Thursday, July 21, 2011

Perfection or Nothing

As I said in the last post-- it's about the process. It's about getting into a habit of DOING rather than having the goal to be "done"... so, I thought I'd share another struggle that I've had and finally am starting to "get"...

You see, when you read a lot of organizing books and scheduling books, they usually tell you how important a "personal planner" is, right? They always have their own little systems that you can use and you can buy these day planners in many different colors and styles and become actually MORE bogged down by the sheer "order" of it all. At least, that's how I always felt.

If I didn't have kids at home and if they were a little older I might be able to utilize a schedule more (as I said in the previous post), but as it is, most personal planners are just way too complicated.

Last year when I went through the seven week course on "Simplify Your Life" (which was really helpful btw! And very grace-filled even while talking about organizing) in her book she talks about days that you can plan well and days that are unpredictable. She used the analogy of someone who gets migraines and on those days (when they just come upon her) she can't do that much and the plans go out the window for the day. She also talked about how a mom with her kids at home as apposed to in school has a more unpredictable day. Like, we can plan 30% of our day but 70% of the day is going to be unpredictable. And guess what? That's okay. It's also really important to recognize this. How many of us mom's can feel pretty terrible some days when we'd planned to get a lot done and for whatever reason things came up and the house is a worse disaster than when our husbands left for work? He comes home and wonders what we did that day... fortunately, my husband is very understanding and does the dishes for me or plays with the kids to help out and never begrudges my doing one of my own art projects or anything, but LOVES to see them! Still though, I can feel bad about everything "falling apart" on those days unless I recognize the percentage of unpredictability and accept it and work with it.

Okay, so one of the things that she talked about (of course) was a "personal planner"... but her whole goal was to simplify, not to give us more work to do! I looked at my old planner that I got several years ago when I was trying to get better at this (this has been a long process of learning!) And rather than making more categories I started pulling things out of it!

You should probably know though that it's taken a year and a half AFTER doing that organizing course, for me to finally figure out how to get a planner to work for me. Honestly, I'd tried so often in the past that I was afraid to start it up again. If you are like me, new books and journals and planners make you excited on the one hand and then make you feel completely lost or despairing on the other.
(My old planner with all the pages used up in it and scribbles from little ones on the cover.) When I was young I remember my Mom getting me an NIV Bible and I remember thinking how I'd like to highlight things in it like she did and underline stuff. I was only about 7 though and I'm sure she thought I'd scribble on it and told me I couldn't write in it. Seems like a silly story, but it made me feel like I couldn't write in something unless I did it perfectly or the "right way"... Journals couldn't be nice books with my true thoughts in them because that seemed too permanent and what I put in them would for sure be imperfect. Full of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. I fell into the nothing side and not using or reading things because it couldn't be perfect. I didn't read my Bible till I was a teenager (and by then I highlighted and underlined!) Journals or planners can feel the same way. If they have dates or times on them don't you feel like you need to do it "right"? Well, for me that brought despair. Journals don't need to be written in every day on schedule and Planners need to work for the individual. Here's how I've finally gotten mine to work for me.
First page I just taped my little meal guide (yep.. I can't even schedule a meal totally.. I just put the general idea like what kind of meat that I'll have.) It's helped a LOT at the grocery store! Why? Because I can remember "fish on Wednesday" a lot easier than something more detailed and I can go with sales and what I feel like making too! It's enough order without being too much. (Much better than having virtually the same thing every day like I used to have to do.) Oh, and just a quick thing on budgeting. When you budget for the month, like, for instance say you want to spend no more than $500 a month on groceries and household stuff (I include art supplies and some clothes in that as well.) How much is that a week? You can't just go with $125 a week because there aren't exactly four weeks in a month.. plus the month starts on different days. It's really hard to go by the date for me. Right, so I realized that if I were planning $125 a week then I'd be spending $500 extra a year that I didn't intend to! Here's the formula for those of you that would like to know. Take the amount you'd like to spend each month and multiply it by 12. So in this case 500 x 12 = 6000. Then divide by 52 = 115 (and a bunch of decimal numbers that we'll ignore) SO my weekly budget is actually 115. Actually, it's less than that because I started ordering some bulk items and had to take that number too and figure out how much to take out of the weekly allotment. It might seem nitpicky, but it's really nice to have a handle on it! I always felt like it was a bit illusive and I wasn't being a good steward of the grocery money because I couldn't keep track of it well. Anyway, between the super basic meal plan and actually getting the math right on the food/house money I feel a LOT better.
Okay! So, back to the planner-- At the beginning I started a list of habits that I want to start folding into my life. I don't have a time schedule on any of them and I've put a check by the ones that I've been able to blend into my days long enough so that they feel comfortable. The dishes are one habit that I was able to check! I have a lot more that I'd like to work in, but I no longer feel guilty about it. I can look forward to it and be grateful for the little successes.
This planners original calender has been long used up and I went to an office supply store to find new calender pages. Well, besides being more than I wanted to spend or just too many lines and times to fill, I couldn't find a calender that had any of 2011 in it since it's the middle of the year. BUT just at walmart I found this little two year calender book for $2.50 or so that starts in July of 2011 and goes till June of 2013! I took out one of the other pages to be the guide for my little hole punch and vwala! A calender that I don't mind marking up! It's nice to see at a glance the plans that are set for the week. When story time at the library is and what time our community group is meeting or any other "set" plans with times. I don't put any of my "to dos" on the calender just scheduled appointments and so forth.
My "To do" has too pages. The right side is sort of the bucket list of just projects or things I need or want to do in the near future. On the left side I decided to put things that I wanted to do in a certain day. So, this morning as I thought of what I'd like to do or need to do I can jot it down there to help me remember when I have to deal with continual interruptions and often forget what I was going to do. If I don't have time to cross it off today it will be there tomorrow and I can easily do it tomorrow and cross it off. Thinking of the right page as "within the next few weeks or so" and the left page as "withing today or the next few days" is so much more freeing than thinking I HAVE to get it done today! Because, I don't and my days are unpredictable. My planner is just a guide to help me order my thoughts. The "mommy brain" that new mothers complain about is improved immensely by knowing how to order the unpredictable.

