10 Tips for Surviving and Thriving This Holiday Season

By Patty Gardner

Thriving-During-Holiday-Season-515x386The holidays can be tricky for people who are already on a tight budget with their time, money and stress level.  I know I already have more to do than I can possibly do and the holidays just about push me over the edge.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  There are things we can do to survive and even thrive during this holiday season.

1.       There are SO many things you could do during the holidays, and most likely, your schedule will not allow you to do all of them.  So before you get started, CHOOSE what activities are most important to you and schedule them in.  Decide which activities are the LEAST important and mark them off the list.  You can’t do everything so decide ahead of time what you will do.

2.       Skip what you can.  Just because you’re invited to something doesn’t mean you have to go.  Since there are more than enough activities to choose from, skip what you can so you can focus on the things you really want to do.

3.       If you like shopping for Christmas presents at the stores, then schedule shopping time.  If you don’t, do as much shopping as possible on-line.  But do it soon so you’ll be sure to get your gifts on time.

4.       If you’re attending or hosting parties, don’t be ashamed to buy food pre-made.  Yes, homemade is usually better but you can only do what you can do.  So if you’re short on time and energy, buy it at the store!  There’s no shame in that.

5.       Do the minimum on the house.  Yes, I actually said skip the housecleaning – but not all of it!  Straighten, vacuum, keep the bathroom(s) clean and clean the kitchen as you go.  If you spill something, clean it immediately.  If you get something out, put it away.  But if time is short, don’t worry about a lot of cleaning.  Just do the minimum.  You can catch up when the holidays are over.

6.       Cook easy meals.  Use your crock pot whenever you can.

7.       Don’t pack your activities in too tight.  If you already have an event for one evening, don’t try to plan something else that day, too.  It’s tempting to schedule events back to back, but don’t do it.  That will definitely stress you out.

8.       Allow down time.  You want to get through the holidays with your sanity so schedule some time to just relax.  It might be hard to fit it in, but it’s important.  It can be time for just you or time with the family.  But don’t go, go, go – unless that’s what you like.

9.       Don’t start something new!  If you’re thinking about making big changes to one of your systems (planner, cleaning schedule, etc.)DON’T.  Wait until January when things are slower.  Even if your life is busy all the time, January will still be slower than December.

10.     Don’t skip the things that are important in an effort to save time.  I’m talking about basics like your spiritual life, your sleep, good food, time with family, exercise.  You think you’ll save time by skipping these but in the end they cost you much more than you gained.

So which of these do you need to put into practice in order to thrive this holiday season?

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Thanksgiving is Coming! Is your Planner Ready?!

By Patty Gardner

Thanksgiving is coming, and it’s going to be at my house again (like it has been for the last 20 years or more).  I’ve hosted so many times that I can almost plan the menu and prepare the food with my eyes closed.  But I don’t.  And even though I know what I’m doing, I still use my trusty planner to figure out what to do and when to do it.

The first thing I do is pull out last year’s planner and read about how last year’s Thanksgiving went.  Then I get out my calendar and highlight Thanksgiving on my monthly calendar so I can see at a glance how much time I have before the big day arrives. Since I have ADHD, I don’t always have a realistic view of how much time has passed or how much time is still remaining.  That’s why it’s important for me to have a visual reminder of exactly when the holiday is – more than just a box on the calendar – a HIGHLIGHTED box.

FC - Thanksgiving 3Then I go to the Thanksgiving page in my planner and insert a blank piece of paper.  On that paper, I write down who I think will be coming so I can get a count.  I also decide what time we’ll eat and write down a tentative menu.  We like to have most of the same foods year after year but we tried to include a few new things each holiday.  Anyway, on that blank piece of paper I jot down any thoughts I have about the menu, the guest list or anything else about the holiday.  I start doing this in October at the latest.

As November gets closer, I start finalizing the recipes and assigning foods to other family members (I let them tell me what they want to bring and then make it fit the menu).  I write on the Thanksgiving planning page who’s bringing what.

A few weeks before Thanksgiving I start writing down all the extra things we’ll need like plates, silverware, napkins, salt & pepper, butter, coffee (I always forget coffee), ice, etc.  It sounds silly to write all that stuff down but I want to make things as easy and mindless as possible on Thanksgiving.  I don’t want to forget anything and I don’t want to be stressed.

At the beginning of the week of Thanksgiving I write out a plan.  My plan includes what I’m cooking and when.  I get pretty detailed about what needs to be done when.  And I post that plan so it’s visible to everyone.  Then if they want to help, they have a better idea of what to do and I know what to tell them.

FC - Thanksgiving 2

And then . . . when it’s all over, I write details on my notes page about how it went and what I might want to do different or the same next year.  And before the lights go out on Thanksgiving, I move on to Christmas . . . no wait, I already started planning for Christmas.  But that’s an article for another day!!!

 

 

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6 Ways to Use a Planner To-Do Page

By Patty Gardner

6 Ways to Use a Planner To Do Page

I’m pretty sure that all time management experts recommend using a personal planning system of some sort.  It can be anything:  an electronic planner, your smart phone, a paper planner (my personal favorite), your computer or tablet, or even notebooks, steno or legal pads, or index cards.  It doesn’t matter what you use as long as you use it and it works for you!

And therein lies the problem.  Most of the pre-printed systems are designed to be used a certain way and most people try to use them the way they were designed even if they don’t work for them.  Sometimes the planner you’re trying to use isn’t worth saving – it just doesn’t work.  So toss it.  But sometimes you can tweak it and make it work.  Here are a few points to consider:

  • Just because the planner provides lines for you to write on doesn’t mean you have to write on them.  My planner’s lines are too narrow so I use two lines instead of one.
  • Just because the “box” says it’s for the prioritized task list doesn’t mean you have to write the task list there.
  • Just because another area says it’s for appointments doesn’t mean you can’t put to do items there, too.
  • Just because an area is blank and isn’t supposed to be written on doesn’t mean you can’t.
  • You can write in your planner any way you want!

I’ve been using a planner for a very long time – I can’t function without it.  Just ask my family.  That being said, I’m not sure I’ve ever used my planning pages the way they’re supposed to be used.  But my modifications worked for me.  Below are six examples of different ways I’ve used my planner over the years (and sometimes in the same week!).  I’m hoping these examples will give you ideas for how you can better use your planner.

6 Ways to Use a Planner To Do Page

Example 1.  This example uses the planner page as intended.  You make a list of everything you need to do and then prioritize the list using A, B and C and 1, 2 and 3.  A’s are items that MUST be done that day or bad things will happen.  B’s are items that you should do.  C’s are things that you can do if you have time.  If you don’t do them, nothing will happen.

I personally have a very hard time prioritizing in this way.  If your list consists only of “extra” things you needed to do, like pay bills, schedule an appointment, etc –this method is easier.  But I include pretty much everything I need to do and it’s hard to decide whether dinner is more important than laundry and which should be done first.   So I’ve never done my list this way.  But I know a lot of people have success with this method.

6 Ways to Use a Planner To Do Page

Example 2.  On this page, my list consists only of items that must be done that day.  In the bottom section, the daily tracker, is a list of the daily things I need to do.  On the top right of the page is a reminder of a friend’s appointment so I can follow up.  On the top left is my menu.

 6 Ways to Use a Planner To Do Page

Example 3.  On this example I divided my day into sections and made my list based on what I hope to accomplish during each time segment.  Again my menu is on the top left.

