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Category Archives: Time Management

Back to the Basics

As I stated in a previous post, I’m coming off a season of slacking a bit in the organization area. So this week, to get myself back in gear, I’m getting back to my to-do lists.  I don’t really like to-do lists; I don’t like feeling beholden to a little piece of paper. Yet, much as I hate to admit it, I really do stay focused on and actually remember what I need to do when I write things down. It has to stay. This week I’ve been making mine on a little yellow note pad and plopping it down on the first flat surface (my little “easy-going” rebellion – I may have to use a list, but I don’t always have to know where it is).  As I studied other’s use of the to-do lists, hyper-organized types suggest listing items in the order in which they should be completed. Some even insist on listing the hours at which items should be completed. But since I am a reluctant to-do list-er, I just list things quickly the night before, review it in the morning to add or delete, then do things in any order I wish – my “easy-going” compromise. See my rules for the to-do list here.

Another item I’ve revisited this week is the Master Schedule. This is a little on the hyper-organized side, but it really is helpful for me, and of course, I add my “easy-going” touch.  The idea of the “Master Schedule” comes to me from Marcia Ramsland’s book Simplify Your Life, Get Organized and Stay That Way. The idea behind it is to have clearly laid out your weekly routine – schedules and things that need to get done at the same time or the same day each week. I started out by taking my trusty yellow notepad and simply listing everything my family and I  have scheduled and everything that must be accomplish week after week. Next I borrowed a cute little print-out from iheartOrganizing and started plugging things into the calendar.

Master Schedule

I started with the things that have definite times. Then I added the things that had to get done on a particular day. My easy-going twist is that I didn’t assign this second group of items a particular time. I like knowing what I have to do each day while having the freedom to get it done in my own time. I’m feeling more organized already.



Another Week, Another Goal

This week I’m getting back to the basics of organizing.  I’m going to be working on my schedule.  I will be revisiting my to-do list, re-working my master schedule, and getting myself back into a (flexible) routine that will help our household run more efficiently.

Organizing and Simplifying my Calendar

A few days ago, I crashed.  I had virtually made it to the end of an extremely busy season when I felt I absolutely couldn’t make it another day. My poor loving husband happened to call me at a particularly bad moment when it all came spilling out.  Because I am married to the nicest man in the world, he gave me the day off. I picked up Martha Ramsland’s Simplify Your Life: Get Organized and Stay that Way. In the first chapter on organizing your calendar my problem was revealed: “Calendar overload exacts a heavy price, which is why it’s often not worth the ‘big push’ to attend to everything and please everyone. A calendar without breathing room wears any normal person out, so guard your calendar to reflect the pace of life that you can personally handle. Discouragement and fatigue may be a reflection of a time schedule out of balance.” She suggests that in order to avoid this burn-out, you need to schedule at-home time — at least 2 weeknights (Monday through Thursday) and 1-2 weekend evenings (Friday through Sunday). As I looked back over my calendar, I realized that for the past 3 months we had 0 weeknights and at most 1 weekend evening at home due to sports practices, church activities and other various things that came up. On top of this I’m homeschooling, trying to organize a home and blog about it, trying to maintain a household (cleaning, meals, laundry. . .), training for a half-marathon, and maintain a certain number of daily on-line work hours. I realized I needed a change; I needed to simplify our calendar.  So I came up with the following plan:

1) Simplify (somewhat) my homeschooling – I am going to spend the summer on the quest for different curriculum.  What I currently use requires a lot of involvement, preparation and research from me. I came to the conclusion, after talking to a homeschooling mom I greatly respect, that it is okay to let someone else who has already done this successfully, do some of the work for me. It’s okay to buy a prepackaged curriculum that I trust. I can still put my mark on it.  With 3 kids at 3 different levels and a very busy preschooler, it just might save my sanity.

2) Simplify our sports schedules – I’m still working out exactly how this will look, but having practices every night of the week and games all day Saturday just doesn’t work for us. My husband and I are looking at sports programs like Upwards that seem to be a little more consolidated with all ages on the same nights, or possibly having our children stagger their participation. I’d love to hear from someone else on this . . . how do you keep your activities with multiple children at a sane level?

3) Re-schedule my Runs – I like to run at least 2 half-marathons a year.  It keeps me running and challenges me with longer distances, but I need to think about all that is going on in our lives when I schedule a run. I was starting to stress out about getting long  runs in and taking away our one free day as a family in order to complete it. I had to re-evaluate and decide that I don’t need to run this particular race.  Rather than forcing a spring-run into our schedules, I’m now planning for one this summer when the schedule is much lighter.

