I’ve been up to my years in taxes, FBAR, summer planning, science exhibitions and our homeschool application, but I don’t want the blog to die, so here’s a change I made a few weeks ago that is working wonders for me.

 

I’ve long been annoyed that getting out of the house involves a complicated dance of gathering this and that into one or another bag so we have what we need.  I can’t keep it all in one place because we use the stuff at home, too, and it’s always a different combo of stuff we need depending on whether we’re going shopping, to the doctors or to the playground.

 

I finally took a Saturday morning at the bakery to think about solutions.  I have a planner and wallet in one, but I only use 12 pages of the planner and get annoyed I can’t just bring the wallet, so I have a change purse that holds a few cards, but then I have to switch things in and out . . .

 

Anyway, I stopped by the mall on the way (it really is on the way) and looked through wallets to see what’s available.  I got some ideas and then over my coffee I brainstormed the idea solution for my personal belongings (and the kids’!).  I gave myself permission to buy whatever I needed to.  It probably took me far too long, but after an hour I had a good idea of what I wanted, and even thought I might be able to make do with what I had at home.  Probably too much of my stuff has ended up in dress-up when I want it out of my wardrobe but can’t stand to throw it out – but this time it paid off.  I found an old purse and it fit the stuff and documents I wanted, then I found an old zip-folder that held the other documents I wanted.  I had “repurpose zip-folder into an office-on-the-go” on my to do list for ages, but never did it.  Giving myself the permission to buy what I needed gave me the freedom to think through what I wanted and narrowed my thinking enough to make what I had work.

 

Amazingly, I have picture to share!  I used our little camera and uploaded them right away yesterday. (Click to enlarge)

 alt

My solution:

  1. Purse with money (room for two currencies), spot for cell phone (another reason not to get a smart phone), a few cards, and a copy of my important documents.  This goes with me always and even has its own strap if I get to travel light.
  2. Zip-case for when I need more documents.  I can had the health records when going to the doctors or passports when flying.  I like having this separate from my wallet because if someone steals my wallet I still have our important documents.  If they still my whole bag I’m in trouble, but I feel better with things separated anyway.  The kids’ health and ID cards are in here in one zip-bag, so they can easily be handed off to someone else when I am away from the kids.  I also have all my other shopping cards and a pen and pencile.  Basically, when I bring a bag I have this and my wallet, but whenever I need to I can just bring my wallet and know I have the basics.
  3. My journal! For all the thoughts and reviewing and processing and note-taking that comes at me moment by moment.

Everything I need and it's so small!

 alt

I am loving the solution so much.  It was well worth the time thinking it through, and I didn’t spend a penny . . . besides the 3.90 coffee. ;)

Lo and behold, there were other photos on the camera.  Here is one of me and my hot wheels.  Welcome to my life!

alt

Posted by harp on Tuesday, May 6, 2014 at 2:36 pm | Edit
Permalink | Read 391 times | Comments (2)
Category Mommy: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Organization: [first] [previous]

Jesus was the only one with a perfect score.  We won’t achieve that on earth.  So why is everyone obsessed with it?

 

The language software I’m using to improve my German and brush up my French, DuoLingo, gives you three mistakes before you have to start over again.  They make a big deal of how long a streak of daily practice you can keep up.

 

New Year’s Resolutions usually come in the form of absolutes.  One missed day, and it’s all down the tubes.

 

Perfect SAT scores, 365 days of consecutive piano practice, no red marks on your math test, the list could go on.  The fear of losing just one little bit looms large in our subconscious.  I recently read that people are more motivated if they are afraid of losing something than if they stand to gain something.  Why?  It’s backwards!

 

If I don’t speak a word of German, I’ve made no mistakes but I’ve learned nothing.  If I speak 20 and make 10 mistakes I still get to eat my fresh bakery croissant and I’ve learned how to overcome my fear, I’ve felt the rush of satisfaction of a job completed, and I’ve likely learned from one or more of my mistakes.

 

So why the obsession with a perfect score?

 

I love Annie Dillard’s idea that a schedule is a net for catching days.  The power of a little every day is enormous.  But the power of almost every day is just as great, and probably better.

At first I thought about how I could justify doing DuoLingo on Sunday, our day of rest.  Then I thought, hang on, I am the master, not the servant of DuoLingo.  Their streak incentives don’t have to enslave me!  I choose to ignore them because I think they are counterproductive.  If instead, I choose to practice most days but not Sundays, I will likely hit about five days a week, or 260 days, subtract for vacation and other events, and that’s 200.  If I only do 20min. a day it would be equivalent to a two-week intensive course (based on the 3hour class, 2hours homework model generally offered by language schools).

