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Plan, Do, Review, Revise (or, How’s that routine working out for you?)

Before I was a mum-of-three and an app developer, before the kids (or the app) were even a twinkle in anybody’s eye, I used to design and develop computer based training.  We’d take the staff development goals of businesses, and find which ones could be turned into learning objectives, then design training programmes to run on a CD or the internet. As we designed the programmes we continuously improved them – so many rounds of feedback, so many changes and tweaks.

Sometimes a idea I thought was the best thing since sliced bread didn’t work out in the real world, so I changed it to suit.  And that’s life. Eventually, we delivered the project to the customers and they were happy, of course…  but we were straight onto the next project, taking with us what we had learned from the last one. (Maybe we stopped to walk down to Serious Espresso in between.)

The process looked something like this:

That’s what  life and learning is all about – we can’t stay still.  Circumstances change all the time – children arrive, health issues surprise us, jobs change, roles change, and seasons change.  It’s unreasonable to expect that a plan you made a year or even a month ago would still be totally in synch with your current life.

So that’s why I suggest – have a look at your routines.  See what’s working, and what isn’t.  If you’re getting overwhelmed, drop some tasks that don’t matter as much.  Turn off some reminders.

Coincidentally, Maaike from Life With Flylady posted today about adapting Flylady’s zones to suit your house (with HomeRoutines! yay!), and Ana added an excellent comment:

At first I had too many things in my routines and was constantly not getting to some things, which was stressing me out. Then I reminded myself this is for me. I have no one to impress. I removed the tasks I was not ready for yet and it relieved the stress. I have added some back on when I was ready to do them. I will continue to add tasks as time goes on.

No matter whether you choose a housework system to adapt, or cobble one together, or come up with your own ideas – it has to suit your home.  It’s your home, not the home of some self-proclaimed internet expert, or your in-laws, or your grandmother, or that guy on that one infomercial!

Plan: Look around you. See what needs doing…  add it to your routines and zones.

Do: Use those routines, work through the zones, see how you go

Review: Have a look back over what you’ve been doing.  Is it working for you? Are you getting overwhelmed or avoiding your lists because they’re too long?

Revise: Add some things, remove some tasks, switch your zones around!

Enjoy your own system in your own place.  You totally deserve it.

Get Excited and Make Things

Don't keep calm and carry on.

A couple of years ago I had one of those Keep Calm and Carry on posters on my wall.  I felt kind of cool for awhile, because I was ahead of the curve with it down here in the Antipodes (They’re all over the shops here now, along with those fake bus blinds. Welcome to 2008, New Zealand!)  But after awhile its very presence on my wall started to stress me the heck out.

At the time I was just.getting.through.the.days with a major house renovation, a difficult pregnancy, my big girl starting school, and all the other usual dramas of family life, and somewhere along the line the poster’s admonition didn’t help.

Stop telling me what to do, poster!

But here’s the thing I found in the midst of it. If I got going and did something – anything – I’d have more go to do something else. Sitting in my armchair while the room grew dark around me, playing that damn whack-a-mole level of Plants Vs Zombies, was not an effective way of getting started on any endeavours, creative or practical.

HabitHacker has got it right –

If you improve your habits and put routines on autopilot, you’ll have more time for creative endeavors.

The art of habit leads to the habit of art.

Tim and I have found time and time again that if the kitchen is tidied, the living room floor isn’t covered in unfolded laundry and the books that Mr 18-months has ripped off the bookshelf (again) then we find ourselves magically Doing Things. Making jam, collage-ing stuff, sending out Postcrossing postcards, or doing some coding on some side-project of Great Awesomeness. Whereas if we’re sitting in a Living Room of Great Squalor after the kids are in bed, then we’re more likely to dive down the rabbithole of the Internets, or start playing dumb computer games without enjoying it or even really wanting to.

Does this make us tidy up immediately after dinner? Not always! But we’re trying, and it makes a difference.  Baby steps down the hall, and all that.

How to get started, get excited, and do something:

Run a dash

Go for 11 in 2011

9/10 productivity experts on the internet agree, timers are the way to go! Merlin Mann calls this Running a Dash:

My favorite tonic for procrastination—which I have mentioned in passing previously—is what I call a dash, which is simply a short burst of focused activity during which you force yourself to do nothing but work on the procrastinated item for a very short period of time—perhaps as little as just one minute. By breaking a few tiny pebbles off of your perceived monolith, you end up psyching yourself out of your stupor, as well as making much-needed progress on your overdue project. Neat, huh?

He online casino has some excellent techniques on how to do this. I particularly like how he suggests giving yourself two criteria for success: 10 minutes of picking up crap in your garage or one trash bag full, whichever comes first.

Fool yourself to work

At ParentHacks today I found this great list of 10 ways to start working by the developers of Swift To-Do List

In order to be successful, we have to work hard, no matter what. We can’t always be at the mercy of our motivation.

