Tuesday, February 7, 2017

More Time Management Advice

A friend messaged who read Half AMillion Words In Nine Months messaged me recently, asking me how I stopped distractions when I am writing. The things that she listed as distracting, were mostly things that could have been avoided with proper organisation. Here's a few tips for saving time and organising your life so you can get the most out of every day:

Plan meals in advance.

I love the CSIRO diet books, because not only are they super tasty, super healthy and extremely varied, but they also include monthly meal plans and weekly shopping lists to make shopping easy.

Depending how much variety you need in your life, you can sit down once and plan 3-4 weeks worth of meals and use that repeatedly, pretty much forever. If you get sick of it, plan a new week and add that to the rotation. Repeat infinitum.

The point is, to have a list of your meals for the week on the fridge. You never again have to wonder what you are going to have for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Just follow the plan.

Online shopping saves time.

If you know what you are eating all month, you should also know your entire shopping list for the week. That makes it easy to buy it all and once and making one trip to the supermarket will save you a lot of time. Save even more time by buying it online and having it delivered to your house. You can choose your delivery time. Time the deliveries with meals that have ingredients that don't keep. EG if you're having fresh grilled salmon on Wednesday night, have your shopping delivered Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.

If you are currently driving to the shop 3-4 times a week, once a week delivery will work out much cheaper. The only downside is sometimes certain things aren't available and won't ship with your order. If you need them for that night's meal, you'll be stuck.

Cook meals in advance.

There are literally thousands of recipe websites and blogs and most of them have hundreds of meals you can cook in advance to eat during the week. I like pre-cooking bolognese sauce, shepherd's pies or lasagne then storing it in single serves for lunches during the week. Soup is also good. Each weekend I make my mother quiches for lunch for the entire week and there are even some fantastic 'make in the evening, eat in the morning' recipes for breakfast too, particularly porridge.

Whatever your tastes, you'll be able to find plenty of options online if you look.

Keep a shopping list.

Keep a shopping list in the same place and whenever you realise you need something, get up right away and write it on the list. You might even want to keep the list on your phone, since that is probably always with you. However I like paper lists, because I can give them to other people in the household if they are going to the shop.

I like to separate my list by store. Supermarket, pet store & vet, chemist, etc.

Put your clothes out the night before.

Every night before bed, I think about what I will be doing the next day and lay my clothes out. Then I wake up, fall out of bed into the shower and get dressed. I don't have to make any decisions for the day until I am already clean and dressed and usually breakfast is already in the fridge for me, so I have 45 minutes of unthinking time before I actually have to get active for the day. Don't waste your decision making power on breakfasts, clothes and organising your day--do those things before you go to bed so your first, most important task of the day gets the best you.

Make sure everything in your house has a home.

Every item you own has to have a place in your house it belongs were it is out of the way. That means not on a table or chair, actually in a drawer or cupboard or wherever is appropriate. I also think it's important that similar things are all in the same place. EG: not having bookshelves in different rooms. This can be trickier if you have two bathrooms or different people have their own books, etc and want to keep them in their own rooms.

But at the very least, you need to know where every single thing in your house belongs and if something doesn't belong anywhere, you need to change that.

Put everything in its home once a day.

Once a day, go through every room of your house and put anything that is not in its home, back in its home. This may be hard if your house is a mess to begin with, but once everything is away, you'll find you can only move so many things in a day.

If you have children, teach them all things have a home and have them help you put everything back. Children can do this with their own toys without much supervision from four years of age.

Clean as you go.

To save putting things away from becoming an hour long nightmare every day, get in the habit of taking the extra 30 seconds to put things back when you are finished with them instead of leaving them for late.

Finished eating? Put the plates in the dishwasher. Getting in the shower? Put your clothes in the hamper while you are naked, don't leave them on the floor for later. Interrupted from reading? Put the book back on the shelf rather than leaving it on the couch for later. You'll find your possessions get damaged less often this way too.

Answer emails once a week.

I check my emails once a day and delete anything I don't have to reply to. However unless something is really urgent, I leave it in my inbox until the end of the week, then make a point of completely clearing it out all at once.

Set alarms for the things you forget.

For me, this is drinking water, exercising and medication. For you, it might be preparing breakfast for tomorrow, getting off the internet or turning off the TV, meditation or feeding the pets (my pets are their own alarm, but maybe yours are more apathetic). Anything you need to do every day, or certain days of the week, you can set an alarm for so you never forget.

The trick is training yourself to do it the moment the alarm goes off. If you wait a few minutes, you'll probably get distracted by something else and it still won't get done.

If you have kids or pets who get underfoot, plan distractions for them.

I don't like giving advice about kids, since I don't have any, but this is what worked for my mother and works now for my family and friends. I have lots of pets, so I am pretty confident advising everyone on difficult animals. I have a dingo and a blind cat draped over me as I type this.

Animals and children need mental stimulation and if they don't have it, they're going to come and interact with you to get it. Pets are probably a little easier to manage, because they can't talk and generally require less complicated distractions.

Your best bet with pets is to only feed them with treat and puzzle balls and offer them their breakfast (or dinner, depending on your schedule) right before you write/work. Alternatively, have a big basket of toys that are usually put away and get out three or four new ones each day. Put them down right before you need to focus and hopefully they will get bored around the time you have finished working.

You can do the same thing with children. Keep toys, TV, video games, etc out of reach while everyone is dressing, showering and eating at the start of the day. They should be focused on those activities, not playing. When you are ready to start work, give them their best distraction up first. Lego, video games, books, whatever. Something they are happy to self play with for an hour.

Teach them there is a set time they have to be self entertained before they can have your attention again, then go back to juggling when you are focusing on less important tasks, like washing clothes, etc.

If your children or pets fight or make too much noise together, just set them up in different parts of the house during writing time. Solo play builds personality.  I know some people try and write when their children are napping, but then they're always several hours up on you in sleep. You're better off napping when they nap and using their self directed play time as you self directed writing time.

Be aware of time.

Know how long it takes you to do things and don't over book your day. This one is just here for me personally, because I overbook every single day of my life, then end up stressed and rushing. However because I am pretty organised, I am stressed in a clean house, freshly showered with lunch, so it's not so bad.

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