Your Tasks have Needs

Endless to-do lists exist everywhere.  Even when you get caught up on your current tasks, more to-dos are bound to come your way.  There’s no escaping them, whether you write them down or keep them in your head.  Living our life, there is always more to do.  Finding a way to organize your to-do list can be just as individual as anything else – discovering how to make it work for you is most important.  Part of making things work for you is to make the most of your current state.

It’s not uncommon that some of us are most successful with completing certain types of tasks.  What do those tasks have in common?  What makes them easier to handle?  What’s similar between tasks you tend to avoid?  What leads you to feeling successful with your to-do list?  What’s the biggest challenge with your list?

Our current state can have a dramatic impact on how we move through or avoid our tasks.  Too often we wait until our feelings to lead us to our to-do list, “Now I feel ready to work on my list.”  Yet what happens when you are always too tired, too sick, too overwhelmed?

I challenge you to consider your tasks in a different way – match the tasks with what you are capable of right now.  Although there any number of ways to break tasks into categories, for this particular approach consider these two factors – the physical and mental requirements – for each task on your list.

It’s more likely that you get the physical tasks accomplished when you feel like you have enough energy to tackle it.  Yet, when you are struggling with consistent fatigue or pain issues, those active tasks might be put off.  This makes sense.  Although if you begin to consider your tasks according to how physical they are, you can also begin to figure out how to make the most of your energy when it’s available – you’ll know which tasks to make a priority.

Likewise when you have little to no energy, you probably have tasks that are less physically strenuous.  If you’ve identified which tasks those are, you can tackle those.  And be sure to consider if there are ways to make some tasks less physically demanding – like the drawer you can pull out completely and put it next to you on the couch.

The second category can be just as important as the physical requirements per task.  Our mental state and completing tasks has the potential to backfire – think about organizing something when you are practically brain-dead with exhaustion (which hopefully you wouldn’t do anyway).   There are tasks that we can complete almost automatically – you don’t need to be completely focused to get your dishes done.  Other tasks need more attention – we have to think and make decisions.

Both of these 2 categories are both really a spectrum – it’s generally not as simple as sedentary versus active – it’s a scale where you move between the two extremes.  I generally think of tasks as falling on one side or the other though – for simplicities sake.  I apply the same rules to the mental category too – complex versus simple (often thinking of them as intellectual vs. mindless).  Yet, even by putting tasks into these extremes brings awareness about what each task will need of my attention whether they easily fit into those extremes.  Then you also can alternate among the different categories to maintain or even increase your progress through your to-do list.

Therefore if you can match up the tasks on your list to your current state, mentally and physically, you can probably get a lot more crossed off your list.  By pairing up your tasks with your current abilities, you will also prevent the need for a long recovery – physically or emotionally – from accidentally overextending yourself.   Considering your to-do list with these factors in mind offers you the opportunity to make the most of your time and energy to get things accomplished in a sensible way.

My Top Paid App Picks (plus one free app)

Continuing with the theme of technology and productivity, it’s time to talk about apps that might be worth paying for.  Remember the most important aspect to any technology is what your personal needs are – how do you use or want to use your tools.  Using our technology tools, we all vary in what we need and how we use them.

The chances are that there are some free apps that could help you avoid spending money.  Yet even then there are times when it makes more sense to purchase something that will meet your needs.  As I’ve said more than once, I tend to be frugal and especially dislike spending money on something that may or may not meet my needs.  I have more than 100 apps, yet have spent money on only a few.  Apps tend to be significantly less expensive than your traditional computer programs, and I appreciate that.

So, moving on, these are the apps I purchased and why.

