I was always so organised in my job, my professional role. Even carried spare pantyhose in my briefcase in case of a snag. But that stopped at my front door, and then it was a case of kicking my way through the mess to reach the kitchen bench and cook some dinner for my starving kids.
At work, I had separate coloured plastic files for each project labelled and lined up on the desk. People would laugh when they saw them. I carried a project journal that captured every thought, idea, issue, task and all minutes of meetings. I joked that if I ever got hit by a bus, someone should make sure they grab the project journal.
And then there were nights when the power was cut off at home because I hadn’t got around to paying the bill. We ate pizza by candlelight and built rug forts to sleep in, but I had to pay penalties when I rang up the power company next morning. That’s if I could find the bill.
Why is it so easy to get organised at work, to stay on top of the detail? And why is it so hard to get my home life relaxed, gracious and ordered? Some days I felt relieved to get to work and be away from the chaos. To be somewhere where everyone knows what they have to do, systems work, there’s a place for everything and we’re all working towards the same goal.
Seems obvious, doesn’t it? Get a system.
Card system. Tried that. Clunky, unresponsive, spent all my time figuring out what to do and shifting cards around.
Lists. They morph. Breed. There’s sub-lists, addenda, master lists and appendixes. Still too cumbersome.
Diaries, personal organisers, yellow stickies, reminder notes, star charts, grading priorities by A, B, C, sub-routines, journals – everything lasted for about a month and then fell over. Too complicated, too rigid, too dogmatic.
I needed something fun, responsive, robust and adaptable. I needed something that would help my pain now.
It came to me on a plane. The safety instructions video. There’s the cute strip lights, showing the exits. There’s the life jacket, hidden cleverly under the seat. There’s the oxygen masks, merrily popping down with the loss of altitude. There’s the mother, putting her own mask on and tightening the straps, then turning to her smiling, relaxed child. To put on the child’s oxygen mask.
And the voice over. “Put your own mask on first, then attend to your child.” And a light came on in my brain.
If I am the hub point of the household, the main organiser, the one who keeps things turning around, start with me.
What very small, but very potent change can I make in my daily routine that makes life easier for me? And what ripple effect will that have on my home, my health, my children?
So I began very, very small.
Just one task.
I cleared the bench before bedtime, filled the kettle and put out my tea bag, cup, bowls, spoons and cereal for breakfast. That’s all.
A tiny, tiny change. Ridiculously small. But it gave me the tiniest edge. And that was all I needed.
Here’s an idea.
Don’t try to fix everything. Pick one small change that will make you feel better. And only do that. Keep doing it.
How does it make you feel?