6 Ways to Use a Planner To Do Page

Example 4.  On this example, in the prioritized daily task list section I have one column of daily chores and one column that is all the other things I would like to do.  The circled items (you could also put an asterisk by them) are items that are very important.  My menu is in the daily tracker.  And the area at the top right includes things I need to do as soon as I get up.

6 Ways to Use a Planner To Do Page

Example 5.  On this example I use the appointment schedule to record my to do’s.  I plug in the things I have to do at set times and highlight them so they stand out.  Then in the spaces between, I write what I’m planning to do during that time period.  I use the prioritized daily task list area for details about those items.

6 Ways to Use a Planner To Do Page

Example 6.  On this example, I limit my list to only 10 things that are important for that day.  I have more things I would like to do but setting a limit helps me focus on the most important things.  When I’m making my list (it’s a good idea to use pencil), sometimes I have to erase something in favor of something else that I decide is more important.  The list at the top right includes about 5 things that can be completed very quickly.  I’ll do those when I have a minute between tasks.  If I happen to complete all 10 items before the end of the day (I don’t think that ever happened), then I’ll make a list of 5 more.  Again, my menu is in the daily tracker section.

So just because the planner page designates certain areas for certain things doesn’t mean you have to do it that way.  Don’t be afraid to modify your page so that it works for you!  You should never be a slave to the planner.  The planner is your servant!  Make it work for you!

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5 Ways Your Planner Can Help You Act, Instead of React

By Patty Gardner

Do you act or react?  “Acting” is definitely a less stressful way to live but most people spend their life RE-acting.

What is reacting?

  • Being late to an appointment because you’re gathering the stuff you need at the last minute.
  • Being late to an appointment because you can’t find your keys or bag or items you need to take.
  • Paying fines on library books because you forgot they were due.
  • Running out of gas because you didn’t realize you were low or didn’t take the time to stop and fill it up.
  • Getting arrested because you forgot to pay your speeding ticket (this has not happened to me, by the way).
  • Having your electricity shut off because you forgot to pay the bill.
  • Paying an exorbitant amount of interest because you signed up for the no interest for one year financing but then made your payment late.

Besides the embarrassment, financial hits and other consequences, reacting also makes you feel like you’re always behind.  You’re reacting to all the things life throws at you instead of acting in advance.

How do you get ahead?  How do you become an actor instead of a reactor?

1.       Have a planner, calendar or electronic device and use it faithfully.  It won’t work if you don’t use it.  And if you don’t use it, unless you’re one of those naturally organized people, you won’t be ahead of the game but running behind.  Carry it with you.  Put it out where you can see it.  Set reminders on your phone to check it.

2.       Write everything down!  If you stop and pick up library books, write on your calendar when they’re due.  Then put a note a few days ahead reminding you to return them.  If you sign up for an account and have to choose a user id and password, write it down.  If you think of something you need to do, write it down.  Don’t rely on your memory.  It will fail you!

3.       Look ahead.  If you don’t look ahead in your planner, tasks and appointments can still catch you by surprise.  It’s good to have a day when you sit down and look at the coming week, make notes about what you need to do and observe appointments.  If you need to, put extra reminders in your planner.

Here’s an example from my planning routine.  My husband rented a piece of expensive equipment for a job he was working on and he had a set amount of time before he had to return it or we be charged a very expensive penalty.

  • I noted the date due on my calendar.
  • A week before the equipment was due, I put a note on my calendar.
  • A few days later, I put another reminder.
  • After the equipment was shipped, I wrote the tracking number in my planner.
  • I put a note on my calendar to check the tracking.
  • On the actual due date, I put a note on my calendar to check the tracking to be sure it had arrived on time.

An example from my library routine:

  • After I go to the library, I put on my monthly calendar the date the books are due.
  • Then on the daily page, I put “did you return library books?”
  • A couple of days before they’re due, I put “library books due 12-26-13”
  • After I return all the books due that day, I put a mark through the note on my monthly page so I know I did it.

4.       Use questions instead of to-do’s.  Did you notice on my library example I put “did you return library books?”  I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to be told what to do.  Sometimes my to-do list feels more like it’s bossing me and then the last thing I want to do is whatever is on that list.  But a question feels less offensive and less bossy.

I know this strategy is dumb, and I don’t use it for everything, but sometimes I have to do crazy things to keep myself motivated and on track.

5.       Put follow-up in your planning system.  I haven’t gotten a ticket in a long time, but when I did, I took extra steps to keep myself out of trouble.

  • I recorded the date due on the appropriate planner page.
  • A week before the ticket was due, I wrote pay the ticket. 
  • The day before the ticket was due, I checked my bank account to be sure the check had cleared.

While paying the ticket was important, making sure they got the payment was just as important.  Follow-up can save you a LOT of trouble!!!

Another example is a 0% financing for one year deal.  If everything goes well, they’re a great deal, but one tiny mistake and you’re in serious hot water.  We took advantage of one of those recently.  To stay out of trouble, I set up automatic payments delivered four or five days ahead of the due date.  A couple of days before the due date, I always checked to be sure the payment was made properly.

Paranoid? No, just careful.  I’ve had too many things go wrong to trust the system.  But I do trust my planner.

So which are you?  A reactor or actor?

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Use Your Planner: 9 Tips for Making it Easier

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By Patty Gardner

Do you ever neglect your planner because it seems like too much trouble? There are things you can do to make it easier to use.

1.      Take it with you as much as possible.  Keep it in your purse or bag or hand, but take it with you.  If it isn’t with you, you can’t use it.  If you don’t want to take it into stores or people’s homes, leave it in the car.  You can always go get it if you need it.

2.       Keep it near you when you’re home.  I don’t mean you have to wear it around your neck, but keep it handy.  When I work at my desk, my planner is on the desk next to me.  When I go downstairs and cook or clean, I keep my planner on the table.  As much as possible, I keep it near where I’m working.

3.       Keep it OPEN.  If it’s closed, you’re less likely to use it.  Remember – we want to make it as easy as possible.  The small step of having to open it might keep you from using it, especially if you’re in a hurry.  So keep it open.

4.      Keep it supplied with things you need.  If you use post-its, keep them in the pockets of the planner.  Always have a pen in the pen loop or at least nestled next to the pages (when I’m using mine a lot, I don’t always put the pen back in the pen loop).  Make sure there’s blank paper and current inserts.

5.       Keep it cleaned out.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand using a planner that’s so full I can’t open the rings without papers falling out.  That makes me NOT want to use it.  If that doesn’t bother you, then don’t worry about it, but if it does, then keep it cleaned out so overflowing rings won’t keep you from using it.

6.       Make sure you LIKE it!  If you hate your binder or your pages are boring, you probably won’t use it.  If your set-up isn’t working, you probably won’t use it either.  So do what you can to make it work for you.

7.       Look at it often.  If you never look at it, you may as well not have it.  Get in the habit of taking a look at it frequently.  The more you look at it and realize how much it helps you, the more you’ll use it.

8.       Have page finders or markers of some kind for the sections you use frequently.  If it takes too much time to get to the section you need, you won’t do it.

9.       Limit the amount of loose pages.  If you open your planner and a bunch of stuff falls out, you’re not going to want to open it.

If you have a planner but don’t use it faithfully, why don’t you?  If the hold-up isn’t any of these items, figure out what it is and try to fix it.  A planner is an extremely valuable tool that can make the difference between chaos and calm.  Sometimes you need a completely different system, but most of the time your current system just needs a tweak or two.

Have you struggled with any of these issues? What keeps you from using your planner?