1. Todo ($4.99)

This is exactly what it sounds like – a to-do program.  In many ways it functions like many of the other to-do programs available.  It allows you to create projects and checklists as well as a simple to-do item.  You can create multiple categories – like home, work, personal, etc. as well as repeating tasks, start date, priority, alarms, etc.  It also offers you the option of setting tags and contexts – so you can sort by these and see all your tasks that fall under one of these – like all your phone calls or those tasks that require your spouse’s help.  One of the reasons I like it is that my past do items (yes, I do have past due to-do tasks!) are listed yet aren’t quite as annoying as with some other apps.  This program is my brain dump for all tasks, it’s where I collect all those tasks that I need to remember and accomplish.

To Do

One image from Todo app (this view from phone, not tablet)

2. Pages ($9.99)

It’s a word processing app, the equivalent of Word for Mac, and it does allow you to save your files as a Word file (DOC) as well as a PDF.  This is certainly an app that is useful only if you want and have a need for doing a fair amount of typing on your iPad.  Not everyone adjusts to the keyboard or even needs to do much typing; I have written more than one blog on my iPad using this app.  The iPad version is friendlier than the computer version of Pages.  It is very straight forward and easy to use – not much of a learning curve.


One image from Pages app

3. Notability ($1.99 “on sale 60% now”)

A month ago I said I’d only purchased 5 apps, this one was my 6th purchase as I was looking for another program that would allow easier note taking at the NAPO conference.  It offers you the option of audio recording while you take notes, linking the place in the audio to your place in the notes.   You can use the keyboard or writing (finger or stylus) as well as import PDF files to take notes on.  You can export all of these out of the app if you want them elsewhere later.  Since I’ve only just begun using the app, I can only comment on my usage so far, and I really like it and it’s versatility.


One image from Notability app

4. iAnnotate ($9.99)

This is an app for taking notes and annotating PDF files (though they’re now offering Word and PowerPoint annotation with a free account).  It offers a number of options for how to mark-up the PDF’s and how to export them.  I’ve found it a little cumbersome for note taking during conference sessions, though some of that depends on the format of what I’m annotating. When there’s not such a time constraint as being in a session, I prefer this app for annotating for it’s cleanliness and versatility in how I save and export it. Recently I had a PDF I needed to scan and get back to someone, I opened it in iAnnotate, signed and dated it, and emailed it back to her – all within the app.  It was wonderful and saved the hassle (and needless paper) of printing it, signing in, scanning it, and attaching and emailing it back to them.


One image from iAnnotate app

5. Numbers ($9.99)

I use this one the least and primarily for a few business needs – it’s a spreadsheet app.  Like Pages above, it’s the Mac equivalent for Excel, and allows you to open and send files as XLS (Excel) files.  It has many features to offer the user the versatility to do what they need with their spreadsheet.  This is a good example of an app that some will need, while it would be unnecessary for many people.


One image from Numbers app

Last month I said that I’d share the 5 apps I paid for and that 4 of them are indispensable to me.  You might notice that there’s only 5 apps listed and one of them is quite new for me.  The ones I’ve found to be indispensable are ToDo, Pages, and iAnnotate.  There’s an app that I thought I’d paid for, and yet as I look at it now, it’s free!

That’s Penultimate.  This is a great handwriting app. You can create multiple notebooks and sync them with Evernote – an apparently new feature that I’ve not used.  This year I created a notebook for phone calls – a place to take notes on both the messages I collect from voicemail and while talking to someone.  They’re all in one place and there’s a way to view all the pages within a notebook, so when I need to find my notes on a specific phone call it’s easy to do.  It’s also the place I can quickly write something down, even with my finger (though it’s messier than with the stylus) and when I want to “throw” away the note, there’s an option to clear or delete the page.  You can also send a whole notebook or even just a page within a notebook with email.


One image from Penultimate app

One of the things I’m realizing is how this tool – the iPad with associated apps – are moving me naturally toward being more paperless.  This didn’t happen overnight – it’s actually taken me years of using it and adapting to using the technology.  Yet, with my growing comfort and considering things in different lights I’m realizing how to utilize the various features more fully.

