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Systemize Your Life

By Charlotte Burton

The Dream
If we all lived in a world where there was no sense of urgency, where everything went according to plan and you had plenty of time to have fun, what would that be like? While this may be a rather enjoyable vision, life just doesn't go that way for most people. What if you could live like that though - and actually achieve the 'work-life balance' that everyone is so keen on these days.

The Reality
The reality is that life throws the unexpected in the way of people who plan everything down to the last second. The phone rings with people wanting immediate action, the children get ill and require looking after, the traffic moves slowly or there are delays on the trains - all of these things put plans out of sync and wreak havoc on the stress levels.

The Solution Part 1 - Yes, No or Negotiate
Life doesn't have to be that rushed and stressful. One of the main things that you can do is to not take on more than is reasonably possible. Every person has an individual level of busyness - beyond which efficiency and productivity goes down. It is a matter of finding what is your level and refusing to take on more than that. Every time someone asks you to do something, you have three choices - say yes, no or negotiate. Often the last one is forgotten - there may be a pressure to say yes and let yourself drown in the resulting furore of to-do lists. You can qualify that yes - by saying, "yes, but..." and then negotiate the time-frame or the amount of help you can get with the task. Remember that everything is about give and take - you can't be expected to give constantly and never take.

The Solution Part 2 - Systemize Your Work
The majority of tasks we do are very similar - and often they are tackled from the beginning each time. When you do a task repeatedly (e.g. answering the same question on the phone, or preparing a similar document), you can save a huge amount of time simply by systemizing it. In the first example, if you could prepare an email answer as a signature in your email program, you can simply ask for an email address to send it to and not spend 10-15 minutes on saying the same thing each time. In the second example, you could prepare a template in your word processing program in which you simply fill in the blanks. Imagine how much time you can claw back by doing this! While putting systems into place can take a little extra time, the benefits in future could be significant. If you take a little time to analyze where you are spending a large portion of your time doing the same thing again and again you can put some kind of system into place to resolve it.

The Solution Part 3 - Systemize Your Personal Life
A large amount of time is taken up at home doing repetitive tasks which are often not very enjoyable - this is where a little preparation and a connection to the internet comes into play. The web is a great place for systemizing your life - you can set up your weekly supermarket shop, or if you've gone organic, you can make it even better by signing up for a regular vegetable box delivery. There are several schemes which allow you to order extras like meat, bread products, and if you have a special diet, there are many places which offer gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free etc products.

Other chores that can be systemized include:

  • Hire a cleaner - they are often cheaper in the long run. How much do you charge per hour for your time at work? What's the difference between that and how much a cleaner would charge? How much is your spare time worth to you?
  • Some dry cleaners offer a delivery and pick-up service and can do this out of hours.
  • Travel cards can be bought online or over the phone.
  • Banking can be done over the phone (including paying your credit card bills).
  • Boots can pick up and fill your repeat prescriptions - all you have to do is drop by your local branch to pick it up.
  • Car pooling on the school run can free up several mornings a week.
  • Buddy up at the gym - you multi-task seeing friends and getting exercise (and are more likely to stick to an exercise program according to the experts).

Be Organized, not Busy
Being busy is no excuse not to get organized. Everyone seems to compete to be the busiest - but is that really what you want? It may seem difficult to set aside time to implement systems, but the extra time at the beginning saves time in the long run. Then you can use that newly free time to do the things you miss doing and spend some time planning your life in the longer term, rather than living in the daily to-do lists.

Charlotte Burton, BSc MAC, is a Life and Career Coach trained by the Coach Training Institute. She is a member in good standing of the Association for Coaching. A complimentary sample session is available to all those who are interested in finding out more about coaching and how it can help to improve your life. Please contact her by email or call UK (0)20 7837 5419 for more details.

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