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The Most Important Part of My Planner

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By Patty Gardner

To-do list? A-Z tabs? Calendar?

No.  None of those.  The most important part of my planner is the notes page.  Yes, you read that right – the notes page.

daily notes

I’ve been using Franklin Covey’s two pages per day for 20 years and the Notes page has been and will continue to be the most important part of my planner.

The notes page is important because that’s where all the good stuff  is.  In the future, no one is going to care about what was on my to-do list or what appointments I had that day.  But the information on the notes page is interesting.  It’s important.  It’s valuable.  It’s a record of my life and my family’s lives.

When I need to write something down, I never have to think about where to write it.  I grab my planner and start writing on the notes page.  When I need to retrieve information, I don’t have to wonder where it is.  I know it will be on one of my notes pages.

Of course, the key to retrieving information from the notes pages is the monthly index.

This page includes: Details about a conversation from the agent who handles our health insurance. Spending. Directions to the title company. Information about some work the city did in my neighborhood. Email address for the closer on our house sale. Information about an offer we made on a house.

And now, here are a few samples of some of my notes pages.

Other things I record on my notes pages:

1.       Information.  When anyone tells me anything, I write it down on the notes page.  For example, yesterday I went to Public Storage to rent a storage unit (we’re moving in with family until we find a house) and I pulled out my planner and wrote down the important information – like unit number and password.  Yes, they gave me paperwork with all that information, but in the chaos of moving, I might accidentally misplace it and then I won’t know which unit or how to get in.  But I promise you I won’t misplace my planner.

2.       Lists.  My daughter was coming over one day and I had several things I wanted to ask her about.  I made a list on the Notes page, and when she got here, I made sure I asked her everything I had written down.  I always think I’ll remember but I don’t.

3.       I use it as a journal.  I used to record funny things the kids said and did.  Now I use it to record funny things the grandkids say and do.  I love looking back and reading about their antics.

4.       I track ongoing issues.  I’m currently dealing with some pretty major peri-menopause symptoms and I record on the Notes page what’s going on.  It helps me see patterns and provides information for doctor appointments.

5.       I record questions I want to ask at future doctor appointments.  If I have a doctor’s appointment scheduled for the next month, as I think of things I want to ask or talk about, I turn to the appropriate page and write my notes on the page.

6.       When I sign up for a new on-line account, I record the user id and password on the notes page.  Then I put that same information in the A-Z tabs.

7.       I record instructions.

8.       I record things that happen.  For example, about a month ago a plumbing company was working on the road near our house.  The dump truck’s brakes failed and the truck, pulling a trailer carrying a backhoe, rolled down the hill.  One of the employees jumped in the truck and got it stopped but not before the trailer clipped the edge of the road and turned over.  The still running backhoe landed on our split rail fence.  Yes – this kind of stuff happens to us on a regular basis.  Anyway, I wrote details about what happened as well as took pictures.  And in case you’re wondering, the company paid for the fence.

My son and I were having a discussion about my memory recently.  I told him that I had a great memory.  He said, “You don’t have a great memory.  You just have a great system.”  Wow.  He was right.  I have a great system and it helps me remember the details of my life.  And the most important part of my system is the notes page.  It’s the glue that holds it all together.

Do you have a notes page? Do you have a place in your planner where you write everything?  How easy is it for you to retrieve information?

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How to Keep a Big Project From Stressing You Out!

By Patty Gardner

Have you ever had a big project you needed to do but you were completely overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start?  The solution to that problem is simple – break the project down into smaller steps.   Here are a couple of examples from my life.

I have two quilt projects going right now.  I was feeling overwhelmed so I made a couple of charts for my planner that broke each quilt project down into manageable steps.

The first chart is just a bunch of boxes.  Each box represents a square of the quilt.  For some reason, I’m more motivated to quilt if I get to check off a box each time I finish a square.  Plus I can see at all times where I am in the project.

Quilt 1

The second chart is a little more detailed since I was in the beginning stages of the project when I made the chart.  The chart lists the steps required to sew the top together, boxes representing each square, and then a few steps at the end for finishing.  I felt a lot better about this project once I made the chart.  And each time I mark off a step, I feel like I’m making progress and the project doesn’t seem so overwhelming.

 Quilt 2

So it’s your turn.  Take a look at your to do list and see what projects could be broken down into smaller sized pieces.  Then make a list of all the steps required and get started!  You’ll be surprised at how much less overwhelming it feels.

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Why Bother Planning?

By Patty Gardner

Do you ever feel like planning is a waste of time?  As soon as you get your list made, everything changes!  Or you start out strong but then it all falls apart.  And when you finally sit down at night and evaluate your day, you did little or nothing of what was on your list.  It’s discouraging and sometimes it makes me feel like planning is a waste of time.

planner planner page edit

But it’s not.  Even though it might seem like it, planning is still one of the best things you can do.  And here’s why:

1. You can’t have Plan B without Plan A.  If you start out with a plan but then things change, as they always do, you can look at Plan A and make decisions and adjustments.  And chances are, you’ll still end up having a productive day because you started with a plan.

2. Without a plan, you spend your day reacting to whatever comes up.  You might get some things done but they may not be the things you needed to do.  You spent your day putting out fires and that’s no way to live!

3. You get more done with a plan than without a plan.  This is absolutely true for me!  Without a list, I tend to piddle.  I end up spending time cleaning out a closet or re-doing my recipes when I should have been cleaning the bathroom, making dinner and paying the bills.  Having a list is like having goals.  Not having a list is like wandering aimlessly through the desert.

4. Even if you can’t get everything on your list done, a list shows you what needs done.  Maybe you’re one of those people who can keep a list in their head and always knows what to do next (like Mr. Organized, my husband).  I’m not like that.  If I don’t see it, it doesn’t exist.  I need a list so I know what to do.  Even if I don’t get it all done, the list is there to remind me.

5. A list provides a written record of what needs done and what you did.  I frequently look back to see when or if I did something.  And I don’t have to worry that a task will be forgotten because I have it written down.  If it’s written down, it’s safe.  If it’s swimming around in my head…oh, boy, that’s never good!!!

Even if it seems like making a list or having a plan is a waste of time, it isn’t.  And unless you’re like Mr. Organized, a list is probably going make the difference between a productive day and a day spent putting out fires.

So whip out your planner and get your list ready for tomorrow.

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How I Plan My Week

10 Reasons (2)

By Patty Gardner

 A weekly planning session makes all the difference in whether my week is smooth or rocky.  Starting the week with a plan in place allows me to make changes as needed (and believe me, there are always plenty) and get things done.  Here’s what I do:

My weekly planning session takes place on Sunday evening.  I sit on the couch with my planner and start plugging things in.

First I check my monthly calendar to see if I have any appointments scheduled.  I plug them into the Appointment Schedule on my daily pages.

Monthly Calendar

 Then I add things I know I’ll be doing, like babysitting the grand kids, going to the grocery store, church, etc.  These also go on the Appointment Schedule.  (I don’t remove the pages from my planner when I plan – this was to make it was easier to see the big picture.)

 appointments

 Next I plug in tasks I need to do on certain days.  These go in the Prioritized Daily Task List section.  For example, I usually go to the grocery store on Wednesday, so I need to make my grocery list on Tuesday.  I pay bills on Saturday.  On the 1st of the month I do monthly checks (smoke alarms, furnace filters, snack stash) and give my dog her heartworm pill.  If someone has a birthday, I write “email happy birthday”, “prep card”, “mail card” on the appropriate days.

 to do pages

 I record other tasks that need to be done sometime during the week on the page finder.  The page finder has a slot for a weekly list.  The front of the list has 8 boxes which I’ve been using those to record high priority tasks.  On the back of the page I record all the other things that come to mind.  Pull out the list to add new items or mark things off that you’ve done.

 page finder front

 

 Page finder back

Then I do a review to be sure there aren’t any issues, like too many appointments or a scheduling conflict.  If all is well, weekly planning is done!