Those 200 days strung together as a streak would indeed be quite impressive, but the learning would be about the same, and maybe a bit worse.  Imagine the pressure of losing a day in that streak – you’d be so close, and then it would all go up in smoke!  You might also make the stupid decision to not hang in the mountains one weekend because of no internet.  Oh don’t worry, you can cheat on DuoLingo.  You can buy yourself patch that makes it look like you have a long streak when you really missed a day!!!!

Language learning, as with most learning, actually benefits from a break now and then, and in fact I’ve read somewhere that the pace of every 7 days is scientifically proven to be helpful (sorry, don’t remember where.)  Why put on the extreme pressure to achieve something that doesn’t matter?  Why risk losing your motivation to push on because one tiny mistake destroys you’re ridiculous goal?

Going for a long streak is the prefect recipe for quitting.

Going for perfect is the perfect way to spoil the fun and increase your chances of making a mistake.

I hear our friend the 80/20 rule calling . . .

So next year, why not resolve to go on a diet 80% of the time?

Why not do 10min a day of DuoLingo and defy the “keep up your streak” notices.  Not the perfect language software?  Not enough investment to get anywhere?  Only like an imperfect 1-week intensive course, but with better retention.  That’s a whole lot better than 0 (which is how much I’ve studied French in the past 3 years), or even a 50 day streak.

So there DuoLingo.

 

Do Something Challenge:

Why not break a big, challenging goal that you don’t have time to work on now but wish you did, and pick a super tiny habit you can do really easily most days without thinking hard about it, then adding to it, ity-bit at a time until it starts to bear fruit in a month or a year?

For a silly example, I forget to take my vitamins.  So I’m thinking of breaking it down like this.

After I clean up the breakfast dishes, I will think about taking my vitamins.  Go me!

I’m guessing after a few days I’ll be ready for step two.

After I clean up the breakfast dishes, I will locate my vitamins.

After another few days I’m guessing I’ll be getting into the habit enough that I can go on.

After I clean up the breakfast dishes I will put a vitamin on the counter and put away the vitamins.

I’m guessing I’ll eventually eat the pill sitting on the counter, and it will be a habit.

Because we’re taking a tiny, tiny, step, it doesn’t have to be a perfect one, and it doesn’t have to be your biggest goal.  Spend your effort finding the simplest trigger to do a task so easy you can’t make up an excuse not to do it (that’s why I started with thinking about my vitamins.)

Then share, share!  I have to think about what I want to do with this challenge myself!

Posted by harp on Monday, April 28, 2014 at 1:54 pm | Edit
Permalink | Read 877 times | Comments (21)
Category Organization: [first] [previous] [newest] Do Something: [next] [newest]

One great aspect of the Bullet Journal is that you don’t have to decide on a pre-made structure.  You just start and it structures itself along the way.  Yet I still spent an hour “setting up” my new journal.  Should I incorporate my ASAP lists?  Should I move my calendar?  All the months up front or each as I go along?  What about in back so it’s easy to find? Etc. etc.

 

Why, oh why?!?!

 

I am still under perfectionism’s curse!

Posted by harp on Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 8:34 pm | Edit
Permalink | Read 777 times | Comments (8)
Category Mommy: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Organization: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

Back by popular demand, I present a second “Do Something” challenge.

It can be hard to get moving on a project.  It can be just as hard to stop.  How do you help yourself know when it’s time to stop?

My internal inertia is large.  It’s hard to get started and hard to stop.  At the moment, kids are the force that makes me stop.  Stephan took the kids out for an hour yesterday, and I used the opportunity to work on the bedroom.  I pulled out boxes and bins and rotated baby blankets and pillows and opened up some space in other rooms.  I started to wonder how to use that space, but I knew I had to be all cleaned up before the troops arrived or I’d have chaos on my hands.  It forced me to take the next best solution, and worry later about the possibilities my current changes opened up.  It’s still hard to do, though!  Yet 45 minutes later the bedroom was much better than it was and I even had time to write a blog post before Stephan arrived home.  It really does make sense to stop before I start spinning my wheels.

So today’s challenge is . . .

 

Decide how much time you have available to do something nagging, then commit to doing your best in ONLY that amount of time.  Start something.  Then stop!

