Thursday, August 4, 2011

#369...staying organized

For the past several years, these four items have helped me run my life. 
A Gold Fibre Writing Pad, (I'm picky about the spiral being on the top of the pad), a small Moleskine calendar, a fine black Sharpie pen, and Uniball hot pink pen. (I'm a little neurotic about this color combination for writing things down and crossing them out.)

A few months ago, I forgot my calendar while at a client's house, so I quickly figured out how to use Google calendar on my phone, and then later transferred my Google calendar entries into my paper calendar.....creating a new date keeping system for myself. I no longer bring my paper calendar with me, and at the end of the day I transfer everything from my phone into my paper security blanket. 

This rewriting of my calendar is a pretty significant time waster. I was talking with my sister Julie about quitting the paper calendar, but I worry.... what if Google went down, or the Internet exploded....I'd have no idea where to be and when! She kindly told me that if the Internet blew-up, people would have a lot bigger problems than missing a decorating appointment with me....Point Taken! 
I'm quitting my little paper calendar....tomorrow.

Coming off my high of learning how to use Google calendar, I decided to try the online list making application TeuxDeux. It is pretty nifty, and may work for me if I had an iPhone...but I don't. Also, there is something satisfying about hand-writing a list and crossing stuff off....(with a hot pink pen). I'll be hanging on to my spiral top notebook for awhile more.

In addition to my somewhat archaic calendar keeping habits, I also have pretty poor time management skills. Don't get me wrong, I am a highly productive productivity is just not always in the direction it should be. People who manage themselves will agree that self-efficiency and properly prioritizing one's work day is a hard thing to master. You have to constantly self motivate without the persistence of someone breathing down your neck to stay on task...(not that that is a good feeling either). 

Staying on task and prioritizing are two major challenges for me. You'd think after years of sewing, painting and general crafting, I'd have a good idea of how long a project should take. my mind everything takes 10 minutes, and I have notoriously loaded myself down and taken on way more than I can accomplish in a given day, week, month. I have worked under the guise of "do the smallest project" first. The smallest project is not always the project with most urgency, and the smallest project usually takes me three times longer than I thought it would. This work method leaves me feeling like I am constantly putting out little fires, while melting under a bigger blaze. 

A few months back, I decided to try to take some sort of control, to lessen my self-inflicted stress and have better balance in my day. I started using the Pomodoro Technique

It basically breaks tasks down into manageable segments, and has helped me know when it is time to move on to something else. It has slowly made me realize that tasks like answering emails can take 2 hours of my day,...and e-boards take 6 - 8 hours no matter whether I break it up into small segments, or do it all at once. Also, I've learned a common sense lesson that client appointments involve more than face time... there is prep work, and travel time. I know this sounds like common sense....but it's sense I was missing... and am now trying to glean from a tomato timer.

I've manipulated the Pomodoro technique slightly for my unique career. The technique is really geared for desk/computer users, offering a widget for your desktop that ticks away  until one unit of your task is done. Since my work varies in location...i.e. behind the sewing machine, or behind the computer, I have been using a small portable kitchen timer to help me carry out the Pomodoro technique. It has been enlightening and a little depressing undergoing the great realization of how long things take.
This is the longest post I have ever written....(and it is about a topic that I really dislike), but one I need to focus on a little more to better balance my projects. If you are still reading this long soliloquy on my work downfalls, please know that I really do love all of the projects I do, and while this post may sound a tiny bit like complaining,.... I really am writing this so that I can remember where I was before the Pomodoro fixed my life.

P.S. This blog post took 2 Pomodoros!


Kelly Timmons said...

I agree...I like marking stuff off a list. I use little check boxes at work for everything! It's very satisfying at the end of my day and everything is marked off (only in black ink for me!) :) Gig em looks like he is helping you stay on track though!

Julie said...

Oddly enough, this is one of my favorite posts (probably because it relates to the way my brain works) and my spiral MUST be on the left, not the top ;)

TEX looks facinated with your list (maybe a little overwhelmed) since his list would probably read
(1) nap on bed
(2) nap on pillow on top of bed
(3) run under white dresser in front room if company comes over
(4) eat at 5pm sharp and bug Christie if the food is not out in a timely manner