4 Ways to Make Your Bucket List a Reality

In 2007, the movie The Bucket List told the story of a millionaire and an auto mechanic who, after meeting in a hospital room, decide to go out and do the things they’ve always wanted to do before they die. Since then, the idea of making a bucket list has taken hold in popular culture.

There are bound to be some things that you have a deep desire to experience in your lifetime. While it’s unlikely that you’ll end up traveling the world with Morgan Freeman while Jack Nicholson foots the bill, there can be many rich experiences waiting for you. If you feel like your life is set in stone, follow these four steps to discover and implement your own bucket list:

Dream It

Before you can check anything off your bucket list, you have to create one. While you have many dreams and ambitions, it’s impossible to focus on all of them at the same time. Inspiration often comes from other sources. A documentary on Billy the Kid may inspire you to visit the old west. Your streaming playlist may inspire you to attend a concert at Carnegie Hall, or take guitar lessons to make your own music.

Designate a notes page in your planner as your Bucket List, and write down these inspirations as they strike.

Sharpen It

Once you have a few items on your list, take a moment to flesh out the details for each item. For example, the entry “enjoy retirement” could go several different ways. Do you want to spend your time gardening and tending your fruit trees, and then have an end-of-summer party where you serve your grandkids fresh peaches and homemade ice cream? Or does your retirement mean taking off from home base and touring museums and historical sites from Milan to Mongolia? The more you flesh out the items on your bucket list, the closer they get to reality.

asct7up3yde-julia-caesarPlan It

When you can see your ideal future, it’s time to make a plan to support it. Start by sorting your list items on a scale from the near future to the distant future. Then identify what needs to happen to get there, whether it’s saving up for a year for a family trip or advancing in your career to make your retirement goals possible. Work out the personal, financial, and social decisions you need to make to start fulfilling your bucket list.

Achieve It

As you finish your plans, set a date in your planner. For longer-term goals, you can mark the end date on your future planning calendar. Then you can make recurring entries in your task list to remind you of the steps you need to take each day to fulfill your goal. As the years go by, you’ll find that the small steps you take each day have led to an experience you might not have believed.

In the end, you’ll find that the contents of your bucket list are less important than the mindset that you develop while making it. When you unleash your dreams with a plan, each step along the way becomes worthwhile and fulfilling. Whatever is on your bucket list, it’s time to start crossing them off.

Prepare for the Holidays

There are only 55 days between Halloween and Christmas. Only eight weekends, and many of those already have parties and vacations penciled in. To stay ahead of the holiday rush, it’s time to start planning now.

When it comes to redecorating your home, this end-of-year period sees the most activity. While all the retail stores can switch from Halloween to Holiday between October 31 and November 1, they have weeks of planning and a roster of several employees. You get to go from spooky to fall festive to holiday cheer, with maybe some help from your family.

Make it easier by planning out the transitions. As you pull out the next wave of decorations from your storage, pack away the decorations from the previous holiday and locate those for the next. The upcoming season also includes many of the most demanding traditional meals of the year. It’s one thing to pin a tasty-looking recipe on Pinterest, but often, it’s quite another to prepare all the recipes on your board and serve them to your guests.

As you select the recipes for your feasts, write them down in your planner on a good day to go shopping for them. Then you won’t have any last-minute grocery runs spoiling your Thanksgiving morning. You can apply a similar strategy for gifts and other necessities: writing the list down in your planner gives you a calm reminder that doesn’t get lost in the sea of electronic notifications.

Finally, make yourself a visual reminder of your schedule. Print out a dedicated Holiday Calendar and use it for your holiday-specific events and activities. Keep track of every day, and before you know it, you’ll be ringing in 2015.

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Autumn Is Now Here

With apples ripening on the trees and children returning to school, it means it’s time to start planning for the coming winter. Autumn is a great time to do projects around the home or yard. It’s also the best time to schedule out holiday events and set your final goals for the year.

