Thursday, August 27, 2009

How do You Do It?

(now that I have a decent camera, I figure I should start sharing pictures, and like Cindy, my friend with 39 kids, they may or may not have anything to do with the post).

People ask me often "How do you do it?" when they find out I have 2 jobs and 12 kids. So I thought today I would focus on the work portion of my life and answer that part of the question.

I get a lot done. I'm a doer and doers do. In fact, I do lots of things at the same time. But over the past few years, when my work load has exceeded the amount of hours in a day, I have had to learn to do things smarter. I don't know if it will help you at all to learn my strategy for accomplishing things, but writing it down will help me to remember to how I'm supposed to do it on days when things aren't going well.

1) I get the blood pumping right away. I learned this over the past year. If I get up very early, go to the YMCA, and have a 40 minute workout and a shower before coming home to get the kids up (during the school year) my whole day is better. Even in the summer I need to get moving in the morning. The days when I sleep in and go from my bed to the shower to the desk are never productive or good days for me. I have come to rely on a little help for some endorphins to get me going. If you saw me, you would know that at the moment the Y visits are not making me lose weight, but they are starting my days right.

2) I tackle the things that require my best brain first thing in the morning. A decent blog entry, a chapter of a book, an article I need to write, a strategic plan for one of my jobs, a report to court or the meat of a powerpoint presentation are all examples of things where I need to focus without distraction. During this time, which I do right away, I often turn off my email program and my Instant Messaging program (I have Adium, which gives me access to all of the programs in one spot).

3) I reserve projects that I'm excited about or that stir my creative side for times when I am feeling sluggish. I love to design a brochure, put pictures and animations on a powerpoint, or work on websites or mess with a digital photograph. If I can find a way to work this into something I am required to do, I save it for mid or late morning, or early afternoon after lunch when I know that I am going to be tired and need something more "fun" to do. I also use projects that I enjoy as rewards for getting things that aren't so fun done. For example, I might say, "If I can process 50 emails this morning, I'll let my self spend time developing a relationship with a social worker with kids on her caseload or making the powerpoint for training nicer."

4) I schedule meetings, lengthy phone calls, and in-person visits for mid afternoon. I'm an extrovert and being with people energizes me. Sitting in my office all day alone drains me. But if I schedule my meetings in the morning, my most productive time is given to things that don't require it. So I schedule home visits and meetings with people in the afternoon. I always feel more energized after I've been around the kids I've placed and talked with their families, or after I have a good conversation with a coworker or a cup of coffee with a professional I need to visit with in town.

5) I reserve "brainless work" from when I am most spent. Filing emails or papers, answering facebook or twitter messages, reading blogs to quote or use in trainings, chatting in adoption chat rooms, etc. are things I do in the evenings when I am most tired.

6) I manage a to-do list that is motivating instead of draining. On my best days I keep track of my to-dos. I have a To-Do List manager called Things that syncs with my IPhone and it is amazing. I use it to keep track of what I am doing. I break things down into manageable pieces and enjoy clicking them off. I have a very hard time focusing on one project, because my mind is so active, but having a place to put down all of those thoughts when they come to me keeps me more focused. The satisfaction of crossing things off the list keeps me going. Often I put "Process 10 emails" and then I cross that off and put "process 10 more emails." Or I have "First Load of Laundry" down that I cross off to write down "Load Two."

7) I play silly games with myself. I was telling Kari this morning than I had my first office job when I was 16 and I kept a notebook inside my desk where I had written "Secretarial Olympics" and I would keep statistics on how many envelopes I could stuff in five minutes, how many labels I could put on in 3 minutes, etc. Every day I tried to break my record. I still do things like that to keep me motivated.

You may have a different personality than I do. Your best and most productive times may be at night or you may be an introvert who is energized by being alone. But taking a little time to strategize your own energy level and your own productivity might help you get more done.

Of course, if you aren't a doer it doesn't matter to you how much you get done anyway. But if you are a Type A workaholic type person you totally understand why I want to be as productive as possible.

So now you know how I do the work part of my life. Maybe another time I will blog about how I handle all the responsibilities of the kids and the house and all that other stuff. Or maybe then you'd see how unorganized I am so I should leave that out. ;-)


Tiruba said...

Hey Claudia, would you please send me a link to your IPhone list maker? Googling "Things" wouldn't really get me what I need. LOL

I'm a lot like you (except for lately) in that I have to constantly be crossing things off that list. If it isn't on the list, then I don't feel like I need to do it. Weird but that's me.

Anonymous said...

Tiruba, I searched "Things" in the iTunes store, and the app came right up. Looks like a great program (though a lot of people seem to be disappointed in the upgrades -- Claudia, what do you think?).

Great post! I hadn't thought of some of these.

Tiruba said...

Thanks! I actually found a free one last night called "To Do's" and will be using that. I don't know what I would do without my IPod.