Puttering Effectively

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I am a confirmed putterer. I come by it honestly, I can point to both parents and grandparents who putter. For years I’ve tried to be one of those diligent people who work at something until it is finished, but lately I’ve started to think that puttering is fine as long as I do it effectively.

In some ways puttering is actually a superior method for this season of my life. If the children are awake the chances that I will be interrupted within 15 minutes of starting a project are high, so if I design my housework and projects to be done in fifteen minutes increments I actually get a lot more done.

The hard part is making sure that I know what comes next, without having to decide. If I get distracted by the children and can’t quickly get back to what I was doing my time just disappears. I have found though that if I can work with my “putter” I can do the things I like with a much lower stress level than if I were trying to spend an hour cleaning the house etc.

Here are some of the things I do in order to putter effectively:

  1. Have a routine and a schedule that includes time for planning. My routine includes time for planning on Sunday afternoon while everyone else naps. I have a form for planning each day and I fill it out with the aid of a calendar and my weekly cleaning list. Then on Monday when we start chores I know exactly what each of us is supposed to do and can assign things or do them myself to fit the available time.
  2. Be OK with the schedule not being followed exactly but try to stick to the main points. Lately the children have been sleeping a bit later and this sometimes puts us behind with regard to the schedule. I try not to worry too much. For one thing we get a “reset” at lunch because we always eat at noon if we’re home and can then follow the schedule from there. Sometimes I just push everything back half an hour sometimes I shorten our chore time. The schedule is a guide and not an absolute.
  3. Keep a short “To Do List”. I try to have no more than ten things on the list and I really prefer to have eight. A shorter list makes accomplishing everything on it doable and feeling like you’ve accomplished something is important.
  4. Include everything that you intend to get done on the list. I used to leave off blogging, school planning and other projects I work on during nap/quiet-time. After all these things weren’t “really” work! The truth is that they are and they are time consuming. Putting them on the list means I have a better sense of how well I am using (or not using) my time.
  5. Take a good look at last week’s schedule and lists before making this week’s. Often I find that I moved something from one day to another a couple of times (and then I need to know why) or that we are consistently finishing chores half an hour late on the day the children are supposed to clean their room. When I find these things I know I need to train more or readjust the schedule and routine.
  6. Don’t be afraid to readjust, but stick with a new routine or schedule for three or four weeks before you do. The problem you are seeing may work itself out once the routine and schedule are not new anymore.
  7. Napping makes a big impact on your schedule so plan that time. We have two nap-times around here since W is still taking a morning nap. We use the first one as our school time and the second one is quiet time for the children and I use that as project and planning time. It is really easy to sit down and relax during those times and discover an hour later that the quiet time is nearly gone and I’ve done nothing.
  8. During times when the children are playing and you are working be specific about what you are planning to do. On our schedule the children have “free play” time from 10:00-11:30 am and I write on my part of the schedule “Do three things off of the list.” Writing down how many things I’m going to do means I don’t have to think about what to do next when I’ve completed the first, or the second and completion of the third is followed by making lunch.
  9. Throughout the day have five minutes of clean-up. I say to the children “OK 30 second cleanup. F you get the blocks, Su you get the books. Ready, set, go!”? They pick up frantically for 30 seconds, then we clean up something else for 45 seconds or whatever until we are either done or the five minutes are up. They think it’s a fun game and the house looks tidier.
  10. Above all don’t stress. If puttering is your work style then putter away until you have completed everything you wanted to accomplish.

Free Download: A pdf with a blank copy of my daily to do form and one that I have filled out for an example. Daily To Do Planner (497 downloads)

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