Getting organised the stress free way! – Everyday essentials.

You’ve probably heard of the saying, “Don’t be busy. be effective”.  It’s something that is said in countless self help books, management guides and magazine articles and the actual meaning derives from ‘Pareto’s Principle’ – commonly known as the “80:20 rule”.

This universal law states that 80% of the output comes from 20% of the input.  Or 80% of a company’s profits come from 20% of their client base.  Flip it on its head and 20% of a company’s clients create 80% of their problems!  This 80:20 rule can be applied in practically any circumstance (I bet 80% of the time you only wear 20% of your wardrobe – I know I do!)  So the key is not to do more to accomplish more, it is to do less to accomplish more, and be selective about the tasks that you do.

People everywhere are caught up in a ‘hurry habit’.  They are addicted to urgency and think that if they can just rush around and get their ‘To Do’ list done, that they will then be able to relax – but guess what?!  it NEVER gets done!  There are always daily routine tasks that need to be completed plus the items on your ‘To Do’ list plus new things that your partner or kids or friends ask of you.  There will always be stuff ‘To Do’.  The trick is to do the small essentials with as little fuss as possible, take your bigger projects on a ‘little and often’ basis and decide which non productive, boring or cumbersome projects to say “No” to.

This is such a huge subject area, let’s look at ‘everyday essentials’ here.  These are tasks that need to be done on a daily basis and otherwise routine errands.  A daily task would be eating.  When there is just yourself to think about this undertaking can be done without too much planned effort, but what if you are responsible for ensuring that you eat and your children eat, plus your partner?  A bit more planning has to go into that – you need to ensure there is enough food in the house, that everyone likes the choice on offer, you need to think about cooking times and get everything progressing to the same end time.  This is just one daily task that takes up some time to complete each day, but it is essential.  The other things that you are doing to fill your time may not be as essential, so you should either ditch them altogether or do them more effectively.

For a routine task that can be done more effectively, I have a good example from Christmas which was just 10 days ago.  Birthdays as we all know, come once a year and there are certain people in our lives whom we would always get a card for.  It is so easy when we are living our busy lives to forget a friend’s birthday or to have to rush out to buy a card and catch the post at the last minute, so to help me remain stress free all year round when it comes to birthdays, I stockpile blank greetings cards, birthday cards suitable for women, cards suitable for men, children’s cards and some ‘Thank you’ cards, so that whatever the occasion, I can get a card to the recipient in plenty of time.

My recent plight was on the night of December 23rd and fortunately my stockpile came to the rescue, but it was my daughter’s 6th birthday on Christmas Eve.  This makes the Christmas period particularly busy in our house because in addition to the usual family and friends gift buying and card sending and cooking the Christmas dinner to organise, we also have to ensure that our daughter has her separate birthday presents and cards and host a party with her friends.  To add to the fun (and it is fun really) but my Sister in Law and best friend also have Christmas Eve birthdays, so we have three lots of birthday gifts to sort and ensure they each get a Christmas present too.  (NB: When I say “we”, I really mean “I” because like a lot of mums, Christmas and birthday celebration planning falls to me!)

As you can appreciate, Christmas can be stressful anyway.  It’s not the day itself really, but the thought of forgetting something or missing something important that makes it so.  With the stores being closed on the 25th, frenzied shoppers often panic purchase before the day to ensure that they don’t run out of, or forget anything that they may need.  This is why I still have squirty cream in my fridge that didn’t get used at all!  My friend got some so she could do hot chocolate drinks with cream on top and it sounded so nice that I got some cream too, but it remained just a nice idea and no-one went for it.  However I would have kicked myself if someone had wanted a hot chocolate with cream and I couldn’t deliver!

But this anecdote points out the scale of pre planning that has to go into Christmas, and how easy it can be to miss something.  I nearly did!  With all my planning for my daughter’s party, ensuring she got the Nintendo DS she wanted (in pink!) before the shops sold out and getting her Christmas gifts wrapped and put away in advance, plus items for everyone else, I overlooked the fact of her birthday card!  I only realised I had not got her one on 23rd December late at night after the kids were in bed and I was getting the next days’ birthday gifts ready.

A card is such a little thing and so easy to miss, but would be so noticeable if we didn’t give her one, so thankfully I was able to go to my stockpile and choose a card for a girl and write it that night.  It wasn’t ideal – I usually prefer to get my children cards with their ages on the front – special cards, rather than the generic ‘Happy birthday’ cards you give to everyone else.  It’s important to children when they get a lovely, more personal card.  But a girly generic card was better than nothing and she didn’t mind that it didn’t have the number on!

It did give me a plan though – I have now been to the supermarket and purchased cards for her 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th birthday, so this won’t happen again!  Pre buying does remove the stress out of last minute realisations and now I know we won’t have this issue again next year!  It never seems to happen with anyone else’s birthday – just hers.  I had a similar event last year that caused me to stop and think but I realised I hadn’t bought her a card on about the 20th of the month so I still had time.  My son has his birthday in August but then there is only him to concentrate on.  In December there is so much to think about already, and all the birthdays that month mean that I have to be even more organised.  It is simply a matter of having too much to remember and not enough space!  So now I have the age bearing cards sorted, I am even more relaxed!!

Take it from me, if you regularly find yourself dashing to the shops to get a last minute birthday card or engagement announcement card or similar, just buy a few in advance and hide them in a drawer – I promise you they are worth their weight in gold!  Just remember to re-stock when you have used a couple!

If you want tips on managing a busy life, just ask the Time Management Mum!

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