Happy New Year, Friends!
Has 2016 begun well for you?
Looking back on the last twelve months, I’m pretty amazed at all that can happen in just one year. You too? Each January, I mull over the gains and losses, and lessons learned of the last twelve months. Then I look ahead to the coming months and set goals. I’m not a resolution maker. Instead, I establish priorities. I choose what I want to focus on in different areas of my life; for instance -spiritually, health-wise, business, home making, marriage, etc. There’s always some area that needs intentional growth. Okay, several. Lots. Alright, I need to grow up. Moving on.
Do you reflect back over the year before looking ahead?
One area I’m forever struggling with is in maintaining a routine. Time management can be an elusive white unicorn for anyone, I know. But it seems to come more naturally for some folks than for others. I am an “other”.
Oh, just that word…. routine. It’s everything I wish I was and everything I loathe summarized in two syllables. I lean (quite heavily) on the artsy, “free spirit” side; too much predictability, too much pre-planning and scheduling, and I suffocate. (It’s embarrassing, really.) The real world is left-brained, meanwhile I’m writing songs about yearning souls, while making lotion from scratch, and also dreaming up a hobbit-styled garden shed I’d like to build out of the stones in our yard, and… What do you mean, “what’s for dinner”?
Artsy aside, I have my health working against me. If you’ve been around LUAT awhile, you’ve read about that struggle before. Autoimmune disease is a tyrant, and it will have its way. Too often, when I have (finally!) settled into a good groove, a “flare-up” will swoop in unexpectedly and toss me off a cliff. So long, schedule. Flares can last for months. And even when a flare is done, recovery can be slow. That can be pretty darn discouraging.
But we ALL know someone, likely several people, who deal with chronic illness. The stuff is everywhere now! Coping with the unpredictability of these diseases is tough stuff. I hope what I’ve learned will help someone who shares this struggle. And also if you have any wisdom to share, would you do so in the comments? I’d love to hear from you.
My most helpful encouragement to you who suffer is this: get back up. Get back up, and move forward. It may feel like you’re always moving two steps forward and two steps back. Or maybe two forward and six back. But as long as not all your steps are backward, you’re doing ok, Friend. You’re a fighter. Remember my post about working out in my new sportsbra? Guys, I lost inches! I was making progress! I was feeling great and getting stronger! Then I couldn’t recover … for weeks. My current flare-up took over, and I’ve since lost everything I worked for. But on good days, I stretch. And when I’m able, I’m going to slowly build up my strength and stamina. I’m gonna to keep at it until the next flare hits. But I’m won’t give up. Don’t you give up either; in whatever it is you’re doing.
Now to the practical stuff.
For me – a creative type, I keep a sketchbook nearby at all times. My sketchbook is filled with song ideas, menus, deep thoughts, random phone numbers, lists, drawings of room arrangements or things I want to make. I love it because I’m not having to deal with lots of papers; everything is in one place. Clearly, there’s an issue when I want to find any particular bit of information. Even I’ll acknowledge that. So, in hopes of having more organization, yet not more headaches, I’m giving Evernote a shot. I spent way too much time reading the blog posts I found on Pinterest about the app, but I’m sure glad I did. It gave me a handle on what I was getting into.
With Evernote, I’ll be able to keep my lists, ideas, lyrics, songs, contacts, web pages and articles, pretty much everything all together, yet organized and easily searchable. Evernote is also handy because my memory is pretty sketchy as of late. I seem to always have my phone nearby, so if there’s anything I want to remember later, it’s easy-peasy to make myself a note in the app. This saves precious brain cells unnecessary effort.
Additional benefits are the synchronization and portability. This means, I can lay in bed and surf the web for info, clip the awesomeness I find to a notebook via the app on my phone, and KAPOW! It’s immediately accessible through our desktop. It doesn’t make that KAPOW! sound, though.
I’m also making use of Google Calendar. I know, I know, it’s been around for-evuh. (As far as apps go anyway.) I’ve always been a pen and paper kind of gal. But I love that I can share a calendar with my hubs, and have separate calendars for work, the blog, the shop, etc. Again, as a creative, don’t-box-me-in type (ROARRRR!), I can be as detailed or as vague with Calendar as I choose. So I’ll plop in my appointments, classes, etc. But I’ll leave large blocks of time for things like house work, or music, or business. I may not specify exactly what I’ll be doing in those blocks of time; I’ll keep notes in Evernote of what I’d like to do. But honestly, I may not have the strength at any given time to do much. And that’s ok.
