is another challenge. In my mind, nearly all of it seems equally important, so at any given moment, asking me to just pick one thing and then move onto another doesn't work. I start working on one thing and I start to think about all of the other things that are equally or more important, and either I switch tasks or I feel terrible about neglecting the other things, so much so that is starts to depress me.

I needed to find a "brain dump": a place to write it all down every little thing that comes to my mind and sort it so that I am able to visually see what needs to be done, and then I can begin to prioritize.

For years I have been looking for something that could help me manage my time well. I buy planners, calendars, and I've tried probably 30-40 different to-do list web/phone apps.

Last year I finally found an online planner that I love! I also found the style of physical planner that works best for me as well. This month, my husband and I both decided to pay the $28 for the year to use the premium features, and it is so worth every penny spent. Overnight, this has transformed my little world! :-D is my favorite web/phone app. By far!

Awesome Features:

  • Sub-projects and sub-tasks galore. 
  • Simple display and color coordinating! I love how uncluttered it looks compared to so many other online planning sites. 
  • Project sharing with my husband. 
  • We can comment back and forth on any of the individual tasks/projects. 
  • I can sync the scheduled tasks with my Google Calendar! 
  • I always have access to it. I can add this on my computer or on my app when I'm out. 

Just look at this!! It's SO EASY!

Favorite Features:
  • It is FAST. I can't tell you how much I loathe slow programs. Having a programmer as a husband has given me a lot of insight into how websites and apps are supposed to work, and when it takes 10-15 seconds (from start to finish) to add a task, vs maybe 3-5 seconds (with Todoist), it makes a big difference in your overall experience with the app. 
  • No manual entering in of dates and times! When you add your new task, you just type out "on Friday at noon" and it will automatically set that up for you when you select "Add Task". 
  • No manual sorting! Just type in #nameofproject into your task and as soon as you select "Add Task" it files it for you! 
  • Type "F" to quickly find ANY task!! Say I'm not sure where I filed something. Not a problem. I just need to type it into the quick search and it'll bring up everything with that word! 
  • My most used feature: Type "Q" to quickly add a task! 

The Categories

I divided everything into five main categories: Shaina, Family, Work, Education, and Errands. I have about 28-30 sub-projects and sub-tasks. These, for the most part, will stay the same.

Most of the time, I have them all closed up so that I only see the five main categories. This makes me very, very happy. :-D

  • Goals
    • Resolutions
    • Reading
      • 2017 Books
      • Books Read
      • Books to Read
    • Future
  • Personal
    • Prayers
    • Notes
  • Mommyhood
  • Homemaking - Any household functions that are solely my responsibility.
    • Meal Planning
    • Monthly Tasks
    • Yearly Tasks
  • Computer - Anything that requires being at the computer. Emails to respond to, articles to read, photos to sort, etc.)

  • Cleaning
  • Kids
    • Zoe
    • Avery
    • Kaylee
    • Milestones
  • Budget
    • Bills
    • Envelope System Savings
  • 40 Tasks
  • Traveling
    • CA Summer Trip 2017  (Packing Lists, Travel Budget, Places to Visit, People to Visit, etc.)
    • Aberdeen 2017
    • Pierre 2017
    • Travel Plans for 2018
  • Holidays
  • Future

  • Norwex
  • Creatively Classical Mom
  • Shaina Photography
  • Hood Magazine
  • CC Tutoring (Classical Conversations)
  • CC Social Media
  • Lessons
    • Math
    • English
    • Spelling
  • Classical Conversations
    • Cycle 1
    • Cycle 2
    • Cycle 3
  • LLA (Living Legacy Academy)
  • Curriculum 
  • Book Lists
    • Read Alouds
    • Audio Books (for the girls)
    • CC Books (books to read that align with whatever we are learning about each year)

Whenever there is an errand to run, I quickly add it to Todoist by typing "Q", the errand, and #errands, hit "enter" and done!  Less than 5 seconds.
  • Groceries: This is the only sub-category that I have under errands.  It's super easy to type "Buy milk #groceries".  When I'm at the store, I just look up my grocery list and anything that we need will be there. 

I still have a physical planner and calendar, but now having this online planner, I can use these other resources much more efficiently.

My favorite physical planner is The Simplified Planner. Noticing a trend here? I love simple things. Just say no to clutter! :)

The planner consists of one page per day and every month there is a monthly layout. That's it.

I looked ALL over the place for a daily planner and was surprised that there are very few in existence!! I was so excited to find this one because not only was it a daily planner, but it was pretty too! Color and style is very important to me when it comes to something I am going to be looking at day after day.

The left side of the page has your day for timed appointments, the right side is a to-do list.

On the bottom section of the page, there is a large square for dinner (or all meal) plans on the left side and on the right a square for notes.

My physical calendar of choice is this one, I have bought it every year for the past 4 years:

  • It has an oversized grid, so there is plenty of room to write.
  • It's simple, similar to the planner above.
  • It hangs up in a very visible spot in our house.

And of course, to keep track of all the dates and important events, I use Google Calendar. :-)

So on the topic of productivity, I finally started "reading" aka "listening to" this book (audio version). It has given me several great ideas so far! I normally don't read many self-help books, and I'm particularly cautious about the Christian "self-help" books that I read. I have been a fan of Tim Challies for many years, though, and I've always admired his productiveness, so I was excited to see that he had written this book!

(affiliate link)
As always, I have so. much. to. do. I really should get back to work. ;-) I am so happy to share all of these things with you, and hope that I've at least encouraged you in some way!!
Happy organizing!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Finding Joy in the Winter Months

For our family, this time of year is full of two things: celebrations and a slightly overwhelming sense of cabin fever. Both Gage and I cel...