Autumn Yard Projects

Cooler weather means it’s more pleasant to work in the yard or clean out the garage. A tidy garden area looks better whether it’s heaped in Fallsnow or mildly frostbitten. But the best benefit of a tidy garden area is that you won’t have as many pests next year. Dead plants are a preferred spot for hibernating insects. Getting rid of leaves and plant debris now means you’ll have fewer pests to worry about next spring. So, get out the rakes and make a day of it! Put a hearty stew on to simmer in the slow cooker and go outside to clean up the garden and enjoy the outdoors in the golden days of autumn.

Home Organization

Now is the time to sort through your belongings and weed out unwanted items. Garages, closets, potting sheds, and other storage areas can become cluttered during the summer months. But with winter coming, you’ll want to have easy access to holiday decorations, winter boots, and other items you have stored away. Sort out unwanted items and donate these items to charity. Organize closets and other storage areas so that you can easily reach holiday items you’ll need in the next few months.

Plan for the Holidays

Autumn is a great time to get your holiday checklist in order and start planning for a beautiful holiday season. Which parties will you host? Will you be traveling? Which cultural events do you want to attend? Who do you want to get together with most this season? It’s a good idea to start scheduling holiday travel well in advance. This is also a good time to get holiday shopping completed, since there is better selection and less crowding. Stores often offer wonderful sales at this time of year.

Determine Your Holiday Priorities

As you arrange travel plans, plan parties, pencil in events, and select performances you’d like to attend, don’t forget to schedule in some time to relax. Go ahead and write it in your planner: November 18th, 8-10 pm: stargazing on the patio with James. All too quickly, your planner can fill up with holiday events and other obligations. Right now is a good time to think about priorities and what matters most to you and your family.

Set End of Year Goals

The time to set end of year goals isn’t mid-December: it’s right now. That way, once the holiday events start piling up, you won’t feel overwhelmed. You’ll have it all in order. A bit of careful planning now makes for a memorable holiday season and a more leisurely and enjoyable winter.


Optimize Your Family Calendar

In today’s world, our kids have more options than ever before. Advanced placement classes help them get a jump on college, after-school sports 41986_lrgcaseprovide exercise and excitement, music and instrument lessons enrich their self-expression, and volunteer work teaches them respect for others. Add these all together, however, and it turns into a pretty tall order on your schedule, especially if you have many older kids.

To make it through a modern childhood, you need a well-coordinated family calendar. Here are some ideas for setting up a calendar station in your home:

  • Make it Central: Find a corner of your kitchen or another frequently used family space and put up a dry-erase calendar. Get a different color marker for each family member to write down all of his or her activities. When everything is up, then Mom, Dad, and any teenage drivers can coordinate transportation. The color-coded system also adds a layer of accountability: if an activity isn’t up there in their own color, with confirmed transportation, they can find their own last-minute transportation (or pay for someone else’s inconvenience with money or services).
  • Sync Your Calendars: With the rise of smart phones, several members of your family might have mobile calendars in their pockets. You can encourage your family to add events to their phones as they put them on the calendar, and set up reminders as needed. The physical calendar lets you coordinate your electronics without being face to face, which makes a big difference when your schedules don’t align.
  • Track Your Meals: You can use the wealth of schedule information on your calendar for more than just punctuality. On any given day, you’ll know who to expect for dinner and when, giving you a leg up on meal planning. You can also coordinate any on-the-go meals you’ll need for afternoon or weekend activities, reducing your kids’ need for vending machines or fast food.


First Day Mania

By the end of summer break most of us are ready for the steady cadence of school. We’ve improvised long enough. However, we also realize that we’ll miss the relaxed routine where even our scheduled events have room to slip. School and its associated activities have a much tighter grip on our time.

So we look forward to the first day of school with eager anticipation and more than a flicker of anxiety. As we watch them climb onto the bus, 64204_lrgcasewe’re already planning how we’ll use our quiet time at home, yet we realize that school has tightened its grip on us as well. To a large degree, their schedule is our schedule, their homework is our homework, and no matter how good or bad their teachers are, their report cards reflect our effort.

That means that buying more time in the morning and finding pieces of time throughout the day can be the difference between a harried life and an orderly routine. You can do that from day one.

