Nov 19, 2011

Systems are patterns we use in our homes. They are ways of putting some things in our life on auto-pilot to leave room in our brain and schedule for more creative endeavors. They are developed by putting thought into where we want to go and what we want to accomplish and figuring out an effective way of getting there.

I took a class on system development a few days ago and I can’t stop thinking about it. Our teacher insisted that everyone has systems in place and it is our job to figure if our systems are working for us or not and what other systems our homes need to function well.

At first, I balked at the idea that EVERYONE has systems. I thought, “I clearly DO NOT have systems.” But as I have thought about it since, I have realized I do, in fact, have a few systems in place. Just a few…that I had to dig deep for…that I had to have some friends point out for me so I could recognize…that I am slightly embarrassed about…BUT, in the interest of helping any other Non-System Mothers out there, I will share them here if you promise not to laugh.

1. Adams Peanut Butter Storage. Any of you that buy Adams peanut butter know about the oil on the top of the jar and what a pain it is to stir it in without spilling it over the sides of the jar AND how difficult it is to get the oil to mix in thoroughly with the peanut butter at the bottom of the jar. I have a system for this…before you open your jars, store them upside down and the oil will float to the bottom of the jar (which is now at the top) and then when you open it, the oil won’t spill and it will be easy to mix.

2. Usborne Book Storage. Since I sell Usborne books, I have a lot of them and since my children love them so much, they are in use a lot. I need to be able to find them all quickly when a customer comes over or I have a show and it used to take me days to round them all up. Now I have a shelf in my dining room that houses them all. My children know they are welcome to read any of them they are interested in and they can do it anywhere in the house, but when they are done, they have to return them to the Usborne bookshelf.

3. Do-everything-that-needs-to-be-done-at-the-last-possible-moment-that-it-can-be-done-and-have-any-modicum-of-hope-that-it-will-be-done-in-time. This is the system that has governed my life for the last 37 years. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it always involves stress, lack of sleep, a lil’ bit of craziness, and a general feeling of being a 24/7 firefighter. I never do anything the same two times in a row, so there is no pattern to my life, except the pattern of do everything at the last minute is a pattern…at least I am thinking it must be.

This is why I went to the systems class. I need to change my third system to something else. Something that isn’t so emergency laden. Something that involves forethought. Something that doesn’t involve losing my mind every few days. My system worked somewhat okay when I was the only one involved in my life, but now that I have five family members, several organizations, and many friends who are effected by my decisions, I need to upgrade to a different system.

The problem is I have NO IDEA how. Really, no idea. The things that were suggested at the class were a foreign language to me. I don’t know if I am a lost cause or not, but I am going to proceed forth with the belief that I am most certainly not a lost cause and I can learn how to speak and think in a way that will lead to system development. I will keep you updated on any progress I make.

Surely there is someone else out there that specializes in my third system up above? If so, has anything worked for you to change it?

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  1. jessica

    Yes. But you already knew that, and you’ve already read about my HabitHacker + HomeRoutines solutions. And couponing has helped me shop regularly and meal plan (sorta). Google Calendar helps me too, I program it to yell at me about all kinds of things, reminders for things I forget or am always late for.

  2. I have to make a concerted effort to NOT keep things in my head. A blank, write-it-down-with-pencil calendar saves my bacon, plus the habit of a weekly sit-down with everyone, and a nightly five-minute look at the upcoming day with at least my spouse. It seems like that keeps my brain more clear and focused.

    I’m lousy at any type of “this hour we do X, next hour we do Y” kind of schedule, but I do fine with small routines, like a three-to-five task “getting up routine” or “going to bed routine”, with heavy reliance on my kids participating fully.

    I’m definitely a work in progress. :)

    • jessica

      Ooh yes. A notebook by my bed allows me to shut my brain UP so I can get to sleep.

  3. Tasha

    You have a system for decorating your home with Christmas books, a system for starting early on plans for Green Canyon, for packing and preparing food for Green Canyon, a system for preparing for and going to Green River Lakes each year, and you have a great planner which you designed yourself. You are just feeling the need for more systems, and that is the first step! I have been thinking a lot about the class, too, especially her belief that it doesn’t take a huge amount of self-control, if the system is set up correctly, then the payoff is worth it, and you’ll want to continue with the system. I’m not sure about that. It seems hard to make myself follow many of my systems. So maybe they’re not set up right.

    • tracy

      Tasha, you are right about your first one…I DO have a system for Christmas books! Yippee! One more system in place in my life. The rest of the ones you mentioned are NOT systems…they fall into the do-everything-at-the-last-minute system, which I REALLY don’t think can be called a system since there is no order or pattern to it!

      It is incredibly hard for me to do anything the same way more than once or twice…maybe my payoff of feeling spontaneous is bigger than my desire for a well-run life and if so, maybe I am doomed?