The Job-a-Day Schedule

My friend KJG shared an awesome time (and work!) management strategy the last time we visited at her home on the far, far west side of the Valley.

KJG’s lovely home is always enviably tidy, clean, and free of the recurrent chaos that characterizes my house. Not only does she manage a large and handsome house, she also cares for an acre of irrigated land’s landscaping and garden, and trains and cares for a large rescued doberman pinscher. ;-) To say nothing of an active and bodacious husband.

Both of us have reached the point in our lives when we regard extra clutter and extra work with a jaundiced eye. I remarked on how difficult and, more recently, how painful I find it to get through the work entailed in maintaining just 1,860 square feet on a quarter-acre of low-maintenance fake desert landscaping.

And she said she had learned to manage the workload by doing only one task a day.

Instead of having a cleaning day and a shopping day and a laundry day and an ironing day the way our mothers taught us, KJG does only one housecleaning task in any given day. On Monday, for example, one might clean the bathrooms; on Tuesday vacuum the floors; on Wednesday do the routine yard jobs.

Hm. I’ve been mulling that over ever since she described it.

My mother, like most of our mothers, had a regular cleaning day. And a regular laundry and ironing day. And a regular shopping day. And so forth. Most of the hours of each day were occupied by getting through all the tasks entailed in each of these projects.

But what if instead of doing projects you divided the projects into tasks and spread those tasks over an entire week or an entire month? Instead of cleaning the house from stem to stern every Monday, why not do one or two parts of that project each day? Wouldn’t this reduce a big, tiring project to a manageable daily chore, not so large as to actually cause physical pain?

This week I finally climbed out from under the paid work long enough to think this idea through, create a schedule, and get started on it.

Here’s what the routine would look like, casa mia:

job-a-day 1

Well. The back pain is unrelenting. But it’s a lot more unrelenting when I have to spend a whole lot of hours lifting, hauling, squatting, climbing under the furniture, scrubbing, scouring, dusting, vacuuming, mopping… The last time I spent a day cleaning house, I hurt so much I could have cried. Maybe even did cry.

Today is Tuesday. This evening after I mopped the floor — that would be all 1,860 square feet of tilework — I felt pretty good. Actually, since I just started this plan today and spent most of yesterday and the day before building the new rose beds, I did a little catch-up and vacuumed before mopping.

Tomorrow — Wednesday — will be the busiest day of the week. So the housework will be limited to light dusting and the ten-minute job of testing and balancing the pool water.

Wednesday Chamber of Commerce meetings usually convene in a north Scottsdale restaurant. A straight line home from those parts will take me past an upscale Costco outlet and the community college campus, where a once-a-week visit will suffice to say hello to colleagues, wave at the all-powerful Admin Assistant, and pick up the mail. Tomorrow I’ll meet a client directly after the CofC meeting before heading back into town via the campus. The surface-street route home from there takes me past a Home Depot.

Sunday after choir, “central area” errands will include trips to the city’s cheapest Costco gas station, located in the ghetto shopping center near M’hijito’s house (providing an opportunity to pester the kid as I breeze through his neighborhood); a trip to Safeway; and possibly a trip to the favored gourmet grocery store that sells my beloved coffee beans.

Note that this scheme a) rarely requires much work; b) leaves plenty of time to walk the dog and hike around the local mountain parks; c) could in theory limit the gasoline-burning automobile trips to three a week; and d) also leaves plenty of time to work on clients’ work. It builds in hours for business networking and still provides ample time to have a life.

Such are the prerogatives of (heh!) “retirement.”

 

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eemusings January 8, 2013 at 10:37 pm

I think this could work really well for a bigger place, though I don’t know if I could hack it! Our house is quite small and we clean on the weekends so I have a day or two of cleanliness before it all goes to shit (deteriorates over the week, and then we start all over again with a cleanup on the weekend).

