color-code your way through the crazy
A preemptive effort to stay organized helps me get things handled. And handled quickly.
If you’ve met me, you know that I am a hyper-organized person. Sometimes to a fault. I crave order and thrive on knowing what to expect. As you can imagine, this kind of rigid sense of reality takes a decent amount of effort to maintain. But for me—it’s worth it, and it could be worth it for you too.
A preemptive effort to stay organized helps me get things handled. And handled quickly. Because I’m not reinventing how we do our meal planning every week or leaving myself endless sticky notes about which bills I still need to pay.
This kind of systematic approach allows me to me super-efficient, thus carve out time for the things that really matter—the things you can’t systemize—picking Sloan up early from school for an ice cream date or an impromptu girl’s night to watch The Bachelor.
Here are the “systems” that I rely on to keep myself and my family moving forward and feed and planning for the future.
For me, my planner is the lifeblood of my systems. I write EVERYTHING in that baby. This is where I put my daily to-dos, my weekly tasks, and my monthly goals. I keep track of birthdays, Austin’s upcoming work travel, big projects, and appointments in my planner too. Nothing happens in our family without me consulting my planner.
No one wants to spend their entire weekend cleaning the baseboards or scrubbing toilets. But these things still have to get done. Hire a housekeeper, they say! It will change your life, they say! And while, I am a big proponent of outsourcing when you can, right now, we simply don’t have it in our budget to hire a housekeeper.
So we take a different approach. Instead of waiting to do all the housework on the weekends, we do a little bit of it each day of the week. Mondays we dust and vacuum, on Tuesdays we clean the bathrooms, Wednesdays we change the sheets, etc. You get the idea.
Even if this means our house is only clean in its entirety one day out of the week, it works for us and gives us more time to do the things we want to do on the weekends.
My Excel budget sheet is probably one of the things I am most proud of. I created this document (aka, masterpiece) from a blank Excel worksheet and have been modifying and tweaking it to work exactly how I need it to for years now. We are talking since like 2012. There are formulas, summary tabs, and macros, and pivots tables galore. Each tab is a month, each column is a day in that month, and each row is a category. I have projections that go out 1.5 years. I know exactly when we should be able to hire a housekeeper. I know how much money should be in our bank account on April 26, 2019. (Pending any spur-of-the-moment Target runs.)
This elaborate budgeting system is intense, but I need to be able to see the big picture at all times. I want to understand where our money is going instead of just wondering why we have less money than we were expecting in our emergency fund. I want to save deliberately and spend wisely, and want to be able to see the fruits of our labor.
This is where I try to keep things simple. I only try one new recipe (if any) a week and we always have a day for leftovers scheduled. On Sundays, we plan our meals for the week and we start our grocery list from the perpetual list that we add to all week. Simplicity and repetition are key here.
For me, color coding is a way of life. Dramatic, right? I’m freaking serious. Since before I can even remember, I have always written things that have to do with my friends (birthdays, travel, visits, etc.) in purple in my planner. Orange is for Austin because of Clemson. Red is for family, because—this one is embarrassing—blood. You know, family = blood. My stuff always goes in pink. Obvi. And the list goes on.
I know it seems crazy but it helps me stay organized and allows me to quickly qualify and quantify my to-do lists, the events in my planner, and everyone’s appointments. My work calendar has its own color coding, as does our budget. It is especially helpful when I can look at a bunch of numbers on our monthly budget spreadsheet and quickly see which bills I haven’t paid yet—because they are all red. Things that are on autopay, but haven’t cleared the account yet, are in gray; things we are budgeting for are in a tentative blue. Once things are cleared/deposited/purchased the cell is changed to “no fill” so I am left with a clean document indicating all my budget items are completed for the month. It is complicated, I know.
I should probably write a giant manual to my color coding in case anything happens to me and my husband has to take over all these things—he wouldn’t know where to start with my rainbow-colored life.
So now that y’all totally think I am an insane person…
In all seriousness, the whole point of letting you in on my crazy type-A life is to say that I don’t want to spend my days meal planning and budgeting and cleaning (and I doubt you do either), but these things are necessary, so I’ve found ways to optimize mundane tasks so I can capitalize on my time.
How do y’all keep your lives running smoothly? I’d love to hear your tips and tricks!