06 February 2012

man does not live by spreadsheets alone

Lost without listsBut some women do! Excel runs my life. (Delicious and Gmail energetically vie for the title.) My spreadsheets cover groceries, meal plan, to-do-this-week, work hours, class grades, mailing lists, price comparisons, clothing inventories, Things I Froze This Summer, budget, booklists, and exercise routines.

Yep. Excel is the shizzle.

Recently, in a resolving time of year, I sat down and thought about how I could make better use of my time. I typically accomplish what I need to, but in a somewhat slapdash fashion. Everything gets done . . . but just barely. I'd like to change that pattern.

Historically, the more structure I have imposed upon my life, the more productive I have become. Is it that way for anyone else? I just can't retain tasks or keep track of time in my head; when I try, the bathroom floor goes neglected, my cell phone runs out of battery, and I scramble to get dinner on the table because I forgot to take the meat out of the freezer. I need a schedule, a timer, and definite boundaries. I need somebody to tell me "do this." Even if that somebody is only an Excel spreadsheet. :)

So here's the plan. I made a spreadsheet with several tabs, namely . . .

1) Master list for the week. One column for each day. The top six cells of each column are separated by a heavy line from the bottom section. That smaller top section is reserved for such Weekly Tasks as working out on Monday, sending my students their assignments on Wednesday,* and ironing on Saturday. Then the rest of the column is for once-and-done things like "make a chiropractor's appointment" or "grade British Lit essays" or "go to the library."

2) Meal plan. A grid seven across and fifty-two down. I love planning meals. It takes time at first but saves a lot later. It allows me to strategically plan for leftovers, make sure I'm not doing a complicated dish on a day that I will be out of the house until 5:30, and avoid serving chicken five days in a row. :) I can adjust my plan to fit grocery store sales or what I have in the freezer.Plus, if I look at this spreadsheet at the beginning of the week, I can schedule stuff like "thaw salmon" or "make potato salad ahead of time." (Perhaps you are able to remember these things without a reminder but I AM NOT.)

3) Grocery list. Closely linked to the meal plan of course; I've got columns for different stores, from Weis to Savemart to Target.


My hopes for this plan are trifold. First I want to make sure that important things like, ah, cleaning our house don't fall through the cracks. Second, I want to add more "authoritative" structure to my days so I'm not as tempted to fritter away precious time: since The List (and not just my passing thought) says I must do x and y, I will probably do it. Third, I want to have a place to write down ideas. If I think on Monday "oh, I should repot the thyme and oregano" but don't have time to do it immediately, I'll forget. So now I want to discipline myself to write that idea into a column, so eventually, it will get done.

I'm trying to be realistic about this new endeavor. But it seems like a good approach for now. I have measured out my life in Excel spreadsheets . . . and I like it.

*Yes, I have forgotten to do this before.

{image credit: Terry Madeley}


  1. Aaahhh, I LOVE lists! They make life so much easier, and I feel so productive when I complete something and get to cross it off!

  2. We cannot live without our daily schedule and weekly meal list, also both on Excel sheets. :)