Once you’re done, please share your experience with us!

Posted by harp on Tuesday, April 22, 2014 at 12:26 pm | Edit
Permalink | Read 389 times | Comments (9)
Category Organization: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

Since we’re on the topic, I’ll attempt to write a brief description of my current system.  I will force myself to keep it brief knowing that you will let me know which parts you want to know more detail about.  Bit by bit I can add in more information to have a more complete description, but for now, here are the major bits.

 

Schedule

Every evening I check the system (calendar, Tickler, meal plan) and write out a schedule. It has the bare minimum of tasks that are connected to certain times: meals, outside commitments, and the like.

 

Routines: A net for catching days

 

Annie Dillard writes “How we spend our days, is, of course, how we spend our lives.  What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.  A schedule defends from chaos and whim.  It is a new for catching days.  It is scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of a time.

 

I love this, but the trouble is, if I try to force an unnatural schedule on my days it feels like oppressive chains and I end up throwing the whole thing away and playing solitaire.  I have lots of ideas, and only some seem to really fit.  The others just don’t work and I have to give up and try something else.  I have daily and weekly routines, and there’s much to improve, but what works, works really well.

 

Inbox and Journal

The inbox catches everything that flies my way, and the journal catches all the thoughts spinning in my brain.  It is also a place to brainstorm, keep project time notes before transferring them to the Google docs, incubate ideas, note prayer requests, and take notes on lectures watched and books read.  The index makes things easy to find, and so far it feels so good to have all my thoughts in one, neat place that daily review is a joy – a need.

 

ASAP Lists

These are still GTD style: organized by context (at home, at computer, with Stephan) not by project, and contain only the next concrete step that can be done in a few minutes – no more than 30 minutes (otherwise I have to schedule a time to make it happen).  It really is for those things that have to be done in the next available moment, which is why the lists are on post-its, so it’s easy to start fresh.  This list is on my desk and always easy to see.  I don’t want it in my journal because I might flip away to see something else and then my ASAP actions are out of sight and I’ll forget to check the laundry (seriously!).

 

Next Actions Lists

This needs work, but the idea is that tasks that aren’t ASAP get put in one of 6 category lists that are reviewed regularly (one a day means each one is reviewed weekly, but it usually takes me longer than that . . .).  There are only “very next step” actions as well, so they are easy to do when I get a moment, but they don’t clutter up what’s really pressing.  With regular review it is easy to see when something becomes pressing.  Or that’s the idea – and it works better than the deadly “maybe/someday” list.

 

I want to write so much more, but the kids are climbing over me – what do you want me to expand on or include?

 

Posted by harp on Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at 3:24 pm | Edit
Permalink | Read 340 times | Comments (2)
Category Organization: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

I love brainstorming solutions to life’s little problems.  That is what organization is all about.  Life continues to change, so the solutions will continue to change.  I need to give up my phantasy about achieving the perfect organizational system once and for all.  Instead, I should be content plugging along and finding little fixes.  Little fixes can have a big impact.  Little fixes are easier to share, too.  This week I made journaling a full part of my system and I am love, love, loving it.  I have never been successful at reviewing any type of journal, or class notes, or anything I’ve written (though I’ve gotten better with GTD – the weekly review is still hit or miss), but I think I’ve found a combo that works.

 

Speaking of sharing, a big thanks to Monica for sharing her discovery of Bullet Journaling.  Only a few days before she sent me the link I had decided that I needed to keep not just a project journal for my kids, but do a lot more with using a single notebook to capture and filter the flood of thoughts during the course of one day rather than just tossing bits of paper in my inbox.  I was doing okay, but still having a hard time stomaching my writing enough to review it regularly.  Bullet Journaling answered the question I’ve always had of people who keep journals: “how?”  I’ll share more about my system later, but I’m curious about you.

 

Do you keep a journal?  How do you use it and when do you review it?  If you don’t, do you wish you did or are you happy you don’t?

Posted by harp on Monday, April 14, 2014 at 9:22 pm | Edit
Permalink | Read 405 times | Comments (13)
Category Organization: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

Challenge: What are you procrastinating on?  What task do you fear?  What’s so important and overwhelming that you can’t get started?

 

Last week I made myself just “do something” and it turned my day around.  It’s not a novel idea, but ideas don’t get us anywhere, little itty-bitty actions do.

 

So, I’ll give you a challenge:

 

Do something!