Some people believe tablets will replace computers before long, there’s nothing I can think of that you can’t do on a tablet.  I still find my computer to be quite useful and in some ways easier to use – though we all know how fast technology changes.  Now I’m going to feel like a broken record – find and use the tools that will assist you in making your life easier.  🙂

My Top Free App Picks

Recently I talked about Technology Tools – To Get or Not to Get, as well as how well the iPad serves my needs.  This lead me to think about what apps are virtually indispensable to me, as well as how extremely overwhelmed I can become even looking at all the possible apps.

It’s not surprising to be overwhelmed by the number of apps – since it’s reported that there are more than 1 million in iTunes.  And it’s a personal peeve of mine that they don’t offer free trials – to see if the app will meet my needs before I spend money on it – even if it’s only $1.99 or some other “minor” amount.  Those small purchases can add up.  Yet, there are many free apps and I’ve only paid for 5 of the 100+ apps I have.  I’ve been grateful for the input of friends on what is worth getting.

Therefore, without further ado, here are my top free apps and why.

1. Evernote

I’ve talked about Evernote before, in Note Taking for Virtually Everything, and need to revisit this incredible cloud program again in my blog.  Since it’s a cloud program, it can be on most any device and offer you access to your account.  Evernote is amazing in how it can collect all the things you want to remember and be functional.  It can also serve as a place to back-up things from your iPad.

One view of Evernote

One view of Evernote

2. Dropbox

Here’s another cloud program that I talked about in my cloud computing entries, in Drop Files You Use – Here, which works with many devices to provide access to your account.  It also offers the option to back-up data from your iPad into it, like photos, and can be easier than Evernote to access any pdf files.

View of Dropbox

One view of Dropbox

3. Alarmed 

You probably know that I am a fan of timers – it’s a good tool to help keep you on track and to get a sense of the time things take you.  I have 11 free timer apps on my iPad from my exploration of timer options.  Alarmed is the one I use the most – it has both a reminder and a timer section and both allow you to create several alarms and choose from multiple alarm sounds.  I use the reminders as a repeating system to remind me to relax before bed and similar things when I might lose track of time.  The timer area has alarms for the washer and dryer as well as the “You can do 15 minutes” alarm when I’m struggling to get moving.

View of Alarmed timer

View of Alarmed timer

4. 30/30 

I hope to use this one more, especially since they’ve recently resolved some issues.  It’s similar to a timer app as it’s a self-proclaimed “task manager.”  It offers a visual display of what’s on your list, the time remaining on the task and what’s up next.  I’ve been using it to help me create new routines – many of us are familiar with how challenging it can be to get in new habits – and this gives me a framework for remembering and doing it.  I also use it for times when I might have a tendency to get off track – a system for keeping me focused on one area for a period of time before moving to the next area.  I really appreciate the visual aspects of this app – from choosing a color and an icon for each task as well as the ring with time elapsed moving along.

View of app 30/30

One view of 30/30

5. Dragon Dictation

This is another app that I don’t use all the time, yet when I use it, I really appreciate it.  It does require an internet connection and you have a limited amount of time to speak, yet it does a pretty good job in transcribing your speech into text.  From there you can send it or paste it into the app of your choice.  Considering this is a $200- computer program that is free for the i-devices – it’s great!

One view of Dragon Dictation app

One view of Dragon Dictation

There are more apps that I use and appreciate.  These 5 free apps are the ones that help me most – with simplifying, with organization, with productivity, with supporting me in my life.  Although these cannot help anyone if they sit unused on your device – you have to use it to make it helpful.  Next month I’ll share the 5 apps that I did actually pay for – and 4 of them made it to my indispensable list along with these 5 I talked about today.  Remember what matters most is finding and using the tools that will help you make the most out of your life.

Ready to Escape the Pain

There’s a reason I don’t sell gift certificates generally.  Never mind that some people would be mortally offended to be given a gift of a professional organizer, it would be a waste of money unless the person was ready.  They need to decide there’s a better way and to make the effort to change.  If I only had a magic wand, this could be different, maybe.  When we pause to consider that someone has to be ready to make changes otherwise nothing else will make a long-term difference, we can see how true it is.  The first step is that when the pain becomes too great, we’re inspired to figure out alternatives.

