Monday, March 24, 2014

An Organizer at Heart

The grand paper calendar. I love this format.

It's no secret that I adore planning. It's like comfort food. Soothing, reassuring, makes me feel like all is right in the world.

I've used a paper calendar since high school and it works really well for me, especially this vertical format where every day of the week has the same layout. It drives me nuts when calendars will treat Saturday and Sunday as half-columns, or double them up. I also really like the to-do list at the side.

Being self-employed, the reality is that each of my days could potentially be a rest day or a work day. I do try to maintain a consistent schedule, and after several months of unpredictable hours and random (and urgent!) tasks, I've finally settled into something that feels right.

Here's how it goes:

  • Mondays I start the day with some accounting and emails, then work in my studio for a couple of hours. I go to pilates at 2pm with Rico, then do another studio session until sunset.
  • Tuesdays I focus on exercise in the morning (ideally a combo of strength training and cardio), then work in my studio until sunset.
  • Wednesdays are studio and pilates, and every other week I get a super relaxing shiatsu massage and go to gallery openings at CCA.
  • Thursdays I work in the showroom all day and can usually put a good dent in computer work and graphic design while I am there.
  • Fridays I work out in the morning, then work in the showroom.
  • Saturdays I have flex time in the morning that I can use for whatever needs attention, then I work in the showroom.
  • Sundays I run with my running partner H., then sunbathe, go to studio, and have the rest of the day off (or, if needed, can play catch up).

Over the years I've figured out a balance of activities that makes me feel happy, gets the work done, and allows for the feeling of spontaneity even within such a controlled schedule. I plan my activities, obligations, studio sessions, and workouts way in advance - sometimes up to two months. I like to know what lies ahead, what I need to be prepared for, when I can let my hair down.

I track two main things each week to help keep me on track: # of times I exercise in a week, and the # of times I make it to my studio (computer work, photography, and graphic design don't count - it has to be metalsmithing). I have a little code to mark each day, and I tally everything in the corner of each page at the end of the week.

My minimum goal is 4x exercise and 3x studio, my ideal goal is 5-6x exercise and 4x studio. It really works. If I hit those numbers, somehow the rest falls into place pretty well.

So far in 2014 I've exercised 63 times (average of 5.2x per week, so totally on track there) and worked in my studio 35 days (average of 2.9 days per week, so just below my minimum goal).

I love tracking everything, and especially love looking back. I often struggle to recognize the things I've accomplished (the pending items on the to-do list usually stand out more than the ones I've crossed off) and this is a nice, empirical, undeniable way to appreciate my efforts.

Are you a planner? Do you keep a paper calendar? What (if anything) do you keep track of over time?


Jo Ann von Haff said...

I don't have a paper calendar (though I love that, when I'm back in France!), but I use Excel. I don't track what I do every day as I don't have a precise schedule for anything (though I love how you organize your weeks), but I write down everything I've done. I too have this "oh gosh, I didn't do anything at all", and, depending on how you look at it, well, I get surprised sometimes. I could do much much better and much more, but I'm learning to be positive (hard) and learning for the following week/month/year. Someday, I'll be the person I want. It just isn't today. :-p

Ali la Loca said...

~Jo Ann - I have never heard of anyone using Excel as a calendar. How interesting! I use a giant Excel spreadsheet as a control panel for my jewelry stuff: I input a few things and it gives me pricing suggestions, total cost, profit margin, and is perfect (for my brain) for accounting.

Isn't it funny how we look back and don't really see what we've done with clear eyes. I constantly feel like I've not done enough, been efficient enough, etc.

Blah. I'm trying to find the foda-se again this year. It does good things for me. :)

Marcia (123 blog) said...

I'm intrigued by the Excel :)

I LOVE a paper planner (diary). I use Legami week at a view (one side) and notes on other side (which is for my to-do list. Do a search on my organising queen blog (named by you!)

VERY impressed by your workouts!!!

Jo Ann von Haff said...

I haven't an image of the calendar part, but I use Excel for pretty much everything.
Here's a glimpse of the writing/publishing part:

Ali la Loca said...

~Jo Ann - Your Excel records are so cool. How long have you been doing this? Have you seen other writers keep similar systems?

~Marcia - You ARE the Organising Queen! The side to-do list is the best feature ever... Over the years I have upped the workouts, I started with zero per week and happily was able to make a big lifestyle change. Couch to 5x per week. :) It is cheaper than therapy, that's for sure!!

Jo Ann von Haff said...

I've been organizing myself with Excel for years, now. And I've converted a few writers I know. :-) It's easy to be inspired by some idea, write several stories at once and never finish anything. With Excel, it's easier (for me) to set my priorities.