Sometimes, though, I have SO much going on that I feel overwhelmed and this planning method isn’t enough.  When that happens, I print out a weekly schedule form and do my initial planning on it.  Seeing the whole week at one time helps me see whether I can get it all done or whether changes have to be made.  Once I get it all worked out, I transfer it to my daily pages.

This method takes about 15 minutes unless I have to do the weekly sheet first.  Then it probably takes 20 or so.  This system works really well and I start my week feeling like I know what I’m doing.  And feeling in control is half the battle!
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8 Reasons Why it’s Better to Make Your To-Do List the Day Before

By Patty Gardner

Do you make tomorrow’s to-do list before you go to bed or first thing in the morning?  I’ve always made my list the night before and I think that works better for these eight reasons:

1.       If I make tomorrow’s list before I go to bed, I sleep better.  I have a plan for the day and I know exactly what I need to do as soon as I get up.  Plus I’m not trying to remember what I have to do tomorrow because I already planned it out and wrote it down.

list2.       When I’m making the list the night before, it gives me more time if I discover something that needs done beforehand, like making sure certain clothes are clean, having cash on hand or taking food for the office potluck.

3.       If I wait until the next morning to make my list, I lose a lot of time in the morning trying to decide what to do.  By the time I get up, get dressed and figure out what I want to do, the day is already well underway and I feel behind.

4.       When I plan, I always plan what we’re having for dinner.  Planning the night before gives me time to thaw anything I might need for the meal.

5.       Knowing what I’m doing tomorrow helps me prepare mentally, especially if it’s going to be a tough day.

6.       Making my list the night before helps me know what time I need to get up.  If I have a lot going on, sometimes I need to get up a little earlier.  If it’s going to be a slower day, I can take my time in the morning.  But I only know that if I know what’s going on.

7.       When I make my list the night before, I notice if there are any conflicts or if there’s too much to do.  That allows me to make adjustments before the day gets started.

8.       If there’s something I need to do first thing in the morning, I might miss it or be late if I wait to make my list until morning.

When do you make your to-do list? 

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There’s More To a To-Do List Than To-Do’s

I know that sounds crazy.  A to-do list is a list of things to do.  What more could there be?

Actually, there’s actually a lot more.  Like:

1.       Choosing the right to-do’s based on importance.  It’s tempting sometimes (okay, always) to do the things that are easy, fun or the most satisfying.  But those aren’t usually the most important things.  And the problem with having a lot of those things on your list is that frequently we do those instead of the most important things and then we run out of time!  So we marked off a bunch of meaningless tasks but we missed the priorities.  Have you ever done this?  I have.  Every time I do it I kick myself because I know better.  And I end up paying a heavy price by missing a deadline or having to do something late in the day when I’m exhausted.

to-do list 2 (2)

2.       Choosing the right to-do’s based on goals.  Sometimes we have to do what we have to do regardless of whether it fits the goals we have for our life.  But we also do a lot of stuff we don’t have to do that doesn’t fit our goals.  We do it because we feel like we should, or we can’t say no, or we didn’t look at our calendar when we said yes.  But as much as possible, we should put items on our to-do list that fit our goals.  For example, maybe your goal is to exercise every day.  But instead of exercising, you say yes to a bunch of other things that prevent you from being able to exercise.  Optional things.  Things you could have said no to.   If something doesn’t fit your goals for your life and it’s optional, seriously consider whether you should do it.

3.       Choosing the right number of to-do’s.  This is completely personal but it’s important that you know the magic number for YOU.  My friend, Doug Puryear, author of Your Life Can Be Better, puts a maximum of 5 things on his list.  When he gets stuck, he puts 1 thing on his list.  He knows that more than 5 means he won’t get anything done.  I like to put 10 things on my list.  I am rarely able to accomplish all 10, but if I do, I will put 5 more tasks.  Limiting the list to 10 forces me to think about what’s really important and keeps me from being sidetracked (at least not as much).  If my list is too long, I tend to do the easy things or the things that sound fun.  So find your magic number so your list will work for you.

To-Do List 1

to-do list 3 (2)

4.       Choosing the right to-do’s based on the day’s schedule.  I am NOT good at making to-do lists.  Are you surprised?  I was when I realized it.  I thought I was great.  What I am good at is making a nice, long list of everything that needs to be done SOMETIME.  But when it comes down to planning what I’m actually going to do tomorrow, I’m not so good.  Here are some of my issues:

  • I’m overly optimistic about what I can accomplish.  If I make the list the morning of, I’m better.  But when I make it the night before, I plan way too many tasks or I plan tasks I can’t possibly do based on my schedule.
  • I tend to make a “wish list” rather than an actual “plan”.
  • I write down things I know I should do but not necessarily things I know I will do.
  • I always think I have way more time and energy than I really do.  Even though I know how long things take, I still plan as if I don’t.
  • And I’m notorious for thinking this is the day I’m going to get up early and get started right away.
  • Oh, and I forget to allow for interruptions like unexpected errands, phone calls, texting, etc.

That being said, when you make your to-do list for tomorrow, for it to be effective, you have to take into account what kind of day you have planned.  For example, when the little kids come over, I know I’ll have a few hours while they’re napping, but the rest of the time I’ll be at their beck and call.  I’m okay with that – that’s what grandma’s do.  But it’s foolish for me to plan a full day of tasks unless I have an attitude of “I’ll have this list ready in case I have an opportunity.  But nothing is urgent so if I don’t get to any of it, it’s no big deal.

When I was working full-time, I was very frustrated at first because I felt like I had NO TIME.  I’d been a full-time homemaker for years and the house and family were my first priorities.  Suddenly I didn’t have any time for the house but there was still plenty to be done.  I planned tasks for the evenings but never could get to all of them.  Finally I sat down and figured out the problem.

7:30   Get up, shower & dress, eat breakfast
8:30   Leave for work
6:00   Get home from work.  Immediately start dinner, eat and clean-up.
7:00   Tasks
8:30   Couch time with husband.  Exhausted.
10:00 Bedtime.

When I looked at my schedule, I realized I had about an hour every night to do tasks.  No wonder I wasn’t getting anything done.  From then on, when I made my evening to-do list, I made a list of tasks that would take about an hour.  I was still frustrated with my lack of time but now I was able to plan realistically.  So when you get ready to make your to-do list for tomorrow, look at your schedule and plan realistically based on what’s going on that day.

to-do 4 to-do 5

Making a to-do list isn’t simply writing down the things you want or need to do tomorrow.  Unfortunately a good to-do list requires some thought and effort.  How are you at making a to-do list?

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Your Lack of Planning Does Not Create An Emergency For Me – Or Does It?

By Patty Gardner

Have you ever heard the saying, “Your lack of planning does not create an emergency for me?”  I love that saying and wish life really worked that way.  But it doesn’t.  The fact is that other people’s lack of planning creates emergencies for me all the time (and honestly, sometimes it’s me creating the emergencies!).  But if I refuse to help because they weren’t organized, I feel (and look) like a jerk.

