How do you eat an elephant? (Getting organised in 2016)

Happy New Year!

Yes, I realise it’s almost the middle of February. But with a wedding (my gorgeous sister), a bunch of interstate friends and family coming to celebrate, and a 90th Birthday, there’s not been a lot of time to start those New Year routines.

I think that’s been good though, because it gave me a date to start aiming towards starting a new routine. And it also gave me time to start thinking about what I was going to do and how I was going to achieve it, along with reflecting on last year.

How To Eat an Elephant - Geek Desk Organisation

I ended 2015 and even began 2016 with some fairly extreme stress and not-excellent health. Every single aspect of my life felt out of my control; I was having trouble with fitting my volunteer job in around my day job; I’d move from project to project without properly cleaning up; I had big organising jobs that I wanted to tackle in a particular order. Meanwhile, while I was sitting at my desk from 9 in the morning until the wee hours of the following morning, I was letting my washing and ironing pile up, my desk get messy, and the big clean-ups I wanted to do were not even getting started. I was literally a mess.

Anyone who knows me in person knows this is not usually how I run my life. I actually used to think if I worked from home, life would be much easier, but then I had a change of jobs and I work from home most of the week, and things are no easier. In fact, they’re almost more difficult because of the aforementioned desk-sitting until the small hours.

There are lots of circumstances that let me get to this point, and I don’t want to be hard on myself, because I’m really good at that. But I’m a busy person and as such, have a big three months coming; I go back to teaching at the end of February, and I start my masters, the convention I’m volunteering for is in March, I’ll be moving house at some point… and I have the potential to fall in an even bigger heap.

Instead of floundering and just treading water, I am going to work on getting back to being the organised, tidy, in control person that I was once before. The start of that has been stepping back from work and volunteering as best I can, but I also need to set some nice habits going forward.

In my experience, it takes a few weeks to form a good habit. But I also can’t go all gung-ho in this first little while because it’ll just been too much and too hard and given my health at the moment, I’ll fall in a heap. It reminds me of that saying: “How do you eat an elephant?” 

The answer is: One bite at a time.

So just a few things at a time. One job, one list, no getting hard on yourself. Just start.

This is how I’m going to tackle my elephant:

I thought about three feelings or things that have happened that I want to try and avoid and wrote them down.

  1. Not feel so stressed
  2. Keep things clean and in their place
  3. Save money

And then I wrote lists of things I could do under each of those headings that needed to be done in order to achieve those goals. There were some really big jobs (like scanning and filing my tax receipts) and some smaller things (keeping appointments in my diary); some overlaps between lists and lots of in betweens.

Habits

Once I had lists, I knew where to start. I decided to stick to developing some smaller habits for a few weeks and tackle the bigger tasks, one a week when time allowed. I’m using a weekly good habits pad from Kikki-K to write down those things I want to make routine and tracking how I go about that.

The small habits for this week have been:

  1. Keeping a daily to-do list (yes, another list)
  2. Walk the dog
  3. Keep my desk tidy
  4. Use my exercise trampoline.

As you can see from the picture above, I haven’t done one thing every day yet, but by having it written down and on my desk has kept things in the forefront of my mind. I haven’t decided on a reward for achieving a full week of each habit yet, but it will likely be simple things like an hour of reading in the backyard, or a milkshake at a cafe. I’ll cross that bridge once I consistently start to make these a habit.

To-do lists

Obviously, lists work for me. I like nice paper and pens and diaries and having things written down. And crossing things off lists makes me feel satisfied – it’s a reward in itself

For the daily to-dos, I’ve got a long notepad to write on, and it’s tear off so that if I’m not at my desk, I can tuck it inside my diary (2016 Diary from Kikki-K of course) and keep it with me.

Paper lists might not work for you; you might find that a to-do list on your phone where you can build in reminders works better for you, or just tackling things within a certain timeframe might be the way to go. If you want to start getting organised, think about what motivates you and give that a go.

Lists can get out of control (I also use them to write lists of photoshoot concepts and costumes I want to make and gifts for people, and and and…), so I’ve been doing a bit of research into Bullet Journaling. There are some parts that don’t work for me, but I think I’m going to incorporate some of the concepts into my list making.

An ongoing project

My hope is by the time classes resume, I’ll be in a comfortable enough routine to then divide my days by job (i.e., Monday is uni teaching and study day, Tuesday is my marketing job, Tuesday evening is volunteer job admin etc).

Ironically, when I sat down to write this post, I was feeling a little unorganised, so it’s time for me to head off and start tackling today’s to-do list. But I will be making this an ongoing subject to keep you posted on how the elephant eating is progressing and to share any tips and hints I find along the way.

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