Finally Organized?

By Diane Stark

I’m always looking for the next big thing. In organizational tools, that is. I’m a sucker for containers that will supposedly organize my stuff. I love to buy school supplies that I think might help me become more organized so I can get more writing done. (Recently I found a purse-size notebook with a pen already attached to it. I had to buy it. Its organizational potential was simply endless.)

But my biggest weakness is anything that will help me organize my time. I recently bought a planner from an online company that allowed me to download my favorite photo for the cover. It seemed an answer to my scatter-brained prayers. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be more organized if they had a planner with a picture of my adorable family on it? (The planner is indeed gorgeous, and my family is quite adorable. But I am no more organized.)

I was talking about this phenomenon with my friend Amy recently. “I work really hard, but I never actually get anything checked off of my To Do List,” I said.

“I know,” she said. “I’m the same way. But so much of the stuff I do isn’t on my To Do List. I mean, I already know I have to cook dinner, so why would I put it on my list?”

“Maybe you should,” her husband Paul called from the other room. He came in and grinned at us. “Sorry, I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation,” he said. “But seriously, maybe you should put everything you do in a day on your To Do List.”

“Why?” Amy asked.

“There’s this guy I work with and he prints a To Do List off of his computer every morning when he gets to the office. The first item on his list? Make the To Do List.” Paul chuckled. “So every morning, he shows up at the coffee maker, feeling good because he’d already checked something off of his List.”

“Yeah, making the List,” Amy said. “Huge accomplishment!”

“But how many days do you have when you don’t get anything checked off your To Do List?” Paul said. “He always gets at least one thing done.”

It really was funny to think of a grown man doing such a thing, but still, I could see the value in it. I’m a big believer in momentum and checking something off of my List always motivated me to want to do more.

It was definitely worth considering.

A few weeks later, I woke up to the craziest schedule imaginable. My husband’s office had a Potluck Lunch, and I was expected to bring my famous cheesy potatoes. My youngest son’s preschool class was having their Christmas Party, which started immediately after the Potluck. I still needed to wrap his teachers’ Christmas gifts, bake cookies and make Doily Angels – my contribution to the crafty part of the day. Plus, my daughters were both having friends spend the night that night and the house wasn’t exactly company clean. I was supposed to pick up the girls’ friends on the way home from Nathan’s party, so there would be no time to clean later.

I had so many balls to juggle that morning and I was so worried that I was going to drop one. I decided to give Paul’s co-worker’s slightly-neurotic method a try.

I pulled out some Post-It notes and a clipboard. (My school supply obsession isn’t all bad.) I wrote down everything I needed to do that morning, with one task on each Post-It note. I even included making coffee, showering, and bathing my youngest son. I do these things every day, so I wasn’t likely to forget – especially the coffee – but I wanted to give the method an honest go.

And yes, I did make a Post-It note for the task of actually making the To Do List. And yes, it was quite satisfying to pull it off and throw it into the trash.

The momentum was in my favor.

I mixed up the cheesy potatoes and slid them into the oven to bake. Then I put Nathan into the bath tub. While he played in the water, I sat on the floor, wrapping presents and making Doily Angels. And in case you were counting, that was three To Do’s all at the same time. I ripped off the Post-It notes with a grin.

I called the girls into the kitchen and said, “Since your friends are coming over, I need one of you to tidy up the bathrooms and the other one to run the vacuum in the living room.” The girls assured me that their friends neither noticed nor cared about vacuum lines in the carpet or water rings in the toilets. I said, “Well, I do care about those things, and if you want to have your friends over, you’ll get busy.”

Check two more things off the List.

I still needed to shower myself and bake cookies – two things I was pretty sure could not be accomplished simultaneously.

I jumped in the shower and hurried through the familiar routine. I got dressed and ran downstairs to pull out the potatoes and put in the cookies. But then I realized what time it was. We needed to leave the house in 20 minutes. The adorable snowmen cookies I’d planned to make just weren’t going to happen at this late stage.

I murmured a quick prayer that the kids’ hadn’t found my emergency stash of cookie dough. When I felt the package in the way, way back of the fridge, I breathed a sigh of relief.

I tossed them in the oven and pulled the last Post-It note from my clipboard. I was amazed at how much I’d accomplished in such a short time.

It took some delegating and some compromise, but I’d gotten it done.

And maybe those things, rather than Post-It notes and clipboards, were the real tricks to getting things done.

About this writer

  • Diane Stark Diane Stark is a wife and mom of five. She loves to write about her family and her faith. Her essays have been published in over 20 Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

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One Response to “Finally Organized?”

  1. You have found a system that works. It has to be rewarding to toss those post it notes after you complete a task.

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