You can see in the picture my "goals" tab that I made too of longer term goals and thoughts. This includes debt pay off plan or other longer term thoughts for years down the road.

Someone could put in a section of gift ideas or something if they wanted. I needed mine to be as simple as possible for right now (sort of like how I'm doing the new habits! I can add something later if I want.) But for some reason the blank pages.. just lined plain paper is more comfortable for me than anything with times or dates or too much strictness about it. I need to feel like I can rip out the pages or scribble on it and it won't matter.
This also has an address book. Again, another manifestation of my silly quirk I guess was that when I had an address book I'd never use it because addresses change right? They don't stay the same, they aren't perfect.. I'd have to cross out some and that would mess it up right? Sounds so silly when I actually explain my thoughts underneath why I didn't use something. Well, rather than using the address book, I'd often just have scraps of paper tacked to a cork board. Silly right? Yeah. I'd like to say though that there are many addresses in this book that are probably unusable now and that's okay! The scraps of paper have been taped inside of this or written in here. It's not totally ordered... but it's not totally in disarray (like the cork board was) either! It's sort of an ordered mess.. and that's all right because that's who I am and what I need.
The last thing is this little notebook that I'm not quite sure what to do with. I've kicked around the idea of using it either as a grocery list or as a place to write things that I'm thankful for (all numbered) I'm leaning towards the later and will have another one for the grocery list. These little spiral notebooks were four for 98 cents at walmart. I offered one to Youssef and he said, "I LOVE these!" Yes, they are such handy little things. :}

My last word of advice is to use what you have! Would it really help to go out and buy a spanking new planner? It might for some of you, but for others of us we already have a pretty journal book that hasn't been used. How easy would it be to just write and tape little "tabs" onto the edge of some of the pages in it for sections. It doesn't have to be perfect.. in fact it's better if it's not! Why? Because our goal isn't to have the perfect plan, but to simply have some sort of plan that we can use even through the imperfections of daily life.

1 comment:

Cathleen said...

I think something similiar would be very helpful for this fall. After I was diagnosed with Gestatioal diabetes I threw out trying to homeschool the girls even though my goal was to get Emerald to begin reading by this fall. I had to focus on my diet which took alot of extra time, energy and planning. And driving myself to the extra appt each week. This would be helpful in writing down my goals with the girls as well.