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Jan 10 2012

True Confessions: I am not organized

And…right now every single person who has ever worked with me in any capacity is laughing until tears run down his/her leg.

Jen? <guffaw> Not organized? <hiccup> Seriously? That’s rich, tell me another one! <gasp>

I am the very model of an organized individual. I could lose (and have lost) an entire day at IKEA. The Container Store gives me chills. I get twitchy when my desk is the slightest bit out of sorts, I have several furniture-quality filing cabinets that look like sideboards, and I’m about to take a machete to my kitchen because it is so poorly laid out my brain aches. I draw the line at matching the boys’ socks or hanging my clothes by color; a girl has to have limits.

But time. I cannot manage my time for love or money, and it sure as hell ain’t for lack of trying. All the way up until I had children (heh, that’s the tipoff right there, isn’t it?), I was Time Management Queen. Well, maybe Duchess. Now, I’m a Peasant at best. I lived and died by my Day Timer, getting progressively better ones until I got a PDA for Christmas one year. Bliss. The iPhone was a dream come true: calendar AND tasks list AND contacts AND planning AND Words With Friends.

But. Kids.

After A was born, that child who would not sleep and wanted company in the wee hours, my time was no longer my own. Instead of planning out my hours based on what needed to be done and where I needed to be, it was now entirely based on WHAT CAN I GET DONE WHILE HE IS TAKING A VERY PRECIOUS AND VERY VERY BRIEF NAP? Then double that when J was born. And now quadruple it by homeschooling. It’s only been ten (holy crap almost eleven) years and I still can’t get a handle on it. My brain has a bad case of Hey look! A squirrel!

Case in point. While writing this very post, the boys barreled in the door from Cub Scouts. I folded and put away a load of laundry, got J a snack, corralled A into pajamas, talked to Tom, and sketched out tomorrow’s school plans. Fifteen minutes minimum, and I’m still being interrupted now. No, I do not have an office with a door; that will be the first major renovation. Eventually.

I’ve done time-logs, I have tried several different calendar/to-do apps, I’ve been turning off Facebook/Twitter/various time sucks. And still time gets away from me. If this was my desk I would have gone batshit crazy long ago. (Pulled away again, to push the boys through their bedtime oatmeal, have a discussion about Greenland, pour Benadryl for the snotty one, wipe up aforementioned oatmeal, threaten bodily harm if the clothes do not get put away in the correct dresser drawers in a timely manner<and yes, the correct drawers, for otherwise they’re jammed in there and can’t be opened>)

Courtesy of the interruptions, my train of thought has derailed. This is my entire day. For nearly eleven years.

So.

Needless to say, this cannot continue. My quality of work disappoints me, “timely” and “email reply” haven’t so much as flirted in months, and I feel like I’m just spinning my wheels. Wait, arise from my warm slumber earlier, you say? Only if you want me to rip off the head of anyone within arm’s reach for the next seven hours.

I hate this and have no idea how to go about changing it. It’s most noticeable to me now because I worked full time for three months this fall and my time was rigidly scheduled. The great majority of my life fell by the wayside, but my time was scheduled, by God! I’m open to suggestions here, people. Hit me with your best time management suggestions.

Organize your house? Um…no.

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  1. Robin McCormack

    All I can share is to do lists. Written in the morning and checked off as things get done. Yes, things will get moved to the next day’s list and eventually if it isn’t terrible important, simply fall off.

    Unfortunately with kids and husbands, when they are around, there will be multiple interruptions. Now that you are homeschooling, you’ll have to set limits. We don’t have any internet or technology time until 4:00 in the afternoon. That way everything, meaning lessons, get done without the distraction. If it’s a lessons that requires the computer, it gets saved til the last.

    I try to get up an hour earlier than all to have me time. It may help. It may also help at lunch time and in the afternoon to have a quiet time. Kids to their rooms to read for a few minutes. In the afternoon,their technology time and you get to do what you want until dinner.

    You are in for some major adjustments. Take it one step at a time.

    1. Jen

      Thanks Robin. Yeah, major adjustments indeed! I lurve me some lists, but they can get so unwieldy that they’re overwhelming. I think I’m falling short in the setting limits arena, and if I can figure that out more things will fall into place. :/

  2. Trish

    Before we get to time management, can you tell me what bedtime oatmeal is? It sounds like something I might have to adopt for myself. 🙂

    1. Jen

      Bedtime oatmeal=oatmeal eaten right before bed. The boys kept getting out of bed saying they were hungry. They ain’t hungry with a belly full of oatmeal! And yes, it’s the crappy little add water instant stuff. I had to make a trade off. 😉

  3. My Kids Mom

    Yeah. Kids. And I still sort their socks.

    Ok. Where to start. List making, of course. List of things you can do with minimal interruption, things that need true concentration. List of home school activities which require your full on help, list of what he will do semi and completely independently. Try to mesh these. Fold laundry and assist with math. At silent reading time you get some serious work done. Use a timer for both of you. Even when you have two kids home, would they respect a timer which tells them they can’t interrupt mom until it dings?

    We’ve just upped the 10yo’s allowance and decided we want more kitchen cleanup help now. Reasonable swap, money for time if you can’t get time for time.

    Then, include time suckage activities into your day, but schedule them. For every load of laundry folded, ten minutes on FB…. I bribe myself all the time. (Although usually with chocolate!)

    1. Jen

      If my kids listened to a timer to not bug me, I’d think I’d died and gone to heaven. 😉 They are physically unable to ask my husband for ANYTHING if I’m in the vicinity.

      Until he gets more self-sufficient and self-motivated, A will need more me-sitting-there-with-him attention with his schoolwork. One of those executive function skills that I’D REALLY LIKE HIM TO LEARN! Ahem.

