How To Stay Organized, Even When Your Life is Chaos

July 14, 2016

I’m typing this as I near the half way point for my overnight shift at the Children’s Hospital. In this first month of residency, I will have worked 24/28 days, slept in my own bed 2 nights, and lived out of a suitcase traveling to and from home and the cities for work. On the plus side, I’ve perfected packing in a pinch and, miraculously, I’ve remembered my toothbrush and my razor each time I’ve gone from one place to the next and so far haven’t lost anything. Needless to say, even with the chaos that is life as a resident, this month has been a bit more chaotic than most. My irregular schedule has made organization paramount, mostly for my own sanity, but also for Andrew’s and our families.

In full disclosure, I’ve always been a bit of a organization-freak. As a little girl, I would volunteer to organize my mom’s pantry and always found such joy when I was finished and the cans were properly stacked and organized by food, the cereal boxes were organized by height and which were the best (obviously, Cinnamon Toast Crunch), etc. While my mother would attest that my room was clearly lacking in organization while I was in high school, and my cleanliness definitely decreases exponentially as I get busier, I have learned a few tricks of the trade over the last few years that have helped us to say sane and on the same page, generally.

So without any further rambling (which, I apologize, I tend to do when I’m sleepy), here are my top tips for staying organized, arranged by category for your ease. You’re welcome

Schedules:

  • Keep a binder: I started doing this recently and it has been a huge help. It’s my one stop shop, combining everything below into one space. I use a template from Etsy, which I absolutely love. Each day has a large space where I keep track of appointments, my work schedule, vacations, dates, birthdays, etc. I like to have something I can make long term plans in. I also make to-do-lists for each day. I love having something tangible and easy to reach for. Andrew has access to it too, so he can update it as well so we don’t forget anything. Having everything in one place is super helpful. You could argue that a regular agenda would work just as well, and it does, but I like the extra space that an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet provides.
  • Go digital: Pretty much every phone/ tablet comes with a calendar. I have used Apple’s in the past as it will sync between all of my devices which is nifty. However, I started using Google calendar recently and I love it. It’s more descriptive, and I have shared it with Andrew so he can see my work schedule, any plans we have, and add in items of his own. I love having a tool that we can share and stay on the same page with.

Cleaning:

  • Set a date: Honestly, we have done less of this because I was either A. gone or B. having a pretty easy schedule and now Andrew is on his summer vacation, so we have really just done the cleaning when the other person can’t and tried to keep up with stuff during the week. When things are less crazy (I’m starting to doubt that they ever will be), we like to do our cleaning together on a set day. Andrew likes to do all of his cleaning on one day, and this works really well for him. You get it out of the way and you don’t have to worry about it for the rest of the week. This goes for things like dusting, vacuuming, sweeping and scrubbing the floors, and bathrooms. The little things like dishwasher, laundry (while there are only two of us), and the kitchen in general we keep up with during the week. And each night, I like to do a quick pick up before we go to bed – this is a work in progress. But for the bigger things, having a date/time set is really helpful because we both know when we are taking care of things and can plan our day around it.
  • Keep your supplies organized: We have bins for each of cleaning supplies to keep them separated and easy to find. I absolutely hate having to search through a bunch of bottles to find the one I want under the kitchen/bathroom sink. We have a bin under our kitchen where we keep our dishwasher soap, spare sponges, scrubbing refills, and vinegar. Above our washer and dryer, we keep three bins. One has detergent, softener, bleach, and dryer sheets. The second has all of our clothing care items like Tide to go pens, stain remover, dry cleaning bags, and our steamer. In the last bin, we keep all of our other cleaning supplies and clothes – mostly bathroom cleaners, dusting stuff, and windex.

Studying

  • Set Goals: This is the method I used to study throughout medical school and college and it worked really well for me. Every night before I went to bed, I wrote down my goals for each subject so I knew what I wanted to accomplish the next day. For instance, I might have made the goal to memorize all of the pertinent info for the anti-psychotic medicine class, differentiate the different types of leukemias, and do 50 board prep questions. I like to set goals because it gives me a very concrete plan for each day. If I accomplished all of my items early, then I was done for the day. On the flip side, I couldn’t go to sleep until I had everything done. In addition, it allowed me to make longer term study goals because I could figure out how much I would need to get through each day to accomplish a bigger weekly goal.
  • Create an Hourly Schedule: My college roommate used this method to study when we were in college. Every day she made a sticky note with an hourly schedule so she could map out her whole day. She would plan x amount of time for each subject, plan when she was going to eat/workout/be in class. I did do this for a while, but would get stressed if I was working slower than I had anticipated on a subject, that is when I switched to a goal based study schedule instead.

Food

  • Keep a List: On our refrigerator, Andrew and I keep a list where we can add food items as we run out of them. Some of them we will wait to go on sale, others we get right away. I love doing this because I know what I have on hand, and when I need to get more of without searching through the cupboards all the time. We do this mostly for staples – baking supplies, dairy products, spices/herbs, eggs, etc. We do a separate list every week when we go through the ad items.
  • Meal Prep: I absolutely love to do this, but haven’t obviously been able to in the last month, and summers are always more difficult in general due to being away from home more often. I do my meal prep on Sundays – including making proteins, cutting vegetables, and making a grocery list of supplies for the week. I absolutely hate to come home from a long day at work and need to cook. If that happens, most of the time we aren’t eating until 7 or 8 and I’ve likely been snacking during the whole cooking process anyway. We tend to keep our week day meals pretty low key, and make our more labor intensive meals on the weekend. So most of the time I’ll make a bunch of chicken breast in the slow cooker and then have raw veggies for salads/wraps in the summer or steamed veggies for the winter. It honestly makes things so much easier and I make way healthier choices when I eat this way.
  • Make a Schedule: Andrew and I have an ongoing list of meals we would like to make in the future. We will look at ads at the beginning of the week and decide what we are making from there. I have schedule of what I’m eating for each of my meals to stay on track and make sure I’m having enough of each food group, and not too many carbs and junk food (which inevitably occurs if I’m not being mindful). I generally cook 3-ish meals a week for dinner. Generally two on the weekends, all of our meal prep, and one easier meal during the week. Otherwise we are doing left overs. We like knowing what our plan is for each day, when we are having left overs, etc.

Fitness

  • Keep a Schedule: I create a workout schedule each month. Honestly, it gets pretty easy because I have a specific set up each week – run every other day + yoga, choice cardio on the opposite days + strength training. The cardio is mostly what I switch up and I keep that flexible so I can switch things up as I want to. When I’m home, which will be always after this month, I aim to do my workouts in the mornings because I absolutely hate to work out at night and would much rather hang out with my hubby (duh). Whatever your preference, scheduling your workouts like appointments is absolutely key to staying consistent. I schedule a free day every week too – I still try to do something active, but may just end up doing a walk or bike ride with Andrew.
  • Get Ready: I like to set out all of my workout stuff at night before I go to bed. It makes getting up and going so much easier, and I don’t wake Andrew up as often either.

That’s it in a nutshell guys! Let me know how you stay organized too!

XOXO – Emmy Lou Lou

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