I'm not Wonder Woman. I'm not Super-Mom.
I'm just a highly organized, type A personality having Virgo, who gets extreme satisfaction from making to-do lists and crossing off items efficiently and quickly.
It's all about systems, about doing what works for you to get the most amount of things done in the shortest period of time so that you have just enough energy at the end of the day to read "Pinkalicious" or "Alexander and the No Good, Horrible, Very Bad Day" one more time before you wine gets warm. Or do whatever it is you do at the end of the day, that one last task that feels almost Herculean to overcome, but if you push through it. . .ohhhh, the overwhelming feeling of achievement.
When people praise me up and scratch their heads as to how I (seemingly) do it all, while I appreciate the compliments, I want to grab them by the shoulders and say, "I'm a fraud! I don't know what I'm doing!" Look, I don't pretend to have all of the answers. I know I don't have all of the answers. I make up a crap-ton of stuff as I go along, but I strongly believe in "Fake it 'til you make it". So, I'm inviting you in, pulling back the curtain and hanging out my tips and tricks like after dinner mints. There's no secret here -- these are things have worked for me. Use them all, use a few, don't use any -- whatever works for you. Just know that I believe you're doing the best you can, the best way you know how, because that's exactly what I'm doing.
1. Proper Prior Planning -- I don't go anywhere without my planner. I'm talking about an old-school, paper based, spiral bound planner. I was making plans with a girlfriend the other day and I whipped out the planner; her eyebrows shot up to her hairline like, "Are you for real?" Yes. Yes I am for real. The planner is my ride or die chick. I tried the PDA once; put all my contacts and to-do's in there. That thing crashed like the Hindenburg. Never again. Strictly pencil and paper so I know where to go and what to do. Write it down, plan in advance, consult it often. You'll be amazed at how on task-you will be(come).
2. Prep Work -- I learned the value of prep work from my dad. My dad was a cook in the army and could make beef wellington out of a pound of ground chuck and two potatoes. I kid, but that should give you an idea of the type of person I'm talking about. In any event, my dad always prepped what he was about to make before he got down to business. Ingredients out and pre-measured. Pans and oven pre-heated. Everything within arms reach, and of course, clean as you go.
|(and that's exactly how my kitchen looks, too. complete with two assistants.)|
These tips have saved me time and again as I move throughout the course of the day with three hungry mouths to feed. I do lots of things the night before so that when I get up in the morning, those are less things that need to be done. The dishwasher is loaded and ready. I pull out jackets and backpacks, lined up so the lunch boxes can just be popped right in. I replenish the diaper bag and set it on the counter. During the day, I prep for dinner while I'm making breakfast. I prep the next day's lunches while I'm making dinner. The way I see it, if I've got to be in the kitchen anyway, then I'm going to maximize my output.
3. Crafts and Holidays -- I'm a photographer, and when I'm not working for a client, I like to take pictures of my girls. These are the most photographed kids on the planet. The number of photo albums, scrapbooks, framed prints and the like that are floating around the house is downright ridiculous. Usually, we find ourselves on the cusp of a holiday (Christmas, Valentine's, Easter, Arbor Day), and that holiday usually has gift giving component to it. When I see a cute craft idea for a holiday, I get to work on it sooner rather than later. Case in point: With the holiday card I sent out this year, I took the pictures on November 17th.
|Vivi, Co, & Mo: Holiday 2012|
I wanted to get it all taken care of and wrapped up before the swell of holiday craziness got out of control. Plus, I planned to be taking lots of other folks holiday pictures as well, so a little practice shoot never hurt. Valentine's Day is the next major holiday coming up and I know that the girls want to give out Valentine's to all of their friends. Best believe I started putting that together this week from a Pinterest board pin I found back - - -34 weeks ago (there was no date on the pin, you do the math). See, I've found that sometimes, you gotta just do things in the present, even if you don't have to have it ready for a while. To quote Ferris Bueller, "Life comes at you fast". Get a jump on things. One last holiday related tip for those of you who send out holiday cards: make a Word doc list of who you received cards from and their address. Print it out and stick in with wherever you keep your holiday ornaments. Guess what happens next Christmas? You pull out the decorations, there's your list. No worries about who or where to send the cards.
