tackling the paperwork mountain…

I am not used to working Thursdays now so it was a bit of a long week for me last week waiting until Friday for a day off work.  Due to the Birmingham visit on Tuesday  I had to work on Thursday which has recently become my cleaning day – so no cleaning done.  Dilemma then when I woke up on Friday morning – do I clean today instead or do the paperwork that is normally designated for Fridays.


The paperwork won!

It is a sit down job and I was quite tired by Friday morning so cleaning seemed far too energetic and I had a ‘ladies who lunch’ date with my friend which I knew would break up part of the day.

Surprisingly my desk was reasonably tidy and I got stuck in.  First job was to write a to do list – I now use Todoist as I can’t install Microsoft works on the Mac – it was the closest program to the one I had but not as good and I refuse to pay to upgrade to the premium service.  The list seemed never-ending in fact so long that even if I retired tomorrow I feel sure I would not get to the end.

So then I did a shorter version to capture the really urgent tasks but it still looks a bit daunting.

Having assembled a frightening list I then made a note of any upcoming appointments and put reminders in my diary.  I also checked the September birthdays and made a mental note to see if I can find suitable cards from my supply to save me buying any more.  I have more than enough blank cards in my craft cupboard and just need to find some time to make some and this would be a good economy as I spend far too much on cards over a year.

Then it was down to bill paying – the plumber for the recent radiator leak (yes I know more water problems),  the roofer (who has done a small repair for us to prevent a future leak) and Yorkshire Water for our water bill (it seems a little ironic that we have to pay so much for water when we seem to attract more than our fair share of free water into our lives in the form of leaks and floods!).

Whilst online transferring the payments I did a quick check of our bank statements to assess our situation.  We have of course spent quite a bit on paint and new furniture recently for the bedroom we have just decorated – I didn’t set a budget as such but I always know when something is more than we should be spending.  The wardrobes were our dearest item and then the drawers and the small bookcase but the two blinds were very reasonable at £16 and we made the wardrobe door handles.  The duvet cover with pillowslips only came as a pack of two at £32 making them £16 each, the fleecy throw was £4 and a few picture frames at £3 or £4 each.  Everything else we already had.

Within our usual day-to-day spending there is always room to economise more.  The dearest item by far this week was the petrol we bought for the journey to Birmingham.  My neighbour has recently been sent three Sainsbury’s 12p off petrol coupons,  I go there every week and they have not sent me or OH any – so feeling a trifle miffed about that.

I am however still taking packed lunches to work so saving a good £10 a week there even allowing for the extra food on the weekly shopping bill.  I have a £20 gift token for Boots so I will wait until there are offers on the brands I use or put it towards a new hairdryer – mine stopped working one day recently, the same week as the iron died on me!

We have just changed gas providers from Npower to EDF for a cheaper deal – the electricity is already on a reasonable fixed rate and with our BT line we pay up front for the year which is cheaper and try not to go over the hour with our calls which are free for the first 60 minutes – difficult when you have 2 daughters, a mother and a sister (and not forgetting my brother) who all like a long chat.  I will just have to start keeping the timer by the phone and cut them off after 55 minutes!

As I can’t reduce most of the bills any further I can only look to the housekeeping and transport costs – food, petrol, cleaning and toiletries to make more savings.


Over the rest of the weekend I extended sorting the paperwork to a mammoth session of decluttering and streamlining the files in the office.  I am not sure where the mountain of paper came from to throw out but the files are so much lighter now.  There is far too much paper to shred – I can’t put it in the recycle bin as too much sensitive information so we will take it on holiday with us to Scotland and have a bonfire at the cottage.


So after my sorting out session everything is in order and up to date,  I even managed to set up the log in account for my new workplace pension.  We have always preferred the ethical funds for OH’s pension where we have been given a choice and it has performed well over the years so I was pleased to find I could choose an ethical one with our workplace pension provider.  I am not sure I will accrue very much between now and retirement but I won’t be refusing the ‘free’ money paid in by my employer and the government as every little helps!

My next job is my heap (I exaggerate not here) of magazine cuttings – I am not sure why I find such a pleasure in hoarding articles and pictures torn from magazines.  I spend time neatly filing them into folders – all subjects – gardening, craft, health, decorating ideas, recipes etc but now I have a whole shelf full of files dedicated to magazine cuttings plus the heap waiting to be filed.

