Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Part II - On Your Mark; Get Set...

Welcome back to our planning series. In the first part of this series, I talked about my experiences at the Living Education Retreat. So... there I was, feeling all inspired and ready to change my whole life. Maybe you've been here before? You see or try something and it seems like The Answer to All Your Problems. You adopt the system wholesale, but after a while it fails miserably. Yup, me too. I’ve failed so many times at getting organized that I was feeling a little cynical that I ever could do better. This time, I knew I needed to start well so that I would be encouraged to keep going. That made my first order of business to figure out what I wanted from a schedule.

A schedule isn't a moral good in itself. It is a tool for accomplishing a purpose. Like any other tool, I needed to know what I wanted to build before I could decide what tool would help me do it. When it got down to the essentials, what I wanted from my schedule was (1) to have the decision-making done beforehand. Decision fatigue was sucking me dry. I needed to know exactly what was next, so I could put my energy towards actually doing it; and (2) to still have the flexibility to deal with unexpected situations. It’s important to me that I can drop everything to help a friend, or that I can see that my kids are wiped out and what we really need to do today is go swimming with friends. Perfect order and perfect flexibility. No, we're looking for doable, not perfect. That means I wanted my time to be reasonably ordered for a normal kind of day without accounting for every second, but still flexible enough to handle a not-so-normal day.

Where are you now?

The next step for me was to do a Time Evaluation. Sounds fancy, huh? Actually, I just tried to consciously observe how I normally spent my time. Did I do a good job deciding what needed to be done? How much was used for the task I had planned on doing? Where did I use my time well? What caused me to waste it? How much time did it take for me to transition from one task to another? How about my kids? What did we actually DO all day? I might bristle if my husband asked that last question, but it was one that I needed to ask myself. If you like to write stuff down, you might keep a time journal. (That wasn’t going to happen for me. Ahem.) A few days of paying attention made my problem areas surprisingly clear to me.
  1. Transitions - I wasted a lot of time looking at a To Do list (when I had one), and trying to decide what to do next.
  2. Distraction - Even when I knew what to do next, I often got distracted by something that needed put away or cleaned, a project that looked more appealing, or whatever thought happened to pop into my head at the moment. Things that needed to be done by a particular time were being dropped because I got distracted by something that could have waited.
  3. I have kids. They aren’t so good with transitions either, especially starting chores and school time. If I’m not ready to help them get started, they get distracted by something more interesting and I have to start the rounding up process all over again.
  4. The internet. ‘Nuff said, right?
If you are struggling, I encourage you to do your own Time Evaluation. Get as fancy or simple as you need to. Write things down... or don’t. The key is to be honest with yourself. Remember to include things you can’t change, so that you know that you need to figure out a way to work around them. If you have babies and toddlers, you must have a certain amount of flexibility to meet their unpredictable needs. The whole point here is to get an honest picture of your life right now. Being aware and realistic—about the good and the bad—is the first step to changing things.

Once you have an honest evaluation done, it's time to get to the good part... daydreaming about what you do want!

So how about you? Have you ever tracked your time? What did you learn from it?


  1. Wow! My previous comment about honesty and being realistic was done before reading this!

    I agree with you on everything you wrote here.

    I couldn't try much of our schedule this year, but those loops were working nicely. We need to add co op next week, and see what happens. I can't wait to get some normal days again.

    1. Thanks for chiming in, Silvia. You were absolutely right on the last post--schedules are really personal, and it's important to personalize it for what YOU need. I almost didn't write this series at all, becuase I didn't want anyone to feel like I was telling them, "This is what I do. You must do this to be successful." Ideas are great jumping off places, and that's what I want to provide. :)

  2. I haven't fully evaluated my weekly time usage, but I have recently become convicted that it is not as balanced as I would like. I'm still in the mulling over phase to determine how best to deal with that. I enjoyed this post very much!

    1. Thanks, Dawn. I hope you get some clarity as you mull. Sometimes I think it just has to be the right time to deal with a problem. It's recently become my right time, so here I am!