  • Try to reduce the anxiety of the unknown by visiting the school a few days early. Let your kids find their lockers, classrooms, lunchroom, library, and the office so they aren’t stressing about that on the first day.
  • Collect any necessary school forms, make sure you’ve read and signed them, and be sure your students know where they are so they can turn them in on time.
  • School mornings are often rushed. Reduce the hectic pace by packing backpacks the night before, ensuring homework, school projects, and gym clothes arrive at school with your kids.
  • Fill your fridge with lunch foods so that preparing their lunch is quick, easy, and healthy.
  • Pick out an outfit the night before. They have plenty of things to be anxious about already, the last thing they want to do is fret over their clothes. Teach them to reduce that stress by planning ahead.
  • Fill your car with gas. If you drive your kids to school, you don’t want to stop for gas in the morning and make them late. If you’re sending your kids to school for the first time you’ll want enough fuel in your car to follow the school bus and watch your little ones walk through the door. (Don’t tell us you don’t want to.)
  • On that note, be sure your camera and video camera are charged and that you have plenty of room on your memory cards. The first day of school is a great photo opportunity.

Once you’ve made the effort and you’re ready for the big day, all you’ll have to do is stand ready and listen for the drum. You should have no problem staying in step. Welcome back, school routine.

Get Organized for School Success

The more you advance in school, the more complicated it gets. By the time you reach high school and college, there are due dates to remember, 63983_lrgcaseevents to keep track of, and lectures to attend. Keeping your school life organized is the key to high achievement.

  • Plan Ahead: In college, each course hands out a syllabus at the beginning of the semester, complete with all the due dates, assignment information, and test days. Mark any projects, midterms, and final exams on your wall calendar, and set aside time in your schedule for each assignment.
  • Stay Ahead: By nature, schoolwork should stretch your mind and challenge your ideas. If your workload seems to be getting you down, schedule meetings with your teachers or professors and ask for their advice. You may also need to add extra study time to your routine.
  • Stay Engaged: During class time, avoid the temptation to multitask. Put your phone down and take notes on each small detail of what the professor or teacher is saying. Putting your notes together will give you a second run through of the material, and help solidify it in your mind.
  • Cover the Physical Aspects: If you’re sleepy, hungry, or sick, you’ll find that your attention span suffers. Eat a good meal before any early or late classes you may have to give your brain the energy it needs. Getting enough sleep helps you keep awake during lectures, and also helps keep you from getting sick.



Plan Your Summer Trips

When it comes to vacations, nothing helps more than a good plan. While you might have fond memories of spontaneous road trips during your younger days, those memories probably gloss over the time you slept in the front seat of your car because a convention was in town and all the hotels were booked.

If you start planning your summer trips now, you can save both time and money. Booking your travel in advance often leads to cost savings on airfare and gives you a better selection of more affordable accommodations.

Making an itinerary of your activities helps your vacation in two ways. First, it helps you balance the activities on your vacation, so you’re not attempting too much or missing out on the fun. It also helps you keep to your vacation budget when you plan out how much you want to spend on each day. Writing down activities and costs on the pages for your vacation days will give you a solid plan that you can take with you – even to places where cell phone service is expensive or unreliable.

Once you’ve planned out your itinerary, focus on packing. With extra fees for heavy luggage, planning out just what you want to take with you and nothing more can be very cost effective. Do some research on your airline, and find out whether it’s less expensive to pay a baggage fee or to check another bag. With our highly organized travel accessories you can find the right size of luggage for your trip, with the organization you need to fit everything in.


Simple Steps a Graduate Can a Make Now For a Brighter Future

So you’ve finally graduated from college, now it’s time for the work to begin. That’s why they call your graduation celebration “commencement.”

The first thing you’re likely to discover is that the real world isn’t as ideal as you imagined it in college. In the real world, you may find it 60725_lrgcaseincredibly difficult to find a job in your field of study. Here are some things we think may help you along the way.

Constantly update your resume. There was a time when a person would leave school, take a job, and remain at that company until he or she retired. For most of us, those days are long gone. Nowadays it is common for a person to change careers up to 5 times before they retire. That’s careers, not jobs. You’ll likely have several jobs in any of the given careers you travel through during your course of employment. That’s just the way today’s job market is. So it pays to have your resume up-to-date and ready whenever the opportunity arises.

