Staying On Track When You’re Overwhelmed

IMG_0140Do you ever wonder why sometimes life is slow and easy and then bam! We get overwhelmed with everything that has to be done at the same time? I’m feeling that way today. I’ve made it through days of cleaning and cooking for our Christmas crowd, reclaiming my house by washing sheets, towels and putting away the decorations.

Now the New Year is flying by. I’ve got lots of work to do and am trying to take a deep breath before I freak out. Here are a few of my secrets to keep me calm and on track:

ROUTINE

I try not to mess with my established routine. For going on six years, I have followed Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” and it’s served me well. I start the day with three pages of journaling, a long walk and prayer. Even when I’ve got tight deadlines or a crazy schedule, there’s no way I’ll cheat myself of this time to get my head and body refreshed and ready for the day.

SWIM

Exercise is so important to staying stress free and to keep your mind clear. Unfortunately I have let go of swim practice when I’m too busy. It’s my New Year’s Resolution to be consistent with three practices a week. I’ve got a good start to January and I’m not going to blow it now.

PRIORITIZE and ORGANIZE

Figure out exactly what you need to get done and let go of the other stuff. When I’m juggling a bunch of projects at once, I figure out what is most important. If I do the harder tasks or work I don’t want to do first, the rest is easy. Getting the clutter out of the way helps, too. My daughter is big on color coding her work and putting it on a white board or calendar. I’m going to try color folders for each of my projects so I’m not searching through papers on my desk.

WORK AHEAD

When I have a few minutes of free time, I work ahead. Last week I was waiting on work, so instead of surfing the internet and reading news online, I made a list of everything I needed to get done for this week — and jumped in on it. Lists are my saving grace. I start each day with a list of to dos and work my way through the day. Then, I make a list for the next day, and start in on that, too.

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Views from my morning walk.

What are your methods to stay on track and focused when you’re crazy busy?

Tips for You and Your Kids to Stay Ahead of the Curve

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Yesterday, I noticed an article that has been taped to our refrigerator for years. It’s been there so long, I’ve forgotten to take notice of it. It’s called “Stay Ahead of the Curve” and it was from Investor Business Daily’s 10 Secrets to Success. It’s so old that’s it’s turning brown and I cannot find it on the internet. If I could, I would repost the entire article.

My husband wanted to pass on advice to our two kids while they were younger and in middle school and high school. He thought this article about being organized and getting ahead could help them with their school work and busy schedules. Although the article focuses on the workplace, it applies to school or home as well. I wouldn’t have noticed it yesterday if not for the fact that we got delivery of a new fridge and it was time for the old one with the article on it to go.

Following are excerpts from the article written by Cord Cooper with advice from productivity trainer Kenneth Ziegler, author of “Organizing for Success:”

ONE
Forget working late at night

It saps your energy and can cause you to be less productive the next day. You go to bed with your mind racing—recounting the day’s events and planning the next and are less likely to get a restful sleep, surveys show.

Your best bet: Arrive early and be on time. This not only boosts productivity, but can also help achieve work-life balance.

To maximize productivity during the day, limit the length and number of meetings if possible. Also set aside time when you can’t be interrupted.

TWO
Make the most of Monday morning

“Get off to a fast start Monday, and chances are the rest of the week will flow better,” Ziegler said. “Don’t schedule meetings or conferences first thing on Monday morning. They will kill everyone’s productivity.” Instead. set the following week’s agenda during a Friday staff meeting, ensuring everyone hits the ground running Monday.

THREE
At home, start the night before

“Select what you’re going to wear tomorrow and iron it ahead of time (if needed). If you have children, prepare and pack their lunches that night. Set the timer on the coffeepot and put items you are taking to work by the door.” And fill the gas tank on the way home from work, not the next morning, Ziegler advises.

FOUR
Don’t overplan

“Studies show that the average person can (realistically) plan up to 50% of his day. We tend to underestimate on average, by (at least) 20 percent of the time a task will take,” Ziegler said. We also don’t allow for interruptions and unforeseen events. We then waste time fiddling with our daily planners.

FIVE
Nail down specifics
If your boss or client needs a job done as soon as possible, define what that means and when. You probably have several tasks, and getting more information on each will help you plan effectively.

I found these helpful and I wished I would have glanced at the article more than once in the past decade. I’m not sure my kids paid much attention to it, but it was right in front of them every time they reached in the fridge for a snack. I just talked with my son on the phone and asked him if he remembered the article. I’m pleased to say he did and he said he always gets ready for work, the night before.

What do you have taped to your refrigerator and what tips do you have to stay ahead of the curve?

 

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The day we took our son to college.

 

When in doubt, throw it out!

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My daughter’s first-grade class. I cannot throw this out.

While my daughter was home for a few days after our summer vacation—before she returned to college out of state—she helped me organize our lives.

She got me started, which according to her is the “worst part.” I’m now ripping through stacks of papers and throwing things out without fear.

After she cleaned out our “junk drawer” and purchased a drawer organizer at Target, she focused on me. She’d pick up a piece of paper and ask, “Shred or recycle?” We did that for a couple hours and I sort of got the hang of it. Before, I was overwhelmed with making decisions on every little thing. It seemed like way too much work. I’ve broken through some barrier and can toss out old papers with the best of them.

 

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From the mouth of babes 🙂

I’m tackling the four-drawer metal file cabinet in my office which has tax returns and bank statements going back into the early 90s. It finally dawned on me that I don’t have to keep my returns pre-2010. Or bank statements, nor all the paperwork to close escrow on our first home—which was several decades ago—and no we don’t own the house anymore.

Why do we hold on to every important piece of paper—or the question is why do I? I have to say that on two instances, my large file cabinet has saved the day with much-needed slips of paper.

 

I’ll confess I’m having trouble throwing out my kids stories they wrote from Pre-K through middle school. Their paintings, Iowa tests and report cards will retain a place in the file cabinet. I don’t know why, but I’m not ready to let those things go—yet.

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A first-grade story by my son.  I think it’s a keeper.

 

When the project is done, I’ll feel 20 pounds lighter in spirit.

How do you keep yourself organized with the volume of paper in our lives? Do you keep all your kids art projects, papers and report cards, too?