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  • Trying to Find a New Routine, Time Management, & Menu Planning Changes

    This past weekend was a crazy whirlwind of sports for the boys, and it came after a week of newly scheduled practices. So although we’re in week five of the school year, it’s only now that I feel completely overwhelmed and off-kilter. (And I’m really glad school started early this year, so at least our morning routine is already set, and we’ve all gotten used to the homework load.)

    We got a little unlucky this season, and all of our team practices are stacked early in the week, in the late afternoon. During what would normally be my dinner prep time. Weekends are pretty much taken up by games. (What should be a 1 to 1-1/2 hour game takes up 2 to 3 hours because of having to arrive early, etc. And sometimes there’s not enough time to go home between games, so we can easily be at the fields for 5 hours or more.)

    The thing is, it appears the kids can completely handle their schedule of school, homework, practices and games. I’m the one who’s struggling to get them everywhere on time, make sure they are properly fed and watered, and their homework gets done – while also keeping up with blogging (my job!), housework, PTA volunteer work, cooking, shopping, and supporting my own friends. There’s a lot of talk about overscheduling the kids, but in our case, I seem to have overscheduled myself!

    I know that it will just take us me a couple of weeks to settle into a routine, and then I’ll feel more settled down. But in the meantime, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by all that’s on my plate now – and so I’m wondering, what do you do when this happens?

    My usual tactic is to make a list of things that need to get done and just tick them off one by one, prioritizing by urgency whenever possible but also tending to do the things I prefer over the activities I dislike most (e.g., I’ll menu plan before I vacuum, even if the vacuuming needs to be done more). Crossing things off my list makes me feel more in control and less overwhelmed.

    One thing that’s always a big help is menu planning, not just because it helps me get dinner on the table, but because it also mentally prepares me for what the week and days are going to be like. I take into consideration what time we’ll be getting home from the last place we’ll be, and how much time I’ll have to spend in the kitchen based on what I have planned for the day. So now that I (finally) have full schedules of the boys’ various activities, I’m off to plan my menu for the rest of the month!

    Ink Garden
    Banner ad via MySavings.com.

    My Key to Getting Things Done: One Project Per Day

    You might have noticed that my week-in-review posts have tapered off, and that’s because I’ve been working hard to come up with a better time-management system based on The Rule of Three.

    In a nutshell, I realized that I would greatly increase my productivity by limiting my focus to just a few things at a time. So I came up with the idea of focusing on one project/goal each day. Of course, some things need to be done every day, like exercise and cooking. But, here’s what I’m planning on trying over the next few weeks:

    Monday – Shopping & Batch/Freezer Cooking

    Tuesday – Blogging

    Wednesday – One or two of the following: Shopping, Batch/Freezer Cooking, Cleaning, Home Organization

    Thursday – Blogging

    Friday – Cleaning (I do my Weekly Home Blessing Hour on Fridays, so it makes sense to focus on cleaning the whole day)

    I started following this plan last week and I felt like I got more things done. So hopefully that trend will continue as I get better at implementing it!

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    The Military’s “Rule of Three”

    A couple of weeks ago, I was reading this article in Good Housekeeping, and was struck by the concept of the “Rule of Three,” which is used by the U.S. military:

    They’ve found that people can only track three things at once. The entire military system is designed to reflect this. A squad leader is in charge of three fire team leaders….” (When the military experimented with a “Rule of Four,” notes Seelig, effectiveness dropped precipitously.)

    I know this section got my attention because I’ve been struggling to accomplish all of my goals in multiple areas – housekeeping, cooking, blogging, health and fitness, home organization (which is distinct from housekeeping), financial goals, plus smaller projects like things I’ve taken on for the PTA. That doesn’t even touch on the goals I’d like to add to my list, like educating myself more about investments.

    The concept of the Rule of Three made me feel better about my struggles. It makes sense that I’m having a tough time because I’m trying to do too much, which makes it difficult to be effective at anything.

    I feel like I need to combine the lessons of Eat That Frog! with the Rule of Three to maximize my productivity and minimize stress. (Because nothing creates stress like feeling overwhelmed!)

    So . . . I’m working on these things right now:

    Clarifying my goals per Eat that Frog. The clearer my goals, the clearer the things that need to be done in order to achieve them.

    Working out a system to implement the Rule of Three. I don’t want to reduce the number of things I want to accomplish, but I can focus on a few at a time, which will hopefully have the same effect as following the Rule of Three.