My husband and I have had long interesting conversations about pain.  Generally you hear how having a high pain tolerance is a good thing, “it makes you stronger.”  I know I associate the idea of a high pain tolerance with resiliency; the strength to make it through whatever comes my way.  And we’ve come the conclusion that for many things we have a low tolerance for pain.

Consider the person who is constantly losing their keys, phone, purse, wallet, etc.  I have a friend who struggles with this and they race around in some degree of panic searching – eventually finding whatever it was and moving along with their day.  And it happens again and again; and yet it seems normal to them, it’s just how it is.

Then there’s other people who’ve lost their keys or whatever, get frustrated, and decide to do things differently – they get determined.  They make a decision for how to avoid it happening and begin to implement that change.  It doesn’t get fixed overnight and it doesn’t mean that it never happens again.  Yet, it does mean that it’s more of a rare occurrence rather than a common one.

The second example is someone with a low pain tolerance.  The “pain” of losing that item is too great to simply continue in the same way – it instigates the desire for change.  The frustration or annoyance is greater than the challenge of finding a new way of doing something and making that new system work.  This includes failing and faltering along the way to the new system, yet determined to avoid the pain of lost keys with any frequency.

The frustration of a spouse, parent, or sibling is fairly irrelevant – the pain has to be yours if true lasting changes are going to be made.  And that’s not to say that the frustration of a loved one isn’t motivating, but it can spur movement that is short-lived.  Consider the example of alcoholics – the person needs to make the decision on their own to change otherwise they’ll return to drinking.  The impetus for change wasn’t coming from within.  The context is irrelevant, the person needs to reach the point where they want things to be different, better.

Let me be perfectly clear – we all live our lives the best we can.  If you are someone who loses your keys regularly and haven’t done anything about it, that’s fine – there is no one right way.  People can lead great lives while constantly losing their keys, although they might be frustrating their spouse. 🙂  That’s not the point.  If YOU don’t mind losing your keys, what would motivate you to change that?

As I’ve touched on before, facing changes can be challenging, even when they’re wanted (or positive).  Therefore, when the risk of doing something different is less painful than staying the same – we embark on the process of finding better ways.  It might well even be a process of 2 steps forward, 1 step back – it’s a journey into unfamiliar territory.  It’s also a way to learn about yourself and discover that having a low pain tolerance makes you strong.

Review: Tickler File


Tickler File

Here’s the Tickler File I made for myself

  • easy to create
  • never expires – you can use it over and over again
  • easy to use – little decision making involved
  • no categories


  • challenging to find one set – up for you to jump into using
  • requires regular routines – probably new ones which can be challenging
  • with the full system, might be quite cumbersome
  • no categories
  • files could get overfilled


First, let’s get it out of the way – the name is just funny – Tickler File, or maybe it’s the idea of tickle that makes people giggle.  That seems to be part of the idea – these files are meant to tickle your memory so you won’t forget all the various things you are supposed to be doing.  And you can’t argue with that as a goal – to help you track what’s important and stay on top of things.  If only it was that simple.

Since many people I’ve mentioned this idea to have no idea what it is, let me begin with explaining what it is.  Ideally it seems to be a set of files that sits out on your desktop or some other surface for easy access.  You need hanging folders for each month of the year and some empty ones for the all the file folders.  Then you need file folders numbered 1-31, one for each day of the month generally.  Therefore, since this is February 20th, the front folder is February and the first file would be the one with the number 20 on it.  Behind the file with 20 is 21-28.  Then you’d see the March folder with 1-19 and then 29-31.  Next would be the folders for April, May etc.  At the end of today, you would move 20 to its spot in March.