So what do you do when you’re dealing with people who are chronically unorganized and keep creating emergencies for you?  Sometimes these strategies can help:

  • Anticipate.  Sometimes you can see the situation coming.  Because of past experience, you know what’s going to happen.  In that case, you prepare yourself mentally to deal with the emergency because now you know it is coming.
  • Plan Ahead.  This takes anticipating a step further.  You anticipate the emergency and you come up with a solution beforehand so it’s not an emergency for you.
  • Remind.  This one doesn’t always work but it’s worth a try.  If you know something’s coming up, remind the person involved in case they are willing to go ahead and act on it in a timely manner.  I’ve used this strategy a lot in the past.  Some people appreciate it and some don’t.  I worked with a music minister who did not appreciate it.  He was a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants person and any reminders felt like nagging and pushing.  I learned to back off and let the chips fall where they may.  It was very frustrating for me and I didn’t end up working with him much longer.
  • Do it yourself.  If you know what’s going to be needed, sometimes you can take care of it yourself.  Again, some people appreciate that and some don’t.  My boss at the law office where I worked loved it.  He’d come in at the last minute, tell me what he needed, and I already had it ready.  But he was unusual in that he was a great delegator.
  • Keep your routine tasks up to date so you can take the time to handle an emergency without creating a new emergency.  That same boss at the law office tended to throw last minute things at me all the time – many that I didn’t see coming.  So my daily strategy was to get as much of my regular work done as soon as possible so that when he threw an emergency at me, at least my regular work was caught up so I could focus on the emergency.

The bottom line is that not everyone is organized and that’s just the way it is.  Rather than fight it, it’s best to just accept it and do what you can to deal with it.  As Julie Morgenstern says:  “You can’t always control what life throws at you but you can control your response.”

Has anyone’s lack of planning created an emergency for you?  How do you handle it?

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10 Reasons Why I Use a Planner

10 Reasons

By Patty Gardner

Planners are extremely effective tools for helping you keep your ducks in a row.  I’ve been using a planner for 20 years.  Before that I had a calendar and a to-do list.  My family knows that if I don’t use my planner, bad things happen.  In case you’re skeptical about the benefits of using a planner, here are 10 ways my planner helps me manage my life:

1.       I don’t remember anything if I don’t write it down.  If I write it down, it’s like magic and I can usually remember it even if I never look at it again.  But if I don’t write it down, it’s gone forever.  So if you ask me to do something, make sure I write it down!

2.       I need to see the big picture so I know what I can and can’t do.  No matter how hard I try, I can’t see the big picture in my head.  It has to be on paper.  And seeing the big picture helps me plan so I don’t get worn out or bored.

3.       I get overwhelmed easily, but if I write everything down, it doesn’t seem so bad.  Or I see that it really is that bad and I can figure out how to fix it.

4.       If everything I need to do is swimming around in my head, there’s no room for anything else – like creativity.  So getting it out of my head and on paper allows me to think about other things that are more fun.

5.       I can’t make Plan B if I don’t have a Plan A.  And if Plan A isn’t on paper, it’s not really a plan – at least for me.  I need to SEE things – on paper.

10 Reasons I Use a Planner

6.       Without writing it down, I always plan too much – more than any one person can do.  But when I write it down and schedule it on the calendar, or put time estimates next to each item, I am more realistic about what I can do and it’s much easier to prioritize.

7.       A planner provides a place to write down all my brilliant ideas and be able to find them again.  If I use notes and post-its, there’s no guarantee I’ll be able to locate those brilliant ideas again.

8.       I think better with a pen.  Seeing my thoughts on paper (I use my planner as a journal, too), makes them easier to process and figure out.  It’s also easier to see positive or negative patterns when it’s written down.

9.       My planner provides a permanent written record of events, calls, activities, funny things the kids and grandkids do.  I have all my planners from the last 25 years.  There’s a wealth of information in those planners that I treasure.

10.     Without a written plan, I tend to spin my wheels and waste my time.  It’s like I don’t know what to do next.  But if a task list is on paper, I am much more likely to be productive.

If you use a planner, why do you?  If you don’t use a planner, why don’t you and how do you keep your ducks in a row?

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6 Questions to Consider When Organizing a Space

by Patty Gardner

I don’t mind cleaning, cooking, doing laundry, making a grocery list or running errands, but please don’t ask me to organize a space in my house.

I’m NOT good at organizing and I don’t enjoy doing it.  It actually stresses me out to look at an empty closet or cabinet and know I have to figure out how to arrange it.  It’s a little easier if I’m just moving things around, but I still don’t enjoy it.

That being said, we remodeled our kitchen several months ago and the pantry needed organized.  I put it off as long as I could but finally had to face the music.  It was stressful and unpleasant and stressful but I got it done.

Now my idea of organized may not even be close to your idea of organized but it works for me.  For my purposes the pantry is organized.

pantry

If you’re space organizing challenged like I am but you need to organize a space in your house, here a few things to keep in mind.

1.       What are your goals for the space?  Obviously my goal for my pantry was to store food and to do it in such a way that we could find what we needed fairly easily.

2.       Is it easy to use?  Do you have to reach up too high for things you use frequently?  Do you have to squat down to get things you need?  Do you have to move one thing to get to another?  Those types of complications make it HARD to use and that’s no good.

3.       Can you maintain the system?  I tried grouping similar items when I organized my pantry but I knew I wouldn’t be able to maintain it.  When I get home from the store, I don’t want to take the time to carefully arrange the food.  I just want to get it put away as fast as I can.  So I started out grouping but I knew I wouldn’t keep doing it.

4.       Does it take too much time and effort to maintain?  Maybe you are able to maintain the system, but how much time and effort does it take? Is that how you want to spend your time?  If you do, that’s great.  If not, maybe it’s a better idea to simplify or come up with something different.

5.       Does it actually accomplish anything other than looking pretty?  A pretty space is awesome as long as it’s functional.  So if your organizing results in pretty AND functional, you hit the jackpot.

6.       Does it make sense to others using the area?  If you’re the only person using the space, you can do whatever you want.  But if others are using it, too, the system needs to make sense to them and they need to be able to help maintain it.

Since I’m space organizationally challenged, I keep my systems as simple as possible.  If they’re too complicated or time consuming, I won’t do them.

Do your organized spaces look like the ones in the magazines or are they more like mine?

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Instead of New Year’s Resolutions, try this…

By Patty Gardner

It’s getting to be that time of year – you know what I’m talking about – the time when you start thinking about goals for the New Year.  Unfortunately, statistics show the traditional manner of goal setting, making New Year’s Resolutions, doesn’t have a chance in heck of succeeding.  Most people abandon their goals before the month of January is even over.

I know the experts say you should set specific goals but maybe they’re wrong.  Certainly there are times when specific goals are necessary.  But sometimes you’re not trying to make big, dramatic changes – you just want to do a little bit better.

So if that’s you, maybe this year it’s time to try something different – something that will result in actually doing a little bit better!

The approach I’m talking about is less like a task on your to-do list (drink water, exercise, etc.) and more like analysis.

Let’s say you want to improve your eating habits.  We all know how difficult that is.  And setting specific goals like drinking 6 glasses of water or eating 1,500 calories or exercising 30 minutes a day may or may not happen.  Unfortunately, our mindset is usually that if we can’t do the WHOLE thing, we won’t bother to do it at all.  So instead of drinking 2 glasses of water, we don’t drink any.  Instead of exercising 10 minutes, we don’t exercise at all.  And instead of keeping track of our calories, we eat what we want and vow to do better tomorrow.

