Have you ever wondered if you could ever get and stay organized? Or tried to find more time in a day to get things done? If so, I have a few organizational tips that have helped me. Let me preface by saying that I am not a professional organizer or life coach…just a person trying to get a lot done in a day and still have some “down” time. There is no guarantee that any of these ideas will work for you, but they may trigger a suggestion in your own mind that will help you find more time and stress less.
I am not an overly ambitious person. I work a few part-time jobs, have a husband and a home and like to volunteer and participate in church activities. I also enjoy down time whether reading, cross stitching or watching one of my favorite shows or a movie. I have been trying for years to find a balance between my work and my other activities. These ideas have helped me very much.
#1: Have a planner and it needs to be big enough to write in and track upcoming things to do and events. I actually have one that goes from July through December of the following year. That helps me plan new events and remember birthdays, anniversaries and other important dates. At the beginning of each month, it has the month calendar for monthly reminders then weekly pages after that for daily planning. I use the month calendar to track what bills need paid when and what meetings or events I need to attend. The weekly planner is great for daily reminders (pick up prescriptions, doctor appointments, etc.).
I also use address labels I print to help remember daily items. Each day gets a label with reminders to take my medications, help me track what I eat and drink (since I am trying to lose weight), reminds me to do daily tasks and includes a space for a prayer need specific for the day. It may seem silly to do this, but it works for me. Your label can remind you of anything you need to remember or anything you want to track. For example you could track blood pressure readings, blood sugar levels, exercise routines, and the like.
On top of each weekly page, I also print my weekly menu. I then use that menu to buy groceries. Instead of coming home from work and spending a half an hour trying to figure out what to make, I now have only up to seven choices and ingredients for any of the seven. As the week wears on, the choices get less and it is actually easier. This not only saves me time, but we also eat better and save money on groceries. We used to eat out a lot because it seemed easier, but this system makes cooking at home more satisfying (see #2 for more).
My planner is a little cumbersome because I do so much with it, but it helps my life so much that it is worth it. Also, I have realized that I do not need to take it everywhere with me. If I am going to a movie, I don’t need my planner. That was a huge hurdle for me as I used to take it everywhere.
#2: Cooking dinners has always been a pain in my neck. Coming home and trying to figure out what to make, then find all the ingredients, then actually cooking it was so exhausting. We started to eat out more, but that is not healthy for the body or the wallet. Plus the time you spend going somewhere, eating and coming home does not add up to a time saver. Now with my planner I plan seven dinners and two lunches every week. As stated above, I shop for just what I need and have it all on hand. Sometimes you need to make a quick stop for some thing fresh but I do not make more than two grocery stops in a week. This will also depend on the size of your family, but the planning has helped alleviate so many unnecessary and time wasting grocery store stops.
The next thing I do is make double whenever possible. The extra becomes either lunch the next day or dinner another night. Some weeks we have so many leftovers, that we eat them one night and it is like a night off from cooking because all I have to do is reheat. We try to eat meatless dinners, so when I buy rice I make the entire package. When I buy noodles, I make the whole box. I make dinner that night and I freeze any extras for another night. That is where the pre-planning comes in, if I know this week I am making rice, many of my recipes for the week will be rice based.
Many times I then get to have a hot lunch the following day without having to pay huge amounts of money for food that is really bad for me.
#3: Keeping my wardrobe simple. Anyone who knows me, knows I am not that “into” clothes. They serve a purpose and should be utilitarian. But I used to waste so many minutes in the morning trying to figure out what to wear. Again, if you work in a location that requires a certain kind of dress or if you like dressing up everyday, this might not work for you.
I have made my wardrobe out of basic colors, mostly black and grey. All of my tops match all of my pants. I do not have any patterned outfits except for one fancy blouse for going out. The solid colors match well and make it easy to coordinate an outfit even when I am running late.
My closet is small so when I get something new, I automatically donate one or two items to make room. This keeps my wardrobe full of items I actually wear and eliminates the stress of having too many choices. Plus the added benefit of donating something is always good for the soul.
#4: Projects, budgets/financials and other long range items each have their own three-ring binder. I found this out when my father passed away and I was in charge of his estate. I was constantly looking for this or that and was frustrated with the time I was wasting because I was not organized. Then I got a binder and section tabs, and it all stayed in one place nice and organized. Now I use binders for each volunteer project, tax year, etc. I keep my tax folder up to date so when tax time comes I do not have to try to pull from every place and possibly miss something important. Yes, I have a lot of binders, but they fit nicely on a shelf and are available for reference when I need them. That is a real time saver.
#5 Using resources that are available to you. I am not a high-tech person. So when I got a new Blackberry for a great price, I thought it would be like the other phones I always had…just a phone. But I realized that I can input my address book into it and I now know where all my contact information is. It has an option for keeping passwords organized, that has been a HUGE time saver. I keep article ideas on the note pad and use it as my portable music player. Obviously each phone is different and have different options, but you might want to look into what is available that can help you stay organized. Admittedly, it took me a while to get used to the phone as an organizer and to input the data, but now I would be lost without it.
I know these ideas are not earth shattering, but they have really helped me to be more organized, on time more often and have relieved stress in my life. Stress is killing us all, it is overtaking our lives and I wanted to stand up to it for once and take a little bit of control back. I hope an idea or two may help you do the same thing. If not, maybe it will jog you to think about areas you need to think about and come up with a solution. There has to be more to life than just constant stress, heres to hoping you find a balance and peace in your life. You deserve it!