Internships can be very valuable. Usually internships pay very little, if anything, but they offer great experience you may not be able to get any other way. After all, most positions are looking for a degree and experience. Internships help you get that experience employers are looking for. Sometimes you’ll even get hired into the company where you are interning. Remember that applying for an internship is just like applying for any other job. Keep your best foot forward, arrive on time to the interview, and try to show them not only what you know but also who you are.

First impressions are powerful. Make sure your clothes are clean and pressed and that your haircut looks fresh for your job interview. (The dry cleaner can be your best friend.) Research the company dress code prior to your interview. If the dress code is on the casual side, try to dress a step above it for your interview. Sometimes dressing the part makes it easier for hiring managers to visualize you in the role. Of course, it’s difficult to go wrong by dressing business professional, unless you’re interviewing for a more physically demanding labor-intensive job.

Make eye contact and demonstrate confidence in the way you answer their questions. Don’t be afraid to relax and laugh. Remember that although they are in the position of power because they have the job you want, you are also in a strong position because you have the skills and personality they want.

Track your job opportunities in your planner. Schedule your interviews and networking opportunities so you never forget or arrive late to an appointment. Carrying your planner with you to your interview exudes confidence and organization, and it tells employers that time management is one of your strengths.

Make friends and be enthusiastic. Being a friendly, optimistic person goes a long way with your coworkers and your boss. You don’t have to know everything when you start any job, just be willing to make your best effort and to learn all you can along the way. Being positive and working hard will attract other employees to you. They’ll want to work with you and have you on their team.

Strengthen your network. Look for companies that do the things you’d like to do and get to know the people who work there. Most jobs are filled without ever being advertised. Companies want to hire people they know or people their fellow employees recommend. Advertising for a position takes time and resources that they’d rather not spend. So it pays to get to know as many people as you can in as many organizations as you can. This can be as simple as finding the name of the hiring manager at company x and asking for a time when you can meet him or her over lunch just to learn more about their company and what they do. Along the way they’ll learn about you. It may cost you the price of lunch now and then, but the payoff is invaluable.

Be willing to broaden your job search. Most of us are afraid that taking a job on the edge of our field of study, or completely outside it, may limit or reduce our chance of ever working in our desired field later on in our careers. It may work out that way, but it doesn’t have to. You’ll be in the workforce for a long time. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to change employment along the way. And every job is an opportunity to learn skills that you can take with you to your next place of employment.

Good luck and happy hunting.


Get Your Car Ready for Spring

With the onset of warm weather, a whole world of activities opens up: spring sports, hiking, road trips to fun locations, and more. Make sure that your car is prepared for the season and ready to take you to where the fun is.

Clean the Winter Clutter: When it’s cold outside, it’s harder to make that extra trip out to your car to clean it out. Now that it’s warmer, clear out62557_1lrgcase any receipts, wrappers, or other clutter that has accumulated. If you’re constantly taking paperwork to and from work, keep it organized with a Front Seat Organizer.

Reorganize Your Trunk: Make sure that you have room for your sports equipment, picnic supplies, and groceries with smart organizers like the Cargo Net.

Revamp Your Emergency Kit: Warmer weather leads to different needs on the road. You can swap out the heavy blankets in your emergency kit for lighter ones, and remove any snow chains, snow melt, or sandbags you’ve kept there all winter long. It’s also a good time to make sure you have basic repair tools, electrical fuses, and up-to-date emergency food and water supplies.

Do Some Detailing Work: With spring in the air, it’s a great time to freshen up your car. Vacuum your seats and carpets, wipe the dust from your dash, and clean the inside of your windows. Your commute will be much more pleasant in a car that is clean and fresh.


Clean Up Your Schedule for Spring

Spring is a beautiful time of year, with melting snow, rising temperatures, and the chatter of birds returning from their winter hideaway. It’s also a busy time.

