Tuesday, September 1, 2015

5 Steps to Get Organized for Fall: Your Way

The Fall is like a fresh start, isn't it? It's like the New Year for me--full of beginnings and promise. It is certainly a season of change.

There's lots of advice out there about making up snack stations for school kids, ideas for lunches, there's projects for making communication centers and all sorts of things--but our needs are all different, depending on where we are in life.

What will change for you? (Or has it already?) What do you need to do to get ready for that change? What do you need to do to make that change happen more easily?

1. Mind Dump

Take five minutes (set a timer if you're feeling particularly overwhelmed) and do a mind dump--or a mind map. This may be all you need to do.

But, if you feel like you may be forgetting a few things, check out a few sites, like the great practical September Checklist from Simplify 101. Here's Aby's Back to School Checklist. There's more: If you want to make sure you get your lawn and garden ready, there's a checklist from This Old House, a fall home maintenance checklist from Bob Vila, and if cleaning the house helps you prepare, there's the Fall Cleaning Checklist from Organized Home. If you really want to see checklists of every kind imaginable, just type "fall checklist" into pinterest!

Get everything swimming in your head down on paper (or typed into the screen--however you do it). You want it all out of your head and in front of you so you can see it all and assess it.

2. Prioritize

The next step is to prioritize. Once you've got all the tasks listed, ask yourself, given all that's to happen between now and Christmas (I know!) what's essential? What will make the most difference to our lives? What will have the most effect?

However, some things, like whether I hang a fall wreath on my front door won't change my life a whit--but it is fun. Don't forget to include a few of those.

I'm going to work through four examples from my list:

1) Call for Furnace Cleaning.
2) Buy a new winter coat.
3) Research frugal make-ahead meals.
4) Aerate the front lawn.

How much of a difference will these things make to my life?
1) Huge. Well, not making the call, of course, but having a clean furnace and ducts will make a world of difference to our comfort this winter--and our natural gas bills!
2) Again, huge.
3) Well, here, I'm not so sure. Having a few meals pre-prepared and ready to go on nights when I am tired would be great. But it is a lot of effort to put into the whole endeavour up front and I'm not sure I can't just continue the way I have: making two meals on one night when I know there's a heavy week coming up.
4) This will make no practical difference to my life at all. But a nice front lawn would be a pleasant thing to have.

3. Rank the Ease

Here's the thing. If something is dead easy and will make a big difference--it's going to take precedence over something that is difficult to do and won't make all that much difference to how your life goes, day to day. In fact, if something is on your list that's difficult to do and won't make much difference to your life--does it really need to stay on your list? Can you let it go?

How easy are they to do?
1) Call for Furnace Cleaning. Dead easy.
2) Buy a new winter coat. Relatively difficult and relatively urgent given how few warm plus sized coats exist.
3) Research frugal make-ahead meals. Somewhat difficult,
4) Aerate the front lawn. Very difficult. I'd have to rent an aerator and figure out how to use it--then do it!

Once I have these two measures: effect and ease, I can plot them on a graph. (I know, I'm such a geek. This handy tool comes from Jackie Hernandez and her book, Project Home.)

On the left vertical axis is the Effectiveness scale. If something will make no difference to my life at all, that is, if it won't have any effect on my life at all, it is a zero. Something that will contribute significantly to my life is a five.

On the horizontal axis, plot how easy the project will be. Lots of effort--that is, not at all easy is ranked at zero, easy-peasy is a five. Anything between 0-2.5 you probably could let go of, and anything 5 and above are "must do's" Anything falling in between 2.5 and 5 are "might do's"

1) Call for Furnace cleaning: Effect: 5 + Ease: 5 =10. Must do.
2) Buy a new winter coat: Effect: 5 + Ease: 2 =7. Must do.
3) Research frugal make-ahead meals: Effect: 2.5 + Ease: 2 =4.5. Might Do.
4) Aerate the front lawn: Effect: 0 + Ease: 0 =0. Don't do.

4. Estimate Time

This may seem counter-intuitive, but the busier you are, the more important is this step. This way, when you have a free ten minutes, you can find something on your list--and get it done, just like that. If you have to look at your list and try and figure it out--well, your ten minutes will have been lost. So, do it and you'll be able to make the most of your time.

How long will they take?
1) Call for Furnace cleaning: 15 minutes at most. (I need to look up the number.)
2) Buy a new winter coat:1/2 hour if I am really lucky to 4-5 hours. Since I hate shopping for long periods, at least 2 maybe 3 trips to the mall.
3) Research frugal make-ahead meals: several hours.
4) Aerate the front lawn: most of the day.

5. Schedule your tasks.

Now, actually, there is one thing I can do before I schedule them--I can delegate! I just needed to slip that one in!

Do some tasks need to be done by a certain time? Keep that in mind.

Since I don't keep a day-timer or a planner of that kind, what I did was make a list.

1) Call for Furnace cleaning: I should call by the end of the first week in September so someone can come by the middle of October at the very latest!
2) Buy a new winter coat: As soon as possible.
3) Research frugal make-ahead meals: If I decide to do it, there's several ways to approach the research phase. I can spread it over several evenings, or I can just research one or two meals to do while I make up the menu plan each week, or I can blitz out and plan out a whole freezer meal prep day extravaganza.
4) Aerate the front lawn: Not going to happen. (But you knew that already.)

It looks like this in my Bullet Journal:

This might seem like a lot of planning and prioritizing--but the process brings tremendous clarity. That's vital in a season of change such as this.


1. Mind dump a big list. The bigger the better.
2. Rank each task according to the difference it will make to your life. Remember to include fun things.
3. Decide the effort it will take. Is it worth your time?
4. Estimate how much time it might take
5. Schedule a time to do it. Is it time sensitive?

I may not do this process all the time: but it was quite helpful for me this time.


MMarie said...

You mentioned three things I love: brain dumps, Aby Garvey/simplify 101, and the Bullet journal! (I have misplaced my bullet journal about a week ago...I really need to take 5-10 min to hunt the house and find it...it is likely in a tote bag!) I love how this process helped you to realize it's okay to drop the aerate the front lawn from your list. What a relief that must be.

Burning question: when you got home from the hospital was your home in good shape? Did the kids take responsibility for helping?

Anonymous said...

Just a thought: if you know a neighbor who aerates their yard yearly, ask them if you could share the cost or even foot the bill for the machine if they did your lawn. You might make a new best friend from a neighbor and get your yard done cheaper and/or easier on your own back.
Gina in Chattanooga, TN

Alana in Canada said...

MMarie--it wasn't too bad. Dishes were done--but the surfaces weren't wiped. I had insisted on the living room being presentable so I could take up residence on the couch. They did OK.

Alana in Canada said...

That's an interesting thought, Gina. I'll keep my eye out.

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