  4. cocobean

    is it wrong if I admit that one of my best time management tools is being annoyed or angry? when I’m annoyed and trapped on the phone, I clean like a mad woman with quiet things… when I’m angry with my family, I clean noisy stuff… My husband used to joke that he would make me angry on purpose.

    Also, when I’m frustrated with that ONE thing that I am avoiding, I go ahead and make my list of EVERYTHING I need to do and it’s amazing how much I will get done to avoid the icky job. I can clean a lot of bathroom while avoiding a call to customer service for something 😉

    1. Jen

      My go-to procrastination techniques are cleaning and cooking. So if the house is clean and the freezer is full, I’ve been putting something off. 😉

  5. Allie

    For the life of me I can’t find a solution to this problem either. I’ll be waiting on pins and needles for someone to give you the answer!

    1. Jen

      I think I might have hit on a little bit of it. If I do something that would please Future Jen (like keeping up on emails or on top of the general cleanliness of the house, etc.), then it all seems to come together better. Doing it in the time allotted (broken up and distracted as it is), is still the challenge.

  6. So over

    Jen –

    I feel for you. I was feeling the same way (& still do sometimes – probably more often than I’d like to admit.) but I read (via audio book a la iPod) David Allen’s Getting Things Done. It was a total paradigm shift for me – I was a daytimer/Franklin Covey junkie in my former professional life. I have tried & tried to apply those same principles to my role as mommy/wife/volunteer & it just doesn’t work. Getting Things Done (GTD) is a different way of thinking & organizing. To oversimplify it – your brain has too many stimuli, too many commitments, too much everything. You can’t process everything at once, so you set up your GTD system to address the here & now – what needs my attention now? This is done by placing things into contexts. For instance, some of my are errands, PTO, computer and calls. You file these tasks either on paper or electronically into their appropriate buckets & you deal with them only when working in that context. You have to keep up with it & by that I mean as soon as a new ‘item’ pops up, you either handle it immediately (if it takes less than 2 minutes), file into a context or place it for review at your weekly review time. When I follow it, it works:) However, if I fall off the wagon, I find it easy to jump back on. I probably am not explaining this very well & there are people who might disagree with my interpretation of GTD, but it truly has helped me. Good luck with whatever you chose.

    1. Jen

      I really hate to admit that I’ve read the book, I own the book, and at one point I did follow the suggestions. Then all hell broke loose with the move last year and I no longer did it. I need to find it and read it again. Where I fall short is in things like emails; I try to do them in batches, but they pile up faster than I have time to answer them, and before I know it I’m three months behind. So not kidding here, I’ve been answering emails from October recently. 🙁 I need to find a way to make it work for me; I don’t have the patience or energy to fit myself into it.

  7. Missy | Literal Mom

    Maybe you’re one or the other. Because I’m the model of time organization, but girl, you ought to see my office! You’d probably go into apoplexy wanting to fix it. 🙂 BTW, I just wrote a post about time management at SITS – it was Monday. Not that I’m pimping myself, but I figure we “know” each other well enough now to help a sister out when needed?

  8. Siggi

    Your life before was great for one-task-at-a-time thinking. Your life now is (mostly) not.

    Instead of trying to get your homeschooling/parenting life to fit in a box that will pretty much never fit (or which will overflow every two seconds when crisis hits, and, um, see the name of your blog for hints), why not try some cognitive restructuring so you better fit your current life?

    If you can carve out some reliable time when you are not the one responsible for fecal matter vectors, THEN you can pull out the planner and binge on planned efficiency.

    Otherwise? Daily? Get used to free-flow multitasking, and keep your pantry well stocked with chocolate and sangria. Good luck!

    1. Jen

      Free-flow multitasking. Nice. 🙂
      Reliable quiet time? Middle of the night.
      And I’m fully out of sangria, nearly out of chocolate. Things are dire around here. LOL

  9. Linda

    GTD is great. Get it. Read it. Do it.

    That said, I have a name for this condition of yours, which I unfortunately share. I call it parenting-induced ADD. Never had a problem with attention before, but now, after nearly 13 years of parenting, I have lost all ability to sit and focus on one task for any length of time. Because I have been constantly interrupted every few seconds for year after year, my mind EXPECTS to be interrupted and won’t stay focused on one thing for long. I only hope that once these kids have flown the coop I will regain my ability to stick with one thing for more than 5 seconds!

    1. Jen

      Yes! Child-induced, adult-onset ADD. You described it perfectly. Those short few months when I was working? Bliss in the focus department. I could concentrate and my brain wasn’t listening three rooms away. I miss focus.

  10. Suzan

    Love it! Parenting induced ADD… One suggestion is to get an iPhone. No, I don’t work for them. My husband who is severely ADD got one at my suggestion as I was tired of him spending all his time on making his calendar look perfect; rather than organizing his life, he was organizing his planner! He was thrilled I think that I suggested a gadget! Anyway, a year and a half later, he uses it to alarm him when to get out the door, when his appointments are, when my appointments are, when the kids appointments are, etc, etc. Needless to say, he is actually on time for most things now and much more calm. Heavens, we might even get out taxes done on time this year!

    If nothing else, it’s a great excuse to get a gadget!

    1. Jen

      I…have an iPhone. I’m actually on my second one. :/ I have tried damned near every to-do app out there and can’t find one that fits perfectly. Since A wants to learn to code and write apps, this may be the first one he writes. I design, he codes. LOL! But I big puffy heart LOVE my iPhone.

  1. Past, Present, and Future Jen

    […] { Talk to Me } ChiTown Girl on Let it…sNOw!Jen on Let it…sNOw!Jen on True Confessions: I am not organizedJen on Let it…sNOw!Jen on Let it…sNOw! { Bling & Awards } […]

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