Sunday, March 01, 2015

Getting it Together -- it's all in the details

Last week I read a great blog post at Modern Mrs. Darcy.  She wrote about how she minimizes decision fatigue in her life.

Her seven main thoughts are:
1.  Eat the same thing every day
2.  ... or almost the same thing every day
3.  Embrace daily routines
4.  Establish hard edges in your day
5.  Create If-Then rules for yourself
6.  If it creates decision angst, drop it
7.  Limit your options

I've been doing variations of this for years, and it really works!

To match Mrs. Darcy's 7 points, here are 7 specific examples of how this works in my crazy in-town-and-then-back-out-of-town-again life:

1.  The first day home from a trip, I make fresh bread (from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day) and soup (usually bean soup in the crock pot).  I always have ingredients for this in my house and won't have to run to the grocery as soon as I get home.  This gives me food for the first day at home, as well as leftover soup for my lunch each day and bread for the week.

2.  Eat the same thing at restaurants.  I am forced to eat out while I travel.  If it sounds like fun, you haven't lived in a hotel room long enough.  As you saw above, I long for simple food when I get home.  If I am at a Mexican restaurant, I will have a cheese enchilada.  If I am at an Italian restaurant, I will have eggplant.  If I am at an American restaurant, I will eat a burger or salad, depending upon my appetite.  If I am at a Thai restaurant, I will order pad thai with tofu.  If there is a varied menu, I look for key words like "gnocchi" or "polenta" or "risotto" or "brie" or "duck" or "butternut squash."  I love those things and know they will make me happy.  After teaching all day at a quilt show and often at dinner with a large group, I can order at any restaurant in less than one minute without overtaxing my brain or interrupting dinner conversation.

3.  I have a daily routine, kind of.  The first day I am home from a trip, I sleep in if my schedule allows.  Travel is hard on this aging body and a little extra sleep is a good thing!  I am usually awake by 8 or 9am and then I start my day.  I will:

  • shower and dress
  • empty suitcase and start laundry 
  • start making bread
  • put soup ingredients in the crock pot
  • go through my mail
  • empty my physical inbox
  • file any paperwork from traveling (receipts, etc.)
  • check my bank and credit card statements
  • check what library books are due
  • do other things that I can't necessarily remember right now, but they are equally exciting
Once I've done these basic things, I might quilt a little bit as a reward for being such a grown up

4.  Wear the same clothes at work. I own a few pair of dress slacks, several cardigan sets, good socks/stockings (I fly often and stand all day while working), and a comfy pair of Dansko clogs.  It takes me about 10 minutes to pack a suitcase for a week.  I am trying to get it down to 5 minutes, but I'm not quite there yet.  I have run out of some of my duplicate toiletries and need to buy a second set just for travel again.  That should do the trick.

5.  I have one huge If-Then rule:  if I need to remember something, then I have to write it down.  If you tell me something that I need to do, I'll grab my phone and send myself an email.  If I think of something that I need to do, I'll add it to my to-do list, calendar, or file in my tickler file as appropriate.

6.  When I am home between trips, I don't leave the house unless it is on fire.  That might be an exaggeration, but not by much.  If a trip out of the house can be post-poned, I will post-pone it as long as humanly possible.  When I have a doctor appointment or something else that can't be moved, I'll run all of the errands I have put off while I am out of the house so I can stay at home again for days and days.  "The library book I wanted came in.  Should I go to the library today?"  Nope.  It can wait.

7.  I set hard edges to my days with CDs.  I listen to audio books often, and CDs make great timers.  They last from 60-75ish minutes.  I will turn on a book and work on some machine quilting for as long as the CD lasts, and then I will quit.  I will turn on the next CD and do some work around the house, but when the CD ends, I'm done.  It helps keep my day moving, and it keeps me current on my reading list.  Oh, I joke. Who is ever caught up with their "want to read" list?

Do you have any little tricks to help keep your life in order?  


Mary said...

I also do better when I use an established routine, especially at the start of the day. Thanks for sharing what works for you. I need to do better on the "if/then" suggestion.

lmno said...

What a timely post. I hope many read your good advice. For a few years now I have found several time savers. Being allergic or being unable to digest several foods I have some tips to keep a meal ready.

1 Once a week I soft cook (about 6 minutes after the hard boil starts at my altitude) a dozen eggs, cool them, and store in the refigerator. Each morning when I boil water for tea I pop a couple in just to warm them up enough (before the water starts to boil) and eat with a warmed tortilla or two or on top of a half cup of pinto beans. It is an easy meal with no fuss and few dirty dishes.

2 I keep one pound containers of sorted, cleaned pinto beans ready in the pantry. Rinse and soak a pound covered with plenty of water at 10 pm or 5 am for 8-11 hours. The trick is to use distilled water. Discard the soaking water, rinse, and then cook for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, adding water as needed in a saucepan half covered with aluminum foil at a soft boil. I don't leave the kitchen because I add boiling water as necessary. Ten minutes before the end of cooking I add 1/2 teaspoon salt.

3 As soon as groceries are put away, I slice the mushrooms and store ready to sautee or pop into chicken broth or add to a burrito or omelet. I prep the broccoli and cover to store in the refrigerator to be steamed or sauteed later.

4 I steam 1-1/2 cups rice and store. DH can grab baked chicken breasts from the freezer or refrigerator, add chicken broth, mushrooms, broccoli, oregano, basil, and rice for a nice soup.

5 Four days a week at the office I take my tea, a container of beans/eggs, and a container of broccoli (it fills me up) or blueberries for my meals.

6 When I am downstairs sewing I have my favorite Thermos stainless steel coffee mug filled with greet tea or coffee once in a while. It is my favorite because it is easily closed and if it tips over no fabric is stained by an accidental spill.