 

Then come back and tell us about it!  Let your small successes inspire the rest of us.

Posted by harp on Friday, April 11, 2014 at 9:41 pm | Edit
Permalink | Read 381 times | Comments (5)
Category Organization: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

Power of Moms is having a 33 percent off of everything in their store sale now through Cyber Monday.  Give the gift of organization with the Mind Organization for Moms program, or try something new for yourself.  Shameless plug over.  Real blog post to come some other time.

Posted by harp on Saturday, November 30, 2013 at 8:03 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 458 times | Comments (0)
Category Organization: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

Here, finally, are photos for the first phase of our declutter project.  They serve as both before and after photos because unfortunately, I failed to take before photos soon enough.  But now I have real before photos for the other parts of the house, so the next post on the kids' room (due end of April) will be more interesting.  As I mentioned before, we're pretty happy with our decluttered living room, except for the desk, which you can see I didn't even try to straighten before taking the photos.

As you enter the living room

alt

Entrance to living room

alt

to the right of previous (music books, adult games, blankets)

alt

to the right of previous (I'm okay with the pile of musical instruments in the black bin)

(the coffe table in front of the keyboard is slated for giveaway, but is waiting for a home)

alt

reading nook

alt

desk (but at least we only have one now!)

alt

cardboard and paper recycling - where to put them?

alt

Stephan's side

alt

my side

alt

our Ticklers

alt

junk drawers

alt

Here's hoping the kids' room with have more success!!  Still, if you knew what our place looked like a year ago, the living room is nothing short of a small miracle.  We are loving the space and how easy it is to clean.

Posted by harp on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 3:24 pm | Edit
Permalink | Read 1015 times | Comments (7)
Category Organization: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

So I’ve been coveting fancy coffee machines for years now but could never justify the expense.  True, in Switzerland it seems like you can’t invite anyone over if you don’t have good coffee to serve, but not everybody has a fully automatic coffee machine, just most everybody.  We inherited an espresso machine that I’ve been enjoying, but it’s starting to get old and leak coffee grinds because the water overflows a little.  Plus, it’s a bit of a pain to pack, empty, clean, and repack the coffee for each cup, especially when company is over.  But those really aren’t enough reasons to spend 1,000CHF on a fancy machine.

 

I recently had the idea to just get an off-brand (so not Nestle) capsule machine since we don’t make all that much coffee, it could be cost-effective (the coffee is crazy expensive if you use a lot of it).  The machine would take up less space and is only 50CHF, and it would be easy to serve guest a good choice of coffee.  As I compared the price of capsules I remembered that our espresso machine takes coffee pads – ground coffee in a filter pouch that you pop into the filter rather than packing it yourself.  I stopped using those when I discovered the machine could do fine with regular coffee.  It’s too expensive and a waste to use the coffee pads, I reasoned.  Well, after years of packing my own coffee, and a second look at the price, I realized that the coffee pads were up to half the price of capsules and would solve the problem of coffee grinds in the coffee

 and the difficulty of serving a number of guests.  I save myself from buying a new machine, from having to get rid of our current machine, coffee is suddenly much easier to make,  I no longer dream of fancy machines, and every time I make a coffee I feel so proud of myself for my declutter victory!  If that isn’t win-win-win, I don’t know what is.  How does that count as decluttering, you may ask?  Well, the most important part of keeping a decluttered home is NOT bringing more stuff IN.

 

Thanks for listening! ;)

Posted by harp on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 2:56 pm | Edit
Permalink | Read 588 times | Comments (3)
Category Mommy: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Organization: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

This isn’t an official Quick Takes (I don’t know how), but I’ve had a lot on my mind and I can’t wait to share it anymore, so here goes.

 

