How to juggle.

Ah, the to-doings in APFE-land!

Always one for a project, since spending September 2010 to August 2011 planning our wedding and the five week overseas honeymoon thereafter, I have returned home, gotten a promotion and started work in a new area in which I have no content knowledge, continued studying, applied for a home loan with all the hair-tearing that goes with it and … we bought a house!

So to add to my ongoing To Do list, I have been in the depths of organising the financials and settlement, planning for a month-long renovation on the new house, organising tenants for our current flat, and organising the actual move.

I believe this is called Gluttony (Punishment).

So how to get through all of this, whilst maintaining long and good quality hours at work? While I am lucky in that my daily work is often quite flexible and I can sometimes send emails or make phone calls, the work itself is very demanding and often fast-paced, meaning that any distractions are a serious problem. I just don’t have a lot of time to juggle.

I decided I needed to treat Operation Schloss Buzz like an actual project, and that meant project management. It was a bit of an organic process, as we asked for a 30 day settlement so had to get straight to work and didn’t necessarily think of everything we needed at once. At the outset, the timelines were:

28 January Buy house

29 February Settlement

31 March Move in

Eeep!

I’m not ashamed to admit that the night after we bought, I walked around the supermarket in a state of high tension (very unusual for me), while a kazillion thoughts of all the things we had to organise flashed in and out of my head as I tried to meditatively chant “bread, soy sauce, tomatoes and apples” over and over as though my shopping list was an oasis of organised calm.

The problem was there was nowhere for me to pour out my notes to self. In my head they are part of a swamp of half-formed ideas and forgotten lightbulb moments.

I needed to stop panicking, take a deep breath, and take care of business. And I needed to learn to juggle.

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There are three ‘timezones’ to our plan. Breaking the time into chunks helped me identify what needed to be done and when, and then track backwards from there to work out what needed attention first.

So February was all about forward planning: what did we need done? Who did we need to do it? When could we get them in to quote? What could we buy in advance? What did we need to research? What could we book in? I busied myself asking for referrals, organising for on-site visits, and purchasing whatever we could to avoid last-minute Bunnings raids.

March is all about the work: we are knocking out some fixtures including an old wardrobe and pelmets; sanding and repainting all the internal trims (skirting boards, architraves and window frames); painting the kitchen cabinets; installing new window treatments throughout; installing a new sink, dishwasher, cooktop, oven and bench tops; possible re-tile the splashvacks if the tiles are broken in installing the new appliances (please God let this happen; I don’t know if I can bear to live with gumnut theme tiles); changing the lighting and putting in new light fittings; replacing locks and window winders; fixing some broken glass and poorly done window putty; getting a built-in wardrobe in our bedroom; and having the floors sanded and polished.

All of the March work has been organised in advance: tradies booked, equipment bought, timelines thought out. The real purpose of February was to make March happen.

I have two weeks off in April (no, I can’t believe it either) and in that time I will: unpack and organise the house; paint the external window frames; paint the outside concrete; plant the front garden; and set up veggie and herbs pots in the back garden. In the coming months we will gut the bathroom and renovate it, and re-tile the wet areas (they’re a lovely lino at the moment. Tres chic).These things are lower order priorities – they don’t need to be done before we move in, and so I have therefore devoted minimal headspace to them. When the critical things are done, I’ll allow myself to imagine by bougainvillea-covered fence and palm-tree filled garden with more love and attention, but until then, the internal works get all my lovin’.

 

So how to stay on track? How to project manage this while chained to a desk ten hours a day?

Lists.

This isn’t my professional advice. It’s just what’s been working for me.

I have a terrible memory. I panic when I recall something that I haven’t registered somewhere, because I know I’ll forget about it again. So lists it is.

I have two master lists for the house stuff at the moment: to do before we move in, and to do after we move in. I have itemised every thing we’re doing, and recorded dates and actions. For example:

1. Electric. Peter booked for 3 March, $1200. Light fittings bought and delivered to house. Remember to deliver him keys night before – pop in letterbox (diarised),

2. Delivery of appliances booked for 4 March. They will ring one hour before. Don’t forget need ID to sign for delivery.

3. Windows. Paid 1/3 of cost. James booked for 31 March. Call one week before to confirm (diarised).

… and so on.

Sophisticated? No. Suitable to me right now and what I can manage? Yep.

You could project manage this in many different ways, and I’m sure that there are far more information-rich and more complex ways of managing it. If I weren’t in the midst of a high-pressure time at work right now I could even probably manage to do something more fancypants myself. But right now what I can manage is to look at my lists quickly throughout the day, add to them easily when something pops into my head, and know that everything I need is on the one list. So that’s what I’m doing.

And that’s how you juggle.

 

Sidenote: does anyone else remember Morph? I used to love him, and I must have been about 3. I was thrilled to find this picture.

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