As we saw last week (A Spiral for Your Thoughts?), part of becoming wholly His is making the most of our time, for the days are evil. When I find myself overwhelmed and disorganized, like I feel this week, my heart and mind tend to become so preoccupied with all that’s on my plate and what I’m concerned I might forget or not get done that I’m not available to God for what He has for me to do. Building on last Thursday’s blog, A Spiral for Your thoughts?, here a few more time and task management tools that help me unclutter and keep track of my schedule, surroundings, and mind.

PHONE SMARTS

I’ve tried switching completely to my smart phone to keep track of everything, but I can’t seem to pry myself away from paper for my lists and notes. As a time and task management tool, I mostly use my phone to keep track schedules and shopping lists.

Who, What, When, Where

I enter my and my kids’ appointments and commitments into the calendar so I don’t forget who’s going where when or think someone is going to be home when they’re not.

A few things I’ve learned about new commitments:

  • Never rely on your memory alone! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to recant a “Yes!” because I found a conflict when I consulted my calendar. I try to always look at my calendar before giving an answer.
  • Before answering “Yes!”, look a week ahead and a week after the proposed commitment and make sure you’re not over-committing yourself or your family. This one is huge for me. When our schedule starts getting too full, James’s famous mantra is “BACK-TO-BACK-TO-BACK-TO-BACK.” While most of my family loves to be on the go, James is wired to pace himself. We focus on the need or fun of each obligation, but James is anticipating the repercussions to our family as we live through the reality of being overbooked.

The Ever-Current Shopping App

I don’t depend on a lot of apps, but I’m not sure I ever would want to live without Cozi.

cozi home

I don’t know the half of what it does, but I know what it does for me, and I love it! Cozi enables you to manage all kinds of lists, not just from your phone, but from your computer and every other electronic device in your possession. I manage my menu and shopping lists in this app.

Cozi Menu Store

It updates in real time and anyone can add to or mark things off.

Here’s what I do:

  • Each week, before I or someone grocery shops, I make a menu for the week. Under “Shopping,” I have a “Menu” list so I can easily toggle between it and my grocery list.

Cozi menu

  • Based on my menu, I build my grocery list.

cozi grocery list

You can have a list for every store where you shop, or I keep one long list subdivided by store. That way if one place doesn’t have what I need, I can just move the item to the list for another store. Also, if it’s an item I don’t urgently need but want to make sure I pick up next time I’m at a particular place, I can stick it on that list.

cozi multiple store list

  • I’ve trained my assistant and kids to add things to the list as we run out, which has helped reduce the number of times I go to grab something and find we don’t have it and no one told me!
  • Any time someone is at a store, they can pull up the list and see what’s needed.
  • When you’re shopping, you just cross off items as you go.

cozi completed list

LIFE BY INBOX

The other major task management tool I use is my email inbox. My ultimate goal (and moment of great elation!) is an empty inbox, but I don’t allow myself to delete or file any emails until I’ve taken whatever action they require. I could add the action to my spiral list, but that would crowd it too much, and I’d constantly be making a new list. I find this system easier:

  • When I sit down to work, whether for several minutes or several hours, I quickly scan my spiral list and inbox to determine what needs my attention first.
  • Based on the time I have, I take care of as many emails as I can that are either urgent or easy and fast.
  • If someone asks me to do something and I’m driving or otherwise can’t write it down, I’ll ask them to email me. That way I know I’ll get it done. I also email myself, and then when I’m in front of my computer, I’ll either take care of it or add it to my spiral list.
  • When I’ve completed the necessary action on an email, I delete or file it in the appropriate inbox folder. I have folders for each house we’re building, my blog, my book, writing projects, organizations to which we belong, etc.

email folders

  • I do my best to either unsubscribe or block senders of marketing emails. Opening my email to find hundreds of emails is very discouraging, and going through the junk to find the important wastes time. I don’t really need to know who’s running what special or having whatever sale. I just end up spending money on something I didn’t even know I wanted or needed until I read the email anyway, so I’m better off not getting them. If I really need something, I know where to find it.

JUST PLAIN SMART

Think about all you have to do, and then imagine having eleven kids from their twenties to newborn. Here’s my friend and www.thelaundrymoms.com blogger Terri Bonin with her calendar method for keeping family life straight!

I find this extremely helpful for big picture planning a semester at a time and for deciding whether or not we have time or where we can plug in a weekly activity we are considering.

“OWE IT” SYSTEM

When I am going somewhere I know I’ll see people, I check my cabinet. I don’t know about you, but it seems like I always have something I need to remember to take somewhere. It might be dry cleaning, a return, a gift, or something someone left at my house that I need to return. When I do:

  • I place the item in my “owe it” cabinet, where it stays until I’m leaving the house to head in that direction or see that person. I’m all about getting things out of my line of sight, so storing these things in a cabinet ensures I’ll remember I have them without them being out where they “nag” at me.

owe it storage

  • If I have a date in my calendar with that person or for an activity in that area, I’ll make a note on that entry to take whatever item I’m needing to remember.
  • Before I leave the house to run errands or to see someone, I check the calendar on my phone for notes about items I need to remember and/or I check the cabinet.

My hope and prayer is that you’ve found at least one idea or inspiration that helps you become more wholly His with your time. Better yet, perhaps something you do would work great for someone else. Will you leave a comment below?

Next Thursday I’ll close the series with tips on slaying time and energy killers.

Until then, Lord, please inspire us to use our time wisely doing only the things You desire for us to do. Help us to recognize distractions and keep our schedules and minds wholly Yours, uncluttered and available to You.