Saturday, January 26, 2013

This Day is Sitting on My Head and Crushing it AKA organization for the writing Mom with preschoolers

I honestly believe organization is the key to being a writer with young children or babies. (And if you're writing with a newborn, lots of sleep deprivation and creativity.) Well, the real key is a chef, a housekeeper, and a babysitter, but that's not an option at my house. lol

If you're like me, a mom and a writer with small children, I'm sure you'll know this story.

Tuesday, I woke late because my alarm didn't go off--and miracle of miracles, my children slept in. I got my 2-year-old and 4-year-old up and dressed them. Once they were fed and playing, I sat down and wrote 1000 words really fast. Then, because I hadn't reset my alarm, I noticed it was past time to leave for the library toddler reading time. We rushed to get them into coats and in the stroller. I nearly ran to the library. When we got there, I didn't have enough time to set the kids up with books, so I couldn't tinker with my editing before story time. I had to sign in, get the things we needed, and generally run like crazy until story time. Then, when it was over, I was tired from rushing the whole time, so I didn't have a lot of pep for the walk home. It took us a little longer than normal, so we arrived at home just in time for lunch. I set the kids at their table so they could draw on their coloring papers, as they always do after story time, and I ran in to start lunch. I made snacks to keep them happy while I made lunch and put away coats, the stroller, and my laptop.

Becky Wetherington BLW Photography on Flickr

That story makes me tired just typing it, but when you think about it, I finished 1k on my WIP, got the kids to story time and got their lunch on time. They didn't notice the difference, but I felt like I'd run a marathon.
Why?? Because I wasn't organized.

I have a system I follow, and when the holidays came around, I let them lapse, but as a mother with little ones, work, home, money, and everything else demanding my time, I can't do anything without a little organization. I thought I'd share a few tricks that will help, even if you don't have any kids.

1 - Family

This is the hardest thing to organize because it's so out of my control, but if I'd been ready with snacks and clothing the day before, I wouldn't have had such trouble. Doing the prep stuff below one day a week helps me keep things easy when I have a deadline or the kids get sick.

Organization tips

  • Have snacks individually portioned ahead of time. This will save you if you are running late, and can help with healthy eating.
  • Fold and put away clothes in outfits. Then even a toddler or a husband can grab an outfit that matches without trouble. You can even fold the pants into the shirt. You can also ball socks and underwear into one bundle.
  • You can set out clothing the night before--for little ones who can dress themselves.

2 - Home

Organization is key for me with housework. If I don't keep up the once a week chores below, I just can't stay ahead of my kids' mess.

Organization tips

  • Buy a basket and fill it with easy problem solvers for quick fixes - scissors, glue, tape, batteries, rubber bands, paper clips, and all the other little things you'll find yourself needing occasionally. (I keep a small hammer and screwdrivers in there too.) Once a week or so, I peek inside to be sure everything is stocked.
  • Store folded sheets inside matching pillow case, so you don't spend time looking for sets.
  • Have a closeable ottoman you can toss toys and things into if you have unexpected visitors. I have two--one for the above, and one for bills, important mail, and unread magazines. I take care of the file ottoman once a week.

3 - Misc projects

I set one day aside a week for misc projects, like going through kids clothes to get rid of what they don't wear.

Organization tips

  • I only have one tip here. Tell your husband ahead of time that he is taking the kids to the mall/park/wherever while you do this project. That will turn a 4 hour project into 1 hour project and if you work fast enough, you might get some alone time for writing. That's worth the extra speed, IMHO.

4 - Self-care and meals

I tend, like most mothers, to fail with the self care part of this most often. I have to make the time, and I feel guilty that I'm not doing the million other things I need to do for everyone else. I have realized lately, thanks to my wonderful Duke, who said, if I don't take care of myself, I can't take care of anyone else.

Organization tips

  • Have a spa day once a week. I tried doing this in little increments over a week, but I find I just skip most of them because I'm too busy. If I do it all at once after the kids are in bed, then I can get it all in. I do this the same way I shower maximum effect in the shortest time. I start with things that stay on, like facial and hair mask, and work my way to the things that only take a moment, like manicure and pedicure. After I've jumped in the shower to rinse it all off, I just have to pain fingernails and toenails. (Oh, and there are lots of ways to make them dry faster, but I've been a believer in clear or slightly tinted polish for a long time.)
  • Make and freeze single portions of breakfast muffins and casserole leftovers for quick grab and go breakfasts and lunches.
  • Pre-chop all veggies and (if you don't mind the taste/texture) pre-cook all meat for week and store in separate meal-size bags. You can even pre-boil pasta. You can even pre-make casseroles and freeze them, if you have a deep freeze. This will cut off lots of prep time.
5 - Writing 

For me, finding blogging time and social media time used to be very difficult. I was always trying to do everything. I wanted to blog every day, use each social media site once or twice throughout the day, and still have time to critique all my fabulous critique partners' chapters. This was highly unrealistic and I would fail, beat myself up, fail, again, and repeat. At the same time, I felt guilty about taking time from my kids to jump on a social media site. My organizational tips below really helped me to see the truth of what I needed to do. Now I try to get on each social media site at least twice a week, instead of twice a day. I blog 2-3 days a week, and keep at least one simple, (the quotes, of course.) And as for my critique partners, they are awesome and never expect me to critique every chapter our group puts up, so I critique 1-2 chapters for every 1 I put up. I do more when I can, but I find this plan allows me time to spend with my family, do my jobs, and write.

Organization tips

  • If you have a smart phone, get the apps for your fav social media sites. You can pop on from anywhere and post something interesting or funny at random times throughout the day.
  • Don't blog more than you are able. One day a week is enough. None is okay too. I find myself considering a switch to tumblr. I've been trying out their mini blog format, and I like it.
  • Don't try to do all social media at once, but don't be entirely inactive. Once or twice a week is a good amount. If you don't use a social media site, close your account, or don't open one. 

6 - Business

This is the one thing I'm pretty good about, but I do tend to procrastinate from time to time if I'm not organized.

Organization tips

  • You remember the ottoman from above. It keeps all my "to be taken care of" paperwork together.
  • I put reminders for the most important or time sensitive stuff on my phone, plus a repeated reminder to pay/check on bills once a month.
  • I keep all bills on the calendar beside my computer, so I have a big reminder if my phone alarm fails me.

Here are a few more organization lists you might find helpful tips on.

  1.  50 New and Old Life Hacks - I love this one, and it even has pics of the brilliant ideas
  2.  Life Organization Tips for ADHD Adults
  3.  35 MacGyver Tips, Clever Uses, and Other Life Hacks in One Infographic
I hope some of these tips help you stay organized. Once I get back into my organization, I don't think I'll have another day quite as tiring as Tuesday.

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