Category Archives: Time Management

Checklists to Keep Kids on Task and Get Out the Door

Morning and Afternoon Checklists for kids

I don’t know about you, but we have the hardest time getting everyone out the door in the morning. Even if it’s just me, I have a hard time, but when you add kids, it feels like an uphill battle in a hurricane to get the kids out the door with everything they need for school (or wherever we are going).

Do any of these sound familiar to you? 

“Put your shoes on.”

“Where did you take them off?”

“Don’t just stand there looking around. You actually need to look for them. Did you look in your room? Are they downstairs? You need to look under things, too!”

“Do you have your backpack?”

“Did you brush your hair?”

“Sign something?! We need to go!!”

These things don’t really make mornings very pleasant. Not the best way to start the day, right?

So to help make the mornings go smoother and to teach the kids some responsibility, I made a “Good Morning Checklist” and a “Good Afternoon Checklist.”

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I had the kids give input and I put them on the back of the door. The kids know that they need to go down the checklist.

Now you might hear, “Did you do everything on the checklist?”

We’ve had these up for 4 months or so, and it has helped a lot. I’m not saying that shoes are always where they are supposed to be in the morning, or that our mornings are always lovely now, but there is improvement!

The afternoon checklist helps set things up to make the morning checklist a success.

Good Afternoon Checklist

I think every so often we should do some tweaks and revisions.

My school-aged kids are 6 and 8. If you were trying this with a younger child, you might want to simplify it and add pictures.

Today I’m sharing something that’s working, but I just have to tell you that lots of things that were previously decluttered and organized around here are a total disaster. Including the kitchen island. More on that later, hopefully with some before and after pictures!

Do you like checklists? Do you have any other ideas for teaching kids responsibility and getting out the door on time? I’d love to hear it!

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Filed under Kids, Time Management

Time Diary Experiment: Results! Yikes!

Time Journal

My time diary from part of one day. Messy, of course. The numbers on the far left side show computer time.

Last week my friend Kristen (The Frugal Girl) and I (and some of you!) did a time diary experiment to see what in the world was happening to those 24 hours each day.

My hypothesis was that I have Computer Time-Suck Syndrome.

I was right. And remember the whole thing about how I was going to do better just because I was keeping track and I knew I would be reporting it to the world? Can we forget about that part? Because…well, you’ll see.

I could tell as I was going through the week that I was losing track of time on the computer. I would go to do a quick email, blog, Facebook check-in, thinking it would be 5-10 min., and discover upon emerging that it had actually been 20 or even 60 minutes. Really? It didn’t seem like that long!

I went through the time diary to try to total my computer usage for each day. These times are approximate, because I didn’t always write down the exact time I sat down and the exact time I broke away.

Computer Time

Monday: 3 hours

Tuesday: 4 hours

Wednesday: almost 5 hours!?!

Thursday: 4 hours

Friday: 2 1/2 hours

Now, I don’t consider all of that time as wasted. Some of it was intentional and planned. Some of it was productive time. But waaayyy too much of it was me, floating around from one interesting recipe/blog post/Facebook update to another, when I really should have been doing something else.

The thing is, when I’m on the computer,  I’m often doing things that I think will ultimately be good for my family, like finding new recipes, researching activities to do with the kids, or learning about decluttering and organizing. But I need to spend time actually living my real life.

I need to spend time actually decluttering and organizing my own home, not just looking at a gazillion ideas and methods from others. Not that that’s all bad, but I need a better balance between the two.

I just want to throw in here that we did lots of good offline things this week, too! We went to the library twice, we made smoothies and banana bread, we cleaned, played, colored, and danced. Yay!

Here are some updates on a few other things I mentioned in my post when I introduced the time diary experiment:

Sleep Schedule:

I went to bed between 12 – 2 AM each night and woke up between 6:30 – 8:59 AM. (My goal is to get to bed earlier and wake up earlier.)

Average sleep time : 7 hours (I think my body would prefer 8-9)

Cleaning Schedule:

I think I did a little better than usual. And I’m really improving on getting the kids involved. No big decluttering projects, though.

Planning Ahead:

I made To Do lists for at least 3 days. I don’t follow them very well. I don’t look at them enough. I need to simplify this and force myself to have less things on the list so that I’m not too overwhelmed to look at them.

Next Steps:

Even though I’m tempted to try to fix everything at once, I think I will start by simply reducing the amount of time I spend on Facebook. I love Facebook. I love it a little too much. So I’m thinking 30 min. a day. I’ll be sure to let you know how it’s going!

