Home/Work Organization

I have been listening to a couple leadership podcasts lately.  They are great and inspiring me in my business and work life.  Great tips on how to be a great employee, manage my time, serve customers, encourage a team, make a life plan, etc.  Conceptually they are both great about discussing prioritizing family life, marriage, time for me, etc.  But practically they are really just about work.

Today I was listening to a great podcast on time management.  As I prepare to create systems and organization within my job this next year I learned some great tips for managing my time so I can get everything I need to do accomplished while at work.  The problem is that then you come home and it is like a second business, a second job that needs all that same organization, leadership and time management.

That is the challenge of going from homemaker to working mom, you have gone from one full time job to two.  And managing to be successful in both is challenging.  I spent years at home learning to be successful as a homemaker, then I went back to work.  I am starting over as an employee and loosing ground as a homemaker.  I have a million things to do each day and no idea how to do it all.  And I don’t want to live 2 completely seperate lives with 2 completely seperate goals and systems.  I would like there to be some flow as I go from one to the other.

So here are a couple tips I heard this morning and how we can apply them to both work and home.

#1–You can’t get it all done.
So with that truth in mind, what do you want to get done?  What is important to you?  You can’t do it all, what are you going to do?  And, maybe more important in this culture, what aren’t you going to do?

I am definately guilty of setting too many big goals and creating the monster to do list.  I want my life to be perfect and I tend to have a hard time accepting the idea that I can’t have it all and do it all.  I am not a perfectionist per se but I do tend to want to believe I can do anything and be anything I want, which is to do and be everything.  So this one was a great tip for me.  I know what I want to do this next year but also naming all the things I am not going to do this year is a great way to free myself from the guilt and disappointment of unmet expectations.

#2–Block the last 15 minutes of your workday to write down everything you need to do tomorrow.
Brain dump before you leave.  When you return to work in the morning you will have a list of what you are going to do that day.  This not only starts your day off right but allows you to more freely walk away from the office without worrying about what you might forget the next day.

This is a great one to do at home as well.  Before bed write down everything you need to do tomorrow, make lunch, homework with your daughter, grocery shop, laundry, call your mom, buy a birthday gift for your son, etc.  Put it all on the list.  Keep in mind as you write your list #1, what you are and aren’t going to do.

#3–Be present.
It is very tempting to get distracted with home responsibilities and personal agendas while at work and vice versa, work while at home. But this actually makes you unproductive in both places. When you are at work you are being paid to work. When you are at home you are not. Decide where you are at that moment and be there.

I would like my life to flow from work to home but to have them happening at the same time just creates a mess.  So be present at work and then be present at home.  For me personally I don’t find myself thinking about work at home as much as I think about home at work.  But, when I am home I tend to get caught up in thinking about things like the fact that I didn’t used to do housework on weekends because I was home during the day and could do it when the family was gone.  When I get caught in thinking about my old life I am not present either.  So I need to learn to be present in this new life at home.

Step back and observe how things are going.  Don’t just get sucked into negative thinking or problems but step back and ask yourself how you can improve.  What are you doing wrong?  What are you doing right?  Often times when we step back we discover problems and solutions we just could not see in the midst of the chaos.

One thing I have seen as I have done this at home is what my children are learning.  I often worry that my daughter’s faith is not developing the way I would like.  I see all her less than godly character qualities come out during busy days and feel like a failure.  But when I step back and spend time with her I often hear biblical truths and understanding that I miss in the chaos of our days.  I also hear clues as to how I can encourage that faith and help her continue to develop an understanding of who God is.

#5–18 minutes.
The guy I was listening to, Peter Bregman, has a book called “18 Minutes”.  In it he accomplishes more by better utilizing 18 minutes a day.  The first thing he does is creat a list of the top 5 areas of focus for the year (remember you can’t do it all), then create a to-do list with 6 boxes.  One box for each area and a 6th box for everything else.  Once you have that foundation you begin your 18 minute routine.

5 minutes each morning looking at the list and moving things on to a calendar.  You need to work off a calendar not a to do list because the calendar will call you out when you fill it too full, your list won’t.

1 minute each hour to stop, take a deep breath and decide if you are doing the right thing and being the right person.  Are you on track to have the day you want, be the person you want, acheive the goals you set?

5 minutes at the end of the day. What worked? Share feedback. Thank people.  Finish the day neatly.

18 minutes is a great plan if your life ends at 5pm but my goals are for work and home.  I have a million more things to accomplish after 5pm.  I can’t stop now.  With another full work day in front of me maybe my book should be called “36 Minutes”.  I am going to need at least another 5 minutes worth of 1 minute assesments after work and a second 5 minute rap up before bed.  If I brain dump my to do list for 15 minutes per #2 and then summarize my day for 5 more minutes I really need 20 minutes at the end of the day.  What I am wondering about is the 5 minutes in the morning.  Do I do my home 5 minutes before work or after?  Could my end of the work day 5 minutes be immediately followed by my beginning of the day home 5 minutes?  The answer to that question will depend on how much time you have in the mornings and what home tasks you can realistically accomplish before work.

#6 from me:  Create the habit
The number one time management lesson I learned while I was at home applies equally to my work.  I was reading a home organization book and the writer was singing the praises of the calendar to manager her day.  She talked about how she had tried many different calendars searching for the one that would finally stick in her life, the magical system that would bring order to her chaotic schedule.  I was so excited as I read because I had also tried many systems and dreamed of finding the right system to take control of my life.  I was reading so fast that I suddenly realized she had changed topics and I totally missed the answer.  So I went back to re-read the section.  And what I realized is that she did not have a magical answer.  There was no one perfect system.  It wasn’t about the system at all!  It was about starting over each time you fell off the wagon.  It was about habit.

I did eventualy find a simple system that worked for me, one that I got in the habit of using and felt comfortable with.  And I have used a version of that system both at work and home the past couple years.  It has gotten me through but, definately could use some improvement as my to do lists are longer and more complicated and my time is far more structured.

So I am looking forward to integrating some of these suggestions into my daily organization this year as I work to develop new habits as a working mom.

How do you stay on top of both work and home organization without feeling like you are livng 2 different lives?


  1. […] but simply reacting to whatever comes next or whatever email arrives next. I have written a few things on this blog on this topic and it is and area I am continually seeking to improve. I have the […]