The analysis method eliminates that all or nothing thinking.

Here’s how it works.  You have generic goals like:

1.       Drink more water;

2.       Get more exercise;

3.       Eat better.

You can put those on your to-do list to remind you of your goals if you want to.  In fact, that’s probably a good idea.  You want to keep them visible because as you go through your day, you’re going to try to do better in those areas.  Then at the end of the day, you analyze how you did.  You can jot down a note next to each item or answer a question.

IMG_05011.       Did I drink more water than usual?

Yes.  I had water with my meals instead of having soda.

2.       What did I do to get some exercise?

I took the stairs instead of the elevator.

I walked in place for 15 minutes before I ate lunch.

3.       What good things did I do today toward a more healthy diet?

I had fruit for my snacks instead of chips from the vending machine.

Without the pressure of having to drink 6 glasses of water or eat 1,500 calories or exercise 30 minutes, you might just actually end up doing those things but they become your choice instead of something you HAVE to do.  And if you have a bad day, you had a bad day.  It’s not the end of the world and it’s not a reason to quit.

So when it’s time to nail down those New Year’s Resolutions, maybe you should think about the analysis method instead of the traditional goal-setting method.  You just might find that instead of abandoning your goals by the end of January, you’re actually making your life better, a little at a time.

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Minutes Matter: Use Them Wisely

clock (3)By Patty Gardner

Have you ever had a few extra minutes before the next thing but didn’t think it was enough time to do anything or didn’t know what to do so instead you surfed the net or played a game on your phone or just did nothing? That’s not to say it isn’t okay to sometimes do mindless activities or do nothing at all, but if you’re short on time and need to be as efficient as possible, the very best strategy you can possibly employ is to take advantage of those small bits of time.

When I get up in the morning and head to the kitchen, there are usually a few dishes from the night before and my husband’s breakfast dishes. For some reason, I always think it’s going to take a long time to get the kitchen back in order. In reality, it usually takes less than five minutes! But instead of taking five minutes and cleaning up the mess, I decide to wait until I have more time! Dumb! The kitchen is usually the messiest part of my house so if I take those five minutes right away and clean up the dishes, the house usually looks great and that makes me feel great.

Folding and putting away laundry is another task that doesn’t take as long as you might think. Just the other day I was in between things, had only a few minutes and headed to the computer to kill time. Then I remembered the laundry and decided to go ahead and do it. Less than five minutes and it was done.

So here’s a fun exercise for you to try – when you’re starting a task, set the timer and see how long it actually takes. I’ve done that for lots of things, including my weekly chore list. I’m always surprised about how much less time things take than I think. And there have been a few tasks that took longer than I expected. That’s also good to know.

It’s also helpful, if you’re anything like me, to have a list of those small things already made. Then when you have those extra minutes, you don’t have to figure out what to do. You just look at the list and pick one. Here are a few examples from my personal list:

1. Put trash can liner in garage trash can;

2. Scoop kitty litter;

3. Refill pet water;

4. Shred papers;

5. Put license stickers on Jeep;

6. Clean cat door;

7. Put new insurance cards in truck;

8. Shake entry rug;

9. Schedule dad’s birthday dinner;

10. Activate new debit cards.

If you keep your list handy and mark things off as you do them and add things as you think of them, you’ll be surprised at how much you get done. And I don’t know about you, but getting things done makes me feel GREAT!

 

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10 Tips for Stress-Free Entertaining

By Patty Gardner

Having guests for dinner?  Sometimes having guests is more stressful than fun but it doesn’t have to be that way.  Here are 10 ways you can entertain and have fun at the same time.

1. Choose a simple menu.  When you’re having guests is NOT the time to try new recipes and new techniques.  It only increases your stress level.  Simple menus don’t have to be boring or unimpressive.  There are plenty of simple dishes that will wow your guests.

2. When you’re planning your menu, try to have a variety of foods to choose from in case your guests don’t like something you serve.

3. Don’t clean your house before guests come.  Really.  Don’t do it.  Most people go on a cleaning marathon before they have company and then they’re too exhausted to enjoy their guests.  Tidy the house, sweep the floors, do the dishes, and clean the bathroom.  Let the rest go.

4. Don’t destroy your budget trying to provide a fancy, expensive meal.  I had a friend who always went all out for guests and then she and her husband had to skimp the rest of the week.  Don’t do that.  It’s not necessary.

5. If you’re not experienced at cooking for others, try to plan your dinner party for a time when you have plenty of time to prepare.

6. Do as much ahead as you possibly can.  One of my favorite meals to serve to guests is tacos.  Tacos provide so many options.  A person can eat healthy or not healthy.  If they don’t like something, there are plenty of other choices.  And tacos are really easy to do ahead of time.

7. If your guests ask if they can bring something, and it fits with your menu, let them!  It helps your budget, saves you time and effort and lets them contribute to the meal.

8. And if they want to help you clean up after dinner, let them!
dishes

9. When you invite your guests, you might want to ask them if there’s anything they don’t like or are allergic to.  People are usually more than willing to let you know.

10. And finally, remember that it’s not about the food but the fellowship.  You’re having people over to spend time with them not to dazzle them with your cooking skills.  So don’t stress if everything doesn’t turn out perfect.  Just have fun!

 

What do you do to keep yourself from getting stressed out when company’s coming?

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Lessons From Mr. Efficient

By Patty Gardner

My husband is the most efficient person I know.  I, on the other hand, have to work at it.  I’m somewhere between a messy and a born organized with ADHD thrown into the mix.

But during the last 30 years of being married to Mr. Efficient, I’m observed some interesting things he does to make life a little bit easier.

1. He cleans as he goes.  When he’s making his breakfast, he throws trash away instead of leaving it on the Lessons From Mr. Efficient for Franklincounter.  While he’s waiting for his oatmeal to cook, he unloads the dishwasher or dumps the trash.   He washes dishes as he finishes with them.  If he runs out of time and can’t wash his dishes, he puts them in the sink instead of on the counter.  When he’s getting things out of the refrigerator, he tosses old stuff that he notices (I do it all in one fell swoop when the refrigerator gets too full).  When he gets home, he immediately empties the trash and dirty dishes out of his lunch box and puts his ice block in the freezer (I do it later when I clean up the kitchen).  He does things NOW instead of LATER.

 

2.  He sticks to a schedule.  He’s a self-employed remodeling contractor and has been for the last 26 years.  Pretty much that whole times he’s kept the same schedule of getting up about 6:30, leaving at 7:30 and getting to work at 8:00.  The only exception is if he needs materials in which case he leaves earlier, picks them up on the way and still gets to work at 8:00.  I think that’s impressive.  If it were me, I’d probably (no, definitely) have a pretty erratic schedule.

 

3. He takes advantage of minutes instead of waiting for big blocks of time.  Since we’ve been married, we’ve purchased several fixer-upper homes and remodeled them.  Most people wait until they have a big block of time to work on a remodeling project – but not him.  When we were working on a project, he worked on it a little bit each day.  You might think it’s a waste of time to get out the paint, paint a little bit, and then have to clean it up and put it away.  But if he had waited for big blocks of time, our projects would have taken forever.  Since he took advantage of those smaller blocks of time, he always got projects wrapped up in record time.

 

4.  He tries to prevent making messes.  During those remodeling projects, he was always really good about doing anything he could to minimize the mess.  It might have meant putting down drop cloths or hanging plastic in a doorway.  Whatever he could do, he did it.  He also cleaned as he went.

