Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Expert Tips to Organize Your Time

TIME to get organized!
This month I'm getting organized; making room for the exciting transformation I hope my midlife crisis will deliver. Who knows? The new me might wear peasant skirts and tap shoes. The new me might need a recording studio or a pilates reformer or an herb garden.  I've got to get rid of the stuff that doesn't represent me anymore so these new, cool possessions have a place.

But, according to my organizing guru, Colleen Collins Josellis, getting organized isn't about the stuff or even the system, it's about the schedule.

"People need time to manage their lives and their things," she says. Yes, Colleen helps people clean out their closets and organize their files, but her goal is to teach them to do it themselves. And it all starts with the calendar.
Professional organizer Colleen Collins Josellis
at my messy desk.

Women our age, especially women who work in or from home, are bombarded with requests for their time.

"We often give away our own personal time to the lowest bidder. You have to protect it like a junk yard dog," says Colleen. "You have to be vigilant about not letting appointments and responsibilities into your life that don't serve you. No one else will do it for you - they're all out there waiting to sign you up."

Here are some of Colleen's tips for managing your time - which will help get a handle on the clutter throughout your life.

1. Make your calendar your best friend. You don't need a fancy system, just one that you'll use consistently. It might even be a hybrid of online and paper. Colleen recommends allocating 20 minutes/ two times a week to keep it up to date and comprehensive.

2. Schedule time for to-dos as well as to-bes. Don't just put the places you need to go on your calendar, make time for all the things you need to do. For example, if you're invited to a party, you should allocate time for buying the hostess gift and making the appetizer as well as attending the event itself. Once you assign time to all the things you want to accomplish, you'll know if you really can handle chairing that committee or not.

3. Break down the biggies. Our lives are so busy and scattered, we often don't have big blocks of time to devote to complex projects.  That's okay! Colleen's advice is to tackle the project in stages by booking small pockets of time on your calendar - say 30 minutes. Before you know it, the garage will be clean, the photos will be sorted - and a lot sooner than if you waited to have a free weekend to do it.

4. Don't be surprised by your life. Review your calendar and prepare yourself and your family for the week ahead. Is it manageable? If the answer is no, get rid of things! Colleen and her husband do this Monday at 11:15am at a local cafe. They discuss their work schedules, their four sons' sporting events - even plan what's for dinner. If the week is crazy, they'll warn the kids and enlist their help. Then everyone knows what to expect.

5. Forget about perfection. "Perfectionists struggle most with organization," says Colleen. "If they can't do it perfectly, they won't do it at all." Colleen tries to help her clients see that living in the middle is fine. "My house isn't perfect, but that's not my goal," she says. "I want it to be functional and fun. Being caught up the majority of the time is good enough."

6.  Don't book every minute. You need free time and so do your kids.  The goal is to keep your baseline life manageable, so you can handle the inevitable curveballs without everything falling apart.

I'm starting to implement Colleen's recommendations, and it's been enlightening. Instead of writing out my daily to-do list and hoping for the best, I assign start and end times to the tasks. Usually my to-do list has far too many items to squeeze into a single day, so I have to prioritize, find short cuts, reschedule or change my expectations. The whole process is very empowering, because now I can actually accomplish what I set out to do.

Unfortunately, the time I've allocated to writing this blog entry has now expired. So get out your calendar and book a time to check back here on Friday when we'll discuss the next big source of anxiety - managing paperwork, bills, and filing. 


Anonymous said...

These are fabulous! And I'm gratified to see that I employ some of these already... the one that has really been the biggest help to me is tip #2. I'll write in my calendar "make cookies" for the cookie exchange I'm going to the next day, or "write speech" for the Toastmasters speech I'm signed up for later in the week.

This not only helps me stay organized, but I am more relaxed because I'm not so worried about forgetting something!

Thanks for adopting this subject this month - I look forward to each post!

Coach Jennifer Weggeman said...

Yes, we all have the same 24/7 time frame. I help my clients with a quick time audit which is very empowering to help you align your priorities with your calendar.

I offer a MAP - monthly action plan to define what you really want out of your life, manage your schedule based on what is most important to you, and tips and tools you need to say no to time wasters and yes to a life you love. Check out Life Balance topics and search for "Take Back Your Time"

Coach Jennifer Weggeman

PS If you would like to learn more and take back your time, or need a speaker for your next event let me know!

Marjie Killeen said...

Jennifer - cool that you're operating in the very important area! M

The Zhush said...

This is so SMART! Like your blog..which is why I am so glad I found it today!

Marjie Killeen said...

Thanks so much Zhush - I'm trying to stay on top of my calendar following Colleen's tips (she's amazing!) but it doesn't come naturally yet. I have to be really deliberate about it or my old sloppy ways creep back in.