I’ve noticed a common springtime routine in my neighborhood. Houses that sat silent during the dark days of winter begin to resound with 61990_4lrgcasevoices. Neighbors, who had spent the cold months quietly milling about their homes, begin to busy themselves in their yard. Trashcans line the street every Thursday loaded to the brim with debris. We strike up conversations with one another—renewing friendships that had lain dormant as we huddled in our warm homes with our families during the winter.

But now, finally, we step outside to a beautiful new season and bury ourselves in work. We have vegetable gardens to plant, flowerbeds to clean up, trees to trim, and bushes to prune. We have windows to wash and new decorations to spread throughout our freshly cleaned houses.

Spring is a season of big events. Spring break, Easter, Mother’s Day, graduations, and Memorial Day all take place in the spring. And we can’t forget Father’s Day, which seems to straddle the end of spring and the beginning of summer. Spring is a great time for vacations and gathering together with friends and family. In my neighborhood there’s an unspoken race to see who can fire up the barbeque first.

But these big events could easily get away from us if we aren’t careful. Houses don’t clean themselves, and the only thing a yard will do on its own is grow weeds. Barbeques require prep time. Spring vacations won’t happen without a plan. And you had better take some time to consider what you’re doing for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

May we suggest that you take a moment now, while you’re busy with spring-cleaning, to clean up your schedule? Life comes at you fast. This wonderful time of year has a way of slipping away from us, so start planning early. Make reminders in your planner two weeks ahead of a big event so you can be sure you have enough food for the party and the perfect gift in hand. Make any necessary lists in your planner and mark those pages with flags so you can reference them quickly. Carry your planner and your great ideas with you so you can make them a reality.

A few minutes now will make all the difference. Once you have the big events scheduled, you can focus on other items on your agenda—like your golf swing.

Catch the Little Spring Cleaning Details

If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably a fairly organized person. You probably keep your home neat, your car tidy, and your desk clear. But with only so many hours in the day, there are bound to be small areas of your life that could use some spring cleaning. Consider the following:

Make Your Pantry Efficient: Go through your pantry and clean out any half-used or expired food, like the leftover chips from last month’s 23616_lrgcasetaco salad. Then consider using the Menu Planner  to plan out the best uses for your food supplies.

Clear Your Closet: Starting at the back, work your way through your closet and pull out everything that you haven’t worn in more than a year. Weed out any clothes that are out of style, and store any clothes that are out of season. This will give you the  closet space you need when the weather warms and you’re ready to unpack your lighter clothes.

Hygiene Refresh: Replace fixtures in your bathroom where mold, mildew, and hard water stains gather, such as your shower curtain, bath mat, and towels.

Empty Your Bag: As your go-to accessory when you’re on the go, it’s no wonder that clutter tends to accumulate in your bag. Pull everything out of your bag, sort out anything that you don’t need, then put everything back in their proper places.

Is It Broken? If you’ve been hanging on to an old appliance or piece of furniture that is broken or outdated, consider replacing it with something more functional.


Organized Space Equals an Organized Life

As I watched the competitions in Sochi, Russia, I was struck with an interesting thought: How you start your race determines where you finish.

Events such as the luge, bobsled, and skeleton are won in the first push—the first few seconds of sprinting or clawing their way onto the track. The downhill skiers who won their race were the ones who began the fastest. Even though some were able to make up time near the end of the course, if they didn’t start well, they didn’t have a chance to finish strong. Nowhere is it more evident than in short track speed skating. Those who don’t grab the lead early are left fighting for a position for the rest of the race.

The same can be said for us. How we start our day will have a huge impact on how we finish it, and how we begin our year will have a significant impact on what we’re able to accomplish with it.

That’s why this time of year is so important. Starting the year cleaning and organizing your space is paramount to living an organized life. After all, we live our life in our spaces. How much time each year do you spend in your office—the kitchen—the study—the yard—or your car? Keeping these places orderly will make each aspect of your life run more smoothly.

As you are doing your spring-cleaning, don’t forget to check out our family of sites to find organizing solutions for all your favorite spaces. You’ll save yourself hours of time each week by reducing the time you spend searching for things. Then go a step further and plan how you’ll use the time you’ve just saved.