Be sure to check out The Frugal Girl’s time diary update, too!

If you did a time diary, I’d love to hear about it! And if you blogged about it, feel free to put your link in the comments. 

If you want to stay updated on my simplifying adventures, you can subscribe by email for free:

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Filed under Priorities, Time Management

A Time Diary Experiment – Join us!

[Image Credit]

I love that we do not have a lot of scheduled activity in the summer, but I have been feeling like I have been wasting about half of each day! It seems like I look up and all of a sudden it’s lunch time and what do I have to show for that morning time? Not much. Not much at all.

It’s not that I think there can’t be down time or chill time, but I want my days to be more purposeful. I don’t want the day to just happen to me, I want to be intentional – whether it’s chill time, play time, or declutter time. 

And I think spontaneity is awesome, but all day every day doesn’t work well for long.

One thing I’ve been trying to do for a while is get to bed on time and get up earlier (ideally before the kids, or at least before my youngest (Anna, 2). I think this will help me a lot, but I haven’t done well so far. My tendency is to get a second wind at night and stay up way too late. Of course that leads to a lack of motivation to get up in the morning and starting the day with the feeling of being behind.

Another thing I know I need to work on is planning for the day ahead. Not planning every hour of the day (although maybe some days I should), but having some idea of how I want the day to go, including at least some specifics about activities, times, tasks.

Working on my new cleaning schedule was definitely a step in the right direction. Now I need to pick me up some self-discipline to actually follow it! Do they sell self-discipline at Target? Well, they should.

So when my friend Kristen from The Frugal Girl contacted me about working together on our time management, I was easily on board!  We are both going to keep a time diary this week to see where our time is going, and we will report back at the end of the week. It would be even more fun if you wanted to join us and do your own time diary!

I actually have tried to keep a time diary before, but the mistake I made was trying to write down every. single. thing. That lead to wasting time keeping the diary updated and burnout from making it too hard to keep up. So this time I’m planning to jot things down once every 1-2 hours.

I’m going to continue to make efforts to use my time well this week. In fact, I’m fairly confident that I will do better than usual. (Because I am not really motivated to tell you at the end of the week that I sat in front of my computer for 3 hours every morning while my kids sat in front of a screen of their own. Nope. ) And that’s a good thing, I think.

So if you want to join us in keeping a time diary this week, leave a comment letting us know, and then you can comment again at the end of the week with your own analysis. I would love to hear about what you learn! 

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Filed under Priorities, Time Management

Love by Decluttering | The Master Bedroom Project – Update #1

I’m decluttering and organizing The Master Bedroom this month as part of my Love By Decluttering project. And I’m so thankful that Laura from I’m an Organizing Junkie is doing a 29 Day Organizing Challenge this month, too!

I started out the project by procrastinating for several days. Great start, eh?

Then I realized that I really needed to get moving and do something. Anything. Just start.

It really helped knowing that I told all of you that I was going to do this project and that there are deadlines in Org Junkie’s 29 Day Organizing Challenge. Laura is one smart lady.

So I set the timer for 15 minutes. This is something that I have learned works well for me. It’s not overwhelming. I can do something to help that room for 15 minutes.

I decided to start with the mega pile on my side of the bed.

I moved 2 laundry baskets with Anna’s clothes to her room, and I started picking up the rest of the clothes that were in the pile and putting them in one of these places:

  • Dirty laundry pile
  • In the closet (Brilliant, I know)
  • Give away or sell bag
  • A pile to go to the kids’ rooms
When the time was up, I wanted to keep going, so I reset the timer. And this is how I’ve been working over the last few days. I find a 15 min. slot and set the timer. Sometimes when it goes off I just keep working.
When you look at the before pictures of my mega clutter pile, it looks like my main problem is clothes. Not entirely. Here’s what was under the clothes:
There’s a lot of paper clutter there, mixed with a bit of other miscellaneous clutter. Not paper clutter again! Grr.
After I took this picture, I moved one already-sorted paper clutter box next to the desk (not in the bedroom), a recycle box moved outside (Yay!), and a shred box moved next to our broken shredder in the kitchen (hmm…).
As I was working, I put aside some other things that did not belong in my bedroom. Here’s a picture of some of the things I found:
The Free box is left over from our yard sale. Then we have old balloons, toys, snacks, school papers, and a small stick.

Some Analysis

I cleaned and decluttered this exact space 11 months ago. So now that I see what has piled up in that spot over the last 11 months, I can work on analyzing the situation.

