Sunday, May 21, 2017

The (Unexpected) Ritual of My Daily Do List

True Confession: I have a complicated history with To Do lists.

I have tried all kinds.

I've used pre-designed To Do lists. They didn't fit my fluid, artsy, distractible personality.

I've custom-designed countless To Do templates on my computer over the years. They would always get lost and neglected in a notebook somewhere.

I've used excellent apps like ToodleDo and gTasks for years. I like their alarms and the ability to categorize, prioritize, and reschedule tasks. And gTasks pulls in events from Google Calendar, which is cool. But I found myself resisting and then ignoring them. 

But now... I've got something that actually works for me.

It's uniquely mine. It evolved over a period of months. Its focus and line items reflect what is important to me, which I described in Seven Gifts and Visions and Values.

Here's the story.

Like I said, I have been using gTasks for a long time. Unfortunately, it doesn't provide a lasting record of what I actually did on a certain day.

So in February, I gradually embraced the habit of sitting down each night (see The Art and Soul of My Blue Haven) to write down what I had done: an "I Already Did It" list. It gave me a satisfying feeling of accomplishment. I realized later that it was a kind of bullet journal, a technique that has become quite popular recently.

Well, then I decided to start jotting (at the bottom of my "Did It" list) a short list of things I needed to remember for the next day. Which, when I thought about it, is a kind of To Do list.  So then I decided to flip this, and start the page with the list of what I needed to do the next day at the top. Then I could check it off as I actually did the things, adding whatever else I did that day at the bottom.

And then I decided that I needed a daily habit tracker to make sure I was doing certain things every day. For example, as a diabetic, I need to exercise, keep a food log, take my medicine, and check my glucose levels. Before bed, I need to shut down the house for the night, as well as do some self-care tasks.

I didn't want to handwrite those every day, so I decided to take another crack at creating a To Do template.

I wanted something that gave me flexibility with certain tasks like organizing. I wanted to be reminded to organize something every day, but then be able to write down exactly what I was organizing.

I wanted space to write down stuff that didn't fit into a regular category.

I wanted my list in basic chronological order, to give a sort of sequence to the routines/rituals I have embraced for morning and evening.

So I created a hybrid form: part habit tracker, part task reminder, part free-form journal. I tried it out. I tweaked it. I tried it some more. I tweaked it some more. I'm using it every day, and I'm sure I'll tweak it even more as my needs change.

The thing is, I got in the habit of working with a list every evening and morning and sporadically throughout the day. That's what made it work, even before I had the list itself fully functional. It works because I love it, and I want to do it, and it makes me happy to be more productive, and I'm on a roll that I don't want to stop.

Ta da! Here it is!

Here is a filled-in list for Wednesday, when I was home most of the day, had pretty good energy, and was able to get a lot of different things done. My daughter was sick for a few days, so I didn't need to home school her. Thursday (when I was a little sick and very tired, but still able to get some low key stuff done) and Friday (when I was driving all over town with various teenagers from one event or appointment to the next) were quite different from Wednesday, but all three days were directed and curated by the same flexible Daily Do List format. Works for me!

A few other notes...
  • I put these Daily Do forms in the front section of my notebook, not behind a tabbed divider. I leave the notebook open on the desk I use for my morning and evening planning ritual. I have a Food Log and space for Health Notes on the back side.
  • I keep my glucose monitor, hand weights, medicines, Bible, and other necessary materials within easy reach of the same desk, so I can do them and then record them.
  • I have other custom designed forms in various tabbed sections of the same notebook. I glean information from these for filling out the Daily Do forms. For example, I have a list of home projects I want to complete in the near future. I can look at that and decide when to schedule them.
  • I do not usually bring my notebook or my Daily Do page on errands. I don't want to risk loss or damage. If necessary, I will snap a photo of the current page on my phone for reference while I'm gone. Or I will enter an errand sequence or short shopping list in a simple note on my phone. If I must bring paper along, I put it on a pretty clipboard.
  • It's a fun game for me to see how well I can check it all off. I might even put a snazzy star by something that was a substantial project completed. Yay me! I circle the checkoff boxes of key items that must be done. Or I put an arrow by a task I am postponing until another day, or an X through it if I'm not going to do it at all.
  • It still use my Clock and Calendar apps on my phone, with alarms to remind me of events, appointments, pill times, wake up times, and bedtime. I have Attention Deficit Disorder, so this is a must. It's also necessary since I don't have my notebook with me all the time when I'm out and about. I also like that I can enter a location in the Calendar app, and then access Google Maps directly from that.
  • I don't feel like I have to do something in every category every day.
  • I print a week's worth at a time, so if I know I want to do something on a particular day in the near future, I can go ahead and jot it in.
  • When I'm done with one day's page, I move it to the back of the section, so the next day is on top.
  • I designed all of my forms in Google Docs. I imported the check box bullet. I use the columns function to fit more on the page. 
  • The AirPrint feature doesn't work from my laptop, but I have both the Docs app and AirPrint on my phone so I can print forms without taking my laptop into the room where the printer is.
  • What is "Laundry Landing" in my evening section, pray tell? Glad you asked! That'll be in an upcoming blog post.
Here's another post that might help!

