Monday, August 15

My O.C.D. Life

Ok, I don't really have OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) but I am very obsessive about certain things in my life and, as I've confessed before, my personality fits the multi-tasking, high efficiency, competitive traits of the Type A individual quite well. One thing I've noticed about myself throughout life is that I do really well when I have a schedule, a plan, checklists, and organization. When I don't have some kind of routine or order, I feel chaotic and out of control (did I mention I like to be in control of things... another slightly annoying personality trait). So in the interest of full disclosure, I thought I would share some of my neurotic tendencies techniques that I use to keep my life organized.

Daily Planners:
This is probably the single most effective way I keep myself organized. At some point when I was in high school, the administration started giving students "Agenda Mates" to use for planning and organizing, and this was one of those "your life will never be the same" moments for me. Ever since that point I have had to purchase a planner every year and use them week by week to schedule events, remind myself of to-do's, and just keep up with important dates. I love my planner and cannot live without one! It would probably be more cost-efficient if I bought one of the binder style planners that you can just get refill pages for every year, but I like the portability of the spiral bound ones and I like the particular format of the ones in the picture where each week has two pages and each day has large spaces to write in. The four planners in the picture are from the years 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2011. I'm sure I have 2008 and probably every other one since high school somewhere in my house because for some reason I have saved them all (that's the pack rat part of me that wars against my organized side and leaves me with the nagging thought that I shouldn't throw anything away because I might possibly need it again someday; and now I sound a little like a mental case with a split personality).

I'm very passionate about lists. Open up any given notebook in my house and you'll probably find a list I've made at some point or another. There is something so gratifying about writing out all the things that need to be done and then checking them off one by one (see list #1 in the first picture... that is a list that makes me happy). I've noticed list-making is kind of like a stress reliever for me. Anytime I start to feel overwhelmed I find that creating a list lessens my anxiety and worry. You should see all the lists I was making just before and after Brock was born. The before lists were things I needed to get done prior to his arrival and the after lists were things like how many poops has he made today, what times has he eaten, etc. I took pictures of a few lists I randomly found laying around. The first one, the happy list, is just one of those daily to-do lists that I generally make on Saturdays when I'm trying to catch up on all the chores that didn't get done during the week. The second list on the little post-it is in my checkbook ledger and helps me remember what bills we generally have to pay each month and around what date in the month they are due. The third list was my Christmas list from last year. I usually start making this list sometime in October so I can slowly buy gifts over a couple of months rather than have it all come due at one time. I make "packing lists" when we are going on trips, "weekly meal lists" before heading to the store, "planning lists" when I have an event (like a party or baby shower) that I'm in charge of, and "future lists" that outline all the things I'd eventually like to do to or in our house. Clearly, I love me some lists. But it just helps me break things down mentally and visually and develop a gameplan so I can more easily get stuff done. Nothing fancy, just a list (Excuse the not so great photos; I had to take them with my phone because my camera battery was dead; Guess I should've had "charge the camera" on one of my lists).


Daily Goal:
My final organization technique is a recent (as in, post-baby) development that was a sweet piece of advice passed on to me by my sister-in-law. It's as simple as this: Make one goal for yourself each day and do it. I sometimes have a tendency (see my lists) to let things pile up until I get overwhelmed and have to spend an entire day marking things off the list just so I can get my head above water. One day a couple of weeks ago I was talking to my sister-in-law (who keeps a super clean house and never has clutter or messes laying around and who I will refer to as Lee from now on) and she was mentioning some project she was going to do that day, like spreading new mulch in her flower bed, or painting something or other in her house, or something along the lines of what I would view as "I'll get to it next year if I have time." I think I made some remark like, "I hate how clean you keep your house and how organized you always are and how you have extra time even with a 9 month old to do projects like whatever you just mentioned" or maybe I just thought those things and said something more like, "How do you do everything?" And then she imparted to me this golden nugget of wisdom: "At the beginning of every day I come up with just one thing I definitely want to get done that day and I make it my goal to find time at some point in the day to do that one thing." My first thought was, Yeah that sounds like a good idea, maybe I'll try it. But after implementing the Daily Goal for just one day, I was a believer! Now, I must say my Daily Goals are generally less ambitious and tend to be things like Change the sheets, Straighten the living room, Finish the laundry but they're still goals nonetheless and they have allowed me to enjoy my Saturdays for the past two weeks rather than having to cram all my weekly chores that didn't get done into that one day. Occasionally when I'm feeling a little superwoman-ish, I'll have Two Daily Goals, but I try to stick to just one so that I know for sure it will get accomplished. It really does create a sense of empowerment to know that you completed the thing you set out to do that day and one completed goal each day leads to seven completed goals in a week, 30 or so completed goals in a month, and 365 completed goals in a year! That's a lot of completion and a lot of gratification, and I'll take it!

My Personality + A Baby =
So what does all this have to do with a baby since my blog is supposed to be about my baby? Well, the short answer could be that when you have a baby, it's really nice to have helpful organizational tips because you generally have less time but still have just as much (if not more) that needs to be done every day. Unfortunately, I'm typically not satisfied with the short answer so I have to give a little more detail about how I see my personality meshing with my baby.
  1. One thing about having a routine, structured, organized environment is that the baby learns the order of how things happen and knows what to expect next. Brock pretty much knows now when he wakes up from his naps that he's going to eat and after he eats he knows it's playtime and after some playtime he knows it's time to wind down and go to sleep. He doesn't have to feel uncertain about his daily activities and doesn't need to be anxious about whether or not his needs will be met because he knows we have a pattern of doing things. It may change occasionally and we can be flexible, but for the most part he has an idea of what is going on.
  2. Probably my favorite part of the organized baby routine is that it helps me to be in tune with what my baby needs and respond to his cues correctly. Because we had Brock on a consistent but flexible schedule from the time he was born, we were able to more quickly and more easily learn what he was trying to communicate to us. Certain cries mean he's hungry, others mean he's sleepy, one cry means he's hurting, and another cry just means he's irritated or bored. Since we have learned his language and we have a routine, when Brock is tired and fusses I generally know exactly what to do. I don't have to wonder if he's hungry or if it's his stomach hurting, I see the yawn, I notice how long he's been awake, and when he complains, we get ready for a nap. Most often the result is that I lay an awake baby down in his crib and he looks up at me and smiles, rolls onto his side, talks to himself for a few minutes and then goes to sleep. I like to think the smile is his way of saying, "Hey thanks Mom, that's exactly what I wanted." I think understanding babies' needs can help them feel secure and like they have a little bit of control over their environment and prevent them from feeling powerless and always at the mercy of someone else's plans. 
  3. Finally, having a baby on an organized schedule allows me to be able to plan my own schedule because I generally know about what time I'll have an awake child or an asleep child. If I need to get groceries that day, I know about when would be the best time to do it. If company is coming over, I can have a good idea of what time Brock will be waking up so he can enjoy the company. It doesn't always go exactly according to plan (does anything ever?) but I can work with generalities, and it helps me keep my sanity. Granted, there are days when I have felt like I'm living life in 3 hour increments and don't have a clue what I'll be able to get done that day, but thankfully those are not the norm.
So I think that's a little glimpse of what you get when you combine a day-planning, list-making, goal-setting crazy lady with a baby. There are negatives; we might not have a ton of spontaneity, we might miss out on a few events because they just don't work with the schedule, but the overall picture is that I'm happy, Blaine is happy, Brock is happy so I think it's working out all right for now. Now I need to go accomplish some daily goal or something.

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