Tuesday, July 20, 2010
I've received a few requests to do a little blog on two topics: time and money management. Before I even begin, I need to tell you that I am NO expert in either thing. In regards to time, sometimes I find myself stretched way too thin, and I'll be the first to admit that I am a recovering flaky teen, who would flit from one idea or person to the next! Bad habits fortunately died way back when, but even though I do manage to get a lot done in a day, sometimes I need to take my own advice, like anyone who feels comfortable enough to dole it out. And on the subject of money...definitely not an expert, but I've been on both sides of the coin (literally, haha)- I've had debt, and also been, like now- debt free.
Today I thought I would talk a little bit about time management. Again, I am no expert but I am more than happy to share some tips and tricks that have worked for me! I'm going to pretend that I am talking to someone who who has little to no organization in their life. Also- none of this will be new to anyone, but perhaps it will give you a little inspiration in your life!
1) Get a simple planner. I have been using a planner since I was in middle school, when they would give us the big spiral-bound ones with my school's logo on the front, and my teacher would force us to write down our homework each day, for points. Back then it was a chore, but as time went by I found myself gravitating towards planners and feeling absolutely lost without mine. Now, I write everything in it; to-do lists, gym plans for the day, appointments, you name it. Carry it with you at all times, and write everything in it! Look at it often.
2) Get into the habit of making what I call "Sunday lists." On Sunday morning I will sit down with my planner and make a few different lists: large to-dos for the week, bills to pay, shopping lists, meal plans and workout times/plans.
This doesn't replace the smaller to-do lists in your actual planner, and I actually take some of the info and copy it right into my planner. I don't copy over my meal plans, shopping lists or workout plans, but I do rewrite my due bills and to-dos in there. What I will write in there for the larger lists are things like "gym: 6-7pm" or "stop by grocery store," and after my workout, I'll write a quick rundown of what I did in my planner so I have it to look back on as time goes by to see what weeks I worked hard, almost as a bit of a motivator on weeks I feel like just staying in bed.
As far as meal plans, it's easy. All you have to do is figure out which days of the week you won't be going out. For us, we have a fairly large family base in town and once a week we typically find ourselves going out with them for a meal. On the weekends we do more of a free-for-all, and cook what we feel like at the moment or just graze leftovers, etc. But during the week it's nice to know what we're having and also having all the tools and supplies to make it. Secondly, we both work at the moment so it's nice to be able to bring some left-overs to work the next day.
So, first thing is to figure out what you want to make and serve. An example:
Monday: black bean tacos with soyrizo and homemade guacamole
Tuesday: Ezekial tortilla pizzas and salad
Wednesday: veggie soup and black bean patties wrapped in lettuce
Thursday: broccoli/tofu stirfry
Friday: out to eat with family
Then all you have to do is figure out what ingredients you need for each meal (lots of overlap helps with cost!) and then make a grocery list. Done!
If you want to be even more organized, you can do this on Sunday and also pre-make meals for lunch if you bring it to work everyday. Lots of planning, but makes your week so easy.
3) Schedule YOU time. If there's one thing I'm good at, it's making time for me! Luckily Hank is someone who also loves time to himself as well, and we definitely aren't the kind of couple that needs to be curled up on top of each other on the couch all night. We'll usually eat dinner together, but then go off for a few hours and do whatever we need or want to get done. I like to spend my free time on the weekdays at the gym, reading in bed, or blogging. All three of these things are very relaxing to me. Hank spends his time doing school work, working on work stuff, fiddling around online, or playing/writing music. After we've both got our fill of doing whatever we feel like doing, we usually find our way to the couch, or somewhere together where we wind down together before bed. I couldn't ever imagine being in a relationship where I didn't have time to do things for me. You have to make time for you, in order to feel motivated to do anything else. Now, this is all about to change for me in just a few months when our son is born...but for now I'll luxuriously enjoy two straight hours of uninterrupted reading in bed, with a bowl of popcorn next to me.
And as far as actually scheduling this time, I actually write my gym times as if it's an appointment. On Sundays I'll look at my whole schedule and say okay, we have a family dinner Monday so I need to workout right after work. Tuesday I have parent teacher conferences all night so I need to go at 5am before work, and so on. This way I know when I need to go, and it happens. When things get busy, it's imperative I do this, because for me, working out is my biggest stress and anxiety reliever. Exercise is my favorite thing to do, and if I don't do it I just start to feel...off. Having an entire week planned out is such a relief to me. All I have to do is get there.
4) Break up cleaning on specific days. Nothing's worse to me than having a totally messy house. I HATE it and it makes me crazy. It's hard to know where to even begin! Now, if you were to come into my house this summer, you'd be hard-pressed to find a room that's perfectly organized and put away. We haven't been home much, so as I type there is an open suitcase at my feet and two brown packing boxes to my right. We're in the process of buying and moving sometime soon (cross your fingers that the tail-end of this short sale house we're trying to purchase works out!) so we've been slowly packing things up. But anyway, I digress. During the school year when we are home and settled, what works best for us is breaking up chores on particular days. By no means do we have a chore chart, but when you vacuum every Monday it becomes habit. Just look at the main things you have to do to keep your house tidy, and do one major thing everyday. Monday- vacuum, Tuesday- laundry, Wednesday- organization, Thursday- bathroom(s) and kitchen quick cleans, Friday- dust and small chores (this is just an example I just made up). Then when the weekend comes you have a wonderfully clean house and you can enjoy! It takes just 30 minutes a day, and for instance with the kitchen/bathroom "quick cleans," means that you are wiping down all of the counters, applicable appliances, making sure your fridge is up to date, etc. If you keep these rooms clean all week you won't have much to do. Deep cleaning can happen when you have a lot of time, but if you do these things once a week nothing ever builds up and always stays fresh!
5) Know your weak areas and use your planner to help you get past them. Let's say you never call people back- well, write down in your planner "call so-and-s0 back." If you continuously miss a bill deadline, figure out which day it's due, then write it in your planner for the entire year with reminders the week before. I'll talk more about this in my money-management post but when I get my new planner I write the ENTIRE year out, in terms of pay days, what's due, etc. It's so, so helpful and I've never had a late payment or bill in my life. You should be writing down every appointment you have, the moment you make them. Whip out your planner at the dentist, schedule your hair appointments, even hangouts with friends right in those pages. I can skim through the next few months and know exactly what's coming up, who is visiting, where Hank will be on tour, etc. It's wonderful.
In terms of planners, you should pick something simple but also something you think is pretty! I prefer to use the planners that have ample space for each day. I don't use the actual monthly calendar, so the daily space is most important to me. I don't get anything fancy, just a small Dayminder one from Target for like $6. I've had super pretty ones I've ordered from Etsy before, but when it comes down to it, I love simplicity and these cheap ones give that to me.
So, overall the main thing is to just get the planner and start writing in it. When a week has gone by and all of a sudden you realized you've made such great use of your time, you've gotten so much done, and you've been on top of things- it's a GREAT feeling. You'll get used to feeling organized, reliable and put together, and it will become a habit. Start today if you've never had a planner or done this before. Head out to the store, pick one up, and start scheduling your time. At first it may seem weird to write all of these things down, but as you cross or check off your to-dos, make payments on time, I promise you'll love it. AND if you're a student, this will make your life one million times better.
Let me know what YOU do to stay organized. I'm sure my readers would love to hear what you have to say in the comments. Good luck and have fun!