Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mind Organization for Moms - A New Method for Your Task List

I have always been a big list maker.  In my previous work I was a project manager, and one of my favorite parts of the job was tracking things by making calendars, action item lists, and other tools to help keep the team, tasks, and deliverables organized.  Yes, I was one of those dorks who lived by my Franklin Covey planner for a long time.  Nothing was more exciting than breaking out that new pack of task lists and calendars at the beginning of the year!

In my personal life, I am usually pretty good at keeping an updated to-do list and checking things off.  When I decided to be a stay-at-home mom, I was kind of excited about being the project manager of the house with some serious lists and organizing.  But I haven't really been happy with any system that I've come up with.  I have tried keeping electronic lists and calendars in a variety of programs including Evernote, my Yahoo email account, my Gmail email account, and other random programs on the iPad.  I've tried keeping paper lists on the fridge or in the drawer with the bills.  Nothing seemed to encompass my whole mental list, and I never seemed to have the list where I wanted it when I needed it.  I also was often overwhelmed by the length of the list, and only a few things seemed to get checked off.  I was left feeling like I wasn't getting anything done and forgetting important things.  This was so not me!

So a while back, had a post (that I can't seem to find now, but here is the info on the M.O.M. site) about the Mind Organization for Moms program (M.O.M. for short).  From the site, the author April Perry describes the program as "...a mom-specific adaptation of David Allen’s best-seller Getting Things Done®.  It’s designed to help you handle all the papers, emails, tasks, and projects you have on your plate."  This tag line alone was enough to get me interested in reading it.  I was thinking that I would at least read the shorter overview paper, maybe get a few tips, and just get back into being a little more productive and organized.

After reading the overview of the program, I was intrigued enough to read the long version, an 86 page PDF.  I found that there are some things that I really love about this system:
  • It pulls together all of spots where things end up that you need to attend to.  You have your snail mail pile.  You have invitations and other things on the refrigerator.  You have receipts in your wallet.  You have messages in your email inbox (somewhere, because there are so many messages, that the only ones you see are the 20 on the first page) .  You have invitations and messages on Facebook.  I didn't even realize how much stuff collects in so many places, taking mental energy to remember.  This system brings it all together.
  • In the end, you have a list of things you have to do now, and a bunch of other lists of things you want to do later.  And you don't have to worry about the things you are going to do later, because they are on the list.  You'll look at them later.
  • You also have your lists categorized.  So if you are out doing errands, let's say, and you have time for an extra one, you can look at your errand list and make another quick stop.  Boo-yah.  
Things I don't like about the system, or things that haven't seemed to really apply to me yet:
  • She suggests using a cubby system for additional paperwork and project materials.  I'm not a huge paper person, and I don't really have an office space to house a lot of stuff like that, so right now I'm not doing that piece.
  • I haven't used the idea of a goal review, which is something I probably should do, but haven't taken the time.
The main reason this whole system works well is the weekly review, which anyone who tries to keep on top of their to-do lists understands.  You have to review your tasks and "inboxes" every week, or things slip through the cracks.  

The format of my "Immediate Next Actions" list, and where I keep all of the other lists.
Yes, it is a planner.  I know, old habits die hard. But it's working. Also my current calendar
option of choice, my Google calendar printed out and updated by hand in between
electronic updates.

Going through this process has resulted in a nice little system in which to work, as well as help motivate me to keep it up.  I definitely feel:
  1. Like I've been more productive,
  2. That I'm working on the things that are most important at any given moment, and
  3. When I have a free moment, I am making the most of my time.  If I choose to.  Sometimes I choose to nap.  But if I do, I know exactly what I should be doing instead.  :-)
Does anyone have any fun tips on staying organized (or staying motivated to be productive) with your personal task list?

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