The idea is that you put your various papers into the date that you need to deal with that specific paper.  Therefore, if you have to RSVP by the 28th, you might put the invitation into the 21st file, and make the decision and mail it on that day.  Or a bill that you need to pay on the March 5th goes into the 5 file.  Or you need to call that person on the 23rd.  When something comes up that you don’t need to deal with it in the next month, you drop it just into the correlating month folder and just as that month becomes relevant, you move the papers into their appropriate day.

You can probably see that for this system to be useful for anyone, they would need to check that day’s file daily.  As with any and every system, you have to use it.  And remember to use it.  Consistently and regularly use it.  This is often easier said than done.  It can be challenging anytime you try to implement a new way to handle your tasks – creating new routines – and with this system it isn’t necessarily obvious.  I think this system also requires that you have enough paper coming in that can get delegated to various days.

It’s easy to create and set up, including labeling – you need 31 file folders, a minimum of 16 hanging folders (one for each month and as many extra to hold all the file folders), and a container to hold all of them.  It will always work – since you simply move the old to the back.  The only decision that you need to make is when you will handle that thing you are putting into the system.  Of course, then when that day arrives, you do need to make decisions.  This system works for any papers – regardless of what action you might need to eventually take.

I got a lot of amusement out of the expressions I encountered when I would ask clerks if they happened to carry a tickler file system.  So, it’s not something that is readily available in local stores, even the national chains.  There appears to be a number that you can purchase online though I would be wary of any accordion styles (though I’m not a personal fan of accordion files in general).

For me, I simply don’t have enough paper to warrant files for each day of the month.  Though it occurred to me that it could be simplified by eliminating the daily and instead doing a weekly file folder – either 1-7, 8-14, 15-21, etc. or week 1, week 2, etc.

One of the most common struggles people face is trying to do too much on a given day (or even week).  It would be easy to drop papers into this system and not realize until the day of that there’s too much to realistically accomplish.

It also doesn’t break things down in any other way which means that I might end up working more that day when I had actually thought I would be home to make phone calls and check things on the computer.  It’s not often, although sometimes I want to get through all of one type of task – non-time sensitive phone calls is my prime example – and with this system they’d likely be divided up among various days since I limit the number of tasks for a given day.

Obviously this system has some great features and can be a good solution for some people.  Yet, it also would fail miserably for other people.  This might be an ideal example of how we each need to find what works for our situation and personality.  As well as an example of how you might need to tweak it to make it work better for you.  Nothing else really matters if it works for you!

Tasks – Big Picture View

I suspect that Stephen Covey is right when he commented that the “urgent” things in our life rather than the “important” things drive many of us.  The distinction between these two things comes down to whether those “things” further our goals, the long-term ones that give our life meaning.  If we’re repeatedly running from one urgent task to another urgent task then we’re not focusing or working on the big picture view of our lives.

Of course, Stephen Covey isn’t the only one telling us how important it is to plan, to be mindful of our goals – both short and long term ones – since most (if not all) time management experts address this concept.  When we avoid planning, it’s that much easier to focus our time and energy on working on those urgent tasks.  The urgent tasks tend to be in our face – virtually demanding our attention or something bad will happen, often the crises.

Yet if we only think about the immediate things that need our attention, when do work on the things that actually have value for our lives?  And don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t mean that it’s easy to shift our focus.

One of the most helpful ways to tackle this, for me anyway, was to think about the roles in my life.  Each role that I fill has meaning – whether it’s required or voluntary – and deserves my time and energy.  Not necessarily equal time and energy mind you.  So I made a list (and yes I do like lists) of what different areas of my life I wanted to spend time and energy on.

We’re not all going to have identical lists – though many of us have jobs and families – both of which need our attention.  The idea is to keep it relatively short since ideally you’ll set aside at least a little time each week for these areas of your life.  This could relate to Your Needs and Values – as some people might put Spirituality on their list – for me, that’s contained in my Personal category.  My list has evolved over time but I’m currently working with 5 areas that I want to attend to each week: Business, Household, Volunteering, Relationship, and Personal.

