In honor of these final, fleeting days of summer, I offer one of my favorite tools. You can use this tool if you’re not mechanically inclined. You can use it if you’re strapped for time or cash. You can even use it on the same day you get a manicure. Don’t be fooled by its apparent simplicity; it’s one of the most powerful ways to reflect on past organizing (and life) successes and failures and prepares a foundation for future endeavors.
The tool is the three-question assessment. To use it, all you need are a pen, a piece of paper and about 5–10 minutes. As summer comes to a close, using these questions will help you celebrate your successes and provide a starting point for your summer planning next year. Here are the questions:
- What worked?
- What didn’t work?
- What will I change next time?
I promised in my June article that I’d let you know in the end how summer went for us this year since we used See It. Map It. Do It.™ to plan these idyllic months. So, in context of summer, some of the answers to these questions for our family are— (Drum roll please!)
Hannah: Going to Aspen Grove.
Sarah: Camping and swimming.
Me: Actually sitting down and making a plan. Even if it wasn’t always perfectly executed (or executed at all) at least we tried! I loved having an activity list and some goals as we began the summer so I didn’t always feel like we were just navigating a controlled fall. We also read more this year than we did last year, which makes me feel like a really good parent. I loved our vacation schedule. Seattle and the Microsoft company picnic are on the calendar every summer until the end of forever.
Mike: The calendar worked—when it was updated. The mapping of tasks for yard improvement worked.
What didn’t work?
Hannah: We watched too much TV and went onto Webkinz a lot.
Sarah: We watched too much TV and spent too much time doing Webkinz.
Me: It’s virtually unanimous and so disappointing: we watched too much TV, and Webkinz took over our lives. Our daily schedule was perhaps a bit too fluid. Temperatures were so hot this year that we ended up spending more time indoors than I anticipated. We didn’t do as well at reevaluating our changing needs and desires as we could have.
Mike: Execution on the yard plan (do it). I thought we’d have prices/estimates much sooner.
What will we change next time?
Hannah: Go ice skating and horseback riding.
Sarah: Go ice skating and get a horse for me only.
Me: We will post our activity list in our communication area so I don’t have to boot up the computer whenever we need ideas of things to do. We will have a more structured daily schedule so we can have more productive days. I will work out a better balance between work and home so I’m available to help execute the plan. We will also do our summer planning meeting sometime in May rather than after the kids are already out of school so we go into summer with a plan rather than trying to create one mid-stream.
Mike: I need a way to follow-up with people so I don’t hurt their feelings but things still get done. (Read: I need a way to follow up with YOU so YOU don’t get your feelings hurt. He’s so diplomatic.)
As you have your own end-of-summer pow wow, I hope you will find your answers to these questions insightful and helpful. Put your answers in a file (paper or electronic) where you can access them quickly. That way, as you plan next summer, you will have a record that will help you build upon your strengths and overcome some of your challenges as you create a great summer!
Since school starts in just a couple of weeks (hooray and bummer) and with it comes a virtual tidal wave of paper, next month’s article will focus on incoming paper and how to keep it from taking over your kitchen counter and your life! Until then, enjoy the rest of summer!