    I am also hoping this book, Getting Results the Agile Way: A Personal Results System for Work and Life, will be a Kindle deal soon because it apparently discusses the Rule of Three in relation to productivity.

    My Best Anti-Procrastination Tip

    We all have them – days where we can’t seem to find the motivation to do anything. To be honest, I’m having one of those days right now – so I’m using my best anti-procrastination tip, and I’m going to share it with you:

    Make a short list of easy things to do – and then do them. The act of doing them will give you momentum to keep going.

    There’s a lot of truth to Newton’s first law of motion (an object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion). Like me, I think you’ll find that doing something small leads to another something small, which in turn leads to another action. You may not get your “big” tasks done this way, but at least you’ve cleared the way for it.

    And when you don’t have all those little “energy drains” nagging at the back of your mind . . . you may find that you suddenly have the energy and desire to tackle a “big” task.

    Note: For more on energy drains, I recommend Cheryl Richardson‘s Take Time For Your Life, which is a fantastic book on priorities and getting things done while still being good to yourself.

    Two Tips to Save You Lots of Time in LA

    Here are a couple of tips that you won’t use frequently, but could save you hours when you need them. The links are specific to Los Angeles and California, but you should look for similar opportunities in your area if you’re not local.

    Tip #1: Make an appointment when you have to go to the DMV. I have done this twice now, and it just amazes me to see the people standing in a line that goes out the door and around the building when I can just walk in and be done with my business in fifteen minutes because I had an appointment. It’s easy to make an appointment online here.

    Tip #2: Do your juror orientation online. This is a relatively new development, but if you are called into jury duty in Los Angeles County, you should be given the option of completing the orientation by watching online videos. It can delay the time you need to report to the courthouse by two hours or so (e.g., from 7:15 to 9:30). The training video did crash once and had to be restarted from the beginning. You’ll have to answer some questions during the training, but it’ll tell you the correct answer if you get one wrong. The certificate that you have to print is multiple pages, but you should only need the first page for proof of completion. You can learn more about online orientation here (click on the orientation link on the left).

    I thought about adding a Tip #3: Check traffic maps before you leave for your destination. But in all honesty, the maps have never been particularly useful. I have found Sigalert.com to be far more accurate than Google Maps, but still takes some time to update. Unfortunately, the best advice when it comes to dealing with LA traffic is still: “Leave early.”

    Creative strategies for coping with rising costs – Part Three: Finding Time For Cost-Cutting Measures

    In this series, Creative Strategies for Coping with Rising Costs, I will discuss the ways I am saving money and cutting costs in order to maintain our lifestyle as prices increase. You can read Part One: Back to Basics here and Part Two: The Drugstore Game here.

    The first two part of this series discusses fairly time-consuming measures if you’ve never kept a price book or played The Drugstore Game. So in Part Three, I want to discuss ways to find the time to do these things. Unfortunately, there’s no totally painless way – if you weren’t doing these things already, you’ll have to make some changes. My goal in this article is to suggest the easiest ways to make time.

    Here are some ideas for finding blocks of time to implement your cost-cutting measures:

    • If you work, use your lunch hour. You can take the weekly circulars and cell-phone pictures you’ve collected and enter them into your price book to get started. Or, if there’s a drugstore nearby, you could head there at lunchtime. This is also a good time to plan a menu, if you are using meal-planning as a way to save money (bring the grocery store circulars to work so you can plan your menu around what’s on sale).
    • Trade baby-sitting time with a friend. You can watch her kids while she goes to the drugstore and vice versa.
    • Create your price book with a friend who lives in your area. You can divide responsibilities by store or by category. Better yet, do both – trade the raw figures that you’ve collected, fill out the price book page for the items assigned to you, and then make copies of the pages so that you each have a complete book. Your price book will be done in half the time (even less if you get more than one friend involved).
    • Go shopping after the kids are asleep. Personally, I hate shopping late at night, but I have friends who love it.
    • Get your spouse on board. My husband is very accommodating about stopping at a drugstore on the way somewhere. If we’re all together, I’ll just run in and grab the deal I need, but he will also go by himself if I am clear about what the deal is.

    These are the ideas I came up with. If you have suggestions to add, please leave a comment!

    And remember, once you’ve created your price book and played The Drugstore Game a few times, the time commitment is greatly reduced.

    Come back next Monday for the fourth part of the series on Unusual Ideas For Saving Money Without Reducing Your Standard Of Living. And don’t miss the update on the first two posts in this series.