Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A Homemaker's Attempt at the Ivy Lee Method

I think I'm efficient and productive but recently I've been feeling like my mind is a trying to keep a dozen tops spinning, and, as a result, it is flying to pieces. Too often I go through my day responding to emergencies, muddling through my tasks, and feeling like I've accomplished nothing at the end of the day.

I've been hearing about the Ivy Lee method recently and I decided to adapt it for my life as a homemaker and homeschool mom. The basic idea is these six steps.

1. At the end of the day, write down the six most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow. NO more than six.

2. Prioritize these six in order of importance.

3. In the morning, concentrate only on the first task. Work until the first is finished before moving on to the second task.

4.  Continue down the list, one task at a time. At the end of the day, move any unfinished items to a new six-task list for the next day.

5. Repeat each day.

I found that writing no more than six items was key. I have a tendency to write down everything I hope to do on my to-do list. I also don't usually write down the obvious things that I do every day - like laundry. Or meal prep. Or Bible reading. So I started listing those things on my list of six. Then at the end of the day I can see that I actually did accomplish something, even if nothing "extra" got done.

I didn't sweat about prioritizing, because I never work on one task until it is done. Never. I might start reading my Bible, then jump up to make Ed's lunch, or start breakfast, or the baby wakes up, or....But whenever I'm interrupted, I try to come back to my interrupted task as soon as possible. Even if it is an hour later.

Some tasks such as laundry need started, then I move onto the next task, keeping in mind that laundry will need attention throughout the day. Having meal prep on my list doesn't mean that I'm necessarily making meals at eight o'clock in the morning but seeing it on my list does mean I've been better at making a plan for my meals instead of waiting until four o'clock.

I'm not sure why but this simple six-task list has been helping me keep my mind on what I need to be doing. Maybe it is the fact I'm spending time the night before thinking about the coming day. Maybe it is the fact that I see "Bible" on my list first every day. The first four items on my list rarely vary (Bible reading, laundry, school, meals). The fifth and sixth item are often an "extra" job, maybe canning pumpkin or sewing a dress. Often these are the tasks that get written down several days before finally getting done.

I'd love to hear if you have found a simple method to make your homemaking more efficient.

16 comments :

  1. Hello Gina!
    First I'm glad it was busy, loving chaos that kept you from blogging last month! One thing that helps me from being discouraged by my perpetually undone tasks on my list is to write "Could-do's". I use a highlighter for the Must-do's and they are relatively few. Seeing the word "could" takes the pressure off, mentally. I also divide my list into AM/PM and Inside/Outside/Away since my brain likes to see that shape of the day.
    Finally, I really try to set a quick mental intention (often a spiritual one) when I transition from one task to another. Otherwise it's just an endless stream of work. I'm Jewish, and in Hebrew that is "kavanah" - remembering that our work here is to turn the material into the spiritual through our approach and intention. "In all your ways acknowledge Him"....I take that to mean the WAY I speak, mop, cook, hug,...and that means the WAY may be the success...the product?...um, not so much sometimes...
    I love reading your blog and have been reading it for years now. Thank you for taking the time and effort to make this delightful blessing.

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    1. I love your reminder that in all ways, even the mundane tasks, we are to acknowledge Him.
      Thank you,
      Gina

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  2. Thank you for sharing this! Almost every day, I feel overwhelmed with a lot of work, I think this methode can help me.I'm sorry when my englisch is not very good, I'm from the Netherlands. I'm glad that you're blogging again!

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    1. I think you do very well with English! Thanks for commenting!
      Gina

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  3. I think just the fact of writing it down on paper frees our minds from constantly going over and over what we need/want to do. I can then go back to my list when I "get anxious". :) I especially do this when I entertain.

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    1. I think you are right. Just the decision making of what I should do next can be overwhelming when I am busy.
      Gina

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  4. I know how busy September can be and sometimes it is the right thing to step back and prioritise, thank you for sharing this method of just listing six tasks, I shall try this as always feel overwhelmed at this time of the year.
    Sue

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  5. I have long-term lists that are just overwhelming. I started using daily short lists a few years ago. It helps.

    One other list that has been truly helpful around here is "15 minutes or less". Quick things that tend to be put off or lost in the longer lists. I was amazed at how many we got done in a week just by keeping a running list on the fridge. Many times there just isn't time or energy to start a longer job but we can mark something off the quick list.

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    1. You are right. I'm embarrassed sometimes when I do a task that I've put off for weeks and find out that it only took ten minutes!
      Gina

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    2. Yes I agree with this! I have done this too.

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  6. I read this in a cookbook today and thought it fit.."Feed your faith and your doubts will starve to death.". Just thought I'd share...

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  7. Gina, the beauty of your blog is that it lets so many of us know we're not alone!

    When my children, now grown, were small, it helped to remember this little verse, "Settle down cobwebs and dust, go to sleep - I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep!" What you're doing is the best thing for your family - being mom. That is the BEST calling ever!

    Adjust your tasks to suit YOU - if you just cannot bear to can one more quart of anything - don't! It's okay to let some things slide in order to preserve sanity.

    As for lists, I am a huge list-keeper. But I try to limit my list each day to three things - things that are not a part of my daily routine. Tomorrow, my list has one thing - CLEAN! I've been so busy cleaning rental cabins, volunteering at a local historic site, and meeting church obligations that cleaning has definitely taken a back seat (in a 16-passenger van) to sleep and trying to tend to my painful back. So tomorrow, it's time to get MY house in order - as if guests were coming to see it!

    Keep it simple. You're doing just fine!

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    1. Thanks for your encouragement!
      Gina

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  8. Thanks for this♥ Happy Sunday to you and your family ♥

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  9. I am also a home school & gardening mom, with four kids 8,6, almost 4, and 2. I have issues with demanding perfection from myself: each room must be clean and beautiful, all laundry done every day, closets organized regularly, that sort of thing. I can easily fall into a single-minded track and spend much too long working on a project long after I should have moved on to something else. I have learned to let things go though and developed a routine (for everything) that allows my brain to let things rest. It can get quite overwhelming thinking about all the responsibilities I have during the day. I used to make "to-do" lists, but they were always so long and somethings were on-going requirements. So instead of making a list, I gave myself a time limit. 10-15 minutes only of cleaning per room (I have spent hours scrubbing one room. It's horrible to be stuck that way.) One hour only of gardening per day. Three loads only of laundry per day. Limiting computer time to 30 minutes only (during husband's lunch break so we can chat). One hour only of bible lessons (I use an audio feature so I can listen while cleaning house) Then when it is time to take the children outdoors or it is time to rest in the evenings, I can do it and know that I've already accomplished everything I needed to for that day, even if the project itself is not finished. Purging our things has also made it easier so I am not wasting my time limits on decluttering. I don't do a deep cleaning (scrubbing toilets or changing bed linens, etc) during the week, I reserve Friday for that so that we can enjoy our Shabbat on Saturday with a clean house. I've also limited the children. No food anywhere but the dining room or kitchen. No toys downstairs (all their bedrooms are upstairs). One communal laundry basket for upstairs, sorting for downstairs. I also keep a small basket for each child down stairs, so I can fold directly into their clean basket and when it's full, they take it upstairs. (This has also helped for emergency babysitters, there is clean laundry clearly marked for each child, no wondering where to find it.) I've found it's little changes like that to fix "time hogging" bumps (like jogging 4 laundry baskets upstairs myself), to create a smoothly running day.

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  10. Hello, I love that Bible is first on your list. "In all your ways acknowledge Him....."

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I'm still learning how to be a joyful homemaker and I'd love to hear from you!

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