The summer is almost over and all across the country, parents are gearing up to get back into the routine of balancing work with school, homework and after school activities. It's no wonder that working parents are feeling overwhelmed and disorganized. Any time your schedule changes, there is a large period of adjustment. Most working parents seem to walk around in a fog until the middle of October, their minds filled with all of the forms their children need, making sure to remember to send enough lunch money, locating shot records and sports forms while still trying to remember what they need to have ready for work the next day.
When you are looking for a job, or just trying to keep the one you have, staying organized is key. It's important to keep track of the jobs you've applied for, when you should follow up, what projects are due at your office and even remembering what your work schedule is for the week. So, how on earth can you keep track of everything?
The sad truth is that it's virtually impossible to remember everything. Our minds are slippery and sometimes little details can be forgotten, especially when we're stretched thin trying to keep up. This is why I think that making lists is one of the best things you can do to keep your days organized and be more effective.
It used to be that lists were typically scrawled on spare pieces of paper, adding to the things that you have to keep track of. But now, you can make to-do lists right on your computer and keep them all in a handy file so that they are there when you need them. There are several free programs that make keeping lists super easy. My personal favorite is Evernote, but you can even use Windows Notepad, which comes pre-installed on most PCs.
I find that it is most effective to keep several lists, one for each category of things I need to do or remember. Just the process of writing it all down really helps me clear my mind and keep from getting overwhelmed.
Here's why keeping to-do lists can help more than you'd think:
- It makes you responsible - When I get overwhelmed, I tend to procrastinate. It can be a huge problem for me. By having a list of what I need to accomplish today or this week or even this month, I can know that I will have to face the task again when I mark off the things that I've completed. This really helps my self-management skills. It works like a built in nag screen, because as long as it's sitting on my list, I know I have to do it so that I can be done.
- It helps you see the areas you are having trouble with - By looking at my lists, I can start to see a pattern in the types of things that end up being left undone. Once I know what those areas are, I can look for ways to make them easier or just figure out why I don't like doing them. Sometimes this is the best feedback because it helps me figure out the areas I need improvement in without waiting for someone else to point them out.
- I feel accomplished when I check things off - Some days, I feel like I'm running around in circles. I am exhausted, but I don't think that I have actually accomplished anything. By marking things off of my list, I can clearly see how productive I've been. Plus, I get a lot of satisfaction when I mark things off.
- It makes delegation easier - When I have a lot to get done, it's much easier to ask others for help, but the problem is that I don't know where to ask them to start. Even if I did, just explaining what needs to be done and then deciding what they should do next takes up a lot of time. However, when I have a list, I can just share the list and ask them which tasks they could help with. This makes it much simpler for both of us.
I know that many people are under the impression that making lists are really lame, but they actually help a lot. Try it for a week or two and see if it helps you be more productive, more effective and a whole lot more organized.
Are you a list keeper? Why or why not?
By Melissa Kennedy- Melissa is a 9 year blog veteran and a freelance writer for EducationJobsiteBlog. Along with helping others find the job of their dreams, she enjoys computer geekery, raising a teenager, supporting her local library, writing about herself in the third person and working on her next novel.
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