I realise I have a problem and as an example of how chronic my addiction is I have articles on health issues I don’t even suffer with…well not yet anyway!   I have more diets than I could possibly try out and more craft ideas than I would even want to attempt – after all why would I want to crotchet a hot water bottle cover really when I can’t even crotchet!  In my perfect life I might consider it but when it takes me all my time to go to work, shop, cook and clean a crotchet hot water bottle cover is probably on the end of my do to list.  (Just checking I did add this on to the end of my list!)

So I am resolving to be ruthless – my OH is not convinced – he knows me and my cuttings well!  Watch this space…







Much ado about nothing in particular…

“Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.”
–  William Shakespeare 

This is the weekend for me that feels like the close to the summer and after the holiday everyone prepares to go back to school and back to work – holidays over we look ahead to the next season and the time spent gathering in before the pre-Christmas frenzy begins.  How soon I wonder will we see Christmas cards displayed in the shops?

It has been a really hard week at work this week and I have had to work over for two nights leaving me both tired and behind with a few household jobs.  I am ready for a little rest now over the holiday – we will be leaving for Scotland and it will be nice to get away from the hustle and bustle for a few days.

Before we go I need to take stock of what tasks I have to do – my Master task list for August was virtually a roll over of the tasks that didn’t get done in July.  Sometimes it is those little errands that keep rolling over and I find my self analysing why.  Maybe I need to structure or write my lists in a different way.  I have been coming back to the idea of ‘Do one thing’ and in fact if I did just one task a day I would have done 365 by the end of the year.  But I know that in reality I do more than one task a day – there are plenty that are not written on my list and some that are there just in case I have some spare time which never seems to happen – hence the constant roll overs.

My list this week went like this

  • Card and present to buy and give to friend at work
  • Recharge camera battery
  • Write cheque for C******** (who helps occasionally in our Scottish garden) and put in post
  • Pay cheque into Mum in laws bank
  • Contact C****** about helping to remove the hedge at the cottage and arrange a date
  • Reply to my friends email update
  • Take mum in laws watch for repair
  • Post electrol roll form
  • Email electricity reading to Scottish Power
  • Look for something to buy with Tesco coupons that have double value until August 29th- (I have £28 – I can exchange £25 x 2 =£50 in any department but food).
  • Buy mascara from boots No 7
  • Buy Jason Thin to Thick hair styling spray from health food shop
  • Buy small hair mousse (for exceptional bad hair days!)
  • Write out a supplement chart to keep in kitchen to remind me to take my vitamins and probiotics.

Nothing too taxing there you might say – probably 30 minutes to an hour and I would have it all done – yes I would have agreed with this but read on… this is what actually happened…

How did I do?

   I bought the card and present after two days of searching after work for a suitable gift only to find that another of my colleagues is celebrating her 40th this weekend – so a quick dash across to Sainsbury’s tonight to choose another card and a few flowers.  Double trip was a bit time-consuming I could should have been more prepared.  Just as a note Clintons Cards have now got a rewards card scheme – buy 10 cards get one free – they punch your card with a hole each purchase – but what, I ask Clintons, if you are less than honest is to stop you punching your own hole on these cards??? (If you have seen them you will know what I mean)

   I will recharge the battery tonight – because I really cannot put off this very quick little task off any longer!

   I wrote and posted the cheque tonight after work but it really should have gone last week.  Every time I thought about it I didn’t have my cheque book with me or the amount to pay and it is something I could should have prepared the night before.

   Pay cheque into mum in law’s bank – I had only just paid one in last week when this one arrived in the post at the weekend so I did this on Tuesday after work only to get home and find that another one had arrived.  That one is still waiting but had they all come together it would save a bit of time as the queue is always out of the door with often only two people serving.

   Delegated – my helpful hubby arranged for the friend to help with the hedge so the tick is really his.

X   Reply to my friends email – this will require a good half an hour as I haven’t written for a while and I have heaps of news – so I keep putting it off.  I need to set aside some time one night after work or encourage her to join Facebook!

X   I have taken the watch to work with me everyday this week but it is one of those specialist shops that has very short opening hours and still closes one day a week. Have not managed to catch it open this week.

   Electrol Roll form posted – this was easy – sign the form – put in prepaid envelope – drop in box – if all life was so easy!

X   Email meter reading – this is always a job I procrastinate over mainly because we have two accounts – one for the cottage and one for home and I never know which one they want as they go by an account number and not the property. I must type out the account numbers and keep them handy in my Filofax.

Pending –  Tesco coupons – £50 is a nice sum of money but what do I need – Don’t they know I am trying to downsize.  We will be passing through a 24 hour Tesco in Scotland tomorrow night at about eleven o’clock – but who can make a decision at that time of night!   I will try to look online first if time allows.

