For the month of July I’ve been participating, quietly, in the SeaChange program, which is a part of the ZenHabits website. The July module was on getting organized, and focused on organizing time, electronic space and physical space.
There was a plan to follow, with specific components each week. Each task was small but loosely defined enough so that folks with a wide range of experience could participate. I appreciated that it was a very holistic approach rather than focusing on a room or specific niche of life.
I wanted to participate this month in particular because I needed some motivation to stay with the habits i’ve been building, and even refine them a bit. I want to write more about my current system, what is and isn’t working, but that’s for another time. My hope was that spending the $10 for access to the program and an outside plan might provide the discipline to cement things.
It did, and more.
At the start of the month, i loaded the big items into Remember the Milk, my preferred tool for task management. Tasks like “Process Inbox” were easy to check each day. Others were check-ins and questions like “Are my in-boxes working?”, which would prompt me to think about it before just assuming. I also created a project notebook in Evernote, which is how i store most of my electronic information. I wanted to make sure if i did get off track, i had a way to come back to it. I also made sure I saved a shortcut to the SeaChange website directly onto my browser bookmarks bar, so i’d see it daily.
The first week was a lot of me confirming my tools – Actions go to RTM, reference material and longform ideas go to Evernote. If i’m on the go it’s my Field Notes notebook (which deserve their own post on how awesome these notebooks are). Email is a major inbox, which i need to keep clutter free or it’s a distraction. My physical inbox at work is often neglected because it’s just out of eye-sight. Overall, i had an idea of how to process incoming information.
Week 2 meant i started taking a quick review of my task list (RTM) first thing in the morning. I had been waiting until i was in the office to do this, and sometimes it meant missing pre-work items. There was a focus for me on making sure things were put away as soon as was appropriate, and also working on an end of day review, to make sure nothing was forgotten (mostly by making sure the red number on the RTM phone app was cleared).
Week 3 we started to look at physical items. I started a daily ‘sweep’ of the house, looking for out of place items and putting them away. I also tackled a small area of kitchen cabinets where our lunch supplies, mason jars and tupperwhere lived… mostly in piles. Using some fabric storage bins that mess has been tamed. It’s encouraged me to declutter some (hey, next month’s module!) although it’s still not entirely habit. If there is something that sometimes gets pushed off, it’s this.
During Week 3, Duncan also helped me pick out a Chromebook. I didn’t have a laptop, and so i often procrastinated on tasks that involved a computer. My office at home is lovely, but with the very hot weather it is sticky, and writing long emails on the phone is difficult, so i’d wait until i could slack at work. Not the best plan. The Chromebook is making me more efficient and reducing stress.
Week 4 was a lot of review and continue. Things have been busy on the weekends, but i’m forcing myself to make sure the weekly review happens. It’s become a really important part of my week. Taking the time to look forward and back daily is keeping my frustration down and helping me feel more in control. Things are getting done.
Side effects of this month? I’ve decided to make mornings A Thing. Previously mornings meant wash up, take care of the cat, grab breakfast/lunch (or not) and run out the door. Most of my review was happening at work. I’ve decided to get up earlier and have relaxed mornings where i am more productive. Washing up and kitty care still are there, but so is emptying the dishwasher, making a (healthy) breakfast and lunch, processing my inbox and doing my daily review. I am attempting to get back to Morning Pages (3 pages of long hand, stream of consciousness writing each day) and start meditating for 2 minutes.
Areas to improve? I need to not always phone in my evening reviews. I should consider doing a two minute mind sweep in the evening to clear stuff up and let me rest. I need to continue with the discipline and make sure my hand-written notes are properly processed.
Going forward, i’ve cleaned up some of the RTM tasks to be more useful long-term. Hopefully addressing many of these things on a daily and/or weekly basis will make the habits stick.
I think August’s module on decluttering will make a great next step. I’m excited to continue on!