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  • Flashback Friday: Decrease Stress by Working Ahead

    Decrease Stress by Working Ahead - chieffamilyofficer.com

    This post was originally published a year ago, and it’s exactly the reminder I need right now.

    Now that my kids are fully into the swing of two sports, I’m feeling overwhelmed by all that it adds to my plate. My kids adjust better to these changes than I do, and I like to think it’s because my husband and I make it easy for them, but still … I now have more to do and less time to do it, with the new practices and games added into our schedule. It’s got me thinking a lot about time management and the joys of working ahead.

    Teaching the Benefits of Time Management and Working Ahead

    My oldest child is now in second grade, and has to do a monthly project, a weekly book report, and “regular” homework. Plus he’s got the two sports, which means multiple practices and games each week.

    Not surprisingly, we’ve had a tremendous opportunity to teach our son about time management, and how planning and working ahead can make life easier and less stressful.

    For example, his teacher sends the book report form home on Monday and expects it back on Friday. But at our request, she gives it to us ahead of time so my son can do his book report over the weekend. That gives us one less thing to worry about during the week. And seeing how much easier his homework load is when he does his book report ahead of time has been an eye-opener for my son – it’s a tangible demonstration of the benefits of working ahead.

    Another example: The students are given about a month to complete their monthly projects, so it seems natural to us to start as soon as possible to get it done. Because of our busy schedule, there really aren’t that many days that can accommodate extra work, but whenever there’s a big block of unscheduled time (usually over the weekend), we tackle the project. Sometimes my son has to be reminded that he has to work on the project when he can because there aren’t that many opportunities. He gets back on board with the plan whenever my husband or I point out how happy he will be to have it done and not be stressed the week before it’s due because there’s so much left to do.

    That’s why I’m shocked by how many of his classmates don’t work ahead when given the opportunity – toward the end of each month, I discover that some of them haven’t even started, and that others are less than half done.

    At this age, projects are still very much parent-driven because they can’t be completed without adult assistance and participation. And it’s the rare child (though I hear they do exist) who bugs his or her parent to work on the school project.

    I wish all parents would take the opportunity to teach their children time management and the joys of working ahead.

    Working Ahead Works for Adults

    Of course, as adults, many of us don’t have great time management skills, and we often don’t work ahead. And it’s hard to teach what you don’t know (or practice). I have to admit, that even though I have the ability, I often fail to manage my time well and don’t fulfill my intentions to work ahead.

    But I’ve discovered that Flylady‘s philosophy of I can do anything for 15 minutes works really well in helping me manage my time and get ahead. I started by managing my “hot spots” on a regular basis: I deal with the mail every night instead of letting it pile up on the dining table, I clear my desk (almost) daily, and I put away laundry right away. I’ve also developed an evening routine that makes my mornings easier.

    Keeping these tasks off my plate has given me more time and energy to focus on other areas. Consequently, I am getting better at working ahead in the kitchen, and on this site, and at other projects. It’s been interesting and rewarding to experience this trickle-down effect – and just as interesting (and far from rewarding) to see how quickly my productivity drops off (and my stress level rises) when I stop working ahead.

    It’s all a work in progress, but by consistently working ahead at one area of my life at a time, I’m increasing my productivity and decreasing stress!

    Image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net by winnond.

    Decrease Stress by Working Ahead {it’s a skill that can be learned}

    Now that my kids are fully into the swing of two sports, I’m feeling overwhelmed by all that it adds to my plate. My kids adjust better to these changes than I do, and I like to think it’s because my husband and I make it easy for them, but still … I now have more to do and less time to do it, with the new practices and games added into our schedule. It’s got me thinking a lot about time management and the joys of working ahead.

    Teaching the Benefits of Time Management and Working Ahead

    My oldest child is now in second grade, and has to do a monthly project, a weekly book report, and “regular” homework. Plus he’s got the two sports, which means multiple practices and games each week.

    Not surprisingly, we’ve had a tremendous opportunity to teach our son about time management, and how planning and working ahead can make life easier and less stressful.

    For example, his teacher sends the book report form home on Monday and expects it back on Friday. But at our request, she gives it to us ahead of time so my son can do his book report over the weekend. That gives us one less thing to worry about during the week. And seeing how much easier his homework load is when he does his book report ahead of time has been an eye-opener for my son – it’s a tangible demonstration of the benefits of working ahead.

    Another example: The students are given about a month to complete their monthly projects, so it seems natural to us to start as soon as possible to get it done. Because of our busy schedule, there really aren’t that many days that can accommodate extra work, but whenever there’s a big block of unscheduled time (usually over the weekend), we tackle the project. Sometimes my son has to be reminded that he has to work on the project when he can because there aren’t that many opportunities. He gets back on board with the plan whenever my husband or I point out how happy he will be to have it done and not be stressed the week before it’s due because there’s so much left to do.

    That’s why I’m shocked by how many of his classmates don’t work ahead when given the opportunity – toward the end of each month, I discover that some of them haven’t even started, and that others are less than half done.

    At this age, projects are still very much parent-driven because they can’t be completed without adult assistance and participation. And it’s the rare child (though I hear they do exist) who bugs his or her parent to work on the school project.

    I wish all parents would take the opportunity to teach their children time management and the joys of working ahead.

    Working Ahead Works for Adults

    Of course, as adults, many of us don’t have great time management skills, and we often don’t work ahead. And it’s hard to teach what you don’t know (or practice). I have to admit, that even though I have the ability, I often fail to manage my time well and don’t fulfill my intentions to work ahead.

    But I’ve discovered that Flylady‘s philosophy of I can do anything for 15 minutes works really well in helping me manage my time and get ahead. I started by managing my “hot spots” on a regular basis: I deal with the mail every night instead of letting it pile up on the dining table, I clear my desk (almost) daily, and I put away laundry right away. I’ve also developed an evening routine that makes my mornings easier.

