Friday, March 02, 2012

For Me, Time Management is All About the Car

I love books about time management, but I’ve never been able to implement an entire system. Have you ever been able to implement an entire system? Which one?

I’ve tried FranklinCovey; Time Management from the Inside Out; and GTD. Sticking to a system really stressed me out because none mentioned how to deal with the things that kill my daily productivity: dinner, birthday-present buying, and nursemaid’s elbow.

Most of the calendars associated with each of the time management plans that I have tried include 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. calendar pages, but cram the hours of 6 p.m. and beyond into “Evening.” Some of my most productive hours are before 7 a.m. I used to think I wasn’t a “morning” person, but it turns out I am a super-duper early morning person.

The lists I make in an attempt to remember everything are written on index cards or on the notepad in the back of my planner. None are prioritized, linked to goals, and responsibly loaded into my day planner. Sometimes, I write a list using a purple highlighter and find it particularly inspiring.

Two things changed my life. First, a friend said I should just take one or two things from each book and let the rest of the advice go. As practical as that advice is, it took her saying it before I stopped feeling like a time-management failure. Now, I mix and match.

Then I found Time Management Secrets for Working Women by Ruth Klein. This book brought everything together for me. (Sorry about the awfulness of the picture, but the one Amazon offered was too small. I noticed today, though, that this book is only $5.98 in paperback and $9.99 for the Kindle version.)

The advice that changed my life was the advice about how to use my car efficiently. She advises creating a mobile kitchen and a mobile office in there. I upgraded the console of my car to include a first-aid kit with Band-aids, ointment, Tylenol, Advil, lip balm, small scissors, pens and sticky notes.

My trunk is now like a mini-apartment. I have a kid-care backpack with spare clothes, hair clips, wipes, and a comb.

I have a plastic crate with paper towels, a super flashlight that also has a red hazard light, an air pump, rain gear, an old, soft coat, and a blanket that I rolled up tightly and tied with a ribbon to keep it from taking over the crate. I have crayons and coloring books for the three-year-old, and I have a drawing pad for the older child. I have a folder of paper for me in case I have an idea that needs to be developed in more space than the notepad behind my calendar allows.

My mobile kitchen includes a case of bottled water, small Gatorade bottles, different types of granola and cereal bars, portable peanut butter and crackers, and a giant bag of candy. Even though my standard operating procedure is to use refillable water bottles for water or Gatorade, on days that are timed too tightly, I have an immediate reserve of drinks and snacks. The giant bag of candy is to bribe me to get our older son to practice math facts in the car. I keep flash cards and for every ten he does, I win a piece of candy and I give him one, too. He thinks it’s a win-win.

If I’m really organized, I have a gym bag in there so that I can take advantage of an impromptu gym visit.

I imagine that this need to be ready for impromptu moments of work, snacking, clothing changes, and gym visits will diminish as my children grow, but for now, Klein's advice about how to use the car efficiently really saves me time.

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