You can do it!

Grace and peace,


Monday, May 15, 2017

The Art and Soul of My Blue Haven

Welcome to the newest installment of the My Blue Haven series. My Blue Haven is my affectionate name for my bedroom, which has undergone multiple transformations over the past few years as I have found out more of what works for my fluid, poetic, ADD personality.

I have completely rearranged and reorganized the room since I wrote Strength in My Blue Haven back in January. It may be hard to believe, but I now have three desks in my room, and I use them all for different things.

My Original Desk

You may have seen this desk on the blog before. Still the central spot for my office supplies, it also has its own library hutch on top. I mainly use this one for doing logistical work and on-line writing with my laptop computer. The books are food for my soul. And the art? I try to add little crafty touches here and there. I painted that wall shelf to the right, and the vintage chair to the left. I hand-mixed the colors so the chair and shelf would match the room and each other.
On this wall shelf, I display dainty things that my loved ones and I have collected from our travels. Always a little beauty for the eyes and soul.
I bought this frosted glass jar at a craft store and added the blue with a permanent marker. It holds miscellaneous small items on my desk.

My Morning and Evening Desk

This is where I start and end my day, sitting with my notebooks every morning and evening. I'll have to write about that in a separate post, but this daily ritual has been transformative, not only for my emotional health but for my productivity. 

The bottom ledge says, "Fill your soul with all good things and let the beauty pour forth."  Those are the words I live by in My Blue Haven.

I crafted the blue desk by sanding, dyeing, and wood burning a 2' x 3' pine board, and mounting it on the base from this smaller rolling table that can be adjusted to tilt or raise at the turn of a knob. You can see that whole process here: First Attempts at Furniture Restoration

I moved the chair from across the room to improve the traffic flow. It's the most comfortable spot for reading, journaling, chatting, and just sitting to relax. Later, I brought in the wooden bench and organizer that is on top of it. The bench, which had been in our front hall, serves as a divider to create a cozy nook, as well as a place to keep vital daily supplies (like my glucose monitor and purse) close at hand. I'll write more on the logistics of this area later, too.

My original reason for making the table bigger was so that I could open both my thinking/writing notebook and my new large print study Bible side to side. 

I also use this blue table for tidy artwork, like drawing and calligraphy.

My Art Desk

I am an artist at heart. I don't sell my work (yet, but maybe in the future?), but I love to create for myself and my loved ones. I don't want to mess up my blue desk with paint, dye, or glue, so I cleared out a corner (moved my elliptical exercise machine to another room) and brought in a small white laminate desk. I use the tri-fold display board to protect the wall and a piece of foam board to protect the desktop. When the foam board gets messy enough, I replace it with a new one. I buy them at the dollar store and always keep a few on hand. When I'm not doing artwork, I put away all the supplies and the foam board. 

Where do I store my supplies? I have a huge bookcase that is my pride-and-joy organizing project! Most of my art supplies had been stuffed in a spare dresser in my walk-in closet. The drawers were so crammed that I could barely open them. It was all a muddled mess, so I decided on drastic action. First, I moved hundreds of books from this bookcase to sell, give away, or store elsewhere. I bought bins at the dollar store and filled them with art supplies that I had sorted into categories. Wood burning. Wood dyeing. Furniture restoration. Acrylic and gouache painting. Chalk pastels. Art markers for sketching and calligraphy. Laces and trims. Crochet. Stencils. Tie dye. Scrapbooking. And, when I get around to learning it, stained glass from the supplies I inherited from my artistic mother. I also have art and craft instruction books, as well as travel books for creative inspiration, on one of the lower shelves. 

So that's the story of the three desks (and the shelves that love them) that call forth the "art and soul" of My Blue Haven. I'll just leave you now with these.

Other My Blue Haven posts:

Strength in My Blue Haven
A Big Makeover for My Blue Haven
Spring Cleaning and Creating in My Blue Haven
My Blue Haven for the New Year
My Blue Haven
More Beauty for My Blue Haven

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Strength in My Blue Haven (One Word)

"So what is your word for 2017? Inquiring minds want to know."

My sister Barb asked me this via FB message a few weeks ago. I hadn't thought about a "one word" for the new year yet, so we joked around a bit about it. Bacon?

Then she wrote, "I've had 'Great is Thy Faithfulness' running through my head this morning and I'm stuck on one word. I guess I could just Google the lyrics. I've got 'something for today and bright hope for tomorrow.'"

That was a no-brainer fill-in-the-blank question for me since I used to sing the hymn as a lullaby for my children and still sing it to myself. 

I replied with the missing word: "Strength. That's my 2017 word. Thank you."

So I had my word, but why did she want to know it?