A planner helps make sense of the goals, to-do items, and other random thoughts that can clutter your mind. Your planner will help you better manage your time between work and home, and keep track of your progress toward your personal tasks and goals. Specialized forms for your financial, health, and work goals allow you to watch your progress and remind you to stay on track.

Keep your planner close at hand and take note of all the things you hope to accomplish this year. Then set your goals and get moving. Right now is the best time to organize, plan, and push yourself—so you can end your year strong.

Here are some great tools to help move you toward your goals this year.

Yearly Foldout Calendar 

Check Register 

Financial Supplement 

Menu Planner 

Make Your Planner Personal for 2014

Your planner is a great tool for organizing your time, but you can make it even better. When people take the time to personalize their possessions, they tend to use them more. If you can make your planner represent the important aspects of your life and personality, you’ll find that they not only work to organize your time, but also your life.

With a few well-designed forms, your planner can serve as a personal motivator for your health goals, or it can encourage you to stick to your financial budget. With customized tabs, you can create a place to track your medical expenses, make it easier to find important lists, and help you manage your personal endeavors.

Plastic inserts make it easy to carry the things that can’t easily be hole-punched, but are helpful to have such as pencils and erasers, business and credit cards, and family photos.

Something as simple as a page finder can make scheduling and tracking your daily events thoughtlessly simple. You can have your planner open to the right day in less time that it would take to find your calendar app on your smartphone.42044_lrgcase

Yearly foldout calendars let you track the big events of each year with ease. Simply open the calendar and you can see in advance when your niece is getting married, what day your vacation will begin, or find a quick reminder to send your parents their anniversary card.

And this is only the beginning. Your planner can become your office manager, your wallet, and even your little black book. Why try to keep all that information in more than one place when your planner is such a convenient and effective tool?

Now that you have your planner and the year is underway, take a look at how you can accessorize it so you can use it to it’s fullest potential.


Purge Your Paper

Whether you’re following along in a work meeting or keeping records at home, you’re going to end up using a lot of paper over the course of a sdfsdfdsfyear. Here are some ideas for cutting down (and then cutting up) some of your biggest paper stacks:

Old Tax Papers – You generally want to keep tax records for a period of five years. If you’ve used smart tax file organization, this makes getting rid of old years as simple as feeding a file folder through a shredder one page at a time.

Receipts – If you lean left when you sit on your wallet, it’s time to remove some of the old receipts. Update your budget and reconcile your account, and then feed the shredder.

Business Cards – If the bulge in your wallet comes from old business cards, take a moment to enter the contact information into an Excel spreadsheet. Your online contact database will be much more searchable than your wallet.

Greeting Cards – If you still have leftover greeting cards from the holidays, go through them and remove any great pictures or particularly special messages to store in your journal. Then clear your fridge of the rest.

Instruction Manuals – If you save your instruction manuals, now is the time to go through them. Discard any that belong to appliances that you’ve replaced or no longer use. (This might also be a great time to locate and donate or sell those unused apppliances.)

Last Year’s Planner – Your planner from 2013 contains a trove of information, but it does you no good if it’s scattered across your desk. A Storage Case and Sleeve will give it a tidy home on your bookshelf.

Preparing to Meet the Tax Man

Getting ready for tax season can be incredibly stressful, but there are some things you can do to make it easier. Here’s a list of helpful erewresuggestions that can take some of the stress out of this hectic time of year.


Gather your receipts. Even if you’ve never itemized deductions in the past, keeping track of your potential deductions can help you determine whether you should begin itemizing this year. Potential deductions like charitable contributions or business expenses can add up quickly, so keep track of them—no matter how large or small.

Make a list of income sources. The alphabet soup of forms arrives sporadically through January. If you keep track of your income sources throughout the year, you’ll know what to expect. You’d hate to start down the road of filing your taxes only to discover a straggler W4 or 1099 that you had forgotten about.

Save your receipts from online purchases. Some online companies don’t charge sales tax depending on the state in which you live. However, it may be a good idea to hang on to that receipt. Some states ask you to list your online purchases and they try to collect a state sales tax (of sorts) on tax day.

