A Corner of Your Own

Virginia Woolf famously said “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” We all need a place to call our own, be it a whole room or simply a desk and computer that is completely our own, not shared with anyone. When I was younger and had kids at home it was a hard boundary to guard. The kids knew that my desk was the place where there was always clean paper, scissors, everything they needed and couldn’t find in their messy rooms. Even my husband would give in to temptation sometimes, with regrettable results. I now have one pristine area in each home.

David Allen, of Getting Things Done fame, says:

Random lists strewn everywhere, meeting notes, vague to-dos on Post-its on their refrigerator or computer screens …

Most homemakers won’t necessarily need a large area to manage their workflow, but having enough of a discrete space dedicated to the processing of notes, mail, home and family projects and activities, finances, and the like is critical.

Traditionally it was harder for a homemaker to have a corner of her own. Many women’s desks were placed by designers in the kitchen, as if that was the only room of our own. And I guess it often was.

But now retirees, male or female, who have been used to having all their tools in the office, feel disorganized at home, because the tools are not gathered together in a private space.

What he says about homemakers applies to retirees as well.

So I suggest, nay, I demand, that you get your own space and set serious boundaries around it. Just like in an office, where co-workers would never presume to use your desk.

Creating and Using Checklists

Along with David Allen, I am a big believer in checklists. This is what Allen says:

Get comfortable with checklists, both ad hoc and more permanent. Be ready to create and eliminate them as required. Make sure you have an easily accessed place to put a new list that’s also attractive and even fun to engage with—in a loose-leaf notebook or in a software application that is readily available. Appropriately used, checklists can be a tremendous asset in enhancing personal productivity and relieving mental pressure.

Allen, David. Getting Things Done.


One of my top level books in Notebooks is Lists and Instructions

I have checklists for every multi-step procedure in my life, from departure and arrival instructions that I can send to guests to packing lists for every type of trip.

Getting Things Done Using Notebooks

Most of the ideas I discuss here come from David Allen’s Getting Things Done book, which I highly recommend. I implement his ideas using an Apple iPhone/iPad/Mac app called Notebooks by Alfons Schmid.

The challenge: you want all your Next Actions in one list, but you also want them recorded inside your project.

  • Enter the task in the main page of a project
  • Precede the entry with a pre-selected character such as @
  • Notebooks will copy the task to a preselected book, such as Next Actions

Let’s say you have a Project called Pool. It has a page with a list of actions to bring up your pool in the Spring. You want to record the actions in the Chron page but you also want them in your Next Actions book, where you can see them all together.

This is what you do in the Chron:


Do you see those two items with the @ sign? Notebooks automatically places them on your Next Actions list:


If you don’t need to do the Action today you can change the date and time.

Here’s what David Allen says:

Organizing Project Reminders
Creating and maintaining one list of all your projects (that is, again, every commitment or desired outcome that may require more than one action step to complete) can be a profound experience!


Summer Capsule Wardrobe

I switched to my summer capsule wardrobe today: 4 white tops, 2 pale pink tops, 3 shorts and 1 Capri, 1 pair bone slides and one pair flip flops. No purchases, just things in my closet, which I switched over to the focus area. There is a bathing suit in the drawer.

I may be able to get by the whole summer with this. If I buy anything new, it will replace something old.

Inbox 0

That is my email goal each day and I reach it within 20 minutes. I glance at each email header. Many of them I can swipe immediately to trash. The rest are skimmed and sent to one of my folders. If the action requested takes less than 2 minutes, I do it.

This is one of David Allen’s rules:

“1. Do it. If an action will take less than two minutes, it should be done at the moment it is defined.”

The rest go into one of these folders:

  • Action
  • Read
  • Waiting
  • Save

Occasionally I may have an additional folder for a special project, but I avoid having lots of little folders. I go through each folder once a day, and transfer items as needed. Items in the Read folder are either read, saved, or deleted. Sometimes after reading an article or post I’ll tweet it or save it to Pocket.

As the wonderful David Allen says:

“… [G]etting “in” empty doesn’t mean you’ve handled everything. It means that you’ve deleted what you could, filed what you wanted to keep but don’t need to act on, done the less-than-two-minute responses, and moved into your reminder folders all the things you’re waiting for and all your actionable e-mails.

Allen, David. Getting Things Done

Once a year I export all the emails in Save to a PDF file.