I never thought my organization skills would fail me. I mean, I can do anything. College and a job? No problem. College and work and moving? Piece of cake. College, work, moving, getting married all at once? Done. All I needed was a tiny bit of sleep, a list, coffee and I was good to go.
Until I became a mommy. And then it seemed that I could not get anything done at all. Everything had changed. Nothing worked like it did before! My laundry sat around in piles for days and my sink overflowed with dishes. Worst of all, the mere thought of tackling anything made me exhausted. I finally figured out that I needed to ditch every single one my old routines and start all over from scratch.
The first thing to do was letting go of my perfectionism. Mess was going to happen. My house was going to looked lived in. The vacuum was going to stay motionless, in the corner of the living room, for days on end. And there was no way I could dedicate an entire afternoon at once for a weekly cleaning. That was another problem, my propensity to start a job and see it through without stopping. While that sounds like a great skill, it only works if you don’t get interrupted--again and again. I go myself so discouraged that since I could not do the laundry all at once in one day, I gave up doing laundry completely. And mopping the floors? Forget it!
Finally it became clear that tasks had I had to break tasks into small chunks for anything to get done. “Clean the house” was a gigantic, impossible task now. So I broke it down to smaller tasks: bathroom, living room, etc. That still did not work. So I chopped it into even smaller bites: sink, floor, toilet, carpet, coffee table. That was a bit of improvement. But I still felt overwhelmed!
It turned out that new times called for completely new measures. In other words, time to start from scratch! In my quest for new home management methods, I came across www.flylady.net. This website has some excellent methods, and has quite a large following of grateful homemakers. One of her tips was a to use a timer when you do housework, instead of viewing a task in relationship to completing an entire project. Well, that was just the tip I needed!
It’s amazing how this one little trick holds down my sanity (and my floors and laundry hampers!) After using a timer for a few weeks, I came up with a mental reminder: “Timer, not Tasks!” But before I go into detail about how and why this simple little method works, let me first explain how to do use a timer.
It’s simple. Here's what you do: instead of looking at your entire kitchen, just set a timer for anywhere from 2 to 20 minutes. Clear your mind of your to-do list, and focus only on what you need to do in relationship to time, not in relationship to your whole huge big job. If you are in the kitchen, think about how much you can get done before the timer goes off. Do not think about how much you can get done in regards to the whole kitchen (sink, floor, pile of mail, stove top). Instead, think, “I bet I can get this whole counter cleared before the timer beeps!” not “First I am going to get this counter cleared, that will be about ¼ of the kitchen. Then it’s on to the dishes, and the floor will be last.”
When the timer goes off, sometimes I set it again and work in the same area of the house. But most of the time I’ll reset the timer and move to a different room. Or I might even stop completely and take care of my son or call a client. So to recap, here’s the process: set the timer for a tiny increment of time, work until the timer goes off, then stop! And that’s it, folks.
Why does this simple method work so well? Well, I can’t speak for everybody, but here are a few reasons why I think the timer works for me (and will work for you!)
1) The timer makes you focus. Since you can ignore most things for 15 minutes, you are free to completely ignore anything that may beg for your attention.
2) The timer makes housework less strenuous on your brain. Contrary to popular belief, our mind is not all that great at multi-tasking. So give your brain a break and allow it to do what it does best, focus on just one thing at a time.
3) The timer makes housework more manageable-. If you are are always pulled in many directions at any given moment, the thought of navigating an
entire project in the midst of everything else may be quite an impossible task. But you can carve 15 minutes can be from any area of your life…at any time.
4) The timer gives us quick gratification. You can a ton of stuff done in 15 minutes on the timer, more than you can get done of “I will be working on this job until I finish the the whole thing." Gotta pace myself. Is it time for a break yet?” When the timer goes off, you may have a whole stack of mail shredded, five bills paid, or an entire counter cleared off. And that feels fantastic!
5) The timer make housework fun. Perhaps I am a kid at heart, but setting the timer and saying, “Ready, set, GO” and seeing how much I can get done is just plain fun!
So there it is: the timer method. Try it out and send me a picture of what you just got done in 15 minutes….I would love to tuck it in this blog!