Andrea January 8, 2013 at 11:14 pm

I love this idea. Too often I put off cleaning because I don’t have time to get it all done on a certain day (and, to be honest, because I hate cleaning). But I think doing one task a day would make it much more manageable… I’m going to try this!

Kerry January 9, 2013 at 7:11 am

This may be a weird sounding question for your back pain, but are you drinking enough water? My dad has chronic hip and knee pain and it isn’t as excruciating when he drinks a lot of water.

I don’t know how you even keep tide over your chaos. I come home from work and I want to clean, but I don’t know what to do and it’s just all overwhelming. I’m not good at getting started. You seem to get so much done in a day that it just boggles my mind.

funny January 9, 2013 at 8:20 am

@ Kerry– Yes, I have been trying that. Learned that muscle spasms can be caused by dehydration, realized I hardly drink water at all unless it’s mixed with coffee beans or alcohol, & so started trying to drink several glasses of water a day.

Also learned that spasms can be caused by potassium or magnesium deficiency, and so bought a multivitamin that contains a little of both and have been swallowing those things. And trying to eat a lot more bananas and leafy green vegetables, natural sources of potassium.

Neither strategy seems to make much difference. At first the water seemed to help a little, but in fact what was happening is that some days it’s a little better, some days it’s a little worse.

funny January 9, 2013 at 8:26 am

@ eemusings, Andrea, & Kerry– Having to fit all the dreary domestic work in around a job is just awful! You’re tired to begin with, and housework is by its nature tiring. Don’t know about you, but the result for me has always been that I put off cleaning till the weekend. But with a nine-hour-a-day job, the weekend is the only time you have to do ALL the domestic survival tasks, so you end up spending 48 hours scrubbing, vacuuming, dusting, changing beds, laundering, trudging from store to store, putting groceries away, ironing (or not: who can stand it under those circumstances?), watering the yard, mowing the lawn, schlepping the cat to the vet, driving the kids to soccer….gaaaahhh! No wonder people eat fast food all the time!!!!

With no job, now I’m free to spread the work over a more reasonable time frame. That’s going to make life a lot better.

But even with a job, if you only did one task per day, you might be able to keep the mess more or less under control without having to exhaust yourself every weekend.

Kerry January 10, 2013 at 9:40 am

Vitamins/supplements take about 3 months for them to fully take effect with stuff like that, as lectured by my doctor. Try to eat well and just give stuff time.

Oh, I just remembered that my dad said that caffeine makes his arthritis worse, so you never know and that could be exacerbating stuff too. (I love how coffee is great for my migraines, and bad for other things.) My mom has the type of pain you do, but in her neck, and it’s taken almost 2 years to finally start calming down.

Between school and work, I generally have about 1 day of the weekend where it’s my day off, so I feel like I burn both ends of the candle and never get much time to actually zone out.

I’m going to try the one task thing after I actually get a handle on my apartment. My cat would prefer I do that sooner than later, but he just likes that the couch is finally empty with a fuzzy blanky.

I hope that stuff gets better with the busy and the stress!

frugalscholar January 9, 2013 at 9:08 am

Do you really go to Costco once a week? That seems to me to be a tremendous time and money suck.

The best advice I know on housekeeping (which I generally fail to follow) is to do 5 minutes of surface cleaning in each room. That makes things look good enough that your cloud of paralyzing depression is lifted. It’s true. MUST DO IT.

funny January 9, 2013 at 10:29 am

That is soooo right!!!! If you can just fake it a bit, you end up feeling a lot better.

No, I try to keep the Costco junkets to once a month. But if I’m in north Scottsdale for Chamber meetings twice a month, I end up right next to a freeway that takes me past a pretty nice Costco store on my homeward trip. Can’t buy gas there — their prices are too high in that part of town — but otherwise it would make sense to try to time the Costco frenzies to a day that I’m already going to be up in that part of town.

Then get gas on a “central” shopping day, when I’d be close to the ghetto Costco in our part of town, where gasoline prices are rock-bottom.