What has been working in the closet area

  • Hanging up clothes on hangers. For some reason, I’m pretty good at this.
  • Organizing the clothes by type and color. I really like the look of it, which matters when you have an open closet. Also, I’ve  been able to keep up with it fairly well.
  • I like those shoe racks/shelves. As long as I don’t block them with clutter, they work well.

What isn’t working? What are the problems and possible solutions?

Problem #1: Using the master bedroom to hide clutter from around the house.

Possible Solution: The only thing I can think of is get rid of all of the clutter and keep up with maintenance so that I have nothing to hide. That is a solution over time, and one that will take a while to implement. Maybe some of you have another idea to add?

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Problem #2: Laundry baskets with clean laundry

Possible Solution: Keep up with putting laundry away as I do the laundry. Remind/help the kids to put away laundry. Maybe I don’t go to bed until the laundry is put away?

———————————————–

Problem #3: Clothes that have been worn, but aren’t actually dirty and could be worn again (e.g. sweaters or jeans). That was what most of the clothes in the pile were. Either that, or clothes I tried on, but then decided to wear something else that day. And a few of the “I’m too tired to do anything but throw these clothes in this pile as I fall into bed.”
Possible Solution: No more limbo-land. I must make a choice. It’s clean or it’s dirty. Either put it away or put it in the laundry pile. I’m actually really happy with this idea! Why didn’t I think of it before?
_____________________________

I’ll be back next Friday with Update #2!

How are your decluttering projects going? Do you have any ideas or insights for me?

I’m excited to be linking up with the 29 Day Organizational Challenge over at Org Junkie!

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Filed under Declutter, Motivation, Time Management

5 Tips for Finishing What I Start

I’m doing dishes. My tendency is to leave just a few things unwashed.

I’m reading a book. Then I leave that one and start another one, never finishing the first.

I’m writing a blog post. I have 45 posts in draft form right now.

In fact, I just looked over and realized that I had just started to sweep the floor when I decided this was actually the best time to start writing this post. So I left this:

It’s one of those things about myself that drives me crazy! It’s really only in the last couple of years that I identified this problem. And that’s a good place to start in moving towards a solution, isn’t it?

I think the underlying problems are: distraction, procrastination, and lack of self-discipline. Oh My!

5 Tips to help me finish a task:

1. Visualize the completed task and persevere to the end! I did this last night with the dishes. There were just a few things left. They needed to be hand washed. I thought about how much nicer the counter and sink would look if I just pushed through and finished those last few things. I did it!

2. Reward myself for finishing a task. Instead of having a snack in the middle of a task, wait until it is finished. I’ll tell ya, I seem to get so hungry as soon as I start working on a task I don’t enjoy! Chocolate should be involved here.

3. Break up large projects into smaller tasks. This is hard for me because I seem to like BIG projects, but I think it will help. Using a timer is one way I do this that works.

4. Turn off distractions. The computer is a HUGE distraction for me. It’s also a fantastic resource. So let’s say I’m organizing the pantry. I might stop after just getting started so that I can look up articles and pictures showing the best way to organize the pantry. One hour later (with checking email and helping small children along the way), nothing is done! I’ve known for a long time that I need to turn the computer off sometimes, but now it’s time for action!

5. Keep a list. When I’m working on a task, if I think about another task that I need to do, I will write it down on a list instead of switching tasks. That way I don’t have to worry about forgetting the 5 other tasks that pop into my head while I’m trying to sweep the floor.

And now I’m off to finish sweeping the floor!

Further Reading:

Finish what you start (I’m an Organizing Junkie)  This really resonated with me when I read it. And if you struggle with feeling like you work all day and get nothing accomplished, you must see the video she has in this post.

Do you struggle with finishing what you start?

I’m linking up with Orgjunkie’s 52 Weeks of Organizing!

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Filed under How To, Motivation, Time Management

Hot Spot Check Up 6: Kitchen Island in 7 Minutes

I sort of forgot about the kitchen island post until late in the morning today. I took a picture, but I was determined to make improvements. I just wasn’t willing to let it sit like that today. Hooray for determination!

So here’s my before picture:

I didn’t have time to properly clear it all off, so I decided to time myself for 5 minutes while I worked on clearing it, and then take another picture.

The five minutes seemed to fly by, and I was making good progress, so I decided to give myself 1 more minute timed.

After that, I was still super motivated and really wanted to work on it for just 1 more minute (and that’s really all the time I had anyway).

So after 7 minutes (plus a quick wipe of the sponge), here’s how it looked:

I really need to remember that timer thing again. The timer helped me to stay focused and it helped me to work fast! Now, I can get work done on the island and the clutter that is left doesn’t seem so overwhelming.