I found this article to be helpful in creating a “master schedule” set up. I also really appreciated the reminders that things never really go as planned -and that’s normal.
#3 TIME BLOCKING
This brings me to the “time-blocking” method. It’s been a game-changer for me. Rather than looking at my day, or week or month as a list of to-do’s (umm…overwhelm, anyone?), I view it in blocks. There are some great articles on this topic, like here and definitely here. I keep things pretty loose for myself. For instance, say Monday mornings are set aside for building goods for the shop, but I’m flaring up too badly to do that. I’ll pull up a LUAT Shop to-do list in Evernote, and see what I feel up to tackling. Maybe all I have energy for is reading some articles or looking at inspiring photos in Pinterest while I lay in bed. Or, maybe I’ll sleep and skip the whole thing til next time. Perhaps I’ve been too sick to do housework, so I’ll switch out my building time for home making time. Just feel that power…
#4 TIME CHUNKING
This is another gem, but it can get a little too left brained for me. The basic idea is grouping like tasks together and hammering them out. Using my shop as an example- I might do a bunch of wood cutting one day, paint and stain on another, later assemble my pieces. Then I’d do all my photography, and another time write all my Etsy listings. Business-wise, this makes a heck of a lot of sense. But sometimes, I need to break things up a bit more.
#5 MEAL PLANNING
Years ago, just the above phrase would bring tears to my eyes. It was draining and success was elusive at best. I’ve tried and given up too many times to count. But I’ve finally found some practices that are really helpful for me. Depending on how foggy my brain is, I may plan for a week or two at a time. In the past I have planned out two months, and then repeated those menus. BAM! 4 months done! It was a lot of work, however. And I just can’t seem to make myself sit down and do all that again. Hmm. Yet, if I keep track (looking at you, Evernote) of the 1-2 week meal plans I make, I can put those on repeat without much thought. Now, there’s thinkin’!
Organize Yourself Skinny is my favorite place to go for meal planning ideas and how-to. I have learned SO MUCH from this blog! In addition to creating realistic menus, she explains the virtues of meal prep. In fact some of my favorite advice from Tammy is that any meal prep is better than none. I may not spend an afternoon in the kitchen chopping the week’s veggies and cooking all the meats. But if I’m cooking up some of that bacon from Costco (have you seen those packages? They’re HUGE! How many pigs does it take to make up one of those?), I’m going to cook it ALL up and divide and freeze the rest. If I’m making a meal, I’ll make A LOT and freeze some for later. These steps are life-savers for those times when I’m too weak to cook, or shop. My husband is incredibly helpful when I’m ill. But he works long, long days. If I can save him the work of making dinner when I’m down, it helps us both out. (And it earns me good wife points.)
Meal planning helps me save time and effort overall. My hubs appreciates that there’s a plan in place, and we won’t be living off of “surprise” meals (That “What do you mean, what’s for dinner” part? Yeah…) But it also saves me time and money in shopping. I know exactly what I’ll need for a given period of time. Depending on how ambitious I am, I can match my list up with sales and coupons for mega savings. Yet sometimes- putting out any effort at all is a huge undertaking. So, coupons or not: meal plan= shopping list= easier shopping= the world a better place. Which brings me to…
#6 ONLINE SHOPPING
Speaking of my Handsome Prince, he recently scored free year of Amazon Prime when he upgraded his phone. I’ve heard all about the virtues of Prime before, or so I thought. But I’ve never done much on-line shopping, so I wasn’t really interested. However, I started doing a little reading up on Prime, once we had it. WOWZA! Folks were writing about all the money they save by purchasing their paper goods through Amazon versus Costco or Sam’s Club. That piqued my interest, for sure. Because who doesn’t like to save a few Benjamins? And who is chronically ill and not struggling to make ends meet?
By shopping through Amazon, I can plan out my purchases, get a great deal, and not have to leave my house. What about this is not fabulous?! The Subscribe and Save option looks pretty enticing, too. Although, I giggle thinking about subscribing to toilet paper. Am I the only one who finds that funny?
I feel like the floodgates have opened with this Prime thing. I’m looking into several other ways to save money on Amazon purchases (such as Elite Deal Club), and learning new ways to save on in-store purchases, too. I’ll do a post about saving money, once I know what’s legit and worth the time. Is that something you’d be interested in? Saving buckaroos is a huge help for us, but I feel like it can be a part-time job. And I don’t want extra work. I try to find methods that fit our life and my ever yo-yo-ing energy.
Are any of these methods helpful for you? How do you manage your time? What role does your health play?