Look To the Western Sky

A blog about single life as a parent & the dreams of a writer by Margo L. Dill

Tag: organization

Organizing Your To-Do List and the $10,000 Idea

I love a good to-do list. Who’s with me here? Without my daily/weekly/monthly list, I’m not sure I would get anything done. Actually, I think I may be a little addicted to my lists! I love to finish something and cross it off the list. Not only is it good to finish it, but it’s also rewarding to see all those items crossed off! Plus, as many of you know, in 2016, my word of the year was organization, so this all fits together. But where am I going with this post and what is a $10,000 idea? (It’s not, by the way, an idea that will make you $10,000! But don’t stop reading.)

The way I have chosen to organize the tasks I need to accomplish each day and week is on my weekly desk calendar, where there is plenty of room to write several items on each day. But last week, even this wasn’t working for me. I felt like some of these tasks I was simply moving from week to week, and they also fit in different categories in my life. There were tasks I needed to do for the house, for my day job, for creative writing, for freelancing, for Katie and Chester, and so on. So I took five blank sheets of 8.5 x 11.5-inch paper and labeled them:

  • Freelancing
  • Cleaning/House/Bills/Paperwork
  • Personal
  • Writing/Blogging
  • Day Job

Then I put the tasks that I needed to accomplish (some new, some left from my calendar) on the sheets in the appropriate category, so I could wrap my head around what I needed to do and what area of my life it would benefit. For some reason, this made my stress level go WAY down, and I felt like I could accomplish many of these things. Some of the items needed to happen immediately (like the laundry, critiquing my writing group’s work, and finishing my day job’s publications), and some of them were things that could be finished at some point (like writing a blog post and cleaning out my email inbox).

And then there were the $10,000 ideas. 

I noticed on each page, there were some ambitious goals, projects like: cleaning out the basement and finishing my novel that weren’t going to be done in a day or a week. They were also items that would make my life better and richer, and so I decided to call those my $10,000 ideas. I drew a spiky circle around each of these and wrote $10,000 idea next to it

This is very similar to making New Year’s goals; with these ideas, I’m saying: these are things I want to do, and they will make my life better, and I will do them eventually. I love how I have them on these lists in categories; and how every time I look at my list, I am reminded of these BIG TICKET items that will improve my life.

So if you see me around, ask me: how are your $10,000 ideas coming this year? And…of course, I must ask…do you have any of these ideas on your to-do lists?

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My One Word for 2018 and a Look Back at 2017

Each year, I pick one word to focus on, instead of making a bunch of resolutions I won’t keep. Sure, I plan to continue to do the things I’ve already been doing (somewhat imperfectly) in 2017: exercise, write and read more, eat healthy, spend time with Katie, sleep enough, enjoy life–but if I make too many goals, I’m really hard on myself when I don’t complete them, and that doesn’t do anyone any good.

So, in this post, I’m revealing my word of the year for 2018 and looking back at the words for 2016 and 2017 and how I’ve been doing.  No more suspense, my word for 2018 is CALM. (This is not that much different than peace from 2017, but read on to see what CALM means to me.)

As always, in December, I start thinking of what I really need to work on the next year. I don’t think you should just wait and start improving your life magically on January 1, but it’s a placeholder for reflection since it happens at the same time every single year. (Yay! for order and routine from the universe). I was going to pick LOVE, not necessarily because of being back in the dating game, but because I found myself being hard on people whom I love, and wondering why I do that to them (and myself). Love could also focus on doing the activities you enjoy and getting rid of the ones you don’t. And making sure to spend time with the people whom you love that bring joy to your life, and finally, even finding glass-half-full moments in activities you don’t LOVE doing, but you have to.

WOW! Why didn’t I pick love for 2018? Well, I feel like I’ve already been doing many of those things (or trying to) with the word PEACE, so I decided CALM was a better choice.

I’m not very calm. I don’t know if I seem calm to the outside world, but to my inner circle–my daughter, my parents, my best friends–calm is not a word they would ever use to describe me. I often hear, “Margo, do you ever sit still?”  “Chillax.”  “Everything is fine, calm down.” You get the picture. So one night recently, when KT (7 years old) was in the middle of another week of constipation (there’s a practical parenting post coming about that, trust me), I was at my wit’s end. I felt like I was saying the same things to her over and over each week, and she wasn’t listening. She was crying and yelling because her stomach hurt, and then I started yelling, and then I stopped and looked at her and said, “We both need to calm down. This is not that big of a deal.” So we did. We both calmed down, and then I told her about the Word of the Year, and how maybe both of us needed to work on being calm. She agreed. We shook hands.

