Friday, December 28, 2012

The Card System to Stay Organized and Manage your time

In keeping with my goal of accomplishing more in the new year,  I am finding a real lack of any sort of organizational system to keep me on track.  I need to stay organized and I need a time management system!  For the last several months I have done really well at staying on task with work and not letting the house fall into shambles.  However, I feel like I don't really have any sort of system that keeps me on track.  I'm just doing what has to be done everyday on an as needed basis, instead of being proactive and preventing messes along the way.  Over a year ago, I developed this card system to keep me on task and not let the house stuff get out of hand.  I've decided that it is time to bring it back.

I'm not a professional organizer, or time management guru, but I do feel like I am a fairly productive person who manages to accomplish a lot while still getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night.   There are certainly other systems that you can use, some are similar to this one and I was inspired by quite a few.  However, most of them require bulky binders or are a bit too complicated for my liking.  There are also others that seem to require lots of repetitive things to help you develop habits and I never felt like they were concentrating on my problem of maintenance versus just cleaning up messes.  Then there are systems that involve setting timers and cleaning like a mad woman ... and truthfully I don't want to work like that every day ... it is fine when I have company that is showing up in 30 minutes though!

This card system is designed to be used daily - and for everyday tasks.  This system is not designed to help you tackle large organizational projects at one time or within a short amount of time.  What it will do is allow you to complete what you need to do in your allotted time and then stop.  You can feel free to go about the rest of your day knowing that the other items are already scheduled and there is no need to eat your elephant all in one day. This system is certainly adaptable to other schedules, and adaptable so that you can accomplish those bigger tasks, although I won't be talking about that until after we are finished.

I don't do well putting off house cleaning for one day per week.  For me, I work better, feel more relaxed, and I am less likely to procrastinate if I know that I only have to do a little bit each day.  Using this system, I know that things will get done, and without me cleaning like a mad woman for an entire day.  If you do prefer to work that way, then I encourage you to read, adapt, and share what you will do differently than is presented.

This system takes into account that not all tasks need to be done daily, and provides a way to keep up with things that need to be done twice a week, weekly, monthly, quarterly, every six months, and even annually.  All you have to do is take cards out, check them off, and return them to their proper location.

So, now, onto the card system. 

What you need:
Colored note cards (I use the 3x5 colored index cards - you don't have to use colored ones, but I like the visual cues)
Dividers - I purchased a pack of abc dividers and put a sticker on top of the abc's (you need 19)
Something to keep them in - I use a recipe type box that is made to hold 3x5 index cards
A notepad or piece of paper
Pen or pencil

The first thing you are going to do is to make a list of everything that you need to do.  My system is to mainly help me keep up with household tasks and cleaning so that is a lot of what you will be seeing on my cards.  Take your notepad or piece of paper and make your list.  I found it easier to break my list up by room and then physically go into each room and look around while I made my list.  Once I was done with each room, I made a list of other general things that need to be done that weren't in a room.  My list looks like the picture to the right.

Once you are finish listing all of your tasks then assign a time that they need to be done.  Write your times as an on-going basis ... meaning that just because their are cobwebs in your corner, it doesn't mean that you need to dust that corner every day.  You are also not assigning priorities to things.  It will all get done, so don't worry about what needs to be done first right now, just write down how often you would be doing them in a harmonious perfect world.

Also, don't worry if you forget something.  This system is flexible and you will be able to add things later.  You can also cross things out and move them around if you decide that something is being done too often or not often enough.

Next you will want to pick one of your colors of note cards for Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly, etc.  You may also have 2 times per week (I use the same color as weekly for those), Every 6 months (I use the same color as Quarterly), and once per year (I use the same color as Quarterly)

For the "Daily" tasks I actually have 3 cards that are broken up into Morning, Afternoon, and Evening (or Nightly).  I found that it was better for me to work in small chunks of time a few times per day versus trying to do everything at one time or spacing it out throughout the entire day.

On your Daily tasks you will want to write all of the tasks that need to be done daily on the daily cards.  You may want to write down which room the task is for also.  I have columns with dates on them so that I can check things off ... I LOVE to check things off and feel like I have accomplished things, so this gives me a way to really feel like I am accomplishing a lot.  Perhaps it is bad that I have written down "Breakfast", "Lunch" and "Dinner" ... but really, sometimes I forget to eat ... not a good habit!