Use your planner to save hours of hassle. Keep a running record of your spending and store necessary receipts right on your planner. You can even mark the pages on days when you made a significant purchase or donation, so you can reference that information as you sort through your tax documentation.

Create a better system for next year. Tax time is upon us. Any missed opportunity to plan for tax day during the year is gone for now. The most important thing you can do at this point is to establish a method to make taxes easier the next time around. Go through your paperwork regularly—keep your files clean and organized—keep an organized accordion file or file drawer for receipts and paperwork, and start organizing your 2014 tax folder today.

Use technology to make it all easier. Create a spreadsheet in Excel or some other format that allows you to track your income and expenses. You can create columns for all your tax-exempt donations, business expenses, or home energy-saving expenses. This will make filling out your tax forms a breeze.

Talk with your accountant. Tax law is so complicated that most average Americans couldn’t begin to file their taxes on their own. If the online forms and software aren’t sufficient for your needs, contact an accountant. A good accountant can sometimes find enough deductions and adjustments to justify their cost. And even if they don’t, there’s a certain comfort that comes from knowing you’ve done it right.

Becoming a Finisher

My father is a carpenter. Ever since he was 20 years old, he has spent every summer swinging a hammer—remodeling houses, finishing basements, repairing roofs, and pouring cement. He is also a fine wood craftsman, and spent 36 years teaching woodshop and drafting to junior high and high school students. One thing I learned from dad was the art of finish work. I learned that it was awfully hard to sand a project too much, and when you varnish your shelf, bench, or China hutch it’s much better to apply several thin coats than to try to goop it on all at once.

Whether it’s an entire home or a simple shelf, until it’s been properly finished it’s useless. Imagine spending months building a home only to quit before the doors were hung, baseboards were set, and counter tops were in place. Who would want to live in such a place?

Our life’s aspirations can be much the same. I set a lot of goals each year. Many of them come to fruition, but there are those that end up unfinished and discarded. I don’t discard goals because they aren’t worthwhile—it’s usually because I’m unable or unwilling to stick with them.

It reminds me of a poem my mother often quoted to me:

 Stick to your task ‘til it sticks to you;

Beginners are many, but enders are few.

Honor, power, place and praise

Will come, in time, to the one who stays.


Stick to your task ‘til it sticks to you;

Bend at it, sweat at it, smile at it, too;

For out of the bend and the sweat and the smile

Will come life’s victories after a while.

—Author Unknown

 So how do we stick to our resolutions until they become a part of who we are? How do we change from someone who wants to eat less and move more to someone who lives for his or her workout?

The answer is proper planning. As you write your goals for the year, be sure to break them down into bite-sized pieces. Don’t only write your big-picture goals in your planner and keep them where you can see them every day, but also write down weekly or even daily goals that relate to your main goal, so you can begin to realize your goal almost immediately.

Celebrate the small stuff. Allow yourself to be excited about your minor accomplishments. Recognizing these small steps will keep you on the path toward your final goal, and celebrating each step along the way will increase your motivation.

Share your goals with others. Let your friends and loved ones in on your plans, so they can help and encourage you along the way.

Don’t be discouraged by setbacks. We all struggle. We all fall down now and then. But success comes when we get back up.

Don’t be afraid to dream big. You’ll never accomplish great things if you continually set your bar too low. The greatest satisfaction in life comes from the greatest amount of effort. Those things that required the most thought, the most effort, and even the most heartache will be the accomplishments you appreciate most in life. Parenting, for example.

Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. My dad is 75 years old now and not able to get around like he used to, so he decided to build one more house—one that he and Mom can manage easily with all the necessities on the main level. It’s been a challenge; he has had to pay others to do many of the things he has always been able to do.  My brother and I have helped as much as possible, but it’s crunch time now. He needs finishers.

So this past couple of weeks we’ve all slept less. My brother and I and our wives, my sister and her husband, and as many of our children as possible have converged on Dad and Mom’s new home—setting trim in place, hanging doors, shingling the roof, insulating the basement, and building cabinets. We all have bruises on our thumbs from hitting the wrong nail, paint on our pants, and caulk under our fingernails. It’s slow work, but after all our parents have done for us, the least we can do is to help them finish this year’s big goal.