  1. Focus 2013 Goal 1: Fail.  Well, not entirely, but we set a goal to have the living room decluttered by the end of February and it came and when without us hardly noticing.  I had done a lot of work earlier, and it’s still the best room in the house, but I think we discouraged ourselves when we moved the computer desk into the living room.  That’s just about the hardest place of the house to declutter and keep that way!  I’ll share photos when we finally upload them . . .
  2. My current envy is just about everything in this home. Simple, uncluttered, lots of space, beautiful well-made wooden toys that are well-ordered and easy to use and put away, lots of activities that encourage the competence and independence of the kids, and respect all around.  I am inspired, intimidated, and hungry for more!
  3. Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin.  I’m soaking up every page.  Her first focus for making the home happier is possesions and she talks about the other side of simplicity.  The word is quite popular these days, and she points out that her natural tendency is to be lazy and therefor quite simple, but that doesn’t equal happiness.  The right possessions and the right care for them can increase our connectedness to people, which is the real source of happiness.  We still have too much stuff, but it’s good to keep the other end in mind, and it helps explain why I still have a fairly pricy wish list. . .
  4. Parenting.  It’s darn hard. My kids are so wonderful, why do I yell at them?  How can I go from being so proud and happy and filled inside to losing my cool?  I participated in a live webinar with Positive Parenting Solutions sponsored by Power of Moms and I identified with so much of what was on PP I decide to spend the 180 to take the whole online course.  I cannot tell you how light my heart was once we spent the money and even before I started the course!  It felt so good to know that I was about to get a bunch more tools in the toolbox for encouraging my wonderful children rather than discouraging because I can’t handle their messes and spontaneity.  The course promises I won’t remember the last time I raised my voice, and I am looking forward to that.  So far, I am loving what they have to say: praise is discouraging because it creates a fixed mindset and instills fear of losing whatever positive label the praise created; don’t tie allowance to chores, everyone contributes to running of the household and everybody benefits from it’s blessings; time out is not effective and just creates a huge power struggle; children deserve respect, not humiliation; we want to train our kids to be internally motivated, not dependent on external rewards; etc. etc.  I’m only about a third of the way through, but it is so encouraging.  I never would have thought I’d be the type to pay big money for a course like that, but I’m so happy we did.
  5. Joseph and I were putting together the States puzzles saying the capitals. He said “Subtraction Mississippi” – I love it!
  6. Vivienne gave her signature belly flop welcome to Gotte Di when she came to visit yesterday.  It’s so cute, she crawls up nearly to the person she loves then flops on the floor like she can’t go any further, but it’s not a temper, it’s from happiness!
  7. I’m about to be a published author!  Well, electronically anyway. Power of Moms has accepted an essay submission from me.  I’m hoping it will be shown on my birthday in April. ;)  It’s AMAZING what a little bit of encouragement can do.  Stephan didn’t praise me, he helped me get it done because he believes in me – that goes right along with what I’m learning in the parenting course.  We all have people in our lives who discourage us.  I think I’ll give them a collective name and call them “The Discourager.” The Discourager is strong in my life and he makes me sad and depressed – but boy does it teach me the value of encouragement verses discouragement.  I vow to listen to the Encouragers in my life and tune out The Discourager. I vow to encourage people wherever I can and choose to curb language that is discouraging.  Life is hard enough. Don’t we all need someone cheering us on when we’re going in the right direction and loving us anyway when we’re not?  Wait, we have Him. He’s The Encourager!
Posted by harp on Friday, March 1, 2013 at 3:05 pm | Edit
Permalink | Read 642 times | Comments (1)
Category Philosophical Musings: [first] [previous] Family: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Mommy: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Organization: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

The other day I picked up my repaired glasses from the shop.  They came in a handy pouch made of glass cleaner cloth.  For this I was grateful because I had no safe place to put them (I had other glasses on my face).  When I returned home I put the glasses away in my closet in the hard case I have there and tossed the cloth pouch in the same box.  Then I stopped.  THIS IS HOW CREEP HAPPENS!  Do I need that cloth now?  No. Is it a waste?  Maybe, but I don’t need it and keeping it until I toss it later won’t do anyone any good.  I removed it from the box and tossed it in the trash.  VICTORY!  Maybe next time I’ll be smart enough to return it to the store, but really, do they want used pouches?

Posted by harp on Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 7:58 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 651 times | Comments (1)
Category Organization: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

I was asked to share some advice on using a Tickler, so here goes:

A Tickler file system is a simple and clever way to clear up the paper clutter scattered around the house and to cut a lot of stress and worry over date-related tasks that clutter up your mind.  With one folder for each day of the month and one for each month of the year, you can file papers away for up to a year in advance and pull them out the day you need them.  (Read here for more detailed information on how to make a Tickler.)  In order to make the most of your Tickler system it’s important to remember that the brilliance of the system is also its curse.  It’s an out of sight, out of mind tool. 

The Tickler is the perfect place to put things that you don’t need to think about and you don’t want to see until a specific date.  If you have theater tickets for next month, you don’t want them sitting in a pile of paper or pinned to the fridge where the baby could eat them.  With a Tickler system, you place them in the folder for the date of the show, and it’s off your mind and out of sight until they are presented to you on the day you need them.  That’s out of sight and out of mind at its finest.