A felted bowl. She was making me a felted bowl for Christmas, and wanted to know what words to embroider onto it. So, STRENGTH for today and bright HOPE for tomorrow. (It's a reversible bowl.) I should note here that my sister is pretty much housebound with chronic migraines (pretty much every day for a decade). She tenaciously knits through the pain.

And there it is now, on my desk.

Do you see it there on the shelf above my computer?

So that was the start of my "one word" for the year.

Here's what came next:

I've had the frame for a while. Yesterday I decided to look up eleven Scripture verses about strength and print them out on blue paper in a pretty font. Here's one.

Next? A step stool. I've been learning how to use a wood burning tool (made a bunch of Christmas presents!), and I finally found the right kind of wood dyes. I bought the stool and more dye colors and other cool stuff with a Michael's Crafts gift card that three of my adult children gave me for Christmas. 

I bought the electric sander at Walmart today for less than $15. It made the stool much smoother than I could have done by hand, and much faster. Easier on the arthritis, too. Speaking of power tools, last month I bought a cordless screwdriver and drill combo to fix stuff around the house. I'm learning bit by bit, strengthening my practical skills and my confidence!

This is an electric wood burning tool from Jo-Ann Crafts. I stenciled the letters in pencil first.

The stool is actually more of a deep turquoise color. I couldn't get the shade to come out right in the photo.

I store the wood dyes along with my paints and brushes (that my kids may NOT borrow!) in a flip top box in my closet. I have a whole stash of art and craft supplies in there!

My other big creative endeavor this past month was creating photo calendars on-line with Snapfish to give to some of my family members. It even has all of the birth dates and anniversaries printed in it. The theme? I took an amazing eleven day trip to Switzerland and France with of my daughters in October. We went to Geneva, Lauterbrunnen in the Alps, and Paris! I chose several photos for each page.

This is one of my Geneva pages.

While in Geneva, I had wanted to buy a Huguenot cross in honor of my French Protestant refugee ancestors, Andre and Suzanne Lamoureux. They showed great spiritual strength through their compassion and courage as they smuggled persecuted Huguenots out of France. I found some of the crosses at the Reformation museum in Geneva, but they didn't take the debit card I had on hand that day. Another adult daughter ordered this cloisonne one for my Christmas present instead. I love it! It didn't come with a chain, so I'm using white ribbon from my craft supply stash. The dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, the source of spiritual strength.

I bought the wood cube with prayers in French at Basilique de Sacré-Cœur in Paris. There's a prayer on each of the six sides. Here's one on strength... 

According to the translation on my phone, it means, "Strengthen me, Holy Spirit, that I may keep what is holy." Such a lovely prayer for my strength quest!

My eleven year old daughter made this encouraging sign for my Christmas present.

It's right next to my dish of word stones on a book shelf. Yes, I have a STRENGTH stone. And it's blue. Of course.

One of my goals is to build physical strength. I don't know how I could have done so much walking and climbing in Europe if I hadn't worked out on the elliptical machine I got for free from a neighbor. I should have done it much more often! Now I need to get back in the groove again. (The curtain is actually a flat sheet from the turquoise sheet sets I finally found at Walmart to match the comforter.)

And spiritual strength. I need a core of courage and fortitude. I haven't exactly been ultra faithful at daily Bible reading lately. So here's what I'm doing to get back on track there. 

I chose a plan to read through the New Testament this year, and put the bookmarks in my Bible. Each night, I am putting my Bible on this small tilting desk in front of my recliner, opened to the passage for the next morning. I also put a journal there for my study notes or verses I want to copy. And I put a small "to do" list pad there. I'll get to that in a minute.

Verses on strength in my journal from several days ago...

Here's my To Do list page. Yes, I still use the gTasks app on my phone, and it beeps at me at strategic times. However, I find that I also need a hand written list of top priority tasks specific to just that day.

I have two new devotional books. One is Savor, a daily book by Shauna Niequist, and the other is Earth Psalms, a weekly photographic book by Francine Rivers.

I opened to the first devotional in Earth Psalms, and what did I see? That lovely old phrase: "Great is his faithfulness"!

God is faithful. He makes me bold and gives me strength in my soul.

Strength in my blue haven, and wherever else I go.

I know this has been a really LONG blog post, but I've got some related links (some of them from my other blogs) to share!

Blue Haven:
Europe Travel Photos:
For the Spirit:
Happy New Year, friends!

Virginia Knowles

P.S. Here are all of the verses from my STRENGTH frame.

The joy of the Lord  is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10

The Lord my God is my strength and my song. Isaiah 12:2

Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. Isaiah 40:31

I can do all things through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

In quietness and trust is your strength. Isaiah 30:15

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.  Psalm 84:5

The Lord is my strength and my shield. My heart trusts in him and he helps me. Psalm 28:7

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5

She is clothed with strength and dignity. She can laugh at the days to come. Proverbs 31:25

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being. Ephesians 3:16

May the Lord encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17