X   Never got to Boots for the mascara or hair mousse – I probably have a coupon too for No7

X   I tried to buy the Jason hair styling spray – I went to the shop twice and it is still out of stock.  I will buy this in bulk next time and replace when I get down to the last one then it won’t be so urgent and I won’t have to make a special trip across town.

I have remembered my supplements each day but I do need a prompt on the kitchen cabinet door – but haven’t done the list yet

These are all just simple tasks – no major project items here – and yet it has taken all week to do only a few tasks and some of them required me to go back and forth like doing the job twice.

One of the questions I keep asking myself is…’do my lists reflect someone who is trying to live a simpler life’?… because to me my life seems to get increasingly busier and my lists longer.  I have to stand in endless queues, make more than one trip because of low stocks in the shops and spend more hours than I care to choosing birthday cards and presents for people who already have everything or like me are trying to downsize their stuff.  I would like more time to make my own cards and individual gifts but at the moment I seem to end up dashing to Sainsburys or Clintons for something very mediocre.

That is the end of my moan – I did say it was much ado about nothing and I am now going to forget all about my lists and tasks and jobs and go where the pace is much more relaxed for a few days and just stare at the sea.  Have a great weekend. let me know what your plans are it is always a pleasure to hear from you.


Regaining ORDER – my achievements for March

The Task List

Another productive month for my task list but it is now becoming noticeable that there are certain sections where I have accomplished all the tasks and others where the same tasks have been rolled on from month to month.  I am sure you all know what I mean those tasks that we do not like doing or seem too complicated or large to even begin.

I don’t seem to have a problem completing my most Urgent Tasks and current major project (this month was my sister’s wedding) as the urgency keeps the pressure on me to get them done.  I can even do most of the Finance and Paperwork tasks and manage to deal with all the birthdays and writing one or two letters but the sections that have not been dealt with very well are Household and Maintenance Tasks and Health and Self.

One reason for this I think is that the urgent tasks are made up of very simple quick to do tasks such as

  • Pick up new Tool for Dyson cleaner from Comet
  • Email Lisa

and similar for Finance and Paperwork tasks –

  • Close Ing Direct Account
  • Make a mortgage overpayment online.

However when it comes to the Household and Maintenance section although I quickly managed the first task

  • Wash and store Dyson filter

my list changes into bigger projects or tasks that I need to delegate to my man such as

  • Complete the electric wiring to TV in the Dining Room (probably a days work that involves taking up floorboards in the room above!)
  • Run Computer back-up (I have no idea how to do this one)

and I still need to break down projects into simple tasks or mini targets so that instead of my task being

  • Devise a Healthy eating plan

I should rearrange this into easier simple steps

  • Choose one new healthy recipe to cook this week
  • Buy salad items on Saturday to take to work for lunches Mon-Thur
  • Take a Vitamin D capsule each morning with breakfast

etc etc…

On the plus side I have routinely been taking my supplements and made an appointment with a podiatrist but the Yoga exercises are still waiting to happen and will be delayed at present until I get back into some kind of routine and can leave work at my usual time of 4pm instead of working over.

The Big Clean

This has stopped dead.  With my return to work then a wedding and a two-week break Spring cleaning has ground to a halt.  What is left of April will be used more for clearing than cleaning I expect.

I did get the bags to the charity shop which has created some space and of course I found exactly the right size boxes to store my extra wine glasses in but I have still to wash and polish my car.  At least sat inside the car I don’t have to look at the dirt on the outside!

Taking Stock

I am still using up stocks of items in my cupboards.  I have found a use for all that hand cream – I am now using it on my feet and surprisingly it works very well –  I can recommend it.

The fruit in the freezer is going down but I could do better if I could remember to get it out the night before to defrost ready to put on my yoghurt at breakfast.

Counting the Pennies

I am disappointed with my management of our finances this month.  I have not kept a grip on my spending and having a two-week holiday and a weekend away in a hotel for the wedding certainly ate into the bank balance.  I can see I need a good talking to again!  I have avoided the magazines and only bought two extra whilst on holiday which is very good for me.  Well actually I did buy two craft magazines as well  – one came with an assortment of pre-printed bits and pieces to assemble your own Easter cards – but I really don’t think I am the right person for this type of card crafting – as hard as I tried putting the pieces together in different ways I really didn’t like any of the cards I made and will probably pass this magazine and all the bits on to my friends mum who makes a better job.  The other magazine had a free cute bunny stamp and although this made quite a simple card I much preferred it.