For this trick with the theater tickets to work the Tickler itself has to be very much IN sight or it will be out of mind and you will forget to check it.  A Tickler that is not checked EVERY DAY is just a big garbage collector that will create even more stress than it was supposed to save.  Forgotten bills, lost documents.  That’s out of sight, out of mind at its worst.  So the first thing you need to make your Tickler work effectively is to make it pleasing enough to look at that you are happy to put it in a prominent place.  Whether that means printing labels on hanging folders or decorating the box or something else entirely, the Tickler must be something you personally are happy to look at.  Second, it’s best to have a set time or a set place in your routine that you check your Ticker.  If you’re not much of a routine person, your best bet is to create an “instant habit” of Tickler checking by pairing the new task of checking the Tickler with something you already do naturally every day.  You could decide to check your tickler at night just after (or while!) your brush your teeth.  Or you could decide to check it before you hop into the shower in the morning.  You will be astonished how easy it is to establish a new habit with this way of “piggy backing” on an established routine.  If you go on vacation, check all the folders up to the day you get back to make sure you won’t be missing something while you’re away.

Once you’ve set yourself up for Tickler success by making your Tickler pleasing, IN sight, and easy to check, the next step is to learn to feed it appropriately.  Before you put something in a Tickler folder, ask yourself “Can I afford to ‘lose’ this until then?”  The answer for theater tickets is an easy “yes,” but for many other items the answer won’t be so obvious.  What about that wedding invitation you just received?  If you simply dumped it in the folder for the day of the event you probably won’t make it to the wedding on time much less have time to arrange a carpool or babysitter and you’ll most certainly be embarrassed that you don’t have a gift to bring.  Clearly some parts of the wedding invitation need to be on your mind and others, like the directions, don’t.   At the very least you should write the date on your calendar (and you might consider making a T or other mark next to the event to remind you that the invitation is in your Tickler) and plan the way you normally would for such an event.  You could also put reminder slips in your Tickler a month or so before the wedding to ask your future self if such arrangements, like choosing a gift and making sure your family has appropriate clothing, have been accomplished.  If you have taken care of them, you feel great, and if you haven’t, it’s a kind kick-in-the-butt to get going before panic strikes days before the event.

Keeping in mind that the Tickler is an “out of sight, out of mind tool,” here are some pitfalls to avoid.  Don’t put large projects in the folder for the day they are due.  That would be using the Tickler to procrastinate and would constantly keep you in panic mode.  There are plenty of things that don’t belong in the Tickler because they should be dealt with in another way.  If you’re interested in learning how to handle those other tasks and papers you can look into organizational programs such as Mind Organization for Moms.

Don’t stuff your Tickler with a bunch of ‘hope to dos.’  We are terrible estimators of how much we can accomplish in a given day.  If you stuff something in a folder a few days from now, chances are when you pull out that folder it will be chalk full of tasks that aren’t the best use of your time.  Your days should be planned to account for the most important things first, like the needs of your family and you should not pile on guilt by filling your Tickler with an impossible amount of random tasks.  If you use your Tickler in this way you will quickly become demotivated and want to avoid checking it, which means you will miss those important things that DO belong in the Tickler, which means you can’t trust it which means you’ll start to worry about everything again.  Again, a program like Mind Organization will provide you a structure for dealing with all your “must dos” and “hope tos” much more effectively than with a Tickler.

Last but not least, make sure you personalize your Tickler use to fit your lifestyle.  I strongly recommend that you remember “out of sight, out of mind” by keeping your Tickler visible and always asking yourself “Can I afford to ‘lose’ this until then?” and doing your best not to put too much in it (empty folders are okay, too!), but in the end, if you don’t make it work for YOU, it won’t work.  If something gets lost, or you have trouble keeping up, or you run into some other road block, don’t give up.  Analyze the problem, re-read this post, and think of how you can change the way you do things to make life easier on yourself.  Put the effort in NOW to make life easier for yourself in the FUTURE.  Your future self will often be tired and stressed and busy when she needs to check the Tickler, so be kind to her!

Below are some other examples of what I think are good and poor Tickler use

Date-Specific Papers.  This is the best use of the Ticker.  Things you need on one date only are the perfect things to store in your Tickler.

