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And if you haven’t done so yet, you’ve got about 8 hours left to enter my giveaway!
My Daily Docket is a personalized form I made to help me manage my day at home. It’s my most often-used form in my home management notebook, and it really works for me.
There’s a lot of info on the internet about scheduling your day as a stay-at-home mom, and I’ve tried to apply a lot of these different tactics. They never worked for me. They were too rigid — a system would encourage me to write out a specific timetable for my day, and rotate weekly jobs set in stone on different days of the week. By writing this schedule out and hanging it visibly, I’d know what to do next.
It’s a great idea, but my life’s a lot more… unpredictable. When I tried to make Thursdays my Laundry Day, or One-On-One Time With My Daughter at 11 o’clock Monday through Friday, I was trapped.
I was trapped because life happened — one week I’d have an abnormally large amount of laundry, so by trying to do it all in one day, I set myself up for failure because I just couldn’t do it all. Time with my daughter would get pushed back because we really needed to run errands at 11 a.m., or she needed an earlier nap and 11 just wouldn’t do.
I wanted to throw any semblance of routine out the window. But I really didn’t want to do that, because a routine helps me. I love checking things off a list. I’m visual, so it helps to see my day’s plan.
What has evolved as my Daily Docket is a marriage of scheduled routine and flexibility. It provides the skeleton for me to hang my agenda, but it allows for wiggle room because I fill out a new sheet each day.
Instead of a set routine for Mondays, I fill out a fresh sheet for that very day, using a Weekly Checklist as my resource (also found on the downloads page). My week’s goal is to get everything done I need to do by that week, but I’m flexible as to when specifically I should do it..
The night before, I take one of these and fill it out for the next day. It helps if I fill it out in pencil because things are so unpredictable in our home that I have to be flexible.
The smaller categories on the page are as follows:
The bigger items are my day’s to-do list and my day’s general plan.
Photo by Jessica F.
I limit myself to 10 things, because I know I realistically can’t get more than that checked off. I’ve actually almost never gotten all 10 accomplished in one day. By keeping it short, I’m making success – finishing my list – more of a reality. If I remember additional things throughout the day, I jot them down in my notes section, possibly for tomorrow’s list. I like Jamie’s idea of sticking with six items.
General is the key word here. The Docket looks a lot more structured than it is, but I don’t write out every last thing I have to do that day. I only assign a time and slot to those things I want to get done at a time of day. I want to get computer work during my kid’s nap time, so I remind myself that it’s a 2 o’clock job. I want to get breakfast on the table by 8, so I make a note of that. And most importantly for me, I want to get to bed by 10:30. Seeing it on paper reminds me that it’s important.
Here’s an example of what a Daily Docket looks like filled out (click to enlarge it):
Feel free to download this Daily Docket (or the smaller one) for free. But you don’t have to use this — use what works for you. The point is to have a plan for your day, and to approach it proactively.
Whatever you use, keep it simple, easy-to-read, very easily accessible throughout your day, and thorough enough to manage your whole day on one sheet.
What do you use to get you focused on the day? If you use the Docket, do you have any suggestions or feedback? I know several of you have asked for an even smaller one than the Pocket Docket… I might get to that. Someday.
Our house is a disaster. There, I said it. We had company for almost a month, and my mother-in-law was such a help to me, I hardly did anything. Now I’m paying the price.
I most definitely prefer a regular habit of basic upkeep so that the home doesn’t get to the point of unrecognition (yes, I just made up that word). But it has, so I’ve called upon the troops and have declared a War on Mess.
Photo by Torri 479
Today and tomorrow, we will be overhauling the house, with the hopes that I can get some serious organizing done this weekend. We have guests coming over for dinner Friday night, so the goal is to have everything clean by then.
Lesson #1 – Have a very tangible, rapidly-approaching-yet-doable goal for your cleaning. Inviting friends over for dinner is a great one.
Staying true to my word, I’m not going to bite off more than I can chew and plan on doing more than I can. Today will be mostly damage repair, while tomorrow will be the actual cleaning (dusting, vacuuming, and the like).
Lesson #2 – Divide your cleaning goals into manageable chunks. That way, you can “check off” decluttering one day, then move on to scrubbing and dusting. You’ll feel more accomplished.
I also know my body ebbs and flows with energy highs and lows, so I’m going to tackle the tough stuff in the morning (my energy high) and the easy stuff in the afternoon (my energy low). I’m also going to take frequent breaks so that I don’t burn out. I’ll set a timer for 30 minutes of cleaning, 10 minutes of rest.
Lesson #3 – Know yourself and clean with your body’s rhythms, not against it.
Since we’re all involved in this, we’re going to make it fun. We’re talking a lot, we’re listening to music, and we’re still being silly as we work (tickle attacks, funny voice impressions… you know the drill). We’ll get discouraged, bored, and possibly bitter if we don’t.