 

5.  He doesn’t run unnecessary errands.  He plans his errands so they dovetail with his route.  I’ve run to Wal-mart before for one thing that could have waited until I was out.  He rarely wastes time that way.

 

You might think that living with Mr. Efficient could be stressful for someone like me but it hasn’t been.  He knows I’m not like him and doesn’t expect me to be.  But I have learned some things from watching him and I like to think I’m a little more efficient than I used to be.

 

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How to Keep a Big Project From Stressing You Out!

By Patty Gardner

Have you ever had a big project you needed to do but you were completely overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start?  The solution to that problem is simple – break the project down into smaller steps.   Here are a couple of examples from my life.

 

I have two quilt projects going right now.  I was feeling overwhelmed so I made a couple of charts for my planner that broke each quilt project down into manageable steps.

 

The first chart is just a bunch of boxes.  Each box represents a square of the quilt.  For some reason, I’m more motivated to quilt if I get to check off a box each time I finish a square.  Plus I can see at all times where I am in the project.

Quilt 1

The second chart is a little more detailed since I was in the beginning stages of the project when I made the chart.  The chart lists the steps required to sew the top together, boxes representing each square, and then a few steps at the end for finishing.  I felt a lot better about this project once I made the chart.  And each time I mark off a step, I feel like I’m making progress and the project doesn’t seem so overwhelming.

 Quilt 2

So it’s your turn.  Take a look at your to do list and see what projects could be broken down into smaller sized pieces.  Then make a list of all the steps required and get started!  You’ll be surprised at how much less overwhelming it feels.

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5 Ways to Keep From Losing Your Car in a Parking Lot

By Patty Gardner

There’s nothing worse than standing in a parking lot filled with cars and having no clue where your car is parked.  I’ve had that happen a couple of times and it was so awful that I’ve tried very hard never to let it happen again.  So if you hate that feeling, too, here are 5 ways to prevent it:

1. Park in the same spot every time.  I tend to shop at the same places all the time and I try to always park in the same section.  For example, my Target store has an entrance near the grocery section and an entrance near the dollar section.  I almost always park near the dollar section.  Once in a while I see a great space I can’t pass up in the grocery section and I park there.  And I always regret it because when I leave, I come out the dollar section which is a long ways away.  So now, even if I see a great space in the grocery section, I pass it up!  It’s not worth the panic I feel when I come out of the store and can’t remember where I parked.

2. Take a photo.  If you’re in a really large parking lot, like at a stadium or convention center, use your camera phone to take a picture of the parking lot section number.  I always think I’ll remember the number but I never do.  You can also take a picture of the building you’re going into from where your car is parked.  That will give you perspective.  And if you have to park in an auxiliary lot, you can take a picture of the street sign, the lot name or whatever else will help you find your way back.

3. Park away from other cars.  We tend to look for the closest space we can get, and that’s valid, especially if we’re hauling small kids.  But if it’s just you and you feel like getting some exercise, park way back at the back all by yourself.  When you walk out of the store, you’ll have no trouble seeing your car.  It’ll stick out like a sore thumb.

4. Mark your car.  Some people have a flower on their antenna.  Some have a cool spare tire cover.  If you can, something like that will help your car stand out.

5. Get a car finder device.  It can be an actual electronic device or an app for your smart phone.  I don’t have one of these but it could come in very handy!

So if you want to avoid losing your car, try one of these strategies.  They work!

How do you remember where you parked?  Have you ever lost your car?

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Where Are My Keys???

By Patty Gardner

Have you ever locked your keys in your car?  Or locked yourself out of the house?  That’s a mistake that can be a nuisance and an expense.  I was at the gas station the other day and parked behind a lady in a van who was just finishing up with the locksmith.  You can guess what happened to her!

But there are ways to prevent unnecessary hassle and expense when you lock your keys where they shouldn’t be.   Here are a few ideas:

1. Hide a key somewhere on your automobile.  My husband has a little hide-a-key box on his truck (I won’t tell you where!).  He’s used it several times!

2. Hide a key somewhere outside your house.  But you definitely need to be creative about where you hide it.  Under the mat or in a flower pot on the front porch is probably not a good place.  Think outside the box on this one!

3. Give a house key to a trusted neighbor or nearby family member.  Then if you get locked out you can retrieve the spare or see if they can bring it to you.

4. It’s a good idea to have a spare key for all your cars and doors in a central location.  We have a cabinet where we keep our spare keys.  Those keys have come in handy MANY times!  In fact, just today my daughter was visiting and locked her keys in her car.  Lucky for her I still had her spare key hanging in the cabinet.

Another time I was home alone and a bit jumpy so I locked the door between the kitchen and the garage.  I remember telling myself to unlock that door before I went anywhere.  Unfortunately I forgot and when I returned from the store later that day, I was locked out!!!  Fortunately I eventually remembered there was a key in the cabinet.

5. If you’re unlucky enough to have a car with an expensive key, a spare key for the cabinet might not be practical.  But there are still options.  Sometimes you can have a spare key made that will only open the door but won’t start the engine.  And most of the time all you need that spare key for is to get inside the car where the keys are!

6. Some people keep a spare key in their wallet.  If you happen to lock your keys in the car but not your wallet or purse, you can retrieve the key from your wallet and you’re on your way.

7. If you have a lot of keys and it’s not obvious what they’re for, it might be a good idea to label them.  You can attach a tag, use a sharpie to write directly on the key, use a special key chain, etc.

So don’t get caught without your keys!  Try one or more of these ideas to prevent future hassle and expense from misplaced keys!

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Organizing By Grouping

By Patty Gardner

If I had to name one organizing strategy as being more important than others, I would probably choose “grouping”.  Grouping similar items in a specific location is a major time saver.  For example – batteries.  I have a dresser in my family room and each drawer has a specific purpose.  One of the drawers is for batteries.  All batteries go in that drawer and nowhere else.  So when I need a battery, that’s where I go.  If I need to put a battery away, that’s where it goes.  Batteries live in the bottom right drawer of the dresser and that’s that.

In the second right drawer of that same dresser are light bulbs.  You guessed it – all light bulbs live in that drawer.  When I need one, I know right where they are.

Other things that could be grouped include:

  • Supplies needed for morning routine
  • Kitchen utensils
  • Cutting boards
  • Veggies for salad (Rather than put vegetables in the refrigerator drawers, put them in a plastic container.  When you make a salad, pull out the container and everything you need is there.)

Take a look through your house and see if there are any that would benefit from being “grouped”.

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Why Bother Planning?

By Patty Gardner

Do you ever feel like planning is a waste of time?  As soon as you get your list made, everything changes!  Or you start out strong but then it all falls apart.  And when you finally sit down at night and evaluate your day, you did little or nothing of what was on your list.  It’s discouraging and sometimes it makes me feel like planning is a waste of time.

planner planner page edit

But it’s not.  Even though it might seem like it, planning is still one of the best things you can do.  And here’s why:

1. You can’t have Plan B without Plan A.  If you start out with a plan but then things change, as they always do, you can look at Plan A and make decisions and adjustments.  And chances are, you’ll still end up having a productive day because you started with a plan.

2. Without a plan, you spend your day reacting to whatever comes up.  You might get some things done but they may not be the things you needed to do.  You spent your day putting out fires and that’s no way to live!

