15 Minutes is All It Takes

When I look at the mound of laundry that needs to be folded or the sink full of dinner dishes, I try to remind myself that it never takes as long as I think it will in my head. See, I think we convince ourselves that those things we don't WANT to do, take too long and we don't have time at the moment to do them. So we tell ourselves we'll do it later, when we have more time. That's when things start to build up and chaos takes over.

One of my favorite websites, FlyLady.com, reminds us that if we limit ourselves to 15 minute increments, we don't get overwhelmed by the work. Many times, whatever needs to get done takes less than 15 minutes to do (such as folding a basket of laundry or rinsing the dishes and tossing them in the dishwasher or even analyzing that data your boss has been asking for). Set a timer and go...for 15 minutes. That's it. You'll see that most things you've been procrastinating on take less than that. If you've let things go for some time, take 15 minute baby steps to getting back on track...you'll be 15 minutes closer to having it finished. If the timer goes off and you're compelled to do another 15, great, but remember the idea is to make some progress...and to teach yourself that most things don't take as long as we think they will in our head.

See, and I'm done with this post in 9 and have 6 more minutes to clean off my desk!


From "To-Do" to "Got-Done"

In a society of constant multi-tasking, it's no wonder we're always thinking of new things to add to our To-Do List. (Case in point...I'm writing this as I sit in the bathroom watching my son play in the bathtub). Perhaps I am one of those people who thinks they've always got to be productive and feels a slight tinge of guilt when relaxing and enjoying a sinful tabloid. But, hey, those are my issues to deal with. (Note to self: add therapist session to To-Do List :-)

To Do Lists keep me on track. They help me remember what needs to get done in short order or over the course of a week or month. I for one, keep one in my head (which isn't the most reliable) and at least two written ones (one for today's tasks and one for more long-term items). But these To Do Lists somehow never seem to end. They've got this cumulative affect...one thing reminds you of the next and rarely do you ever "finish" everything on your list. How do we ever feel productive and satisfied with our efforts if we're constantly beating ourselves up over things we still need to do? Talk about feelings of inadequacy.

Perhaps it's the nature of us overachieving Americans, but why do we focus so much on what needs to get done, instead of applauding our efforts for all that we have done? Of course To Do Lists will always keep us in line, but at the end of every day take a moment to give yourself a pat on the back for things you did get done. Humor me, and actually write them down. You'll be surprised how much you actually did do. If you're so inclined, start a daily success journal to document your accomplishments, especially if you're working on a special project that you need that extra motivation to keep things moving.

While I didn't cross off everything on my To Do List today, I learned that I actually accomplished more "tasks" than I even had on my list; things that get overlooked everyday. Now that's what I call productive!


Missed Savings

If you're a shopper (and most of us women are), then you light up just like I do when a coupon for one of my favorite stores arrives in the mail (or email). You know, the 30% off Friends & Family sale at Gap, or the Bloomingdales Insider Coupons for an additional 25% off anything in the store or the infamous 20% Bed, Bath & Beyond Coupons... With the recent nose-dive in the economy, we can all use a little money back in our pockets so coupons are a good thing, right?

About 6 months ago I found myself at a children's shop buying a gift for my friends' new baby. I was excited to have finally gotten there and to check that item off my To Do List, but then it hit me...I had a major coupon I could use...but I didn't have it on me...and I couldn't guess where it would be at home. So I ended up buying the items anyway (knowing it might be a while before I could get back!) and missed that opportunity for savings.

The challenge for me (or for others I presume) is keeping track of those coupons and remembering when they start and when they expire. That together. with coordinating a trip to the store with my two young kids and I'm lucky they ever get used. But I've figured out a plan. It has started to work for me; perhaps it will work for you too.

  1. Keep all retail coupons in one location. I use my Jane Marvel zip pouches for these too, mentioned in a previous posting on packing, since they're cute, flat, water-resistant (remember I have two toddlers) and they zip closed. However, you could keep them in something as simple as a quart zip lock bag. When a coupon arrives in the mail (or email) that I think I may want to take advantage of I pop it into my zip pouch. This way, I always know where to find them. Challenge 1: Can't find the coupon when you need it... solved.
  2. Keep your bag of coupons on you at all times. I toss mine in my handbag so it comes in the house with me (and I can put new coupons in as they arrive) and leaves the house with me when I head out. You never know when you'll be popping in a favorite store and you'd hate to have to make a decision between not buying what you want (or need) while you're there and have it in your hand or buying it at full price, knowing you have a coupon sitting somewhere at home (gasp!). Challenge 2: Don't have your coupons on you when you need them... solved.
  3. Make note of the expiration date on your personal calendar. I have a family calendar in my kitchen, but prefer to put the date in my iPhone calendar so a reminder pops up a couple days in advance and says "Gap 30% coupon ends Sunday!" For some, seeing it visually written down on a paper calendar is better, however, I like my handy iPhone reminders. Besides, if my husband saw all these store coupons written on our family calendar (that I may or may not use) he'd think I was shopping way too much. Challenge 3: Missed the window to shop before coupon expired...solved.
For those of you who still have the freedom to shop on a whim without chasing down a toddler, God Bless You. But for many of us moms, we'd rather walk on hot coals than brave the mall for more than 15 minutes with our beloved offspring. So for the last challenge, I'd suggest either getting Daddy (or Grandma) to take over for a few hours one weekend or suck it up and hire a sitter for a few hours and assume the savings from all your coupon shopping will be just a little bit less (but remember you'll gain your sanity!). Either way, you'll have all your favorite coupons on hand and you'll be one step closer to becoming a Well Planned Woman.



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