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Find your Most Important Tasks. Do them.

I don’t know about you, but I usually have about a million things that I feel like I should be doing.  The end result is often… not actually doing them.

someecards.com - The moment when you realize how many things you have to do and decide to take a nap.

I try and keep the regular, recurring tasks under control by corralling them into routines and zone tasks, but there are always one-off jobs and projects to keep under control.

You can follow all sorts of powerful techniques to identify what to do next; what is urgent vs what is important, and what is urgent AND important, and so on. But there is only so much list-writing and task-juggling you can do before it turns into just another form of procrastination.

How about this:

  1. Choose your three Most Important Tasks tasks to do today.
  2. Write them in your to do list.
  3. Try and do those three.

Even if you get just one of them done, you’ll be further ahead than if you didn’t do any of those extra jobs.   I managed to get all my Most Important Tasks done today.  (Showing off!)

My Most Important Tasks  for today:

1) Take the girls to buy new shoes, because Belle’s sneakers AND her boots had fallen to bits and having her walk into school like a bare-footed waif child isn’t a great look in the middle of winter.

2)Update my order for the  fruit and vege box to be delivered tomorrow to have veges and fruit because we managed to eat most of our veges this week.

3)Follow up the cheque that I thought was to pay the fees for Brownies, but it turns out was something to do with the renovations.  Whoops. Pay the outstanding fees for Brownies.

Bug fix for iPad version 2.0.4

An update for the iPad version of HomeRoutines was released to the store yesterday, fixing a crashing bug. Unfortunately, we managed to introduce a new bug while fixing the old one.

Due to this bug, if you open HomeRoutines for iPad in portrait orientation, the Home button won’t be visible.  Fortunately, if you rotate your iPad to landscape, the Home button will reappear, and will stay there after you rotate back to portrait.

We have also submitted an urgent update  to Apple to fix this, and it should be available within a couple of days.

Imaginary railroads, stations, and zones

Back in Fall 1998, Pam and Peggy announced an update to their SideTracked Home Executive System. They had come up with the idea of dividing your home into Stations:

Break down your house into five stations and assign one station to one week (there are usually five weeks in a month).

Let’s say that:

  • Station One/Week One includes your entry, living and dining room,
  • Station Two/Week Two is your kitchen,
  • Station Three/Week Three the main bathroom, your office, a 1/2 bath and the laundry room,
  • Station Four/Week Four the master bedroom and guest room and
  • Station Five/Week Five is the basement.

Begin de-junking at the entrance of the station. You’ll work clockwise each day, cleaning out a closet, cupboard or drawer (sometimes for as little as ten minutes) and when the week ends on Sunday, you’ll move to the next station and do the same thing.

Granted, it will take several rotations (months) to get the whole house de-junked, but you will see progress in every room, you won’t kill yourself and life as you like it will go on as usual. Eventually every station will be streamlined!

Pam Young and Peggy Jones, Fall 1998 newsletter

Sounds familiar?  The Flylady adapted the idea of Stations, only she works from top to bottom instead of clockwise and called them Zones instead.

I really like the idea of calling them stations, though, because I can imagine a little train track going around my house, stopping at each room to move out clutter.

CHOO CHOO

With a small boy in the house, half the time I have a small “train” hurtling around the house shouting CHOO CHOO.  Only he seems to be spreading things around, rather than picking them up.  Note how the sticky fingerprints reflect the camera flash on that photo!  (PS: He is also obsessed with helping himself to fruit from the fruitbowl, and playing builders.  Yesterday I found him trying to bash in a small nail in the wall using a piece of fruit, leading to me having to tell him “A plum is not a hammer!” Yeah.  So that’s one of the reason’s I’ve not been blogging much)

Stations and Zones

What can I take from the SideTracked Home Executives’ idea of Stations and apply it to my personalised list of tasks in each of the rooms in HomeRoutines’ Zones:

  • I can put the list of tasks in a clockwise order around the room.  I’m actually starting to imagine an additional rail loop going clockwise around each room.  It’s like the Island of Sodor round here with the unexpected complexity of our rail network.  Having the tasks based in an order that is based on the physical layout of the room helps me keep track of where I’m up to.
  • Decluttering is a continual task. It’s worth taking a quick look at each storage area each month or so, because “you can’t CLEAN surfaces unless you HAVE them” so you need to clear the crap off your shelves before you can wipe them down.  I have been decluttering recently and it feels good, but it just keeps going on.
  • Pause after every station for a cup of tea. It’s good for the soul.
  • Sometimes you can get stuck in a plateau with any system or challenge; maybe all it takes is mixing up your lists again (and an imaginary train) to get back on track.

Soundtrack:  Peace Train by Cat Stevens

Morning High Five for the kids and myself

The daily rhythm of my home is changing soon, and it will be more important than ever to make sure our mornings run smoothly.