How are your clutter hot spots doing?

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Filed under Before and After, Declutter, Hot Spot Check Up, Time Management

We took a little vacation

Going on vacation is such a treat, but the getting ready to go part can be really stressful. It’s taken me a long time to realize how much time I really need to get ready to go. I know that the more I work on this whole simplifying thing, the easier it will get, and ultimately it will not take quite as much time. Here are some snippets of how things went this year.

I knew that I was behind on laundry, so I planned to catch up with laundry 2 days before we were leaving, then the day before was scheduled for packing. That kind of planning is progress for me!

I didn’t get to all the laundry the first day, so some of it got bumped to the packing day. I usually sort all of the laundry on the bed and then pick out which items to pack. It sort of works.

I think organized people must pack directly from their closets and drawers. Maybe I should try that sometime. Like when I’m all caught up on laundry and it’s all organized and put away. That could happen.

I had to get my suitcase from the bottom of the stairs, where it has been living for the last several months leading a double life as a baby gate.

Look at that! We found another area to declutter!

Guess what the fabulous Mr. RSS did to get us ready for our trip? He cleaned out the minivan! We were getting ready to spend about 9 hours in the car, so this was very helpful!

Before:

After:

I actually forgot to take the “after” picture until after the trip, so I’ll allow you to be impressed that this is the after clean-out and after road trip picture. 🙂

I tried an idea I read about in this post over at isavvymom about hanging a bag on the back of the headrest to use for trash. Great idea!

We left for the trip only 4 hours later than planned. That’s progress for us for sure! All of those last-minute things to grab or take care of take so much longer than it seems like they should! Next time I’ll plan more time for all of that.

And of course we had a great time on our trip!

How does packing for a trip go for you? Do you have any favorite tips for packing or road trips?

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Filed under Before and After, Declutter, Organization, Time Management

Simplifying Bedtime for Kids

I’ve been realizing that bedtime for the kids has been taking for-ev-er lately.  Bedtime around here is 8:00. That is supposed to mean they are in bed at 8:00, but too often it means we are starting the process at around 8:00, which means they aren’t in bed until 9:00!  I don’t think this process should take an hour! And that is not counting baths, which we don’t do every day.

I want my bedtime to be 10:00 (Rarely actually happens), so if the kids aren’t in bed until 9:00, that gives me less than an hour to: get things done/relax/read/spend time with Mr. RSS.

Here’s the kids’ typical bedtime routine:

  • Big kids (ages 7 and 5) get themselves ready for bed and brush teeth. I get Anna ready for bed.
  • Each big kid picks a book for me to read to them, then I read a Bible story or 2 (short – from a children’s Bible)
  • Prayer time: we each usually pray each night
  • hugs/kisses/tuck in

The things that are making it take loooonger:

  • Big kids taking too long to get ready for bed – distracted with playing, etc instead of staying focused on the task
  • As the kids get older, they are requesting longer books
  • Another thing about getting older – their prayers are getting longer 🙂
  • Chit-chat about the day, or the next day, or totally random things like how many days until their next birthday
  • Requests for water, wanting a certain stuffed animal, etc

I used to think of bedtime with the kids as a sweet time together, but I have started to dread it most nights, and that doesn’t make for a sweet time at all.

Time to simplify! Here are some things I am starting:

Starting the bedtime routine earlier

7:30 on a typical night, or 7:00 if it is a bath night. This means that I need to get dinner on the table on time! I am doing better with this.

Using a Timer

The big kids have 10-15 minutes(I’m working on figuring out the right number) to get ready for bed including PJs, brushing teeth, bathroom, getting water for themselves if they need it, and getting any animals they want with them.

If they are not ready in time, then no time for reading that night. This is working really well so far!

Simplifying Reading

One child picks a book each night, or I read a chapter book. Another thing I tried for the first time last night, is “Read on your own night.” This idea came from my friend Vicki. Love it! I actually stayed in the room and put laundry away while Ella read a book to Gabe. I’m keeping the Bible story time the same.

Simplifying Prayer Time

You guessed it, one person prays each night instead of all of us. Or maybe we’ll have one kid and one adult pray. We’ll see what works. Of course they can always pray more on their own! I have to say that I love hearing the kids pray, for lots of reasons. One time Ella’s prayer was, “Dear God, please help everyone who has boogies that won’t come out.” So sweet.

