My new motto is, “Work smarter, not harder.” OK, it’s not really that new to me but it’s new to be applying it to life at home. I’ve always had a knack for figuring out the most efficient ways of doing things but usually, that was limited to the office. My home was usually chaos. Add in a chronic pain condition and dialling for dinner becomes all too satisfying. So how do I do it all? Tools.
First off, meal planning and my crockpot mean I don’t worry about dinner. It really doesn’t matter what kind of crockpot but I recommend a programmable one. Especially if you’re like me and have a hard time keeping track of time. For meal planning, I’m a fan of Cozi.com. I have had the free version for years. It’s shareable which means one person can create a grocery list and another can go to the store. Recipes found online can be “shared” to the app; flagged for organization and a place for notes such as “B didn’t like this”. The ingredients for recipes can be automatically added to the grocery list, saving time and energy.
Another meal planning/time-saving tip is to freezer meals. My two favourite sites are New Leaf Wellness and Once a Month Meals. I look for crockpot “dump dinner” recipes that have everything in the freezer bag and on the cooking day I just dump the bag into the crockpot. I do one major grocery shop a month; prep the meals and freeze. Having a vacuum sealer is handy as it extends the life of the frozen food from 3 months to a year but isn’t necessary.
Recently I was introduced to this app by a mentor, Mike Vardy, of Productivityist. He has a great productivity class on Skillshare for free that explains how to use it. It’s how I keep all my tasks organized. The biggest tips I took away from his class were about “theme” planning and “time chunking”. I have a different focus on each day and I break my day into morning, afternoon and evening tasks. For example, Thursdays are my homeschool planning days. We do our lessons in the morning; in the afternoon I focus on homeschool planning for the next week while B has free time; evenings I work and tidy up the apartment.
My focus is on this blog is mostly homeschool so I’ll mention this briefly. I will be writing a more in-depth post on this later in the week. I don’t like planners. I hate writing things down. I have issues holding a pen for too long and my writing is messy. So I use Trello.
I first learned about the app while doing social media at a conference. Each person working had a different social media platform and assignments to complete for each session. We all logged into Trello and found the instructions and did our job. I never even saw my boss face to face during the two-day conference. A few months back, Beth Napoli from Techie Homeschool Mom told me she used Trello as a homeschool planner. B loves it because he can see everything he has to do that week; check items off; and has all the links and usernames for the websites we use in our homeschool. He also adds in work like “bake cookies”. So the app is user-friendly enough for an 8-year-old to use!
Because most of my curriculum is found online for free I subscribe to a number of blogs. Rather than printing everything out every morning and taking longer to check email in the morning I save up printables into a folder on my computer for review later or flag the email in ToDoist for review on Thursday. Then on Thursday, I go through the emails; review printable folder, and print what I want to print out and file what I won’t use that week in the folders for each subject/unit. I then cut and laminate everything I need for the upcoming week in the afternoon or on the weekend. B sometimes helps with this, especially laminating. He really enjoys laminating things.
I don’t have an app for this but I do have a system. I have three separate gmail accounts. It seems like a lot but they serve different purposes. I have my personal account; a homeschool account; and a shopping account (because I am a shopaholic). Every morning I check all three email accounts. To keep my homeschool account (which actually has more emails than the other accounts) I file emails by subject, general advice, receipts, registrations, links to free resources, etc. I have a similar system for my personal account but the filing system is more complex due to the number of years I have had that account. My shopping account is mainly for store promotions or online shopping accounts. The only emails I keep are receipts so they just get archived.
I check my email twice a day. Once in the morning and once in the evening. I regularly unsubscribe to emails. If after three or four emails from someone that I haven’t found useful or if they are frequently trying to sell me something I unsubscribe. I still get on average 30 emails every morning and 15 in the evening but at one point I was getting 100 emails a day. There are apps that will unsubscribe automatically but I’d rather make the decision on a case by case basis.
Growing up my mom had us do all the housework on Saturdays so that the house was clean for Sunday. We often had company over after church so it was important to always have the house clean on Sunday. For me, I find that having a rotating schedule makes housework less overwhelming. Each day I tackle a different room, and the daily tasks such as washing dishes, sweeping floors and tidying up the living room which we use for homeschooling. I also get B to help. Oddly, he loves cleaning the bathroom so I let him do that. I only have to clean the mirror because he’s not tall enough to reach the top.
Starting the day off right is always important. I wake up around 6 am, grab a cup of coffee, grab my tablet and read my bible on YouVersion. This sets my mood for the day. It’s also my “me time”. B doesn’t wake up until 7 am so the apartment is peaceful. I like YouVersion because it has a lot of different reading plans and devotionals that I can choose from. Some are super short – seven days. Other plans are longer – one year. There are also numerous translations, some with audiobook options.
If reading the bible isn’t your thing, find something that makes you happy in the morning. Maybe it’s grabbing that coffee or tea and sitting down and enjoying it before facing the day. A great mindfulness meditation is to grab a drink, sit down, and experience the drink with all your senses. Feel the temperature of the drink. Smell the drink, Look at the colour of the drink and cup. Listen to the sounds as you take a sip and pay attention to how it tastes and makes you feel. This simple, five-minute meditation can help center you. It also works with a piece of chocolate. When I taught yoga my clients always enjoyed this meditation at the end of class. But that might be because I gave them chocolate.
All these tools and systems help to keep my household and homeschool running smoothly. Everything is flexible for those days that just won’t go as planned.