The other evening, when we were at my parents’ house, I had given them (my parents and KT) some instructions (drink a full water bottle and eat a fiber cookie) that I wanted them to follow during the day.  When I arrived, I discovered these instructions were not followed. Now all of you who are lucky enough to have doting grandparents for your children know this is very common. My mom said, “Well, I didn’t want to harp on her all day.” I get it. I do. But I started to get that lecture-y tone I can get, and Katie looked at me and said, “Calm, Mommy. Calm.” (insert ROFL emoji here). But you know what? It worked. I took a deep breath and said, “Well, I wish these things would have happened, but we’ll work on this for the next time.” And then we went on with eating the delicious vegetable beef soup my mom made.

So, CALM it is…in 2018, I want to work on thinking before reacting. I want to work on taking deep breaths. I want to think about my tone and the words that come out of my mouth (or on to a computer screen) before I act.

Now, how are Peace and Organization doing? Well…I would say for 10 months of 2017, I didn’t do a great job with peace. But then something happened in November (I don’t know what–I guess everything just started clicking), and Peace was actually a reality. There are many times during the week, where I can now say I truly feel peaceful with my life, in spite of there being just as much chaos as there has always been. I really am learning (imperfect progress) that it is how you react to life and not what happens to you.

And this has been the second year of organization, well, I guess it’s better…I am kind of learning that organization also has to do with prioritizing and making sure you can find things when you need them. Also, don’t let paperwork and deadlines hang over your head–face them and tackle them.

How about you? Are you choosing a word of the year? What do you want to work on in 2018? 

 

 

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Word of the Year (Part One)

A couple years ago, my writing friend, Sarah, told us about a New Year’s resolution-type thing called: ONE WORD. I wrote about it pretty extensively on WOW!’s blog last year, where I explained my word of the year for 2016 would be Organization; and I wasn’t making any specific resolutions or goals because my life was chaotic and changing, and I didn’t think I could stick to anything too specific. This One Word theme really worked for me. I did get more organized in 2016. Here are some ways:

  • Cleaned out several closets and drawers and donated loads of stuff to charity
  • Got all of my retirement money from teaching and my new job in order with my financial adviser
  • Created this blog for writing and a separate one for Editor 911 (although still in progress)
  • Realized Katie and I need to follow a nightly routine MOST nights in order to have a successful week
  • Followed through on a system to remember to take my medicine (hormones from hysterectomy, which need to be taken twice a day)

I’m sure there are more, but for now, that gives you an idea of how one word helped me in many areas of my life. I also managed to buy a new car and set up my insurance payment and car payment to pay automatically out of my bank account. I count all of this as organization. Because I did have some female health issues this year, I lost huge chunks of time, and so I am keeping Organization for 2017 AND adding one more word. I am still contemplating 2017’s additional word and plan to decide next week. The ones I am thinking about are. . .

  • Peace
  • Practical
  • Boundaries

I probably need all 3! 🙂

I’m hoping some of you reading this post will share a word or two of the year that you would like to consider. Just because you write it down HERE does not mean that you HAVE to do this word of the year. But it might get people thinking about words they could adopt. Also if you are explaining yourself when typing a comment, it may make you think about your hopes and dreams for 2017.

 

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Are You a Planner or Flying By the Seat of Your Pants?

Is organization and planning in today’s fast-paced world becoming more rare than ever before?  When you ask a busy parent, what are you going to have for dinner? Most will answer: I’ll figure it out at 5.  Wondering what you and your friends should buy a co-worker who is having a baby? Good thing someone is an Amazon Prime member, so the gift can be delivered, gift-wrapped, in two days.

I know for myself I’m often figuring out what I need to do the day of an event or even the day of my surgery (where I wished I would have read the information the night before). I used to be a planner–a big planner–because my thought was that things went better, especially as a mom, if I planned them in advance. But then I got a divorce, and there wasn’t time or energy to be such a planner. So I learned to do a lot by the seat of my pants, and one thing I did learn is. . .we survived. Planning may help, but sometimes, it also causes more stress.

fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pantsRecently, I had a discussion with someone, and here’s what he had to say about a recent business trip, where he was asked to give training with no preparation and fix complicated machinery (which is not his job) in very little time:

I was thinking about this week and how it has been just one ridiculous, crazy adventure after another.  No plans, no preparation, under the gun every single day. And my life has always seemed to be like this…Over the years, I have just learned to shrug it off. I don’t stress over it because I know there is nothing I can do. All I can do is just face it head on and do my best. And every time this week, somehow I made it work. So obviously, the next thought to cross my mind was…What happens when one day we can’t make it all work out? What happens when I fail to figure something out on the fly?

Maybe this has already happened, and I just don’t think about it because I knew it was the best I could do.

How about you? Have you faced situations like this? Do you stress out about them? Do you think they are teaching you coping skills? Do you plan?

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