May 11, 2017

Optimizing All the Things!

So I had a baby and everything went to shit.

That's a little melodramatic, but let's just say I wasn't prepared.  I thought I could work from home while the baby napped.  I thought he'd sleep more, that he wouldn't need so much stimulation for his brain to develop, that he'd cry primarily when there was a real, solvable problem like hunger or a wet diaper.


You really just don't know until you do it.

And since I wasn't prepared, I had no plans in place for how to be more efficient with my time or to step back from all the projects I had been working prior to baby.  But after almost 3 months of running myself ragged, I'd had enough.

Some changes required saying no to things and setting down some of my commitments.  Boo!  But necessary.

And some changes were centered around the much more fun topic of optimization that I based my blog name on.  So let's talk about those!

Optimization Strategies

1. Meal Planning

I have been trying to do this for years and failing, but I finally found a system that works for me!  Rather than sit down to a blank slate every week, I made a list of all the things Ryan and I currently know how to cook.  It's a short list.

Because I'm currently obsessed with Trello for my business, it was no great leap to make myself a personal board with various life things I want to organize.  It is fantastic for meal planning because you can drag and drop.

So I have my "cards" with each recipe that I can quickly scan, click and drag the 2 or 3 I want to eat this week over to the "This Week" list, and then open them up to get the ingredients we need to buy from the store.  Maybe 5 minutes.

One of those meals is a crock pot meal that'll give us lots of leftovers for lunches.  Breakfasts we can get by pretty easily with smoothies and the occasional omelet.  And then after the other meal or two, we have a few nights open for frozen pizzas or scrounging, which, let's be honest, is going to happen because we're still new to this and we're lazy.

2. Clothing Rotation

What started as adoration for Steph's capsule wardrobe series quickly turned itself into a productivity tactic.  I came across more and more articles about not wasting energy on simple decisions, like what to wear, and how the most productive humans, like Obama, don't bother with wardrobes that require matching or effort.

If I believed in that sort of thing, I'd be thinking the Universe had a vested interest in finally seeing me with a capsule wardrobe.  Since I don't, I'll chalk it up to timing and synchronicity and just explain what I've done.

I put together 12-ish outfits (enough for 2 weeks, figuring I'm not going to leave the house every day) and I hung them in sets.  Literally pants, shirt, blazer, shoes.  As soon as I figure out how to hang jewelry, I'm going to do it with earrings and necklaces, too.

When I get dressed in the morning, all I have to ask myself is, "What level of formality does today's activities require?"  Fancy - grab a dress outfit.  Business-y - grab a t-shirt and blazer outfit.  Casual but still leaving the house - tunic and leggings.

No brainpower and very little time needed.  AND I don't have to wear only blue or grey suits - sorry Obama.

3. Business Automation

Everybody loves to talk about automating things for your business but until recently I had trouble figuring out what, if anything, I could automate.  I'll save the details for my business blog but I've been adding all sorts of things - digital contracts, contract and design questionnaire templates, invoicing, you name it!

I've never been a "work IN your business instead of ON it" person because I LIKED working on it.  It was fun to organize things and rearrange things and spend far too long setting my business goals and priorities for the day.  But now that time is at a premium, I can't do that anymore.

I need to be efficient and effective, and it's just a side benefit that these processes make me look more professional to my clients as well.

4. Weekly Family Discussion

Ryan and I have toyed with the idea of implementing some kind of regular family meeting for a while.  But even when we agreed to do it, ultimately it was easier to just handle issues as they came up.

These days we're more frequently pressed for time and, even when Orion doesn't need something immediately, we're not always in a mood to productively solve problems.  So we're making Friday nights our family discussion night, a tradition I hope to continue as Orion and any future kids get older and can take part.

I stole the format from this article but it's basically "What went well?  What could have gone better?  Do we have any specific issues to talk about?  Now let's end on a positive note and say nice things to each other."

Friday night is a good time for it because A) It's Friday and everybody's happy! B) No bedtime constraints so... C) We can play video games and do fun things after.

5. Turbocharged To Do List!

I've always been pretty organized with my to do lists, and they change over time as my needs change.  Since having a baby my memory is terrible!  And our communication hasn't been as strong as usual either.  So stupid, routine things like "feed the dogs" gets forgotten or Ryan and I both assume the other has done it and obviously that's not a good way to live.

So I finally found a task app that syncs with both Google calendar and task list AND lets me do repeating tasks.  Repeating tasks is the most important thing here because I need routines and I need to remember those routines.

I made a list of all the basic chores we need to do, tried to arrange it so that each day has only 3 or fewer, in addition to general work stuff, and then set myself a bunch of repeating tasks.  I can view my daily tasks quickly and easily and check them off when they're done.

And that's it for now.  I've stretched my creativity pretty thin trying to think of other opportunities for optimization.

Got any ideas?  Anything that saves time or brain power welcome and needed!

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design


  1. Your first sentence is my LIFE. Haha. The meal planning & wardrobe thing has been a big help for us too. I totally wish we could do the weekly discussion, but my husband has a deep seated fear of anything relating to "we need to talk," since apparently in his man-brain that means "This drama queen is about to leave me or stab me to death." I have no clue where it came from...anyway. Checking out that task app though.

  2. I meal plan pretty similarly. I don't generally plan breakfast or lunch; I keep eggs and bread and peppers in the house 24/7 so it's usually peppers and eggs or two over easy for breakfast/lunch (since I don't generally eat till about 11 am), a green salad or dinner leftovers or just snacking on veggies/hummus/cheese for lunch. I keep a Google Sheet with each day of the week marked and names of/links to my favorite recipes (almost all Budget Bytes or Tasty) below that. I cook about 4 dinners/week, we reserve one or two for going out, and there's always leftovers. So much easier than what I used to do, and it's made a huge difference!

    We sort of have a #4 too. Typically on Sundays we try to talk about anything that needs talking about, update each other on status report type stuff, how work stuff is going, anything that involves more emotional thinking or planning ahead that we can't do on the fly. I thought it was strange at first but it works better for David, whose brain is always overloaded with other people's problems at work, which makes it a good solution for us. I can definitely see how it's the best way for you and Ryan to do things too, especially with a bebe and a business.

  3. I've been trying to get my life organized after kids for the last 17 years. I'm thinking it may not happen. I love the weekly discussion. The kids and I have something like that. It makes things less scattered.

  4. Just throwing it out there -

  5. LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL at thinking we could get things done while the baby napped, right????? Zoe is down to two naps a day like she thinks she is a toddler and I am like what???? Fit 9 hours of work in to 3? Yeah, ok. I love your idea for Friday night assessments!!! I feel like Chris and I dont communicate well on certain things anymore and that would really help! I envy the capsule wardrobe idea and have been getting rid of lots of stuff but I am no where near the level of awesome you or Steph.

  6. I honestly can't imagine the clustercuss that life becomes once a baby is involved, lol. It seems like you're doing a good job, even if things tend to be a little crazy. I love all the methods and devices/apps you have for keeping yourself put together!

  7. I love your idea of keeping a list like that for meal planning. I have favorite recipes on Pinterest, but obviously that's not easy access to what ingredients I need. I've never thought of the idea of a weekly family discussion like that, but it sounds like such a great way of having intentional conversation, especially with how busy life gets.


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