I am lazy. But that’s okay, because I have some tricks for fooling myself into working, every single day. Actually, I’m quite productive thanks to these tricks.

Stop procrastinating and do what you love

Maaike’s latest post on her glorious new blog talks about how to find your passion in life:

What is it that you love to do? Which activities make you forget about time and put you in an enticing flow? That’s what you need to figure out, birdies!

Get those ideas out there, imperfect though they are

Last word goes to the glorious Ze Frank

I run out of ideas every day! Each day I live in mortal fear that I’ve used up the last idea that’ll ever come to me. If you don’t wanna run out of ideas the best thing to do is not to execute them. You can tell yourself that you don’t have the time or resources to do ’em right. Then they stay around in your head like brain crack.

No matter how bad things get, at least you have those good ideas that you’ll get to later.

Some people get addicted to that brain crack. And the longer they wait, the more they convince themselves of how perfectly that idea should be executed. And they imagine it on a beautiful platter with glitter and rose petals. And everyone’s clapping for them.

But the bummer is most ideas kinda suck when you do ’em. And no matter how much you plan, you still have to do something for the first time. And you’re almost guaranteed the first time you do something it’ll blow. But somebody who does something bad three times still has three times the experience of that other person who’s still dreaming of all the applause.

When I get an idea, even a bad one, I try to get it out into the world as fast as possible, ’cause I certainly don’t want to be addicted to brain crack.

Watch the video below for the inspiring speech. (Probably PG)

And then – run a dash and see where you end up!

Baby Steps around the Office, Baby Steps down the Hall

Because I’m a word geek, I’m always fascinated to learn about the origins of phrases.  I refuse to declutter my etymology dictionary, for instance; it’s just so handy when you need to find out whether the use of the word kit for a collection of stuff came up before or after the word kete, which is Maori for bag.  (Kit has been around for ages, by the way, lest I leave you with an unanswered question to plague you. You’re welcome.) Plus, it makes visitors think I’m smart and stuff.

Anyway, I flicked through an old Dave Ramsey book at the library the other day, having heard him mentioned online, and was excited to see he used the phrase “Baby Steps”

Then, Dave mentioned that he had named his”Baby Steps” after a book a character wrote in a movie, What About Bob?. Intrigued, I looked it up.

Being such a spring chicken myself, I hadn’t seen that film, which came out back in 1991, when I wasn’t even born yet was 13.

It’s a comedy film directed by Frank Oz, and starring Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss. Murray plays Bob Wiley, a multiphobic psychiatric patient who follows his successful and (beyond) egotistical psychiatrist Dr. Leo Marvin (played by Dreyfuss) on vacation. (Thanks, Wikipedia!) Hilarity ensues.

In the movie, Dr Leo Marvin introduces Bob to his book Baby Steps… A Guide to living life One step at a time…

Here is the blurb off the back of the fictional book, explaining the idea of Baby Steps:

What are Baby Steps?

It may be a comedy movie, but it’s still very good advice.

Take it all one little baby step at a time, so you don’t get overwhelmed.

(PS: The book cover and blurb are from the interesting blog of Daren Dochterman, who designed the cover for the prop book in the movie. It’s taking all of my concentrating energy to not spend the rest of the afternoon reading it!)

Housework systems: The Whole SHEBang

On The Whole Shebang, SHE stands for Self, Home, Endeavors – a broader, more positive definition of SHE than the Flylady’s “Sidetracked Home Executives.” It was created by Krista, a professional organizer, who is sharing her beautifully designed resources and plans with all of us.

The basics of her plan are on her SheBang 101 page:

  • Creating your own Morning, Afternoon and Evening routines (we like routines 🙂 Krista’s example routines are great too.
  • Creating a special SHE spot of your own in your house – a cozy chair where you can sit and relax with a book for a bit, without looking at the washing basket!
  • And jaunty, informative signs to print out to stick on your baskets and boxes as you declutter – that is, creating your “SHE itt kit” (I see what she did there!)

Her concise Maintaining the SheBang page has great advice on monthly tasks to keep you on track, especially a ritual of reviewing and revising your routines.  I find that with little kids, a routine that used to work no longer does, as naptimes and playtimes shift – and as small boys become ever more enthusiastic to climb into an open dishwasher. (Unloading dishwasher now must occur when he is in his highchair!)

I’m looking forward to her further SHEBang projects – the first one is decluttering the closet. There’s the full-on version with printable resources and checklists – and the fast version where you pick out 5 ugly shirts to donate. Either way – excellent advice, and I’m certainly subscribing to her blog to keep up with the new projects as they come out.

Housework Systems: HouseHoncho

I just discovered HouseHoncho this afternoon and I am delighted!

If you sign up (for free) you’ll get one email a day, which gives you nine home tasks: three easy ones, three medium ones, and three “advanced” ones.

Here’s an example of today’s email message:

Good evening! Tomorrow we are focusing on the living room/family room with this list! Remember, don’t put pressure on yourself to get it all done. If you pick 3 items–in any combination–you will make a difference in your home today.

