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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Monday Morning Check In: Systems

I have discussed the importance of habits and how to build them. I am a firm believer in habits. I may have picked this up from my dad. I recall one episode when I forgot to take my driving learner's permit to school on the day I had driver's ed class. I realized my error as soon as I had gotten to school and I phoned home. Dad was the person who fielded that call, and he was not a happy man when he arrived at school to hand me my forgotten permit. Along with the permit, he handed me some timeless advice: when something is important, you should build a habit around it to make sure that you take care of it properly. In this case, my permit belonged in my wallet, because my wallet would likely be with me during any of the times that I would need my permit as well.

I followed my dad's advice for other things, and I still do. I keep my keys in the same pocket of my purse. That way I always know where to look for them. I do not need to waste time looking for them somewhere else because I ALWAYS keep my keys in the same place. This little useful tidbit of advice can apply to eyeglasses, bills, shoes, pens, and homework.

This idea of a place for everything and everything in its place is a "system," a set of activities that work together, so to speak, to form a more complex whole. Systems are related to habits, and I create a great number of systems to keep my busy life flowing in the right direction as smoothly as possible. There are many possible areas in a person's life that would benefit from having a system, and I recommend that you invest the few minutes of time that it takes to create a system list or a systems notebook. A system frees up your mind from having to remember what should be done next, and in many cases, a system will help you to save time over the long haul.

Borrowing from an idea that I learned from, I have three basic systems hanging in my bathroom, which is also my wardrobe and dressing area. I have a morning list, an evening list, and a weekly list. These lists are the basic activities that I need to complete in order to get out the door in the morning (my morning list), to get to bed at a reasonable hour (my evening list), and to finish out the week with the most necessary chores taken care of (my weekly chores).

I typed out giant versions of my three lists with large boxes to be checked off when I complete the tasks. I placed each list inside its own plastic sheet protector and hung each list on the wall along with a dry erase marker. As I complete an item on any of my three lists, I mark it checked off the list. At the end of the day, I wipe off the marks I made with a tissue so that the lists are ready for use in the morning. Here is an example of my morning list:

  • Heat water (I put a glass measuring cup of water in the microwave for making coffee)
  • Take dogs outside (I have 6 grown dogs and 6 little puppies right now)
  • Make coffee (aaaahhhh!)
  • Writing-Thinking-Planning time (I do morning pages, a bible study, and my day's activity and to do lists)
  • Exercise
  • Feed big animals (donkeys, horse, alpacas, chickens, and outside cats)
  • Feed little animals (inside dogs and puppies while I also make my own breakfast, which I will eat on my way to work)
  • Clean something (wipe kitchen counter, empty or load dishwasher, scour sink)
  • Shower and dress (maybe clean a portion of the shower while I am there)
  • Put something away (because I have a propensity to clutter and can always find something)
My evening list looks like this:
  • put out clothes for next day (including running clothes if I am running; I also plug in my running watch for charging)
  • put something away
  • swish and swipe something in the bathroom
  • review next day's schedule
  • pull together things I need to take the next day
  • back out my schedule on my whiteboard hanging on the wall (I have a dry erase board where I back out my morning activities from the time I must leave so that I allow enough time to complete everything I need to do; everything on my morning list is assigned the time I need to start that activity in the morning)
  • get food together (I plan my day's meals the evening before so that I have my packed lunch or dinner ready to go in the morning)
  • take dogs out for last time
My weekly list includes things like remembering to trim my dogs' toenails, vacuuming, dusting, mopping, laundry, grocery shopping, bathroom cleaning, and similar activities. Once I've done them for the week, and the activities are checked off, I'm done for the week with regard to chores. I give myself permission to relax and enjoy the rest of the week or weekend.

Try setting up your own systems. They can be great time savers.

Have a great week!

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