    Keeping these tasks off my plate has given me more time and energy to focus on other areas. Consequently, I am getting better at working ahead in the kitchen, and on this site, and at other projects. It’s been interesting and rewarding to experience this trickle-down effect – and just as interesting (and far from rewarding) to see how quickly my productivity drops off (and my stress level rises) when I stop working ahead.

    It’s all a work in progress, but by consistently working ahead at one area of my life at a time, I’m increasing my productivity and decreasing stress!

    Sanity Saver: Update your calendar as events arise

    I use Google Calendar to organize my life. I love it because I can use it to send myself email reminders, schedule repeating events, and more. I even color-code different types of events so that I can spot things at a glance.

    At the end of each month, my kids bring home the next month’s school calendar, filled with upcoming events. One of the main reasons I quit my full-time job and became a work-at-home mom is to be able to participate in and contribute to various school events, so that calendar is important to me.

    A couple of weeks ago, when my kids brought home the February school calendar, I took it and entered relevant events into my own Google calendar while my kids were doing their homework. PTA meetings, fundraising events, etc. were all transferred. Where appropriate, I set up email reminders so I don’t forget to go to a meeting, or to bake something for a bake sale.

    Doing this calendar update right away has several benefits:

    • I don’t miss anything because I look at each event listed (and just skip the ones that aren’t relevant to me, like fire drills).
    • I have a good idea of what’s coming up, so I can plan ahead. Whether it’s buying baking mixes, arranging childcare, or something else, I can avoid last minute scrambles (and possible expenses).
    • I get to toss the paper clutter right away, which is great because I’ve been working hard not to let paper clutter build up in new places (and working equally hard to get rid of existing paper clutter).
    • I’m setting a good example for my kids. It’s important to me to teach my children good time management skills. I want them to know how to plan ahead and be organized, so that they don’t have the extra, unnecessary stress that comes from constant last minute emergencies.

    How do you save your sanity?

    Finding a Better Work/Life Integration

    The back cover of USAA magazine always features a notable USAA member. One recent issue featured the CEO of Campbell’s Soup Company, Denise Morrison. She said that instead of “work/life balance,” she prefers to achieve “work/life integration.”

    I’ve decided I like that idea better too, especially since I now work at home and have found that trying to separate my various activities and roles doesn’t work very well. But integrating them together – that’s a concept I can work with.

    Lately, I’ve found myself struggling to get everything done. It started at the end of last month, when my room parent responsibilities for both my sons’ classes kicked in (organizing the class gift for both classes, plus some other obligations at school). And then there were the overwhelming number of deals to post, and all the plans I had for what I wanted to get done at home …

    I need better integration. I’m not sure exactly how to achieve it yet, but I wanted to give you a heads up, since if you’re a regular reader, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve stopped the Evening Roundup in the last week. It’s one of the ways I’m experimenting to see if I can be more productive overall.

    Another thing I’ve been doing is decluttering like crazy. As you may already know, I’m a big believer in maintaining a stash of gifts to avoid last minute runs to the store before birthday parties. However, I realized that I’ve been keeping more than I need, so I donated over half of my stash to a toy drive. I also let go of some sentimental items, and am creating plans to let go of more sentimental items that I know we’ll never use.

    As I create space in my house, I’ve also been working hard to fill it intentionally. For example, I’ve earmarked the space created in my closet by donating all of those toys for the boxes that I keep our holiday decorations in. I’m excited about this, because moving those boxes will give me easier access to other boxes that I’ve been wanting to go through for a long time but kept avoiding. Being able to get to those boxes without having to move a whole bunch of others means I can go through those boxes in brief spurts – and breaking up a dreaded task into small parts makes it a lot more palatable.

    Decluttering goes hand in hand with re-organizing, and organization is a huge key to integrating the different parts of my life. However, right now, I am not feeling quite so organized as I would like to be, and I think it shows in my house. We’re hosting Christmas dinner, and this is one of those times that I will have to make use of what Flylady calls Crisis Cleaning. While not ideal, it does feel good to get the house cleaned and that gives me a good starting point from which to work toward maintenance so that crisis cleaning isn’t necessary.

    What are your best tips for work/life integration?

    FINISH®
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    What I Learned About Switching Computers

    I got a new laptop to work on, and I’ve spent a good part of the last two days adapting to my new computer. Here are a few key things I learned to save time during the switch:

    • Back up your files – You should be backing up your files anyway, and since I do so much on my computer every day, I send myself a weekly reminder to download a back up of this blog, and another weekly reminder to back up my hard drive. This practice made transferring files to my new computer super easy. The only real problem has been setting up the library in iTunes, which just never seems to go very smoothy.
    • Work online – Many services, including Google, allow you to store files online. By storing data in the “cloud,” you don’t have to worry about transferring anything.
    • Sign into frequently used programs whenever possible – Browsers like Chrome and Firefox allow you to sign in, and will save your bookmarks, history, and even usernames and passwords. When you’re using a new computer, all you have to do is sign in to the browser, and all of the icons and shortcuts that you’re used to will be right at your fingertips again.
    • You can transfer a lot – One extension in Firefox that I use all the time is called Clippings, which is a shortcut for pasting frequently used text. I was dreading having to recreate all of my Clippings, so I was beyond thrilled when a simple Swagbucks search revealed that I could transfer my Clippings from one computer to another. It saved me a ton of time last night.

    This is my first new computer in three years, and I think things went a lot more smoothly this time than they did the last time. That’s extra important to me because I’m doing more online and even offline on my computer than I’ve ever done. If you have a tip to add, leave it in the comments – I’d love to make the switch even easier!

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