By the way, Mr. RSS often helps with the kids’ bedtime, too. The kids especially love when he reads to them, except that I’m the better pirate singer. 🙂

I think simplifying the kids’ bedtime routine is going to make it more enjoyable for all of us! I’ll be sure to give you an update sometime.

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Filed under Kids, Time Management

Weekly Cleaning Schedule – Week 1 Report + cake

Are you ready to hear how my first week or so of having a cleaning schedule went?

This is a condensed version of the cleaning schedule I was attempting:

Monday – Friday
– unload dishwasher
– 1 load laundry
– 15 min a day(timed) cleaning/decluttering  in 1 room or area:
– 5 min. (timed) focused on paper clutter
Saturday
– unload dishwasher
– 1 hour of cleaning/decluttering in needed areas
Sunday
– unload dishwasher

Here’s the story. I started the week by making a handy-dandy document with the cleaning schedule  and the ability to keep track of what I was accomplishing. Great, right? But then I couldn’t print. We’ve been having printer issues. So I decided to use a handy-dandy piece of scrap paper to jot down how I was doing instead.

Here’s how it went:

(I put the successful cleaning days in bold!)

Saturday: I really meant to do it!

Sunday: Dishwasher unloaded in the afternoon + a load of laundry!

Monday: I did it all!!! The 15 min. of timed cleaning was spent in the kitchen

Tuesday: OK, I know I did the dishwasher, and then I lost my scrap piece of paper(Grrrr), so the rest is from memory. I think I did everything on this day, too!   

Wednesday: nope

Thursday: ummm, hi.

Friday: Unloaded the dishwasher, did some cleaning for sure but forgot to time myself, no on paper clutter, yes on laundry

Saturday: Super busy day because we were celebrating all of the spring birthdays(kids) in the family at my house. So we had 7 adults and 4 kids here in the afternoon/evening. Dishes were unloaded, and there was certainly lots of cleaning, Mr. RSS and the kids did most of the cleaning because I was still finishing this My Little Pony cake:

Rainbow Dash

For this little birthday girl:

Happy Birthday, Ella!

Sunday: Dishwasher unloaded, check!

Monday: found my scrap paper on the island, 1 load of laundry and that’s it for cleaning. Fun day with friends at their community pool, though. : -)
I also want to add on this Memorial Day, that I am so thankful for those who have fought for my freedom. So thankful.

My 97 yr. old grandfather (a veteran), helping little Anna

So I accomplished my goals 50% of the time for my first week. I’ll take it! And the good news is that Mr. RSS fixed the printer, and now I have my schedule posted on the refrigerator! And now I’m off to eat a piece of cake…. Yum. Cake.

I linked this post up with Life As Mom’s Birthday Cake Round-up!

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Filed under Cleaning, Declutter, Time Management

Weekly Cleaning Schedule – First Try

I have something of a love-hate relationship with schedules. My personality is more spontaneous and fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, yet I find that schedules and structure really help me. In fact, I think as I get older, I crave structure and planning more.

In the comments on my last post, Barbara gave an example of her daily cleaning schedule. I loved the simplicity of it, and decided to try something like it for myself.

I’m trying to write down key tasks instead of cluttering everything up with things that I will do anyway even without seeing it on a list. I think I have a tendency to write down too many things on my schedules and “To Do” lists.

Do I really need to put “make lunch” or “put Anna down for a nap” or “spend too much time on the computer” in my schedules and “To Do” lists? No! I will do these things without the reminders!

I think I do this because I want my lists to represent all the stuff I do in a day, so that I feel like I’m getting more done. And of course it feels good to cross things off a list! But then if I am looking at a huge list of things to get done, I get overwhelmed, and important items in the list get lost in the sea of list-stuff. So, of course, I need to simplify.

So here’s my first try at a weekly cleaning/decluttering schedule. I’m sure it will need some adjustments, but I am trying to make it simple and attainable. I have “unload dishwasher” every day right now, because I am really trying to make that a habit, but I think once it comes naturally to me, I could take it off the list.

Actually, I’m not sure that any type of cleaning will ever come naturally to me, but I can dream, right?

Monday – Friday

– unload dishwasher

 – 1 load laundry

– 15 min a day(timed) cleaning/decluttering  in 1 room or area: 

Living Room
Kitchen
Master Bedroom
Kids Bedroom 
Nursery
Bathrooms
Basement

– 5 min. (timed) focused on paper clutter

Saturday

– unload dishwasher

– 1 hour of cleaning/decluttering in needed areas

Sunday

– unload dishwasher

I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes! I love your input and ideas as usual!

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Filed under Cleaning, Declutter, Time Management