Working mom Claire Kellems and I chat about how her own efforts to get organized led to a blog, a business, and more peace of mind. (Don’t miss the link below for a discount on Claire’s newly released ebook!)
Getting organized starts in our minds
Claire Kellems manages technology and data analytics in the financial services industry. She also blogs about productivity and organization and offers productivity coaching and organization services. Claire lives in Indiana with her husband and their two boys.
Claire is a long-time member of the TPW community. We met in person when I visited Indiana to help my son settle in for grad school. The more I learned about how she’s working on managing her life and making a life that matters, the more I wanted to share it with the TPW community.
A typical day
A typical day for Claire is a workday/schoolday for kids. Her Google speaker wakes her up at about 6 a.m. each morning; she has to speak to it to turn it off. Not being a morning person, talking out loud helps her wake up.
The first thing she does once she’s out of bed is make sure her kids are up and getting ready. (She lays everything out the night before to make things easier.)
Over breakfast, Claire does devotions with her kids and spends some time with them. If she has a little time before she has to head out, she soaks in nature on her back deck while journaling, enjoying a few minutes of peace before she heads off into a busy day. By 7:30 they’re all out the door and Claire is on her one-hour commute to work, which is when she listens to podcasts or calls to check in with family and relatives.
After her workday is over, she drives back towards home, picks up her kids from various activities, and meets with clients of her organization business. By the time she gets home, her husband usually has dinner ready and they sit down to eat as a family.
After dinner, the children do homework while the adults tidy up the kitchen.
Her family abides by a “no screen-time school week” policy, which has made a huge difference for her family in behavior and expectations. She highly recommends this approach. After homework is done, they spend time as a family reading, playing board games, or hang out outside.
Once the kids are in bed, Claire has some me-time, reviews her calendar to see what she has going on the next day, sets reminders, and gets into bed.
Claire touched on so many interesting concepts during our discussion. I was particularly interested in finding out more about how she got her children to be self-sufficient, since this doesn’t happen by accident.
Claire has always given her children chores, which are called “jobs” in her household. When they were old enough to not need constant supervision, she gave them morning jobs, which are written on a whiteboard on the refrigerator, so they know what they need to do. She’s relied on alarms and timers, a lot of repetition, and visual lists to get this routine going.
Like anything else, her secret was to put time and thought and intentionality into building the habits so she could create her day closer to what she wants it to look like.
Claire has so many things going on in her life, so I was curious to know why she had chosen to take on a blog on top of everything. She explained that it was actually a byproduct of being overwhelmed. When she is stressed, she writes it all down. She found writing about the responsibilities and stress that came with family life and work to be therapeutic and realized she couldn’t be alone in this struggle and stress. So she started blogging at My Life In Order to share her experiences and what has worked for her, and to help other people get organized and get through the overwhelm.
Biggest Productivity Challenges
Claire’s biggest challenge is that there are only 24 hours in a day. She has a tendency to underestimate how long things will take or hyperfocus on certain things that are fun for her. That’s why she loves organization and productivity so much: it’s a way for her to be more in control by figuring out systems to help her manage herself. For example, she enjoys timing herself so she can figure out how long she actually takes to do things. She’s also learned that she needs to schedule in a time buffer so she’s not scurrying or late for the next thing on her agenda. She’s found that building in margin to your day is so necessary to avoid overwhelm.
Claire’s second challenge is other people’s priorities. She had a tendency to value other people’s time more than her own, so it was hard for her to say no. She learned the hard way that she cannot do everything and that she had to prune some things in order to do the things she wanted to do, and do them well. This issue was especially prominent at work where, like a lot of us, other people’s expectations and emergencies rear their heads that push our own plans to the backburner.
To cope with the frustration of being interrupted, and still get the things done that are important to her, Claire uses Evernote. She has created a template in Evernote that she fills out each morning; it has a calendar view showing half-hour increments where she plugs in all the time-bound appointments first, then must-dos, and then nice-to-dos. If she gets interrupted during her day, she can come back to see what must-dos remain and adjust her plans accordingly.
Another way Claire combats overwhelm is to keep a “Done” list so she can see what she’s actually completed. Realize that the emergencies and other people’s priorities that popped up during the day were work too, and those count as your accomplishments.
Tools Claire recommends for getting organized
Claire’s #1 tool is her calendar. For her personal calendar, she uses Google Cal and at work she uses Outlook. Everything time-bound goes on her calendar immediately. She also uses the Reminders app on her iPhone because she can have reminders set for when and where she wants to be reminded.
What happens on a day when everything gets away from you?
If Claire has a day where her carefully crafted plan blows up in her face, she goes back to the list where she has identified what she has to get done and focuses only on those.
When she’s so overwhelmed she can’t even grasp what she needs to be doing, she goes for a change of scenery. She either goes to a cafe or library and does a brain dump on a piece of paper. Once it’s written down, she can go through each item to see if it matters in that moment and get some clarity.
What’s on the horizon for Claire?
At the time of recording, Claire was writing a book titled, “Get Organized Head First,” which is about changing your mindset to get organized. (The book is available now. See below for a special link to get a discount on Claire’s book!) She also offers practical tips on small things you can do that will make an impact on your organization and productivity. The title has two meanings. One is “dive in and just do it,” and the other is “start with how you’re thinking about things.”
Claire is offering more of her professional organizing services as well as productivity coaching. You can learn more about that on her website.
Last thoughts on making a life that matters
All of us do so much more than what we give ourselves credit for. Take a second and think about all the things you accomplish on a daily basis and give yourself a pat on the back. Don’t try to keep everything in your head. Make a system for yourself that allows you to have your brain free to enjoy the moment and be present with your family.
What do you think?
Connect with Claire
More about Claire
Claire Kellems is a busy working mom. She has been married to her husband Josh for 17 years, and they have two boys, 12 and 8 years old. She is a proud aunt of 4 (soon to be 5) nieces and nephews and loves spending time with her extended family. Claire enjoys reading, writing, playing the piano, playing board games, watching TV, going on family vacations to new places, and making her family’s house a home. Between working a full-time job with a 2 hour a day commute, two kids with lots of activities, volunteer commitments, and a side hustle, Claire craves order in the midst of her sometimes chaotic life! She’s always been a natural list-maker, planner, and event organizer.
Claire has had varied professional experiences, but they have all had one thing in common — she likes to help people achieve their goals! She has assisted older adults with getting training needed to re-enter the workforce; worked in finance at a non-profit; helped clients buy and sell real estate; she currently manages technology and data analytics in the financial services industry; and, probably the most fun of all, she motivates people to get organized and be productive in their real lives.
Like most of us, Claire wears many hats. Each role comes with tasks and pressures which can easily lead to disorganization and overwhelm, but living in a state of disorder does not agree with her! Claire realized that to change her life, she had to change the way she thought about herself and her responsibilities. She started her blog, My Life In Order, to share her journey of making herself a priority and getting her life in order. Her goal is to help you do the same! Claire provides productivity coaching, organization services, and is currently working on an e-book about changing your mindset and getting organized! If you’d like to order a copy, visit www.mylifeinorder.com/ebooks and enter the code PRODUCTIVEWOMAN at checkout for a discount!
Resources and Links
- Get Organized Head First (Discount Code: PRODUCTIVEWOMAN )
- 10 Steps to Ultimate Productivity by Michael Sliwinski
- Get Momentum: How to Start When You’re Stuck by Jason and Jodi Womack
- The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin
- Thrive by Arianna Huffington
- Boundaries by Henry Cloud and James Townsend
- The Seven Sisters Series by Lucinda Riley (for fun!)
Announcements & Reminders
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Royse City, Texas