Routine Tasks.  Our city collects paper recycling every four weeks but I don’t want to clutter up my calendar with those dates.  I simply label a card ‘paper’ and list the recycling dates on the back.  When the card shows up I know I need to put the paper on the curb and after I’ve done that I check the next date on the card and put it in my Tickler for the day before so I have plenty of time to prepare the paper for the next time.  I also keep my running record in my Tickler.  It serves both as a reminder to exercise and as a convenient place to record the stats from my run before I toss it back into the Tickler for the next time I hope to exercise.  I always put it back in only a few days in the future, so if I change my exercise plan it’s still easy to find and replace.

Incubation.  You can also use your Tickler for future ideas that you don’t need to think about yet.  Maybe you pick up a brochure for summer soccer camp this summer but your child is too young for it now.  You can put it in your Tickler for April of next year so you will be reminded to reevaluate if it’s something your family wants to participate in next summer.  This “think about this later” use can lead to losing information you might want to access at a different point, so be sure you ask yourself “Can I afford to lose this until then?” before you put it in your Tickler.  If the answer is no, then put it in a safe place and write a note to put in your Tickler that includes a pointer to where you put the information because chances are you will forget, and this way you don’t have to worry about it.

Pick-Me-Ups. Another great use for the Tickler is to scatter various pick-me-ups throughout so that you will have some pleasant surprises when you check your Tickler.  This helps you look forward to checking your Tickler, and is a great way to get photos, notes, Bible verses, and other sweet things from people you love from cluttering up your living area.  You’ll actually increase the amount of focused time you spend appreciating each one rather than always seeing them in mass (as when they’re on your fridge) but never taking the time to reflect on them.  When there’s one photo in your Tickler for the day you can take a few minutes to appreciate it and either pop it in a later date or decide you’ve held on to it long enough.

Delivery.  If someone asked you for your chili recipe at the latest church pot luck, you can make a copy of it and put it in your Tickler for the next Sunday.  I like to keep a paper clip on the following Monday’s folder so I can easily see which day of the week the coming dates are.

Conditional Commitments.  The Tickler can help you not over-commit yourself.  For example, in an October I was asked if I could volunteer to play a harp piece in church this Christmas.  I wasn’t sure I could manage to find time to practice with two little kids around, so I put I note in my Tickler the end of October saying “If you haven’t restrung your harp and found some time to practice by now then you need to admit you won’t have enough time to prepare a Christmas piece and therefore you need to say NO.”

Reminders. Last year I bought candles on sale after the Christmas season with the hope of making an advent wreath this year.  However, I plum forgot and would have bought new ones except that my husband somehow remembered and reminded me in time.  I should have put a note in my Tickler for November to remind me that I had the candles and where they were.   You can put double or triple layers of reminders in your Tickler and elsewhere if you are worried about forgetting something.  I might put a note in January to start work on taxes, then another one in March with a sterner warning in case I haven’t gotten around to it, then maybe even a command to “file for an extension if you haven’t done your taxes by today!”  Ideally we wouldn’t need all these reminders, but until you turn into a perfectly organized person, it can’t hurt to have an extra layer of security.

Directions. You’re going to a party in three weeks and have made the arrangements.  Instead of printing out making Google Map directions the night before when the internet may be out, why not print them off now and stick them in your Tickler so you have less to worry about the day of the party?

Bills. Be careful with this one. Make sure you give yourself enough time before they’re due.  It works well for my husband to put all his bills in the 24th Tickler folder.  He saves time by doing them all at once and generally blocks out a little time around that date because he knows those bills will be waiting for him.

I personally am a stickler about the Tickler.  Except for some things in the coming week I ONLY use it for DATE-SPECIFIC events.  I do not want my tickler getting filled with “hope to get to” items and nasty “you have to do this day” surprises that would make me not want to check it religiously.  It doesn’t work if you don’t check it every day, so I didn’t want to set myself up for failure.  That said, many around me chose to use it differently and it works for them, so it really is no right and wrong way to use a Tickler.       

Thanks for reading.  I hope you found these tips helpful.  Please leave your comments and questions below, and note that I get a commission if you buy a Mind Organization for Moms program after clicking through from my site.  It’s not the only way to get organized, but it’s an easy, effective, and relatively cheap way compared to getting a professional organizer.

Posted by harp on Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Edit
Permalink | Read 2195 times | Comments (5)
Category Organization: [next] [newest]
Go to page: