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  • My Key to Getting Things Done: One Project Per Day

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    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”

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    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.

    The Value of Your Time

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    I’ve been extremely busy, but it really hasn’t been one major project, just everything combined. A big part of it is that I have chosen to do certain things myself rather than pay for them, most notably cook healthy meals and clean my house. It’s made me ponder the value of my time, particularly since I work full time.

    I’ve decided that at least for the moment, I am willing to spend the time cooking and cleaning for my family – we eat much healthier than we would if we paid for take-out, and our house is a lot cleaner now that I’m doing it myself instead of paying someone. However, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have Marc’s full support, understanding and encouragement. It helps tremendously to keep the marital peace when we agree on how to spend our money.

    For my part, I am working hard to streamline my tasks. I have become more diligent about my menu planning and am making more meals that can go into the freezer to free up time on weeknights. I have also learned to clean my house by breaking up jobs that I used to think needed to be done at once – for example, instead of vacuuming the whole house, I now vacuum only the top or bottom floor, and sometimes I only vaccum half of a level if I’m really pressed for time or just too tired. In a few months, I may decide these tasks are not worth my time after all. But for now, they are.