3. You get more done with a plan than without a plan.  This is absolutely true for me!  Without a list, I tend to piddle.  I end up spending time cleaning out a closet or re-doing my recipes when I should have been cleaning the bathroom, making dinner and paying the bills.  Having a list is like having goals.  Not having a list is like wandering aimlessly through the desert.

4. Even if you can’t get everything on your list done, a list shows you what needs done.  Maybe you’re one of those people who can keep a list in their head and always knows what to do next (like Mr. Organized, my husband).  I’m not like that.  If I don’t see it, it doesn’t exist.  I need a list so I know what to do.  Even if I don’t get it all done, the list is there to remind me.

5. A list provides a written record of what needs done and what you did.  I frequently look back to see when or if I did something.  And I don’t have to worry that a task will be forgotten because I have it written down.  If it’s written down, it’s safe.  If it’s swimming around in my head…oh, boy, that’s never good!!!

Even if it seems like making a list or having a plan is a waste of time, it isn’t.  And unless you’re like Mr. Organized, a list is probably going make the difference between a productive day and a day spent putting out fires.

So whip out your planner and get your list ready for tomorrow.

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No Time to Spring Clean? Don’t!

By Patty Gardner

It’s that time of year when homeowner’s everywhere start thinking about spring cleaning.  But not me!  I’ve never been a fan of spring cleaning and I don’t plan to start now.

Spring Cleaning

I have a different strategy – a strategy that works better for my energy level and my schedule.

I pace myself.

Rather than having a cleaning marathon in the spring and fall, I schedule projects throughout the year.  Each month has its own focus.

For example:

  • January – organize & put away Christmas decorations & clean up the mess
  • February – wash all bedding (comforters, mattress pads)
  • & turn mattresses (sheets are washed weekly)
  • March – Thoroughly vacuum furniture
  • April – clean carpets & rugs
  • May – wash curtains & blinds
  • June – organize and clean out closets
  • July – clean oven and refrigerator; defrost deep freeze
  • August – wash all bedding (comforters, mattress pads)
  • & turn mattresses (sheets are washed weekly)
  • September – clean under furniture, clean woodwork & walls
  • October – Thoroughly vacuum furniture
  • November – Decorate for Christmas
  • December – Shop, wrap and cook for Christmas *

*This is not a real schedule.  It’s similar to one I might use but I just moved to a new house – a fixer upper – and haven’t developed a schedule for this house yet.  And anyway, each person has to make their own schedule based on their home, their cleaning routine and their needs.

Smaller projects done more frequently make it easier to fit them in my schedule and match them to my energy level.  I’m not saying it’s the only way or even the right way, but it works for me.

So if spring cleaning is your thing, go for it.  But as for me, I’ll just tackle the next thing on my list.

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Tired of Failed New Year’s Resolutions? Try It This Way Instead

By Patty Gardner

It’s that time of year when most people start thinking about goals and resolutions for the new year.  You know what I’m talking about  – those things we think we should do but we don’t really want to do.  Somehow, though, with the start of a new year, we have fresh motivation and think this time we’ll be able to do it.

New Years Resolutions 4

Unfortunately, most people don’t have much luck keeping those New Year’s resolutions, at least not more than a month or two.  And there are several good reasons for that:

1. A year is a LONG time to commit to something, especially something that’s most likely difficult.

2. Motivation is strong at the beginning of the year but gets less and less.

3. Often the resolution is something BIG – like lose 30 pounds or exercise an hour a day.  It can be overwhelming.

While it’s a good thing to set goals and make changes in our lives, there’s a better way than the traditional New Year’s Resolutions.

The better way is to set smaller goals every month.  For example, if your New Year’s resolution would have been to exercise an hour a day and lose 30 pounds, setting monthly goals would look more like this:

January:

Exercise 15 minutes, 3x a week

Keep a food journal

Drink 2 glasses of water a day

At the end of January, sit down and evaluate how you did.

Exercise 15 minutes, 3x a week – SUCCESS

Keep a food journal – NO

Drink 2 glasses of water a day – SUCCESS

If you didn’t succeed on any one of your goals, figure out why.  Perhaps you tried to keep an on-line food journal and you prefer paper.  Repeat this goal – unless you decide it was a bad goal – but solve the problem that caused the failure.

February:

Exercise 15 minutes, 5x a week

Keep a paper food journal

Drink 4 glasses of water a day

You can see the goals are the same except the first and third were increased and the second was modified.

Repeat the process each month, and by the end of the year, you’ll have accomplished your goals or at least be a lot closer.

Now, the next really important part of this process is tracking.  If you don’t track, your chances of success go way, way down.  Take a look at these 3 ideas for tracking in your Franklin Planner:

1.  Color coding dots on your monthly pages.  My 2 page per day original comes with two Monthly Indexes.  I use the extra to record my goals.  Then if you have room on your monthly calendar, you can use the color coding dots to track your goals.

 New Years Resolutions 1

2. Highlighters on the extra Monthly Index page.   If you don’t have room on your monthly pages, make a calendar grid right on the page where you list your goals and use highlighters or a multi-color pen to track your progress.

 New Years Resolutions 2

3.  Checkmarks on the Business Expenses page at the back of 2 pages per day sets.  I never use this page for business expenses but I love it for tracking.  If your planner set doesn’t have one of these, you can easily make your own.

 New Years Resolutions 3

There are lots of way to track your – just be sure that you do! Tracking increases your chances for success and helps you see how you’re doing.

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How I Plan My Week

 By Patty Gardner

852

 A weekly planning session makes all the difference in whether my week is smooth or rocky.  Starting the week with a plan in place allows me to make changes as needed (and believe me, there are always plenty) and get things done.  Here’s what I do:

My weekly planning session takes place on Sunday evening.  I sit on the couch with my planner and start plugging things in.

First I check my monthly calendar to see if I have any appointments scheduled.  I plug them into the Appointment Schedule on my daily pages.

Monthly Calendar

 Then I add things I know I’ll be doing, like babysitting the grand kids, going to the grocery store, church, etc.  These also go on the Appointment Schedule.  (I don’t remove the pages from my planner when I plan – this was to make it was easier to see the big picture.)

 appointments

 Next I plug in tasks I need to do on certain days.  These go in the Prioritized Daily Task List section.  For example, I usually go to the grocery store on Wednesday, so I need to make my grocery list on Tuesday.  I pay bills on Saturday.  On the 1st of the month I do monthly checks (smoke alarms, furnace filters, snack stash) and give my dog her heartworm pill.  If someone has a birthday, I write “email happy birthday”, “prep card”, “mail card” on the appropriate days.

 to do pages

 I record other tasks that need to be done sometime during the week on the page finder.  The page finder has a slot for a weekly list.  The front of the list has 8 boxes which I’ve been using those to record high priority tasks.  On the back of the page I record all the other things that come to mind.  Pull out the list to add new items or mark things off that you’ve done.

 page finder front

 

 Page finder back

Then I do a review to be sure there aren’t any issues, like too many appointments or a scheduling conflict.  If all is well, weekly planning is done!

Sometimes, though, I have SO much going on that I feel overwhelmed and this planning method isn’t enough.  When that happens, I print out a weekly schedule form and do my initial planning on it.  Seeing the whole week at one time helps me see whether I can get it all done or whether changes have to be made.  Once I get it all worked out, I transfer it to my daily pages.

This method takes about 15 minutes unless I have to do the weekly sheet first.  Then it probably takes 20 or so.  This system works really well and I start my week feeling like I know what I’m doing.  And feeling in control is half the battle!
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