This means when I look at both my calendar and to-do list, I am actively thinking about when I will focus on the various areas.  It doesn’t mean that it always works as I planned; yet it’s not supposed to.  “Urgent” tasks do come up and it’s not about ignoring or avoiding those.  It’s about making sure your life isn’t driven by those urgent tasks.

It means that we’ll have less regret at the end of the week, month, and year.  We’ll know that we’ve directed our energy toward things that matter to us – personally.  It doesn’t matter if you make a list of your categories; it doesn’t matter if you create a mission statement for yourself; it doesn’t matter how you go about it.   What does matter is finding a way that works for you to make the most out of your life in the big picture view.  How else does your life have a greater meaning?

Review: Arc Notebook System from Staples

4 out of 5 stars

Arc notebook and accessories

Arc notebook and accessories


  • versatile, customizable system
  • easy to use
  • good quality
  • inexpensive


  • hole punch is expensive
  • some wearing on pages where it attaches
  • only sold at Staples


I was excited to receive a complimentary Arc notebook with some accessories as part of my attendance at the 2012 NAPO conference.  I’d heard some discussions about it from other organizers although I had never seen it in person.  From the moment I looked at it, I suddenly understood why people talked about this style notebook.  Nevertheless, I wanted to use it for a while before I shared more about it with you, my readers.

Arc leather notebooks

Arc leather notebooks

Let’s begin with the notebook itself.  There’s 2 different notebook sizes – a 6 3/8” x 8 3/4″ and a 9 3/8” x 11 1/4″ and 2 different ring sizes – 1” and 1 1/2″.   You are able to purchase just the notebook with rings.  When considering the notebook, you have choices between leather ($14.99-$19.99) and poly ($7.99-$9.99).  The leather notebook is thicker than the poly style.  As you would expect, the thicker rings allow more paper to be stored within the notebook.

Arc poly notebooks

Arc poly notebooks

The rings are a special design and provide the system with much of its uniqueness.  Its appearance is quite different and I discovered that I had to rethink how I thought about the available space.  Since the rings stick out, I needed to limit how much paper to store in the notebook.  What makes this so unique is the style of the punch, which you can see in the picture – it looks a bit like a mushroom.  This means that the paper can be pulled in and out.

Close-up of punch and ring

Close-up of punch and ring

I’ve had some concerns about the paper since the little side parts are being bent each time you pull out or put paper into the notebook.  Would it really hold up?  It certainly looks like they get tired, yet the papers continue to work well.  I expect there’s still a limit to how many times a paper can go in and out of the notebook.  Yet, this style is exactly what drew me to this notebook.  You might know that I’m not a big fan of 3-ring style binders – they can be a hassle for the paper to go and out of with having to pop the rings open and closed.  It takes a little time to adjust to getting the papers in completely – it’s something different to wrap your head around using.

There are many different accessories for the notebook – from the standard lined paper, to-do lists, project planning pages, graph paper, calendar pages to poly tab dividers, poly zip pockets, poly pocket dividers.  There are also smaller inserts available: a task pad and page flags.  This means that you can get only the accessories that make sense for you.  Most people I’ve talked about this notebook have opted for no calendar pages, yet one person chooses to include the calendar pages.  Although I don’t use them much, I do appreciate the task pad, with only a handful of pages kept inside the notebook though other people find them borderline useful.  I am disappointed in the page flags since pen ink doesn’t set on them – so the writing can be hard to read and smudges easily, though their stickiness is good so if you simply use them as page flags without labeling them, they’re good.

They sell a hole punch so you can make any piece of paper can be inserted into the notebook.  I find the price, at $39.99, to be more than I want to spend.  One person I showed the notebook system to did purchase the punch and shared that she finds it indispensable for her usage of the notebook.