4) Clarify my work schedule – I am mostly a stay-at-home mom, but I work for a standardized testing company and have a 10-day (give or take) period of on-line scoring after a test is administered.  During a scoring session I commit to a certain number of hours and in order to get those in I spend every spare minute on the computer – 10 minutes til dinner? I’ll score a few papers.  I get tired, and the kids, house and my husband get neglected. I’ve decided to schedule undisturbed work hours each day; hours the family knows I am working (most likely when their sleeping or otherwise occupied), then stop and spend time with the family when my hours are complete.

5) Simplify my organizing – This blog is fun and it is my accountability for getting myself organized, but it is just that – fun. I need to make sure that when things get busy I’m not taking time from my family or work just so I can make a blog entry. Sometimes I may only blog once or twice a week and that’s okay.

6) Schedule down-time/family time – My calendar needs to include down-time at home with the family. In addition to reducing the number of activities on my calendar, I need to schedule in time with the family and my husband so they aren’t neglected.

7) Protect my Quiet Time – I know I’m too busy when my devotion time starts getting neglected. Why is that always the first thing to go? It shouldn’t be! When I miss my time with the Lord, everything else gets off. I need to keep my daily appointments with Him first.

We’ve all heard that the typical American family is over-scheduled. I never thought it would be me, but apparently I am typical. It’s time to go against the norm and put our sanity first.

Project Updates

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It’s Monday. Did you create a Monday “Master List”? I did! There are a couple resources I like for creating schedules or calendars. For a digital/online version I like to use Google Calendar.   It is a calendar that can be personally modified.  I was even able to type recipes for my menu items and make them click-able (only appeared when clicking on said menu item). One of my favorite features is the capability to share with those you choose — make it sharable with your hubby and he can add his schedule to yours! And of course you can sync it with phones and tablets. If you prefer a hard copy you can write on, I love this one from iHeart Organizing.

Find the free download here. This was a perfect “Master List” form for me with my over-view of the week, a spot for a master to-do list and even a place for my menu. I filled it out and added it to my home-management binder for easy access.

I also have an update on my recipe binder.

I can’t say it is completely finished because it is one of those things that will remain a work-in-progress.  Here is an over-view of my layout:

At the front of my binder I placed my favorite meals list.  This is a list, described in an earlier post is my quick reference for meal planning and a guide for finding a favorite recipe.

I used binder dividers to create the following recipe categories:

1 – Breakfast

2 – Lunch/Kid-Friendly Meals

3 – Beef/Pork

4 – Poultry

6 – Meatless/Fish

7 – Vegetables/Sides

8 – Breads

9 – Snacks/Appetizers

10 – Dessert

11 – Cookies ( I love cookies so they have their own spot rather than being added to dessert)

Within each section I added two pieces of colored card-stock — one blue and one yellow.  Behind the blue card-stock I added our favorite recipes that are worth repeating. Behind the yellow card-stock I placed recipes that I have collected and want to try.  After I try the recipe I will either add it to our favorites or toss it. I won’t keep a recipe we won’t eat!


I slid recipes cut from newspapers or magazines, printed from the Internet or even written on recipe cards into page and photo-protectors.


Currently, it all fits in one binder. Eventually I will have to add more binders as I add recipes.

The next couple weeks are exceptionally busy for me, so my organizing theme will be organizing projects to be completed in 30 minutes or less.  I’ll post my first project tomorrow. I have some ideas, but I’d love to hear from you . . . what organizing task can you complete in 30 minutes or less?

A Season Master Schedule

My theme this week is time management. I am in an exceptionally busy season right now, and in order to fit everything into the 24 hours we are given, I need to have my time organized. A couple days ago I wrote about Marcia Ramsland’s “Monday Master List” tip. I gave it a try and I’m keeping it. It’s a great time organizing strategy. But, I decided I needed to go one step further and create a “Season Master Schedule”. This is an over-view of all the general activities I both need and want to accomplish throughout the week and the time I must or would like to allot to them. It is an over-view of the daily routine I would like to create for myself and my family. Most time-management “gurus” agree that establishing a routine is the best way to manage your time effectively. If you do the same thing at the same time over and over, it becomes habitual and you avoid the periods of wasted time trying to figure out what to do next.

I call it a “Season Master Schedule” because it involves activities that only last for a season, or a period of time. For example, right now I am entering a season of spring sports for my children, a spring musical they are also involved in, along with a seasonal work schedule for me. The master schedule I set up now will need to be changed when these activities end in a couple months.

I began with a list. I listed everything that must get done — the practices, my work-hour commitments, those things I cannot miss.  Then I added my wish-list of what I would like to get accomplished. At this point I kept things relatively general because what I am creating is just an over-view of what I want my weekly routine to look like.  Then, using a free print-out from I Heart Organizing (why create it, if someone else already has?) I started to plug in the must-dos in the time slots they must be done.


