How Doing Laundry Helps Me Write More

The other day I was at home trying to catch up on some chores.  One of my least favorite household chores is laundry.  Laundry is inherently never-ending and tedious.  In a household of 7 people, falling behind on laundry is disastrous.  Putting on my “productivity hat”, I realized one of the simplest and important skills I use professionally comes  from my love/hate relationship with laundry.   I sort my clothes by darks, whites, and baby clothes.  Whites are simply my undershirts for work and are very easy to fold and put away.  Baby clothes are small and tedious and take the most effort.  I love my baby girl but her laundry drives me bonkers. My darks, on the other hand are relatively easy to fold and put away, but take a lot of room and build up fast.  Not only do I sort my loads (I can hear the resounding “duh”), I batch the types of loads.  I typically was 3 loads of colors per week, 1 whites and 2 baby clothes. By batching them, I get in the zone all at once and get them done much faster.  Rather than doing 1 load every other day or back and forth with load types, I only have to start once and maintain the specifically needed focus without the energy of restarting.  What does this mean toward success in life? Why should you care about my laundry?

Laundry Room

Laundry Room (Photo credit: Gene Wilburn)

Think about the things you do in a given day or week.  A lot of what you are doing are similar in mental focus, tools, physical needs, and location, AKA “context”.  Just like an airplane taking off, the hardest part of the journey is simply getting off the ground.  As I sit here at Panera writing this post, I am batching multiple posts.  It took me ten minutes just to clear  the creative cob webs in my mind.  I get better at writing as I settle in.  I get in the “zone”.  Rather than start and stop multiple times, I’d rather take advantage of the energy to get started once and write multiple posts.  It makes sense.

Batching not only helps get more work done, it helps the work where quality matters.

As you approach your short term planning (I do mine weekly), think about where you will be and your time constraints.  Find opportunities to batch similar tasks.  Do the laundry and clean the showers together. Mow the lawn and clean the shed.  Of course, drink a beer and eat a burger together when you’re done.
Share  some batching successes.  Can you overdue batching?  I want to hear the hilarious overdone attempts at batching where too much of a good thing makes for great instagram pictures.
Rocco
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7 Steps to Start Creating Margin

Life with 5 kids and a sales job that has me driving 100-200 miles per day is very busy.  2013 was a new beginning for me as I re-awakened the intentional monster within me.  This gnawing feeling of knowing I can do much more in all pillars of my life (faith, finances, career, family, fitness), created a 2013 of discovery.  2014 will continue this path and will add elements of achievement and accomplishment that will undoubtedly create more discovery.

It Gets Crazy Busy After Keynote

It Gets Crazy Busy After Keynote (Photo credit: Sklathill)

 What I have discovered is no matter how much I need to accomplish in a given day, I only get 24 hours.

The goals I have created based on my family’s mission and my obligations are difficult, time/focus consuming, yet achievable.  I wrote a post a while ago about the tyranny of the mundane.  As my goals (and family) get larger, these “mundane” tasks  wreak more havoc on my ultimate plan.  In a nutshell, my vision is to achieve my personal and professional goals, enjoying every step of the journey without sacrificing family time or assuming I can be “daddy” or a “better husband” once my goals are met.  Bottom line is I need more margin.  I need to do laundry, grocery shop, soccer practice, dishes, etc.  I need to be organized and eliminate clutter.  I believe there are many readers attempting the same thing.  Here is a list of  7 important things to start with as we eliminate clutter and enjoy our lives more.

1.  Live intentionally. Schedule time to plan tasks based on goals you have defined.  If you are doing activity that doesn’t match these goals, STOP!
2.  Overoptimism is over booking.  Understand that you can only accomplish so much.  Stop scheduling your days/weeks tasks based on perfect world, ‘“best case scenarios”.
3.  Eliminate redundancies.  My grocery shopping has been a weekly event with at least 2 stops and sometimes 4 stops (Trader Joes, SuperWalmart, Costco, and Stater Bros Grocery Store). As a goal oriented person I have given myself 4 weeks to research and implement a way to shop for 2 weeks at a time and break my stops to Costco and Trader Joes.  I am looking into automation through Amazon Prime, but the Jury is still out on this.
4.  Timing is everything.  I am more focused and productive in the morning.  It makes more sense to schedule creative and focus centric tasks in the morning and the more mundane tasks in the afternoon.
5. Remain Curious.  While I wouldn’t recommend changing your routine on a weekly basis, be open to learning new ways to do things.  I am a growing fan of the Simple Life Together (SLT) Podcast, Beyond the To Do List, and many other productivity/effectiveness Podcasts.
6. Consider going digital.  Eliminate as much clutter and accessibility issues as  possible.  I am a huge fan of Evernote.  I used to stumble around in an anxiety induced stupor looking for things like birth certificates (always needed to sign up for kids’ sports), shot records, social security cards, etc. I am in the process of migrating a lot of my “filed’ documents into Evernote.  The accessibility is amazing.  I will be writing more on the Amazing Evernote in the near future.
7.  Automate.  I recently heard the phrase “touch it once” on the SLT Podcast.  Certain emails and other electronic documents can be automatically stored into Evernote for reference and easy retrieval.  Programs such as “If this then that” are valuable tools.  As I stated earlier, Amazon Prime can eliminate stops to the grocery store (free shipping).  Hiring gardeners, dry cleaners, and housekeepers can create margin usually at a nominal cost.  Unless you enjoy these tasks, you can be working toward your ultimate goals or simply relaxing while someone else does the work that must be done but you don’t want to do.
With these 7 steps, I have only just begun.  Number 1 on the list is the overall theme of this blog:  intentionality.  If you are living intentionally, you are either doing these things or will eventually to come the conclusion that these are valuable pieces of advice.  Share with me some of your tools.  I am particularly interested in automation tools and how to reduce the grocery shopping burden.
Rocco
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Clipping My Wings & Productivity