4. Daily Grind -- There are some things that have to get done, day in and day out. Laundry. Washing dishes. Feeding the children. I'm trying to be more consistent about assigning certain tasks to certain days. I don't have some Martha Stewart-y chart hung up somewhere. I keep it all in my head. For instance, Sunday afternoons are when I wash and twist out the girls' hair. Saturday mornings, I strip the bed and change the towels. Wednesday is public library day and we exchange last week's books for new ones. I thought about making a week-end day a laundry day, but that just didn't happen. I don't want to ruin a perfectly good week-end with load upon load of laundry. When I figure out the best way to manage the clothes (aside from investing in disposable ones), I"ll let you know.
5. Thank You Notes -- I love correspondence. I love stationery. I actually enjoy writing notes to people, even thank you notes. The trick to not only remembering to write them, but to do it in a timely fashion is to make it part of the event to-do list. Here's an example: Co had her 5th birthday last September. I got the thank you notes with the invites and as the RSVPs came in, I addressed the thank you notes. I look at writing the thank you notes as part of the post party clean up. After the last cupcake was eaten, the last of the balloons deflated and the kids are lying prostrate on the ground in sugar comas, I sat down at the kitchen table, brushed aside a pile of crumbs and got to work. While the dishwasher hummed along, scrubbing pizza cheese and mashed goldfish off of the plates, I thanked the guests for coming and their generous gifts. I stuffed the note in the envelope, licked it and stamped it. My mother looked at me with incredulity and said, "When I grow up, I want to be just like you." Of course, at the time, I was riding high on a Percocet wave courtesy of ankle-gate 2012. I mean, what else what I going to do? Still, if you write the note while everything is fresh in your mind, you're ahead of the game. And as for the fill-in-the-blank ones? Go for it!
6. Ask for help -- This is tough for me because I am fiercely independent and proud of what I can do for myself, by myself. Asking for help is truly a challenge, but I know now that it is not a sign of weakness. It's a sign of strength. You have to know yourself to know when situations are going to take more than your capabilities. I'm not just talking about "Help me move this sofa from here to here". I'm talking about asking for help with picky eaters, tattlers, bed-wetters, won't-wear-anything-but-a-dress types, and runs-screaming-when-she-sees-me-with-a-hair-brush. I'm happy to share what I've learned. These aren't state secrets and I'm secure enough to know that sharing with you isn't going to instantly catapult your child ahead of mine for the big chair in the Oval Office. Besides, my girls don't want to be President anyway.
7. Go to Bed -- Have you ever heard that story about how women differ from men when they say they're going to bed? Basically, women say they're going to bed, then they make the lunches, empty the dishwasher, fill the coffee pot, lay out tomorrow's clothes, take off their make up, brush their teeth, use the toilet, put on a pore minimizing mask, check their email one last time and turn out the light. Men say they're going to bed, then they pull back the covers and go to bed. It's the truth. Even when I say I'm going to bed, it's 30 minutes at least before my butt hits the mattress and even then, I still have about 10 minutes of PT to do before I can turn off the light. The hubs could have done his entire evening toilette, read a few chapters of his book and have the light off before I've made it to my side. Here's the challenge: one night a week, try to get to bed an hour earlier than usual. Whatever you would normally do, just don't. If you can stop what you're doing and turn in, do it. Last night, I said that I was going to go to bed at 9 -- which meant, I was going to shut things down at 9; I didn't actually turn off the light until 10, but that's still an hour earlier than the night before. That extra hour of sleep makes a difference, especially if you're up early putting your daily grind schedule to work.
So, there it is. Seven little pearls of wisdom to help make things go smoother for you. Or maybe they're seven tidbits that you already knew, but just confirmed that you were on track.
Please don't think that I'm directing all of this wisdom to just parents. By all means, whoever you are and whatever you do, find ways to pare things down so that you've got more time to do the things you love. That right there, is probably the most fortune cookie-esque thing I have ever said.