More Processes = More Brain Juice

by Kim on January 29, 2013

So we’re officially in week 3 of the Salute to Simple challenge!

SalutetoSimple

How did last week’s closet attack go for you? Do all of your closets look like this now?

Ha, of course not. Those aren’t real closets. Who has canned goods that match? Come on.

But hopefully you had a chance to dig into some dusty corners that haven’t felt the love from you in awhile.

Here are the before and after pics from my own linen closet attack.

Before:

before

I have no idea why I felt it necessary to include myself in this pic. Geez.

After:

after

Sorry, I kind of cheated—it was already so much improved just by removing myself. And my tongue.

Once I finished this project, I was kind of embarrassed at how little time it actually took me to do it. The majority of the problem was that we had all these extra towels we didn’t need—towels I hadn’t wanted to throw away because they were in perfectly good condition, except for some bleach spots. And it did hurt me, but I finally let go of them. (*cough* hoarder talk)

Once the towels were out of the way, all the closet needed was a little organization. Aaaand…done.

Seriously, WHAT took me so long to do this?

I tidied up the pantry a little too, but it actually wasn’t in that bad of shape, so the before/after pics aren’t that astonishing. Next on the agenda: Mason’s closet. The problem with that one is that I need to find a time when he’s not sleeping, so I can be in his room, and when someone else is watching him. I also might need to invest in some fancy closet organization stuff—maybe something similar to this.

Anyway. For now, we’re moving on to week 3 of StS, which is:

STS Week 3
I used to know a girl whose way of complaining was to say, “Ugh. I hate processes.”

The first time I heard her say it, I had a massive lightbulb moment. That’s IT! That’s the problem! It’s not that all the dumb little tasks of life—getting ready in the morning, packing for trips, meal planning, etc.—are that horrible in and of themselves. It’s that they’re all processes, and processes are just annoying.

Why? Because our brains like to be stimulated in new and exciting ways, and processes don’t do that. In fact, they’re designed to do the exact opposite.

But, of course, we need those damned processes. They make things simpler. They prevent us from forgetting steps and ensure that things are done generally the same way every time. They take our minds off the fact that we’re even performing tasks—we’re just following a process, which takes less brain power because it’s a familiar routine. Unfortunately, we can’t always be engaging in high-level, innovative thinking—we also have to wash our hair, pick out our clothes, cook oatmeal, and a bazillion other lame things.

The best way to deal with processes, I’ve found, is to automate them as much as possible, or otherwise find a way to trick yourself into forgetting that you’re participating in them. I’ve been doing laundry on Wednesdays for so long that I don’t even think about it anymore. It’s not like, “ughhhh, the clothes are piling uuuup…” It’s like, “oh, it’s Wednesday. Laundry time.” I know it’s coming, I’m prepared for it, and my body goes through the motions pretty automatically.

Basically, turning tasks into processes frees up brain juice. And that’s what we want.

brain juice

So, what tasks in your life need to be turned into processes?

Here are some ideas:

Work tasks. Can you check your email 3-5 times a day, rather than every .2 seconds or every time you get an email (whichever comes first), and close it the rest of the time? Do you schedule regular time for inbox cleanup, brainstorming, task list maintenance, and other junk that eats up your time without you realizing it? Can you group together phones calls you need to make and emails you need to write, and do them in blocks?

Meal planning. Do you start by checking for coupons, pick items based on that, and then find recipes that use those items? Do you plan meals that can be easily turned into lunches for the next day?

Household chores. How often does each chore really need to be done, who will do it, and on what day?

Errands. What day do you grocery shop? What’s the most effective way to group errands together? Who does what?

Finances. Who handles the bills and how? Does your bank have bill pay scheduling/reminder tools you can take better advantage of? Do you need a better way to track spending and budgeting? (We love mint.com.)

Exercising. You want variety, but you also want a process so you don’t have to think about it every time. Can you write a month-long plan? (NBD if you don’t stick to it exactly.)

Hobbies. Building processes around them helps you make time for them. Bloggers create editorial calendars. My mother-in-law knits whenever she’s watching TV. Maybe you read every night from 10-10:30.

To Dos. Do you like your current To Do list/reminder/personal scheduling systems? Are they working? Brent and I have three lists on a white board on the fridge: Short-term tasks, long-term tasks, and groceries/household stuff needed. We schedule personal stuff on a shared Google calendar, so we can both see everything. (We tried a shared grocery list app on our phones for awhile, but the white board was just easier.)

Personally, for my StS goal this week, I’m going to work on chores.

I’ve made a chore list for myself before, but it was a flop (I’m now realizing) for two main reasons:

1) I was trying to do things too regularly. So I’d get to my Thursday chore and be like, “ugh, I don’t really need to clean that again. It looks fine.”

2) The difficulty levels weren’t evenly distributed. Sweeping the kitchen was WAY easier than cleaning all 3 bathrooms. I had it in my head, apparently, that my daily chore should take no more than half an hour, so when I was only able to clean one bathroom in that amount of time, the other ones got skipped. Chore time was UP.

So here’s my latest attempt (don’t laugh at the PicMonkey Valentine’s themery—it couldn’t be helped):

Chore Chart

This time, I was a little more strategic. Here was my approach (a process to make a process, gaaaaah)…

–I wrote out my list of regular chores, trying to keep difficulty levels even. (I split up the bathrooms and the cleaning on different floors.)

–I thought about how often each thing reeeeaaaaally needed to be done. (Keeping in mind that, right now, they’re getting done “whenever I finally get sick of looking at it,” which can = months.) I added labels like 1 x wk, 1 x 2 wks, 1 x month, etc. Since we spend a lot more time on our main and upper levels than the lower (we have a crazy multi-level split house, so I realize these descriptions probably only makes sense to me), I gave different values to the different levels.

(Take it from me: if you find yourself getting to a chore and often thinking “this doesn’t really need to be done”—CHANGE THE PLAN! Or the whole thing could CRUMBLE!)

–I filled in a 4-week calendar, starting with the most frequent needs and working my way out. When I ran out of days, I started combining things.

Other notes:

–I’m trying out this 4-week rotation thing. I know there aren’t exactly 4 weeks in every month, so this is not a 1-month plan but a 4-week cycle. I’ll just remember which week of the cycle I’m on based on what chores I did the week before. (I was also thinking I’d put this on the fridge with a little magnet next to the week I’m on.)

–We’re kind of neat freaks around here, so we’re already pretty automated about things like picking up M’s toys, making the bed, doing the dishes, etc. I also, obviously, didn’t include things I do way less regularly, like dust the blinds or wash pillows.

If you want a blank copy of my ultra frilly, girly chore chart, here ya go. Otherwise, there are about a kajillion other much-less-ridiculous-looking charts online, like this one, this one, or this one.

So, what will you be process-ifying (or re-process-ifying, if your old process isn’t doing it for you) this week?

Good luck!!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy @ Writing While Running January 29, 2013 at 9:54 pm

Wow. I need a good schedule like that. And I need someone to hold me accountable. I am very good with daily maintenance (dishes, counters, etc.) but tend to let things like vacuuming and floors and dusting go until all at once and I feel the need to devote half a day to doing everything. Eek!

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Kim January 29, 2013 at 10:31 pm

Exactly! I used to do the same thing.

You should give it a shot! :)

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