I had every intention of planning thoughtfully and deliberately for my trip to Western Massachusetts. I wanted to have a plan for my self-development that included books, my yoga mat, and my Spanish-language learning CDs.
Instead, I found myself frantically and frenetically running around my house at 6:00am the day of my departure. Matt insisted that we leave the house at 6:30, and I didn't want to get up any earlier than 6 because I had stayed up late watching a movie.
Some people work best with high-energy bursts of productivity that stem from periods of procrastination. I just don't happen to be one of them. I don't want to find myself in the same place when Matt and I get ready to leave for our honeymoon or when I get ready to start school this year. Last year, I had a bona fide anxiety attack at 4am when I finally finished my preparation for the first day of school and tried to fall asleep.
I have tons of strategies in my Toolkit O' Organization and Time Management. Unfortunately, I don't always use them. In fact, I oftentimes actively rebel against them.
Don't get me wrong; there is absolutely a time to break free from the shackles of effectiveness and efficiency. There are times to breathe and just be.
However, in order to "breathe and just be" on my honeymoon, I need to make sure that a whole host of stuff gets done before I go. It's time to pull out some of my favorites personal management strategies and kick them into high gear:
- Keep a centralized to-do list: I often find myself thinking of something I have to do and neglecting to write it down. Sometimes I am able to re-remember the item and actually get it done. Othertimes, I neglect to get it done and don't realize it until it's too late. Either way, I'm not being as effective as I am if I just write something down (in a centralized place). If we hold things in our heads, we waste mental energy re-remembering them over and over again. I say "centralized" to-do list because if we jot everything down everywhere, we waste a ton of energy trying to corral our thoughts. During my first year of teaching, sticky notes were my preferred system. What a disaster! They were everywhere. They were never prioritized. They would sneak up on me and frighten me. A centralized to-do list can take a lot of different forms: a notebook, Outlook, a website, a binder, etc. The trick is to pick one system and use it consistently. I also keep a centralized list of books to read, gifts to buy people, things I need from the grocery store/office supply store/Target, movies to watch, and things to do someday.
- Process e-mail effectively: E-mail can be the bane of my existence. It demands so much maintenance and energy. It helps if I follow the advice of David Allen: if an e-mail will take two minutes or less to respond to, I go ahead and do it. If it will take longer than that, I move it into my "action" folder in my inbox and add it as a to-do item on my to-do list. Also, if I'm trying to work at my computer, I turn my e-mail off. It's so inefficient to constantly flip back and forth. It's better to process e-mail in batches.
- Keep paper under control: I have a filing system that helps me keep my piles under control. I have a folder for "action required", "upcoming", and "to be filed." As I open mail or get more paperwork at work, I try to process it into one of these folders (or into the trash). If something requires action, I put it in the folder and then diligently add it to my to-do list (if I don't write it down, it never gets done). If I know I'll need something soon (like a boarding pass, meeting agenda, or directions), I put it in my "upcoming folder" so I'll immediately know where to access it when I need it. Finally, I put things in my "to be filed" folder and--once a month--I file everything in the folder into another system.