This series, 31 Days to GTD for Homemakers, is all about putting into place effective routines and processes so that the routine administratiive details of life do not cause undo stress and we, as mothers in the heart of our homes, can peacefully and intentionally make good choices about what to do without feeling like we have a million details pulling us in a million directions at once.
Guard Your Calendar
Getting Things Done has some very specific and hard-nosed rules about what does and does not belong on our calendars. The calendar is not a place to keep to-do lists or notes. Calendar space should be guarded, honored space. He admonishes us to only add to our calendars what truly must happen that day or specific time: the doctor’s appointment, the birthday party, and other such commitments.
The principle is that your calendar should show you the “hard lines” of your day, around which you can fit in items from your task list and handle things as they arise.
I keep a Google calendar with several different calendars on one so I can see categories at a glance. Purple is my appointments & activities: the hard lines. Blue is my husband’s appointments & activities (he uses Google calendar at work). Teal is my menu plan; after all, these people insist on eating three times a day — I’d call that a hard line!
You can also use the calendar as an after-the-fact sort of journal tool: record your exercise time or your school hours or what you planted in your garden that day or anything else that encourages you to see recorded. But don’t put in “I should exercise” sorts of things on the calendar. After-the-fact recording is different than cluttering your calendar with wishful thinking.
Keep Your Lists
Of the making of lists there is no end.
So where will you make and keep lists? Lists of items needed, items to think about, thoughts about projects, notes about recipes or education, etc. etc. This isn’t the same as where you collect this information, but is where this information lives. Where will your lists, thoughts, bits of information be kept so that they can be useful to you?
This includes contacts lists, master grocery list, and to-do lists. There will be others, of course, but these are an important place to start. These are the ones that work hardest in keeping you organized.
A clipboard, a stack of index cards with a binder clip, a binder, a few file folders, a tabbed notebook, email, online or software-based programs, anything can work so long as you keep it consistent. Personally, I use Remember the Milk for my tasks (everything from “make a dentist appointment” to “load and run the dishwasher.” I can enter a task and tell it to pop up a month or a year from now, and I can make tasks like washing the dishes repeatable. RTM also integrates smoothly with Gmail; right now I have it in my calendar sidebar, and that’s the screen I try to keep as default. It also has a fully functional app, though a free account can only sync once a day.
I can even set it to repeat a specific amount of time after I’ve completed it. So, for example, I have set myself the task of checking my library account online every three days. Once I have done it, I check it done, and it sets itself to show up again in three days.
For lists of reference material (movies or books people suggest, freezer inventory, ideas, blog post notes) I keep a bajillion lists in Evernote.
I personally am tired of bent, wet, torn, and lost papers, and so have been moving to all-digital. I have found myself much more likely to jot a note in Evernote than I would have been to jot a note on a piece of paper because it doesn’t take up any more physical space, it doesn’t become one more thing to have around and keep track of, and if I want the information a quick search on the search bar pulls up anything relevant.
In fact, I have an entire eBook devoted to walking you step by step through setting up a household organization planner digitally, using your Gmail inbox & calendar, RTM, and Evernote: Paperless Home Organization. After all, isn’t the point of a smartphone or tablet really so we have all the information we need when we need it? But it takes a plan and some set-up time to get it to really work for us.
Of course, physical paper is also a very reasonable option. Clipboards, binders, planners, the options abound. Decide on how you want to keep things, set it up, and stick to it.
GTD® and Getting Things Done® are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company.