I’ve been asked over and over again, “How come you’re so organized?” Well, I’ll share my secret with you.
The organization is anticipation.
When we spend time looking ahead, anticipating, we prepare and execute more efficiently. By anticipating, you will create more time for yourself and have less stress.
Before I get down to anything, whether it’s putting together a grocery list to plan the week’s meals, packing for a trip, or just tackling the daily commute to my home office, I anticipate.
I spend at least an hour or two a week anticipating. So here’s my advice to you: Take an hour, say on a Sunday morning, and sit down with your preferred organizational tool: pen and paper, laptop, iPad, or your daily calendar.
ANTICIPATING IMPLIES LOOKING AHEAD
Look carefully at the week ahead, even the month ahead. (We’ll just cover the week here.) Ask yourself: What’s next? What I need?
As you look ahead to the week ahead, you create your to-do list for the week. While everyone’s life is different, I offer a few things to think about. The goal is to visualize the week ahead, anticipate it, and prepare for it. You can even go a step further and visualize that everything is going well.
Yes, your life is unique, but you still need to be organized no matter what. For example, you may not have children, but have other family members or friends who are demanding a lot of your time and energy. While I make suggestions based on someone like me, a working mom, my advice can be tailored to anyone who wants to get and stay organized, no matter what their specific life situation is.
START WITH FOOD
We all have to eat. Much of our stress, especially among working women, involves getting home and having a meal prepared and ready to eat in 30 minutes or less. Try starting your to-do list like this:
– Plan what you are going to eat during the week.
– Make a shopping list, shop, and then prepare as many meals ahead of time on Sunday.
If you’re really getting ambitious, cook more than you need for the next week and freeze (ideally in Pyrex, so you can pop them in the oven when you need them). These are great emergency meals. An added benefit is that you’re not running around buying takeout, which is important if you’re trying to stay on a budget or have healthy eating and fitness goals.
I guarantee that regularly anticipating and preparing meals will relieve a lot of stress.
So let’s paint a picture of how this can work. Early Sunday, prepare your weekly meal list and grocery list to get everything done. (The shopping list can also be categorized by department: produce, meat, dairy, dry goods, etc., to make your shopping trip quick and efficient.) and just use a notepad. Take your list, shop, then come back and start cooking. This job will save you a lot of time during the week when you really need it. Once Monday starts, it’s go, go, go, but you’ll be fine because you’ll know exactly what you’ll be feeding yourself and your family.
Never underestimate the power of the list. Yes, we all make lists, shop, and put things away, but it’s the final part you MUST do to reduce stress: now you need to prepare your food and COOK.
ANTICIPATE BEYOND THE FOOD
Then keep looking at your week. What to do? For example:
Do you need to make appointments or cancel one?
Do you have all the equipment ready for your children’s sport?
Do you have clothes to wash? (I like to make mine on Sunday while I cook.)
Are your clothes chosen for events, work and fun?
Is your vehicle full of fuel?
Do you have any necessary materials prepared or written reports?
Are you ready for any meeting?
Are workouts scheduled on your calendar?
Do you have a babysitter where needed?
Need to schedule home office time?
Did you schedule “me” time?
This is a needs-based list that helps you create your daily to-do list. Apply the needs to the days of the week, as required. However, use Monday mornings to set up your week, make your calls, get ready, and head out. Here’s a very important piece of advice: don’t touch your email just yet.
Never start Monday morning tackling emails; It will be the death of your plan. Always tackle your to-do list first (which may include sending emails, but don’t read or reply to your inbox yet). This shouldn’t take more than an hour, then you’re out of the races with email, Facebook, Twitter, or whatever else you need or want to do.
WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH YOUR CHILDREN?
Consider not only what you have to prepare for, but also what activities, sports, or events your children have.
This is where you can spend a lot of your time, managing your activities, which become yours, so you need to anticipate them too.
I find that if you have a duffel bag of some kind for every activity, it saves time and stress searching for things. Have separate bags for dance, skating, and hockey, and have ones for school, music, art, etc. By compartmentalizing each activity, you organize it and you can see what you need or have to do for it.
DO WORK LESS WORK
Then there is work. There’s always work, it seems! But is there anything extra you need to do that is work related?
If there is a report or meetings to prepare for, have you scheduled them on your calendar? Your calendar is your manager, so let it be full but also free. By free, I mean leave some free time to breathe and prepare.
THE POWER TO ANTICIPATE
Remember, by spending time looking ahead, anticipating, we visualize a well-prepared, smooth, and efficient life for ourselves. By anticipating, you’ll find more time for yourself, less stressful.
As a final piece of advice, go with the flow. You’ve heard it before: don’t worry about the small stuff. As much as I am very strict and heed my own advice, I know unexpected things will happen, but I don’t let it ruffle my feathers. Once you get organized and stay organized, you’ll be organized, and nothing will get in your way.