Display of Lindt chocolate bunnies

On Easter Sunday my man gave me a cute gold foil covered chocolate Lindt bunny which had a red ribbon with a tiny jingle bell around its neck.  Of course being vegetarian there is no way I can eat even a chocolate bunny – so I will keep it until it has gone way passed the eat by date and then I might just have to bury it in the garden as one might with a pet bunny that has died!!

You will all be pleased to know that finally I closed down the Ing Direct account by telephone and it was not too difficult although the promised final statement has yet to drop through my door before I can archive this file and put the matter to rest.  So where is it Ing Direct…I am still waiting?

My stumbling blocks

Still my stumbling block is the fact that we have so many busy weekends –  a mixture of both planned and unexpected events that afterwards we are thrown into chaos once more.  Before we set off for our Easter break I had the washing and ironing up to date, my work clothes washed and ready for our return and I had hoovered the carpets, emptied the bins  and cleaned the basin and toilets  but as soon as we arrived back we have a mountain of washing and ironing another pile of paperwork and still some bags to unpack.  Hopefully this weekend I will sort the mess out again.

So that was March I may not feel any further forward in my quest for Order – but I have learnt that I cannot function without my Task Lists and that if I work on making my difficult tasks / projects simpler by breaking them down into smaller tasks I might even get some of the roll over ones completed and off list.  I have also learnt that focusing on a small routine habit becomes automatic and has big results.

List I forget – the endless To Do’s

I have been giving a great deal of thought to my constant problem of ending up back in chaos and have come to the conclusion that one of the reasons is not having fool-proof simple systems in place for every area of my life and adhering to them.  A simple system for getting things done and remembering what needs doing is one of the hardest to create.  Getting things done is like keeping all the plates spinning at once and just as doing the laundry is a constant and ongoing process it is the same with tasks – as soon as one task is crossed off the list there will be another one to add-on.

I often find that I put far too much on my daily list and I need to limit myself to 5 items to make sure I get them all done.  This will require making skilful decisions about what is a priority and what can be done tomorrow or another day – maybe not one of my strong points.

My list yesterday had 8 items and I only completed 2 of them.  This suggests that either the two tasks I did complete took much longer than I thought they would because they were more of a project than a task or that I did things that were not strictly on my list.  Well the truth is a bit of both.

I made 3 cards a task which was on the list – a Valentines, a birthday and an anniversary but as I found out this was really an afternoon’s project rather than a task.  A point to bear in mind – always identify what is a task and what is a project.  A task is a single activity a project is a collection of tasks.  During the morning I became sidetracked (another of my weaknesses) into writing and answering numerous emails that were not on my list for the day.  I also had to enter some additional financial transactions before I could complete my task of printing the account balances for the month.

However, on the good side I feel I have developed a system that I am happy with for recording all the items I need to do.  It has been a process of continual change over the last few months and will probably be subject to a few more minor changes as I go along.  So how do I cope with all those endless To Do’s?

Firstly, I have a section in my planner for a  Master Task List where I record everything that I need to do – it is a list I compile in Microsoft Office Word so that I can delete the completed tasks each month and then copy over the remaining to the next month.

I record my tasks in sections with headings such as ‘most urgent tasks’, ‘financial and paperwork tasks’, ‘cards and letters to send’ ,household tasks’,  ‘health and self’ and shopping items’ and so on.  The headings may vary from time to time depending on what I am doing – so for instance if I am going to an event such as a wedding I would add in a new section of tasks to be done.

Everything I need to do is recorded here with space at the end to add new tasks that come up during the month.  At the beginning of each week I then compile a list of tasks that I need to do for the week from my master list.  I do this in Microsoft Tasks – Projects – a useful  programme that allows me to add a new main task with sub-tasks below.  Each evening I then prepare a To Do Today list ready for the next day and try to limit myself to only 5 or 6 main tasks.  Again I do this in the Microsoft Tasks programme.  I can then print this at A5 size and put it into my planner alongside the weekly one or carry it with me in my handbag when I go to work.

This system seems to work well for me – I just need to be more careful that I don’t put down more tasks than I can easily accomplish in a day and become more skilful at identifying what is essentially a project that needs breaking down into smaller easier tasks.

This month I have been particularly focused on getting my finances in order and the office  / craft room organised and so far I have managed to complete about two-thirds of the tasks on my list for the month.  I reckon this deserves a treat – perhaps a trip to one of my favourite stores like Muji.  Normally I might have treated myself to a new book or magazine but I have been very good so far this month and managed to walk past all temptation.

Incidentally for a humorous take on To Do Lists I recommend that you read the book Mike Gayle has written –  http://www.mikegayle.co.uk