Carol January 9, 2013 at 11:43 am

Try tonic water – with or without your libation of choice – for muscle spasms. I sometimes get wicked foot and ankle cramps at night, and the quinine in tonic seems to help.

As you’ve discovered, extra potassium helps, too. But multi-vits and even potassium supplements are limited, by law, in how much potassium they can contain. Orange juice has significant amounts of potassium, as does tomato juice.

funny January 9, 2013 at 4:57 pm

Hm. That may explain why the gin & tonic I had the other day made me feel sooooo good…. ya think? ;-)

It’s dangerous (and easy) to overdose on potassium. At this time of year, I eat several fresh oranges off the backyard trees every day, and I practically live on tomatoes. So it’s hard to believe I have a potassium deficiency. Personally, I suspect His Doctorhood is probably wrong: whoever heard of a muscle spasm lasting 8 months? Dollars to donuts this is a pinched nerve.

nicoleandmaggie January 9, 2013 at 5:45 pm

Sounds like she Boices her cleaning.

funny January 9, 2013 at 6:33 pm

To boice: “to artificially inflate one’s territorial sales figures.” How so?

nicoleandmaggie January 9, 2013 at 8:34 pm
funny January 9, 2013 at 9:22 pm

LOL! It’s so superbly avant-garde that even Google doesn’t bring up a clue.

budget glamorous January 10, 2013 at 6:16 am

This is something I do as well and wish I’d been doing it all along! I got to the point where the housework was overwhelming and something had to change. I wish I could be one of those people who just didn’t give a damn about the way the house looked, but I care very much about how it looks. For one thing, messy rooms make me very distracted. For another thing, I got tired of losing important things like paperwork buried under a pile of laundry.

But most importantly for me, I’ve found that my production of ideas is extremely messy. So other things in my life have to be clean, ordered, more structured so the messy ideas can happen. :D You can literally tell what “the project” is in my house because it’s exploded somewhere in a little pile of sticky notes, white board comments, papers, books and maybe other objects as well. But everything else is clean.

I do about an hour a day, sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. I used to have a schedule, but my life is a little too random for that, so I just do what needs done the most — that could be the bathroom upstairs one day, mopping downstairs the next day. I try to always run the dishes and keep the counters in the kitchen clean in about 10 minutes before I go to bed at night so it looks great in the morning when I get up. I have laundry sort of ongoing. There’s always a load in process somewhere lol. But at least I’m not climbing Mount Laundry anymore!

Housework has to fit our lives. If we have hours and hours to clean, great. If we don’t, we have to figure out how to have a more life affirming schedule for cleaning. I love your friend’s idea as well as the link about boice lol.

funny January 10, 2013 at 6:48 am

@ budget glamorous– That’s an interesting observation about the messiness of creativity. It is such a random and messy process!

After I’ve been sitting at my desk for a day, it looks like somebody dumped a trash basket all over it.

Then there’s the Stack of paper that flows into the house through the mailbox, in which accumulates all the stuff I need to look at, do something with, and file…and don’t want to! It gets tabled, literally. Right now what’s in it? The semesterly package of junk from the community college (unopened), two months’ worth of IRA and brokerage account statements (unopened), a month’s worth of credit union statements (unopened), a form to fill out for a class action settlement with Bank of America (un-filled-out), 27 pages of fine print concerning said settlement (unread), a schedule of Bach Festival performances (none of which I can afford to attend), a water bill, a Cox bill, a page of instructions from a client… Ugh.

As if I can’t generate enough mess for myself without all these people pouring more of it onto my desk!

E. Murphy January 10, 2013 at 11:30 am

Honestly, the one chore a day doesn’t work so well for me. I like to really dig in and have the house sparkle when I’m done. Then I feel good.

Dustin Small | Stockodo January 13, 2013 at 7:23 pm

I use a similar strategy to what you’ve described and it works. Before I was so often just working on one thing to the next with no sense of time and before I knew it the entire day was gone.

By focusing on a single task or goal per day, you actually end up with more free time to spend with friends and family.

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