I remembered reading on Life As Mom about the idea of a Morning High Five for her kids. Picking the five most important chores, she made for them a colourful chart, like this:

Morning High Five chart from Life As Mom (click through for a printable and other awesomeness)

I decided to be creative and/or mysterious, so I mysteriously traced around the girls’ hands on coloured paper before school this morning, and whipped up my own version of the chart while they were away:

This is Lilly

This is a list for the girls, but there are kind of two lists in it for me.

The early morning list

So, there is literally nothing more important for me in the morning than making sure these things happen before 8:30am, for not only Lill but for Bella, Henry and myself. We all need to get through the full cycle of toilet, breakfast, dress’edness, teeth and hair, and the girls backpacks need to be packed. It’s nice if more things get done (a la breakfast dishes, made beds and so forth) but those can wait until after the school run. We must be realistic about these things. So I’ve split my school-morning routine into two. One is my own “High Five” list, and the other is all the entertaining (ha!) “extra” tasks that aren’t as mission critical as those that Get The Kids Out The Door.

The School Night Preparedness List

This is the most important, because nothing, nothing ruins the feng shui of a morning like the echoing cries of “Mum, I don’t have any clean knickers!” and frantic washing of yesterday’s lunchbox in order to fill it with today’s lunch. Horrible, stressful way to start the day, rummaging through the un-folded washing to find a uniform top and the right kind of undies and socks.

Well worth the effort, even when Bejewelled is calling to me.

What’s on your Next Day Preparedness List?

Just one thing: The power of the timer

So this morning I shared a post from I dream of Clean on the HomeRoutines Facebook page, and asked:

Do you have one little thing that would make a big difference if you got it done? We often have these little things on our “quality of life” to do list! I have a giant toddler handprint on my living room window – I think I will get to it because it is terribly distracting!

and then kept on sitting on my butt reading through my feeds and stuff.

And then I Dream of Clean popped up on my page and asked

Nice!!! Should we hold you to it? Maybe, let us know when it’s complete? 🙂

Ohhhh busted.

So I got up and took a photo of my toddler besmudge’d window:

and got out my window cleaner and cleaned that window, and the other window.

And then, since I was standing up without my laptop, I couldn’t help but notice that there were a few…other…. issues with my living room. Seriously.

This is pretty typical – laundry baskets, neary-finished folded washing, train track to nowhere, cushions off the sofa, and books every-which way.  What can I say, I have preschoolers!

But getting up and cleaning that one spot on one window totally gave me a burst of energy!

So I went with it.  I set my  timer for 11 minutes… turned on Dora The Explorer to distract wee Hank from further destruction… and by the time it went off, the living room was looking much better.  I kicked some cleaning butt!

For reals, Tim just came upstairs and said “So clean!!!

Sure, the floor could use a vacuum and I have still got a planter box of weeds outside the window.

But it’s a heck of a lot better, and that is just fine with me.

Gold Star blog posts!

Here are some relevant blog posts I’ve come across this week.  I usually post cool links straight to the HomeRoutines Facebook page when I find ’em, so Like us there to read them first!

On Routines and Schedules

  • Bookend Your Day: The Power of Morning and Evening Routines at The Art of Manliness
    • Imagine a string with a series of beads on it. The beads represent your goals, relationships, and priorities. Tip the string this way or that way, and the beads easily slide off and onto the floor. But tie a knot on each end of the string, and the beads stay put. Those knots are your morning and evening routines. They keep the priorities of your life from falling apart and thus help you progress and become a better man.
  • Reassess your Schedules and Routines at Productivity Your Way
    • … our daily routines and schedules have a huge impact on not just our productivity, but also our mood and relationships. Being over-committed, wasting time and misprioritizing all lead to stress and chaos.
  • Cleaning: Is it Better to Create a Schedule or Not? at Simplify 101
    • Scheduling tasks like cleaning can give you a tremendous sense of  freedom…and even room for spontonaeity! What works for you? Do you prefer to have a cleaning schedule…or does your life work better with out one?
  • Housekeeping Schedules and Daily Home Management at Home Sanctuary

    • Far and away, my most searched posts are the ones on setting up a housekeeping schedule. I imagine women stumbling across my easy system, and I can hear them saying, “FINALLY! A schedule that doesn’t make me feel like a failure before I even start!”

On Rocking your Timer

Kids’ Stuff

  • Homework without Tears (I mean you, Mom!) at The Happiest Mom
    • One place I’m working on this especially hard right now is establishing a new homework routine at our house.
  • Leafy Crafts at Kids Craft Weekly
    • This week, consider making the time to accompany the kids on a leisurely walk around your local area. Grab the hats, pack some drinks, choose a walking stick and get the kids to carry a basket or bag in which to keep any leaves that happen to take their fancy.