What is it about this time of year that makes us feel the need to get organised? Improve things? Freshen things up? The home (bank holiday DIY anyone), ourselves (the gym gets busier and the park is suddenly full of runners seemingly on a mission), work (a renewed vow to finally get on top of that to do list?)
The spring effect is certainly in full force here in my world as well.
I’ve a hundred saved Instagram pics of various trendsetters homes (particularly in search of just the right shade of dark grey to paint our lounge wall – I’m self-aware enough to know this is ridiculous) and a DIY wishlist (yet to be tackled) that pretty much leaves no room untouched. After embarking on a concerted effort to be a tad more healthy this year now that baby number two is no longer a baby, I’m all over the self-improvement thing, and work… well let’s just say I am always in search of the perfect method of keeping on top of a frankly embarrassingly long to-do list, but never quite succeeding.
What started off as a lovely sense of seasonal new beginnings can all too soon become… well… a bit overwhelming.
So I have decided to try and tackle the spring effect head on – I’ll not get everything in order (who knows if there even is the correct shade of grey for that wall) but here are a few gems that I’ve uncovered whilst attempting to be more productive and get a little more organised myself.
The most important one. Seriously. This seems counter intuitive I know, and it’s still one I struggle to actually do myself, but the age of multi-tasking is over, long live focusing on one thing at a time. It’s not a new concept, Harvard Business Review has been talking about this for well over a decade, but it’s still something that in the UK we are notoriously bad at. It’s been proven that constantly switching between tasks lengthens the amount of time it takes to get back our focus by around 25%. Answering emails whilst in the middle of a task can send you into a rabbit warren of distractions and diversions, especially if you’re anything like us and work on a variety of projects! The expectation of getting an instant response 24/7 is fairly unsustainable so if we slow down and approach more things each day with focus (including seeing to those emails) then we *should* find that we actually get more done to a higher level. I’m still working on this one, but I already know that I feel a million times better by the end of the day if I have actually finished one thing rather than started or half completed several.
I’m a planner. I love to spend ages thinking (or sometimes over thinking!) on everything from exciting trips with the family to mundane day-to-day tasks like food shopping and current projects at work. I love a list (more on that in a minute). But sometimes I find that there seems so much to do that nothing actually gets started. These plans then seem to grow and become a little oppressive rather than fun or enjoyable. Just deciding to crack on is absolutely the best thing you can do, even if you’re not entirely sure what the outcome might be. As I type this, me and my husband have failed, yet again, to actually choose and print off some family photos to display on the yet-to-be-grey walls. something that will take a couple of hours and we have been meaning to do for over a year. Perhaps tomorrow. But I did get this blog post written, so that’s something…
Ah lists. If you’re fortunate enough to have a great memory you might not get it – but with two young children and a full-time lush but demanding job, nursery drop offs and pickups, my husband’s NHS shift patterns and attempting to maintain at least some vague sort of friendship circle… I. Love. Lists.
Spring is the season made for to-do lists.
In the last month I have tried a few different methods for keeping on top of things.
Bullet journals – for the analogue-loving stationary fan, a journal totally designed just for you. At first this seemed a little too complicated but with a little practice I got the hang of it and used this method of indexing my thoughts for about a week. A good quick-start guide is written here, much better than I could explain it. Although pretty and comprehensive, this method was a little too time consuming and involved for me at the minute – a good one for those practicing mindfulness though, as it really does make you focus on the task in hand.
Digital – from the notes function on your phone, one of about a thousand apps, keeping your calendar up-to-date with chunks of time per task, to custom-built project management software or even an AI device that you can simply ask to add something to your list. If you are a fan of digital, you are spoilt for choice. I’ve been attempting to get to grips with Smartsheets – our new project management tool of choice – this allows me to not only keep my to-do list centrally rather than in a mangle in my head, but also lets me delegate and assign tasks to other members of the team. It still feels forced to use this but I’m sticking with it in the spirit of spring.
Old school – my preferred list of choice, no real indexing goes on here, priorities are only denoted by how zealous the scribbled star next to an item is. A stream of consciousness that gets longer by the day… could get overwhelming except for the magic trick shared with me by a colleague – each day I try and pull out three things that I’d like to have achieved from that list by the end of the day. It doesn’t always happen but it does help to focus the mind.
I’ve been thinking about the spring effect for a good couple of months now and trying to become as productive and organised as possible. I’ve a long way to go – so my last bit of new season wisdom is to be as kind as possible in all areas of hectic, busy, life. Start with yourself, not to let yourself off the hook – I’m not suggesting that you let that big report slide or don’t bother to follow through with plans – just more that you don’t beat yourself up for not achieving all that you set out to all at once. Not sweating the small stuff has the knock-on effect of meaning you can crack on and make a dent in that to-do list after all.
And if you aren’t feeling the spring effect just yet fear not, perhaps you are more of a September back-to-schooler or a January new you-er. Or like me – perhaps any excuse to grab a bit of extra focus means that you’re all three…