With that accomplished I started on my wish-list, beginning with my greatest priorities first. I tried to be realistic with how much time each activity would take and to even give myself a little do-nothing time (you never know what might come up). I had to concede that my wish-list may have been a bit too lofty and leave a few things out.  Here it is, my Master Schedule, a weekly routine as it will be for the next month or two.


Note that I wrote in pencil. I find that I never truly know how things will work until I’ve actually lived it. What looks good on paper doesn’t always translate as such to life. It is very likely I will have to erase and re-work things as I go. How do you organize your time? I’d love to hear your input!

A Well-Timed Email

One of my favorite organizers is Marcia Ramsland. I have subscribed to receive her organizing tips via email. They only come once a week and they are always sooo good, so I pay attention when I see it in my inbox. Today’s happened to be a time-management tip, which is my theme this week. One tip is to use “A Monday ‘Master List'”. This is basically an ultra-to-do list of real things you have to do.  She explains, “A Master List is a categorized list of Actions you need to take that are more than things that can be accomplished in one day. It is a list that you create to clear a desktop of paperwork or to clear your mind when you feel overwhelmed.” Her suggestion is to create it on Monday because we are “most creative and ambitious at the beginning or the week. . .”, and to make it a priority to get through it by the end of the week.

I say this email was well-timed, because I had just begun to create my own sort of “master list” today, which was starting to get a little to detailed and complex. I like this approach — it’s simple, straight-forward, and easy-going — just my style. I’m going to try to pick up a new habit this week — the Master List habit. (Check out the complete article here).

Organizing My Time

“The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.”  Proverbs 14:1

I read this verse this morning and it had been running through my head all day. I had to ponder what I do either to build my house, or tear it down (shudder).  What are things that women do to tear down their homes with their own hands?  Well, there are the obvious things: being unfaithful, negative and overly-critical, constantly disrespectful, abusive . . .  I can check “no” on all those. However, there are more subtle ways I may tear down my house; perhaps not as drastically, but I can take some good-sized chunks out the dry-wall. One thought weighing on me today is that I am in charge of making sure our schedules, meals, and general home-life run smoothly. If I’m not doing this efficiently, I may not be completely tearing my house down, but I’m certainly not building it up. So this week, I want to work on my efficiency with time. Life is getting busier, and I need to be sure to get everything done in the best way possible. I’ve been using my to-do list, and it is working, but I need to take it a step further. This week I want to not just make my list and plow through it, but to actually schedule my time so that I can work through my list more efficiently. Using the free weekly routine printable from IHeart Organizing, I’m going to be working out a time schedule that can work with my family. I am still working on my recipe binder (it’s a pretty big project), and will continue this week along with my time schedule.

Organizing Lessons from Running

This isn't me, but I wish it was!

I am a runner.  Running is one of those activities that people will say they either love or they hate.  I’m convinced, though, that anyone can learn to love running.  When I first tried to make running a habit, I attempted to do it the way I learned from my cross-country and track experience . . . hard, everyday workouts. I got discouraged when I couldn’t make it as far as I thought I should, and if I didn’t get in a work-out I felt like I had completely blown it.  It didn’t take long for me to burn out and decide running just wasn’t for me.  A few years later, I decided to give it another try.  This time, I did some research and I discovered the secret to building endurance without killing myself and burning out.  This time I started small.  Rather than starting with a three-mile run and being horrified that I couldn’t make it even one, I combined walking with running — 1 minute run, 2 minutes walk.  I didn’t worry about how far; my goal was time.  Soon I was running for a full 20 minutes without walk breaks, then 30, 40 . . . I also learned that I didn’t have to run every day.  In fact, the body needs to rest and repair those muscles a run breaks down in order to be stronger.  Most importantly, by taking it slow, little by little, I kept going.  I didn’t quit.  Five years later, I’ve run six 5k’s, five 10k’s, six half-marathons, a 64-mile team relay, and one full marathon.  I no longer say, “I run.”  Now, I say, “I’m a runner.”

What does becoming a runner have to do with organizing?  Well, the lesson I learned in building endurance through running was my inspiration for attempting to become organized.  I never thought I could become a runner, but I always wanted to be one.  I never thought I could become truly organized, but I have always wanted to be.  Just like my early running attempts, I’ve tried to get organized before and have always burnt out.  This time, I’m taking it little-by-little . . . some walking, some running, even some resting.  This time, I will become organized.  Yes, I only started with a to-do list, but I’ve kept it up.  I’ve learned some from my to-do list this week. It really does help me focus.  In her article, “Power Time Tool #2: Time Slot Your To Do List”, Marcia Ramsland writes, “Did you know studies show we can only remember and focus on 7 things at a time? That’s why when we’re particularly busy, we grab a piece of paper and write out a To Do list of everything that needs to be done.” (read the full article here)  Only 7 things!  No wonder I sometimes walk upstairs, look around trying to figure out why I came up, then head down only to realize I’m still in my pajamas!  You’ll be pleased to know I haven’t forgotten to get dressed once this week.  By emptying my brain of all the things I know I need to remember to do, it’s free to focus on other things, like clothes, general hygiene, and keeping my kids fed.  I think I’ll keep the to-do list, and as the week comes to a close, I’m ready to add something new.


