Monday, March 30, 2009

The Daily Disciplines: Staying on Track

Even if you don't have a routine schedule, all of us have certain things that we have to accomplish each day. How do you stay on track so that you complete what needs to get done in a timely manner?

Everyone has their own motivations, and I look forward to hearing from you all what helps you stay on track. As for myself, I don't know whether or not I could live without my to-do list! After trying many different kinds of lists that organized things many different ways, I have settled on a daily planner on which I write my schedule of places I need to be at certain times as well as things I need to get done that day. I like the planner because it has every day of the year in it, so if I have somewhere I need to be or something I need to do on a day in the future, I can flip to that day, write it down, and not have to worry about forgetting it.

My planner takes up residence on my desk, where I can easily grab it to write something down or refer to what I need to be focusing on. I don't have a regimented method of writing things down - I usually just jot things down as they come to me. Usually at the beginning of the week I'll write down my schedule and reports that are due or tests coming up, and then add in daily to-dos as I think of them. Often I'll fill in most things for each day on the previous day or evening, as I realize what exactly I'll need to do the next day.

Although I write down what I would like to do each day, rarely do I accomplish everything on the list. Those things that absolutely have to get done do, but the less pressing items sometimes have to get crossed off and moved to the next day. I don't enjoy crossing things off and writing them on the next day, however, so often after doing it for a day or two, I'll go ahead and complete the thing just so I don't have to write it down again! As you can tell from the picture, my planner is often messy and somewhat full, but I understand the brief notes that I write, so it works for me!

I must admit, I'm somewhat addicted to checking things off. Sometimes I'll even write down things I've already done just so that I can check them off! =) Perhaps I'm a bit too compulsive list-checker-offer, but it does make me feel a sense of accomplishment. Seeing things with checks by them helps me remember that yes, I did actually do something that day, and it's helpful to be able to look back and know when I did each thing if there's a question about it.

Most of my daily routine things - the small things I do every day - don't get written on my list, but other things that I sometimes have a harder time doing, even if I do them every day, do get written down. Sometimes I'm motivated to just go ahead and do small tasks as I think of them so that I won't have to write them down and remember to do them later. However, sometimes I write them down anyways, just to be able to check them off. Yes, perhaps I am a bit driven by check marks! ;)

I also have a master school list, a printed table with a column for each subject, on which I write when assignments and tests are. At the beginning of the semester I write down things off the syllabus, and then add things as they are assigned. This helps me be able to see at a glance exactly what I have coming up that week in each subject. Daily assignments and subjects to study get written on my to-do list (such as "study Civ" or "read Lit") and I can refer to the master list to know exactly what I need to read or study. It also gives encouragement to see what I've already completed, and, as the semester draws to close, how little I have left to do. Instead of checking things off this list, however, I fill in the box with a pretty color, which also gives me a sense of satisfaction. In the end, I have a rainbow on my page, which my creative side enjoys. :-)

Another motivation for me is to "reward" myself with fun things after I do things that I don't really want to do. It helps me work hard and get something done when I know that when I finish, I'll be able to something I enjoy more. Sometimes I start with my hardest thing in order to get it checked off and off my shoulders, and other times I start with my easiest things in order to have the most things checked off before I tackle a large, time-consuming project. It often depends on my mood and how much time I have available.

My to-do list keeps me focused throughout the day. If I'm wondering what I should be doing, a quick glance shows me what I need to be working on. If I'm wondering whether or not I can schedule something on a certain day, consulting my planner lets me know if I'll have the time. It doesn't rule my life, but it is a great help in keeping me on track.

Another huge help to me has been in having a group of girls to keep me accountable. We call ourselves "sisters of the heart," and because we live in different states, we do our group through email, letters, and occasional phone calls. Each week we send out goals of things we want to accomplish that week, big or small, as well as prayer requests. At the end of the week we send out an email sharing whether or not we accomplished our goals, updates on the prayer requests, and things we've learned from our personal devotions that week. It has been such a blessing, and it is a huge motivation to get things done when I know that I'll have to tell others how I did! My brother and Elijah also do an email accountability called "Pressing On," which goes along the same lines.

Much as I enjoy checking things off and coloring things in, however, I have to remember that my worth does not come from such things. When I complete everything on my to-do list for a day (a very rare thing!), there is much rejoicing! However, when I complete only one or two things, I learn to still find joy in the Lord. Days are different, life throws unexpected things in our path, and things don't always happen just as we'd like them to or in the time that we'd like them to. However, through it all, God is to be praised no matter what.

In the comment section, please share if you feel led:
  • What are ways you motivate yourself to do things that need to be done?
  • Do you have a to-do list, or do you have another method to stay on track? Describe how your method works (it may give us ideas)!
  • Do you have someone or a group to whom you are accountable?
  • What helps you feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of each day?


BitterSweet said...

* What are ways you motivate yourself to do things that need to be done?

Well in the case of schoolwork I tell my test scores to a select few of my friends. Some who will understand andd be my shoulder to cry on if it's a bad grade. And those who I wouldn't want to know if I got a bad grade. That way I have an equal amount of support and pressure.

* Do you have a to-do list, or do you have another method to stay on track? Describe how your method works (it may give us ideas)!

See above.
Also I have one of those marker board calendar/blank board things that hangs on my wall where I keep my schedule and notes to myself.

* What helps you feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of each day?

I have insomnia (which I've learned to use to my advantage. I study late late late into the night.) So to reward myself for a day well spent (many things accomplished) I'll not spend my night studying, instead I'll spend much-coveted time at the piano or reading and/or writing my books. :)

Thanks for this!

Rachael said...

Hi dear maidens,

I have recently found your blog and have especially enjoyed reading your past 'daily disciplines' posts. I find that having accountability (as Purl mentioned) does help, as does setting rewards for myself for each task done (ie. reading a chapter of my current book! or checking/sending emails to friends). I find that a planner/diary does work well as a 'to-do list'. I sometimes give my list to another family member, and have them tick off each task as i do it, if I am in a especially procrastinative mood... :p.

Thanks for your wonderful posts!

God's blessing to you both...


Anna Naomi said...

Rachael: Thanks for mentioning accountability. I can't believe I forgot to mention it in the post, as it has been a huge blessing to me in having motivation to finish things. I've edited the post to talk about it. =)

Thanks to both of you for sharing!

Mrs. Hart said...

"I also have a master school list, a printed table with a column for each subject..."

Anna, this sounds like what I am looking for. Did you make this yourself or did you find it somewhere online?

Anna Naomi said...

Mrs. Hart: It's a very simple document that I made up. I actually started making them this way with Elijah's help back when I was 12 and took over my own home education planning. I'll email you with examples.

Anonymous said...

I have to-do lists like crazy! I have a weekly cleaning schedule broken down into morning, afternoon, and evening with the afternoons schedules each day for deep cleaning a specific area. I also have a meal plan that I make every two weeks. I always know what is for lunch and dinner which helps me to make sure the cooking gets done and that we aren't always eating the same things. It also helps me to grocery shop without breaking the bank. I know what I need and that is all we get.

I don't really have an accountability group or person. These are things I need to get done! I motivate myself by 1. not allowing TV or computer use until it's all done and 2. thinking of my wonderful husband. He sure doesn't want to come home from a long day at work to canned soup and a dirty house. He would never complain if I slacked, but I feel so much better about myself knowing he has a nice, warm meal and a clean house to live in.