I have to admit that I love being in control. Of everything. I need to know what is going on, what is happening, how everyone is feeling, what we are going to eat next, what I am going to do next and where everything is.
The trouble is, I’m not very good at reaching this state of affairs. In a nutshell I am not very well organised. I have my moments of organisational creativity and clarity. I also have small areas of my house and life which are incredibly organised (when I’ve just that week sorted them out) but it doesn’t seem to last very long. Part of me is hoping that many women live like this, perhaps somehow keeping their organisation systems in their heads, and just about managing to have enough control most of the time not to slide into complete chaos. Obviously chaos is always one of the ingredients of family life, but it seems that a lot of my physical and mental energy goes into trying not to let it get the upper hand.
The summer holidays is a critical time for the chaos / control balance. When the kids are around the whole time, there is less time to ‘get on top of things’, to keep yourself organised and to keep even a semblace of control. After six weeks, I feel desperate to wrestle back some control of my life and home. Ideally I would like to train myself not to be upset and so affected by the chaos and mess, but that’s probably even more difficult than getting myself organised.
As the children go back to school this week, I am focussing on creating small daily habits that will help me. I am getting back into the habit of waking up early, a habit which has slipped during the holidays. This makes me feel better and more in control when the kids get up, and start demanding things of me. Also, every Sunday I will decide what my priorities are for the next week, and take ten minutes first thing in the morning to keep focussed on them and plan the day.
One of the things I find most difficult is keeping track of all the things that I need to do in order to decide which are important and/or urgent and which are not. After years of trying different techniques, diaries, filofaxes, homemade printouts, online charts, which haven’t seemed to work, I recently read David Allen’s best seller Getting Things Done. He recommends organising all your paper and piles into folders and labelling them all lovingly with a proper labeller and to create your own personal library of ‘stuff’. As a lover of stationary of any kind I approached this task with gusto just before the school holidays and it has had a huge impact on my organisation. It is totally amazing because I now know where everything is. When I need a takeaway menu, or the login for the school dinners website, or ideas for a day out, or a particular happiness article, I go to my personal library of folders and find it within 10 seconds. No more rummaging around through the many piles and drawers around my kitchen or office. I am so pleased with myself.
But I still can’t manage my To Do list. To deal with this, during September, I am going to experiment with an iphone app designed in the Getting Things Done process. It costs £5.99 which is more than I’ve ever paid for an app – but I feel I need some help. With the app, I can create projects and next actions and categorise things according to the type of task they are (i.e. tasks involving the internet, errands out and about, phone calls etc.) so that you can bunch them together and save time and energy. To be honest, I’m a little sceptical about it’s prospects because I tend to forget about non-physical things like apps. Again, though, it’s all about creating a habit that I will remember to do everyday, so I need to give it enough time and effort to work.
I’ll keep you posted.