There it is.  My to-do list. And mostly crossed off.  Riveting, isn’t it?  I have a confession, though.  There is a part of me, the “easy-going”, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants part that chafes at the idea of operating off a to-do list.  Which is why I never have used one to this point.  I actually struggled with whether this is how I really wanted to begin.  Yet, as I read and reflected I came to the conclusion that the beginning of organization really begins with managing time, which is the purpose behind the list.  So, here is my “easy-going” compromise with the list:

  • I will not be ruled by the list
  • The list is a tool to help me manage my time; it will not manage me
  • I will follow the list in any order I please
  • I reserve the right to change the list as I see fit
  • I will not “freak out” if I don’t check every item off the list
  • I will occasionally give the list a day off

This morning I began my day with the first item on my to-do list, my quiet time.  My devotion was especially fitting this morning as it was on Mary and Martha.  If you remember the story, Jesus has come to have dinner and Martha is running around making sure every detail is perfect.  Mary, is sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening when Martha comes and asks Jesus why He doesn’t tell Mary to help her.  He says, “But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42).  I want to have my household organized, but I want to make sure that in all my labors I choose “that good part, which will not be taken away.”  That is why on today’s list, in addition to household chores, I also had “date with Paul” and “play a game with the kids”.  Investing my time in my family and my spiritual life. . . no clean closet can touch that.

New Year’s Day – Week 1: The “To-do List”

It is New Year’s Day and all over the world people are resolving to begin this year afresh; to finally lose those last few pounds, quit smoking, exercise more, get angry less, learn a foreign language. . .  Well, here’s mine.  I am resolving, this year, to GET ORGANIZED.  The thing about resolutions is that they tend to get broken, usually around  January 31st, or more often in my case, January 3rd.  As a woman, I count it a privilege and take seriously my position as “home manager”.  I set the tone, keep things running, keep us healthy, and in general, organize our lives.  This blog is my way to ensure my resolution doesn’t lack execution.  So, here’s the plan.  There are 52 weeks in a year.  Each week I will tackle one aspect of organizing my home, and my personal and family life.  By nature, I am an easy-going person, yet I have my areas of OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder).  My goal is to have fun getting organized taking it in manageable, weekly chunks, while not being so obsessed with keeping “everything in it’s place” that my family no longer feels at home.

In her book A Woman After God’s Own Heart Elizabeth George states:

“All God asks of you and me is to handle and manage today, only today. Jesus said, ‘Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble’ . . . Each day is important in and of itself:

  • What you are today is what you are becoming.
  • You are today what you have been becoming.
  • Every day is a little life, and our whole life is but a day repeated.”

So my question is what are you becoming?  What do you want to become?  Does it line up?  When I think of what, or rather who I want to become, I have a vision of a woman who has herself together: her closets organized, her home comfortable and clean, her children eating healthy home-made meals and developing character through regular house-hold chores, her budget maintained, her husband happy to come home to her, her body regularly exercised, and a growing spiritual life.  Wew!  Kind of makes you tired  just reading all that, doesn’t it?  Although I may never become this perfect woman, it is guaranteed I will not become her if I am not taking daily steps toward this goal.  “What you are today is what you are becoming.”  If I think in those terms, what I am becoming falls far short of what I want to become. This blog will be my journey to BECOME.  I hope some of you will join me and BECOME with me, or simply follow my journey and join in when it applies.

Here’s this week’s challenge:  Begin operating using a “To-do List”.  I have never operated this way.  But every efficient and organized person I have met, does. My “to-do list” is in my head, and inevitably, something always gets forgotten.  So this week, before I go to bed, I will be making a to-do list of what I want to accomplish tomorrow.  In the morning, I will check it over and add or delete as necessary.  Then, most importantly, start crossing things off (no cheating — we actually have to accomplish them before we cross them off)!

I’m adding a few 10-minute challenges for the week.  You know those moments when you finish something, then look around and think “Huh?  What do I do now?”  Then spend 10 minutes trying to figure it out? (Maybe that’s just me) Here are a few 10-minute tasks I plan to have ready when I have one of these moments:

  • Dust one room (I hate dusting, but it needs to be done, and maybe in small doses I can handle it)
  • Go through spices and discard old or expired ones (add to grocery list to replace)
  • Clean off my nightstand
  • Go through and get rid of hair things I don’t use (are scrunchies back?)
  • Play with my kids (if this takes longer than 10 minutes, it’s okay)

Good luck with yours!  Stay tuned to see how things go with mine!