As this New Year begins, we wish you the same success in your endeavors. May you become a finisher too.

How to Make New Year’s Resolutions that Stick

Making and keeping resolutions is easy to conceptualize. Actually accomplishing them is another story. For some of us, our New Year’s resolutions end in disaster. There are many reasons for this—we try to do too much at once, we aren’t able to get started, or we just can’t seem to finish what we start.

One of the biggest reasons I struggle with my resolutions is because I find myself so busy that I fail to plan out my days. Rather than taking a few minutes to set daily goals and schedule my time, I just wake up and jump into the day. Helping with the needs of my family, my spouse, and my employer leaves little time for the things I want to improve upon. However, I realize that I have just as much time in my day as anyone else; I just need to schedule that time to make it more effective.

Another thing that helps me keep my resolutions is to remember how much I’m already doing each day. It’s easy to look at the areas where we’re lacking and try to change everything at once; but with our busy schedules, making too many changes just means more things on our to-do list. We need to be careful not to overdo it. We can set several goals, but it helps to work on a few at a time until we’ve worked the new routines into our daily schedule.60618_lrgcase

Big goals can only be reached one step at a time, so break your goals down into manageable pieces that you can work on for a few hours each day or week. You aren’t going to wake up tomorrow and run a marathon unless you’ve put the time in each day (usually for several years).

If you have your goals set and broken down into manageable pieces, decide to start today. Write down the first few steps you’ll need to take and act now. If you’d like to change jobs this year, revise your resume and start learning more about the companies where you’d like to work. Take notes about their mission statement, contact the company and learn who the hiring manager is for the department where you’d like to work. Write your cover letter addressed to that person, rather than addressing it to Whom it May Concern.

Now that you’ve started, keep at it. The only way to ensure you finish what you start is to simply keep at the task. Over time your efforts will become routine. You’ll get comfortable with your gym schedule and your journaling routine and you’ll find something else to improve.

Don’t be overwhelmed by setbacks. None of us are perfect. We’re going to slip along the path. If our sweet tooth gets the better of us one day, it’s best to simply admit we messed up and start fresh the next day. If we dwell on our mistakes, we’ll begin with negative self-talk and before we know it we’ll talk ourselves out of positive change altogether.

So open your planner and start setting goals today. Here’s to a new year filled with success and great accomplishments.

How to Have a Happier Holiday

What to do in the next three months to have a happier holiday.

So much about the holidays revolves around good feelings – the warmth of giving a gift, the joy of spending time with family during Thanksgiving, the rekindled wonder of watching a small child’s excitement. At least, that’s how we’d like the holidays to be. If you start preparing for them now, you can minimize the irritations and spend more time enjoying the joys of the season.

  • Stock up on Supplies: the holidays are a time when we emerge from our digital world and send physical things to each other. Stock up on wrapping paper, tape, ribbon postage stamps, boxes, and tags before the big season, and you won’t spend the week before the holiday picking over ugly patterns in the bargain bin.
  • Make Your Gift List Now: Start asking yourself the big questions for your holiday gift-giving:
    • Who? List out all the people who need gifts.Party Favor on Dinner Table
    • What? Brainstorm fun ideas for each person, or at the very least, decide on a price range.
    • Where? Once you have a list of the presents you need, you can consolidate trips – a single trip to the toy store for all the toys on your list, a single visit to the FranklinPlanner.com family of sites for the planning, family, decorating, and tech accessories.
    • Lock in Your Travel: A lot goes into a holiday trip. Download the Holiday Travel Planning Checklist, and plan out your itinerary, transportation, budget, and more before heading out.
    • Shop on the Right Days: the quietest shopping days during December are Tuesdays and Wednesdays – you won’t run into weekend crowds or Sunday ad shoppers. Or you can skip the crowds altogether and shop online.
    • Tip Generously: Make the holidays special for those who serve you – tip your trash collectors, doorman, hairdresser, and letter carriers for a job well done all year long.

Getting these holiday items on your radar now will help you plan, and face these challenges with confidence.