As I get more digital, there were some things that I needed paper for.  This fits my needs extremely well.  I have the tabbed sections to divide categories into and even places to collect those papers that don’t fit into another area.  There has been some evidence that our brains process better with the process of handwriting and there seems to be some truth to that for me – I want a place to write some things and this notebook has become my place.  Since there are some papers I want to keep longer though not in the active notebook, I set up an archival type notebook.  Due to the relative inexpensiveness of a notebook, it’s easy to do this.

There are so many things I could say about this notebook, but there’s only so much space!  Levenger sells a similar notebook system at a higher price.  I found one review online that actually commented the paper from Staples is thicker and better quality.  And as with everything else, this can be a fabulous tool for people though you need to consider your own needs.

Checking Tasks Off Your To-Do List

One of the questions I ask people when we’re talking about to-do lists is “do you write in tasks so that you can check them off?”  There are a fair number of people who admit with some embarrassment that yes, in fact they do that.  And I smile and say, “yup I’ve been known to do that too.”    I want those check marks – that symbol of having used my day productively.  Yet, it’s simply one-way to have the validation that the day was productive.

We all want to feel like we are accomplishing things – both those that are necessary and those that help us feel like we are moving forward.  The way that we feel about our to-do lists can vary.  It also varies over time – there are times I love my to-do list and times when it simply fills me with dread.  As with everything, there are many variables that affect our behaviors and feelings.

My biggest struggle is to feel productive – how many tasks are reasonable to accomplish?  There’s this nagging feeling like I could have done more, “if only…”  With all the variables of life, what is realistic for a person to do in a given day?

I’ve looked into this, from extensive reading to polling my friends and family.  The answers vary dramatically as well as the response that it’s hard to quantify – “it depends.”  There was a flaw in my polling – often we each view our tasks differently.  Does doing the dishes count as a to-do? Does taking a shower?  You can see how defining a reasonable number of to-dos can be challenging.

Tasks take a different amount of time to complete.  In a to-do list each item takes a line and can appear equal, even when they’re not.  Ideally everything on your active to-do list needs to be able to be completed in one step.  This means that projects are kept somewhat separate – like the brain dump to-do list, and only the next step goes onto the smaller daily or weekly to-do list (see my discussion of this in: Decide on the Next Action).

When it feels like I’ve been struggling with accomplishing my tasks, often I will write an estimate of the time I think each task will take.  This allows me to see how much I have set to do and gives me the chance to move things to another week (I currently make weekly to-do lists from the brain dump list).  Sometimes I will even take a list of tasks completed and note the time spent on each – this provides me with a realistic view of what I accomplished.

Too often I see people discounting the things they did do, as they view those things as minor or mandatory.  Nevertheless, everything we do takes time and energy – it counts.  During the times when I wasn’t really keeping a to-do list, at the end of the day I would sometimes write down everything I had done that day – another way for me to see what was accomplished.

Unfortunately there is no easy answer about how much you can realistically accomplish on a given day.  One thing to consider is how long the things on your to-do list will take – do you have time on this or that day?  Based on Harold Taylor’s planner, I recommend limiting your daily to-do list to no more than 3 tasks, above and beyond all those things you do each day anyway.  Those 3 tasks can be whatever you choose and of any length as long as they are able to be completed within a reasonable amount of time.  Test this and see how it works – when does it work for you and when does it break down?

Calendar Considerations

It’s getting to that time of year when many of us might be purchasing calendars for the upcoming year.  There are many factors involved if you want to consider something different for yourself.  And let me say up front, I strongly feel that if you have something that works for you, it’s ideal to stick with what works for you.  Period.  If the system you’ve been using isn’t working as well, then it’s time to as least think about the options you have.  So, let’s jump right in and discuss the variations in the way calendars are designed.

First, we have the big choice between paper and digital.  As I’ve already said, if what you use works, then stick with it.  Even if that means you have a paper calendar.  There’s nothing wrong about sticking with a paper calendar in our growing digital society.  On the other hand, if the paper isn’t working for you, then it’s worth considering if a digital calendar would be more effective.