Who says they can just “wing it” when it comes to getting things done?  Typically someone who is underachieving. I had my wings clipped many years ago.  If you are like me, you are busy.  I heard Dan Hayes of the Simple Life Together Podcast (SLT) say “Busy is the New ‘I’m fine’”.  People wear busy as a badge of honor.  Busy without purpose and focus is just a waste of time.  I don’t know about you, but if I’m not going to be productive, I’d much rather do it on the couch than running around in circles.

How do we avoid being busy without accomplishing anything or more likely, busy while accomplishing “little”? Clip your wings! Planning with a purpose, being intentional with and an end in mind changes the nature of your activity beyond filling the day to “feel accomplished” to actually accomplishing things.  Often, a productive day is a shorter day since you move with purpose from one task to the other without wasting time.  Productivity Gurus  David Allen (GTD) and the late Steven Covey (7 habits), talk about goals and objectives.  Take time to plan.  If you aren’t a “planner”, start small.  Here’s a list of 3 things to start with:

RAF Flypast - Red Arrows

RAF Flypast – Red Arrows (Photo credit: Mikepaws)

1.  Define your Goals:  From spring break travel, to organizing the garage for spring, to building a business or planning your retirement, start with the end in mind.  Most people don’t even get this far.  Defining your goals will give you a tangle and “clean” target to work toward.
2. Build your Plan: Creating a simple plan to intentionally achieve some or all of your goals gives you a road map.  Have you ever been driving on a road toward a new destination not sure if you should be going North or South.  The anxiety is torturous.  Once I decide to hit the Onstar button for directions, even if I’ve been going the wrong direction, I get back on track and feel great.  Why? Because I know that I am on the path to my destination.
3. Execute:  There are people who plan but don’t follow through, and there are people who do things but have no plan or direction, and finally there are a group of successful people who do both.  Planning without execution is only a dream.  Create  a plan that is realistic and fits your season in life.  Check in periodically to make adjustments and don’t beat yourself up if you’re not 100% on target.  Keep on Keeping on!
These 3 steps are the foundation to clipping your wings and living intentionally with purpose.  How will you start today to live with purpose and intentionality?
Rocco
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Managing The Tyranny of the Mundane

Every time I go the mall (which with 4 girls in the house is way too often), I get turned around and frustrated.  I go to the giant cube in front of JC Penny and look at the map to find the store I am looking for.  Then, I look for the red star that shows “You are here”.  Then, with a simple geometric shape of directions, I draw a path (avoiding as many toy stores as possible), to my destination. I usually get distracted by a candy store, two diaper changes, and a spilled soda along the way.  With a “diaper-dad” diaper bag, I make the changes, clean the messes and approach my destination with clean children and smiling faces.

Whaddaya Mean I Don't Do Enough Housework?

Whaddaya Mean I Don’t Do Enough Housework? (Photo credit: las – initially)

What is important to you? What do you want to accomplish?  Do you plan on becoming the VP of Marketing, publishing a Novel, releasing a hit album for your Polka band? Your goal is your goal and nobody else’s.  It is up to you to do the steps to get there. Where is your “you are here”?  Life is a series of seasons that change your approach toward your goal but not the goal itself. Tasks such as laundry, vacuuming, homework, and bedtime routines are just as important to achieving your dream as the focus time you spend on your dream. These are like a solid foundation to build upon. If not managed (note, I didn’t say finished) they can be a potential source of distraction, frustration, and even dream death.

There is a time for cleaning and there is a time for dreaming.

Many of these things seem mundane and even time wasters.  They are…if you let them be.  Stressing over simple tasks (although many) while working on your dream, or stressing on your dream while working on your tasks is a sign that you may need to re think a few things.  Usually it’s not a matter of doing less.  A tweak here or there such as waking up 15 minutes earlier 1 day, or being more realistic on how much time things take may do the trick.

Mastering the art of managing the mundane may be one of the most important things you can do to achieve your dream.

Yes! Vacuuming and dishes will get you to the corner office! Be intentional about your time checking  boxes so you can be intentional about building your dream. I recently wrote a “how to” on productive relaxing ( read here) .  Being intentional with your time is knowing you are safe doing what you are doing NOW because you aren’t supposed to be doing something else. Build a list of the boxes you need to check in order to keep your foundation solid.  Agree on duties and fair timeliness with those whom you are accountable.  Be present in every moment, including the mundane.  Those tasks should never be interruptions to your dream and should never cause tension in your family.  Enjoy the journey, not just the dream of the destination.
How do you manage the unending list of tasks that can steal your dream?

Rocco