17 January 2012

Routines and how to build them

By the look of the comments yesterday, there is a need for another bread tutorial. I didn't have time yesterday to answer the bulk of your comments and I'm flat out busy today but later in the week I'll do a tutorial at the forum and you can ask questions as we go along. If you have a photo of your problem bread, you can post it and I'll see if I can work out how you can change your method and improve your bread. Mostly though, it will most likely be a problem with kneading or dead yeast, but let's go at it methodically later in the week and hopefully we can get your bread lighter and many more cheese rolls on the kitchen table.


If we want to continue to live as we do, Hanno and I must be organised. Living simply often requires us to hand-make what we use here at home and it means we don't buy convenience food. Among other things, we cook from scratch, make our own cleansers and grow food in the backyard. All that home production and scratching takes time but the one thing that helps me do what I want to do is to be organised. I'm not talking about the perfect well run precision of a ship, or even Fly Lady-type routines. I get through my work well using a loose system of lists, time limits, mindful housework and a routine that builds out of that every day. I think about tasks in groups, make a list every morning and that allows me to get everything done while allowing a certain level of spontaneous additions.

When I talk about tasks in groups, I mean that if I'm in the kitchen, I will group a list of kitchen tasks together. If I'm outside, I'll do the outside chores. I can go back to a certain area, and I often have kitchen tasks in the morning and afternoon, but once I'm in a certain spot, I'll do more than one activity.

I work out of our home and in it and have a family and other engagements to consider, I rely heavily on my calendar. I have two - a written diary-type book and my computer calendar. As soon as I make an appointment, have a deadline, need to be somewhere, call someone on the phone, I enter it in my computer calendar. I set the calendar alarm to automatically send me an email the day before and set an audio alarm for 15 minutes before the event as well.

The other part of my plan is to make a list in the morning. I don't make weekly lists and I don't use a regular daily list because things change a lot and most things we do here are done when they're needed, not to a timetable. I rise at 4am, write my blog, answer emails, check the forum and then I make my daily list. I have usually jotted down some dot points the day before as I go along and the list starts from that.

A daily list might look something like this, it usually starts with what we're having for dinner. If I need to get anything out of the freezer, I do it first thing. On the days I go to the neighbourhood centre, Hanno cooks dinner, so on work days, the list doesn't start with dinner, Hanno chooses what we eat. The blog and forum don't feature on the list because I do the blog before I write it and I check the forum when I have the time for it. I also don't write that we sit down for meals or tea, have showers, clean our teeth; they are a natural part of our day and the other things wrap around them. I want my  daily list to build into a routine so it contains my "compass points", things that change most days and what I must remember.
  • Salmon rissoles and salad for dinner
  • Make bed
  • Make bread + cake or biscuits
  • Take photos
  • Defrost butter and beans
  • Dry and blitz bread for crumbs, freeze
  • Make ice cubes
  • Sweep and wash kitchen floor
  • Go to hairdresser for hair cut
  • Water bush house plants
  • Check worm farm, feed
  • Phone calls and emails - Tricia, Jo, Aunty Bev
  • Finish writing column
  • Make one dishcloth, finish scarf
  • Late afternoon: download photos and start tomorrow's blog
  • Make dinner
  • Tidy up
The following day will be the same, but different:
  • Chicken and salad - defrost chicken, pick herbs and cucumbers
  • Make bed
  • Make bread
  • Make yoghurt
  • Make ice cubes
  • Sweep floor
  • Ironing - 15 minutes
  • Phone calls and emails - order meat, check library catalogue for that book
  • Writing - 2 hours
  • Check and water fruit, pick loofahs
  • Chickens, look for plant hooks
  • Mend ripped sheet
  • Late afternoon: download photos and start tomorrow's blog
  • Make dinner
  • Tidy up
A work day will look like this:
  • Make lunch 
  • Pack basket
  • Make bed
  • Phone calls and emails - email to Abby
  • Late afternoon: download photos and start tomorrow's blog
  • Check bush house and worms
Hanno does all the grocery shopping now, mainly because he likes it and I don't. I make up a list that he shops from but he knows what we need and if I forget something he usually remembers and gets it even if it's not on the list. We don't do the laundry on a certain day, it is done when there is enough to fill the machine and then it is added to the daily list. I change the sheets on the bed when I feel like it during the week, the towels are washed then too. The bathroom is done when it needs it and the sinks and bench tops wiped over when I have the time and they need it. I don't have a special day for baking or making specialties like jam or preserves - when I know we need something or when any of these things need to be done, it will be put on the list for the following day, or the day after.

If there are jobs I really don't like doing, I put a time limit on them - hence "Ironing - 15 minutes".  I have found that I can do anything for 15 minutes, even if I hate doing it. This works really well for me so if you've been putting off a certain chore, put it on your list but set a time limit for it, then stop. You can go back to it later if you feel like it.

I find this kind of loose organisation works really well. I get everything done that needs doing but I don't feel pressured or stressed. I only put times on my list when I'm limiting the time I spend on that task, the rest of  the tasks will take the time they take. I do make the list in the order I'll do the work, but I change it around too. If something is not done, I don't worry about it, it's simply added to the list for the following day. I reckon we make lists to make things easier for ourselves, not to add pressure. I think this works so well because it gives a loose structure to my day. I know what I'll be doing next and I don't get to the end of the day wondering if I've done everything I should have done.

We are all at different stages of life and will have different priorities and ways of working. There also needs to be days when there are no lists, just relaxation and pure joy. My method of organisation wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea but it works well for me. It's organic and flexible and that suits my personality and juggling the different things I do - both in the home and out in the community. I don't know how or when I first started this way of listing, I just know that if I want to remain organised and on top of my work, this is how I do it. It works. I do know this though, we all need some sort of structure and routine. We need it at home and in the workplace. I don't work well within a strict structure, I do my best work when I feel in control and free. How do you organise yourself?

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