Calendar Alert: Spring is March 20th.

1. Clutter bust for 5 minutes.
2. Straighten a bookshelf.
3. Dust the television.

1. Clean the floor.
2. Clean the inside of the windows.
3. Vacuum the lampshades.

1. Organize (ie, purge) entertainment such as CDs and DVDs.
2. Thoroughly clean tables (such as a side or coffee table).
3. Spring Clean-athon Task: Dust the ceiling using a broom and soft cloth.

Check out the blog to read the words that haunt me from a high school teacher.

Keep it simple!
Your HouseHoncho Team

Isn’t that beautiful and simple?

HouseHoncho moves through the areas/zones in the house, one per day of the week, like this: (I couldn’t resist putting it into HomeRoutines to see how it fits!)

House Honcho schedule

There’s some great housekeeping advice on their Kitchen Table blog, and their Daily 5 routine list is sensible too.

House Honcho also has a page on Facebook.

If you sometimes need a little inspiration on where to start, HouseHoncho looks like a fantastic service. With 9 little missions per day to pick from, there’s bound to be three jobs that suit your home and your available time and energy. Plus: it’s just one email!

App Appeal

As you have probably heard, last week there was a devastating earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Wunderbear Software, developers of HomeRoutines, have banded together with other app developers from New Zealand to help the city recover, with the App Appeal project. 

As a participating developer, we will be giving all our proceeds from the sale of our app between the 26th of February and the 5th of March to the New Zealand Red Cross.  Buy any of the apps featured at App  Appeal and support the victims of #eqnz

Please have a look at the other apps available at; there are some very interesting ones that I am looking forward to downloading! They range from games (educational, fun, and both!) to productivity apps, photo-uploaders and peaceful calming sounds to help us fall asleep.

Whether you chose to give directly to the New Zealand Red Cross, buy an app or two, or send positive thoughts or prayers our way – thank you.

Decluttering in February

I think the universe is sending me a message: three of my favourite sites are focussing on Decluttering this month.  And I’ll keep telling myself that I’m not behind – I’ll just jump in where I am!


The FlyLady‘s monthly habit is decluttering for 15 minutes a day.  She has some good instructions on how to declutter and some different fun ways to get motivated.

You can click on the play button here and listen to Flylady talking about decluttering in February.

I’m feeling a bit guilty now because she keeps talking about how you should put boxes of decluttered stuff in the car straight away, and I’ve had boxes sitting on my bedroom floor for a couple of weeks.

Must deliver those and stop thinking that the op-shop lady is going to be all judgmental.

(Flylady is watching me procrastinate)

Life With Flylady

Life with FlyLady ButtonMaaike from Life With FlyLady is running a decluttering challenge with some great instructions and week-by-week steps.  She also links to some excellent decluttering advice from Leo Babauta at ZenHabits, one of my favourite inspirations for a simpler life.

You can follow along with Maaike on her Life With Flylady page on Facebook too.

The Organised Housewife

The Organised Housewife

Katrina from The Organised Housewife is running a February year-long, weekly decluttering challenge. She calls it “52 things in 52 weeks” but those Things are big things.  Not, like, one Happy Meal toy per week – this week, she is focusing on clearing out your closet.

I’m going to unload some birthday supplies from the car now so I can fit those op-shop boxes in there and get going. How about you?

Great new App from Moms With Apps

HomeRoutines is a proud member of Moms With Apps, a collective of independent app developers who also happen to be parents. Today the offical Moms With Apps app is available on the App Store. It’s free, and it’s a fantastic catalog of interesting apps that are of special interest to parents and their kids.

Here I’ve cross-posted the official announcement from Lorraine at Moms With Apps.

App Friday: Moms With Apps Goes LIVE on iTunes!

We are in a celebratory mood this App Friday. Our first collective effort to organize family-friendly apps throughout our membership has just been released on the iTunes App Store, for FREE. The Moms With Apps APP is a catalog to help parents browse apps by educational category. Looking for math, spelling, or science apps? Now you can see these choices organized in a bright display on your iPhone or iPad. Over the next several months we will be adding and refining these categories in hopes of making this THE ideal tool for finding apps for your family, and it’s YOUR feedback and participation that will help us meet that goal.


What is your app about? The Moms With App mobile app is a new tool to help parents find apps sorted by specific educational categories. It was developed by Andrew at BabyBinks, and represents over 600 apps throughout the Moms With Apps membership. Features include easier app discovery, adding apps to your wishlist, browsing by new release, and sharing great finds with friends. We will be releasing consistent updates over the next several months to further expand and refine our selection. We hope you like it, and welcome your review on iTunes.

Why is it special? We think it’s the first tool of its kind to give an organized voice for family-friendly apps, and we intend to be the best and most committed resource to help make your iDevice an educational tool for families.

What’s in it for me? Download it for FREE, to your iPhone or iPad – ANYTIME!