Lesson #4 – Do what you need to stay in a good mood. Be cheerful. You are blessed to have a home to clean!
Mamas are busy. And by default, we’re multi-taskers. There’s no other way we can do a load of laundry and pay bills and buy groceries and make dinner and spend quality time with our kids.
But I’d say the number one enemy of productivity in a mom’s life – especially when she has very small children at home – is trying to do too much.
Photo by Lizhenry
Don’t get me wrong – we have more than tons to do, and I for one have never accomplished everything I’d ever need to do in one day. But that’s the very reason why trying to do too much will set us up for failure. To put it bluntly, if we think we’ll successfully check off a 20-item to-do list within 24 hours, we’re kidding ourselves.
Life happens. We want to organize our kids’ clothes, but then our husbands will need such-and-such done for his work project. We hope to get the weeding done, but our neighbor’s mom just died, and it’s really more important to bring her a meal (remember – relationships are more important than to-do lists).
For my sanity, for my clarity, for my goal-oriented self, I’ve employed the concept of Most Important Tasks.
It’s not a new concept, and it’s almost too simple to need explanation. But it’s been revolutionary in my life.
I make my daily to-do list, and I keep my scratch pad visible and easy to reach so that I can jot things down as they come to me (both these things are part of my Home Management Notebook). But at the top of my day’s page in my Notebook, above my to-do list and menu agenda and even Scripture memory – are my Most Important Tasks.
My MITs are my top three things I want to accomplish that day. If nothing else gets done, I’d say my day was a success if those three things happen. They usually pertain to my home management job, but often they focus on a personal habit I’m working on. For example, my MITs today are:
The first task is personal and aimed towards a habit – I’m trying to reinvigorate my daily habit of reading the Bible (set aside on the shelf of sporadic-ness since my son was born four months ago). The second item is purely home management – we’ve gotta have clothes to wear. And the third one is important for the relationships that matter most to me – my in-laws just left this morning after almost a month of visiting, and I know my family’s a bit sad. We need some good together time.
I’ll focus on these three things, knowing I’ve got much more to do than just these. But now that I’m focusing my energy on these three things, so I’ll feel really accomplished when they happen. When I finish these things and get some things checked off on my day’s to-do list, then that’s an added bonus. What a great day!
I should clarify that my MITs are already part of my to-do list. They’re not a separate entity – otherwise, it just becomes an additional to-do list. For example, here’s today’s to-do list:
In short, my MITs are the three top things on my 10-item to-do list.
I’m speaking of all this regarding productivity, but that’s not the only definition of a good day. I’m a list maker, but it is essential not to worship my day’s list. As I said, life happens. When those three MITs don’t happen, it’s not the end of the world. I just wake up and start a new day.
So, my first essential item in my Home Management Notebook is my MIT list. I write them down every day on my Daily Docket. If you already have some sort of home management journal, would adding MITs help you? Or would they add more stress?
If you don’t yet have a notebook, I’d encourage you to start with this. You don’t even need a notebook or journal yet – just grab a piece of paper, write down three (or two, or four, or whatever is best for you) MITs and put them somewhere visible. Even if you make a to-do list, add a separate list of MITs. Try it out for a week, and see how it works for your productivity, your attitude, and your energy level.
• Next up in Home Management Notebooks: What’s on your day’s docket?
“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” -William Morris
This is my favorite mantra for home management. I’m sort-of a minimalist by default, but it’s still not easy to keep a well-organized, efficient, peaceful home when you’ve got three-foot mess makers running around. Or six-foot mess makers, for that matter.
Sometimes, oftentimes, it can just get overwhelming.
Photo by jeffk42
This is when grace comes into play – giving heaps of it to yourself and your family members, remembering that the stage of littles at home is so short. If you believe relationships are more important than a perfect house, you really can cut yourself some slack.
But – you still need to keep up the house. Our life stage doesn’t give us a Get Out of Jail Free card when it comes to home management. In fact, I’m finding that this stage makes it all the more important to find a management system that works well. Kids are happier in a home where things have their place. Moms can hold on to a string of sanity when there’s at least a tangible goal towards house cleaning. And dads come home to an actual haven, not a chaotic zoo. Well, most of the times. It’s a good idea, anyway.
My Home Management Notebook is my lifeblood for giving me some direction, goals, and checklists for my job here at home, and I’ll be talking about its contents for the next few weeks. And in the end, I’ll be sharing some tools I’ve created for my own personal book – maybe they’ll come in handy for you, too.
Do you have a Home Management Notebook? Have you wanted to make one but wasn’t sure where to start? What works well for you? What doesn’t? I’m curious.
• Next up in Home Management Notebooks: What are your three most important tasks today?
I'm Tsh, founder of this blog dedicated to the art & science of living simpler. Read more...