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Hello friends and we hope you are doing well. We are sure that you are busy like everyone these days. It seems like there are constantly more and more things that require our attention as each day passes by and it seems like there is no sign of letting up as long as we live in this world. We feel your pain! Let me digress for just a moment before I get into the subject of this blog post which is organization.
Kanicia and I had a great weekend because we were finally able to take a weekend trip to the southwest of Portugal, namely Lagos and the surrounding areas. Some of you may have seen some pics on Instagram of our trip. We won’t get into all of the details now (maybe we’ll save that for another post) but let’s just say that Lagos is beautiful and a must visit if you are in the Algarve area. On a sad note, Kanicia learned that her grandmother had a serious stroke over the weekend and is dealing with the repercussions of that. So that’s been quite stressful but we would appreciate it if you could keep us and the rest of the family in your thoughts and prayers. OK, now where was I…right let’s talk about organization.
Maybe you are one of the most organized people in the world or maybe you are a complete mess. Whether you fall into one extreme or the other or somewhere in the middle I’m sure that these tips will help you to get more done and be more productive in your day to day. Sometimes when you grow up in a society that prides itself on getting a lot done you feel that you have to be a superman/woman and get like a million tasks done each day otherwise all your efforts were a waste of time. We were influenced to some degree by our surroundings and we’ve had to unlearn a lot of bad habits that had been ingrained over years.
Since moving to Spain let’s just say that things move at a slower pace. At first we weren’t sure if anything got done here but now we see that there is a system to the madness. The best thing that we have done has been to learn to go with the flow so to speak instead of trying to impose our own notions of how things should be and should not be. There are so many examples of this and some have been mentioned in past blog posts so I won’t get into them now. Basically though this has made life easier and much more enjoyable for us. I want to talk about three things/tips that we are currently doing that help us to be organized and productive in the land of the siesta also known as Spain.
OK, so it’s no mystery that having a some sort of schedule for all of your activities during the week helps you to be organized. But not all schedule planners are created equal. This is where Week Plan comes into the picture. This online scheduler is described as a weekly planner for effective people. After using different planners, post-its and notepads over the years it seemed like we were just getting more bogged down instead of actually getting meaningful stuff done like we wanted. This is why we love Week Plan so much. It prioritizes your tasks by level of importance. So say for example you have three things to do in a day. Likely not all of them will be urgent. You can focus on the most important task and then once that is completed you can move on to the next one. We have been using it and have seen a noticeable increase in our productivity. One great feature is that they have a Pomodoro timer built into the program. If you don’t know what that is just Google it. To save you some time though it’s a method of completing tasks where you dedicate 25 minutes to one task non-stop and then you take a five minute break then repeat. You can also use your mobile phone for this. It’s surprisingly effective and easy to implement. One other thing that we like about Week Plan is that they have different roles that you can assign yourself such as worker, father, volunteer, friend, etc. You can then connect your tasks to your different roles and then you are able to see if you are being balanced by focusing on all areas of your life. Or maybe you’ll discover that your turning into a workaholic (yikes!) then you can make the needed adjustments to become more balanced. Week Plan offers a free and a paid version. We’re currently using the free version but we will likely upgrade because we’ve been so happy with it.
Our next favorite hack on being productive is the Productivity Planner from Alex Ikonn. Kanicia introduced me to this and it’s a pretty cool planner that incorporates the Pomodoro method, great quotes and a whole system that is focused on beating procrastination. There’s something to be said about having something that you can physically feel and hold in your hand when you are trying to stay organized. I think that’s why this is so effective in addition to all of the other things. If you are looking for a way to stay organized and you are a busy person give this planner a try or try out the free PDF version to get a taste for it.
OK, I know I said that that there would be three ways to get organized. Well this last part is kind of a mix of different things that we’ve learned over our time here in Spain and just life in general. When we first came to Spain we had the US concept of time mentality which is like 8 hour work day, a little lunch in the middle of the day and then not much time after work for other things. The problem with that is that it doesn’t really work here in Spain. So we had to adapt. We started taking siestas (midday naps for the uninitiated…) and at first it felt like a big waste of time but after a while we started to get it. In a sense doing less enabled us to do more. I know it sounds strange but just bear with me. By us taking some time out in the middle of the day, usually around 2pm or so, it allowed us to have more energy and to be more refreshed for whatever else was to come throughout the day. We started to see great benefits in our clarity of thinking and we just felt better. After having moved here to the south we quickly realized that they are in love with the siestas even more than our Basque friends to the north. Stores close down for hours on end and there always seems to be some holiday that we had no idea about (but I digress…). So we thought that in order to make the schedule of how life works here in the south we adapted our personal schedule to fit accordingly. Now our general work schedule is from 9am until noon and then we take a three hour break until 3pm. What do we do with this time? Sleep. OK, not the whole time but we try to get some shut eye for at least 30 minutes but ideally an hour. Other than that we have lunch, read or just do something not related to work. Then we start back up with work again at 3pm and finish at 6pm. This three on, three off, three on schedule has been the best one for work life balance for us in our time here in Spain thus far. We’ve had some schedules that were less than ideal and it can be stressful but we are happy that we didn’t fight the siesta but instead welcomed its warm embrace into our lives. Another thing that we’ve learned is not to put too much on our plates (figuratively). We usually try to accomplish just one, two or three main things in the day. This may not seem like a lot but it helps us to be realistic and modest and often we are rewarded when we accomplish what we set out to do with a feeling of satisfaction.
We hope that this post has provided you with some great resources to help you stay organized in your undoubtedly busy lives. We also hope that you can relate to our experience of adapting to different cultures and learning lessons along the way. Have a great week!