For the weekly tasks you will want to go by room - at least that has been the easiest thing for me.  Once upon a time, I did things by task - such as vacuuming all in one day.  However, I found that there were too many times that the vacuuming didn't get done because I had the pick up the whole house before I started and I used all of my vacuuming time picking up instead of vacuuming.  Now I just focus on one room at a time.

An Example of one of my weekly cards is on the left.

** For tasks that are done more than once per week but not daily, you will want to make one card for each day you will be working on that task.  For instance, if you need to vacuum the living room twice per week then you will want to make 2 cards that say vacuum living room.

Before we move onto the monthly, quarterly, and remaining tasks we need to go ahead and put the cards you have made into your card file.

Take your dividers and re-label them - one for each day of the week, and one for each month.

Once you have done that you need to give some thought as to how often you want to be cleaning.  Do you want to get it all done in 4 days, 5 days, 6 days, or do you want to be working on it 7 days per week?  I do daily tasks 7 days a week, and I get all of the weekly tasks done Monday through Friday.  Saturdays (or Sunday's if I feel like it) are for working on monthly and quarterly tasks (I don't currently have any that are 6 month or annual tasks, but if I did they would also be done on Saturdays or Sundays).

You will then want to divide all of your weekly tasks and put them behind the day of the week that you want to get them done.  I have tried to batch mine by the rooms that are close to each other and also batch the tasks so that I am spending about 30 minutes per day (or less) working.

Next you will want to make your monthly, quarterly, and annual cards (as well as other times that you have noted on your list).  I put one monthly task per card, and one quarterly task per card.  I write the months on the quarterly cards that they need to be done - Such as January, April, July, October is on top of the things that get done in those months.  If some of your monthly and quarterly tasks have recently been done then go ahead and write the date that you did them on your card.  Leave room for writing other dates, as you will write the dates that you do them in the future so that you know that those things are done.  If you haven't done something in a while then you will need to decide if it needs to be taken care of immediately or if it can wait and go in the rotation until next month. 

Once your quarterly and monthly cards are done, then you will place all of the monthly cards behind this month (or the upcoming month if this one is almost over), and your quarterly cards behind the first upcoming month that they need to be done.

Using your cards -

Your daily tasks should stay in the front of your card holder.  You will take these out each day and check off the tasks that you have completed.  You will also take out the cards that are filed under the current day and write the date on them (leaving room to write future dates) once you have completed them.  Once you have completed them they will be filed back behind the day of the week so that they are ready to do again the following week.  For monthly and quarterly tasks you will move them forward to the day of the week that you are working on monthly and quarterly tasks - remember, my day is Saturday or Sunday.  I generally like to get all of my monthly and quarterly tasks done in one Saturday of the month so that I can leave the others free for family and fun.

Accounting for vacations or other bumps in the road.  If I am leaving with my family then generally I will just skip doing the tasks that are scheduled for those days and come back to the on the next week.  I highly doubt that the house will fall in if I miss vacuuming ... especially if we are not here tracking in dirt.  However, if I find myself constantly too busy to get things done and putting them off ... then I need to re-check myself and re-evaluate what I am spending my time on.  I know that using this system really only takes about 30 minutes each day (sometimes more, sometimes less) - and really that is accounting for things that are going to make my house a better environment for me, my kids, and my husband.  I also know that most days it only takes about 30 minutes and that lots of these things will be done by boys that want to make extra money doing chores. 

I've read about other systems that claim that you can keep your house clean in 10 minutes a day ... but realistically I haven't found them to work.  I tend to skip over things when I have a timer set with the mindset that .. oh, I will wipe behind those canisters tomorrow ... and that is fine for one day ... but when you are doing it every day then it just doesn't work. 

Whew!  That was a long post!!  Please leave me a comment, if only to tell me that you made it all the way through!  Also, please let me know if I have made typos or not explained something ... I have been writing-deleting-editing-writing etc... so I am certain that I left something out!  I would also love to hear if you have adapted the system or have a different system that you use - I'm always open to making something better!

I will talk next time about adding tasks to your system, and also accounting for those big projects that need to be done.  I will also explain some of the things on my cards.

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