When using a digital calendar, most people think of the more portable – the phone and tablets – although some people still use just their computer calendar.  There is a learning curve if this is new to you – as with anything new.  You need to get used to how it works and often learn to trust it.  The digital calendars often have multiple ways to view it – similar to the paper calendars – you have daily, weekly, and monthly, which give you the flexibility to focus on your schedule in the way that works for you.

One of the features that I appreciate in the digital calendar is the ability to set alarms – I choose the amount of forewarning I want (or if I don’t want one at all).  Another positive aspect of the digital is how I can create repeating events easily and have no need to enter the information more than once.  It just occurred to me also that there’s no recurring cost for the digital calendars or getting it up to date for the coming year – I have some appointments repeating forever.

Second, when you are looking at paper calendars, you need to decide on the format you want.  Most calendars have a monthly view in addition to either a daily or a weekly view.  Depending on your needs, a weekly view is usually sufficient for most people as it allows you to put in many appointments as well as some tasks (if you chose to do that).  The weekly view also gives you an easy overview of what’s coming up.

I reviewed 2 planners last year, both of which I still think about and appreciate: Planner Pad and Taylor Planner.  If I was still using a paper calendar, I would be using one of these and I would be torn about which one.

Something else you want to think about is how you handle your to-dos.  Do you put them into your calendar?  Do you put them in another place within the calendar or are they completely separate?  What other things do you want or need to track with your calendar (or calendar system) – phone numbers, grocery lists, websites, projects, ideas, etc? Digitally, this would likely require different programs or apps on the device, whereas with paper it could all be contained together or divided, as you prefer.

The only time to change your calendar is if you’re struggling with your current system.  With so many choices of calendars, it can be challenging to decide on which one to use.  Therefore, before rushing out and simply grabbing something, consider what your needs are for your system.

Organizing Jewelry

It’s always interesting to me how even I approach some organizing projects.  I’ve been working my way through our home, room-by-room, doing some rearranging and deep cleaning.  I did the bedroom quite a while ago now and pulled the jewelry boxes out and set them aside.  I left room for the 2 I knew would go back in and continued on my room journey.  When I finished with all the rooms, I went back to the jewelry.

I figured that it would take me between 1-2 hours to go through it and get it set up.  I don’t even wear much jewelry.  So, I sat down and spread the 9 jewelry boxes around me, all opened up.  And suddenly I felt overwhelmed.  Ugh, where do I start?  Bah, maybe I don’t really want to do this after all.

Yet my motivation from the outset prodded me – remember you don’t want 8 jewelry boxes, that’s too many.  Then I jumped in and I won’t mislead you, it didn’t suddenly become easy.  It was still with dread that I moved through the various pieces, struggling with feeling overwhelmed.

Depending on your situation, it can be helpful to know how you are going to arrange your jewelry.  I knew there was a minimum of 3 jewelry boxes I was keeping and each of them had a distinct purpose for me.  There are times that this isn’t possible or practical – and getting a sense of what you are keeping can lead you to deciding the best way to keep them.

Even though I know better in general, when I started I didn’t empty those 3 jewelry boxes – I tried to move the pieces around.  This rarely works – in any situation – as it’s most effective to completely empty the receptacle (whatever it is you’re working with) – and in this case, jewelry boxes.  I quickly realized my mistake and emptied all 3 of the ones I was keeping.  From there it was relatively easy to put some things in their places, as those loved pieces weren’t even being considered for donation.

Consider what sub-divisions there are with the broad category of jewelry.  These will vary from person to person.

  • Sets: necklace and earrings, bracelet and earrings, and all 3 (necklace, bracelet, and earrings)
  • Watches
  • Bracelets
  • Necklaces: independent and then pendants (that I put onto chains to wear them)
  • Rings
  • Earrings
    •    Dangly
    •    Non-dangly (or studs)

I started at the top of the list, with my sets, and looked at each of them.  Although I often ask how often is something used, I knew that most of my sets were extremely rarely worn.  This didn’t mean that I got rid of them – a couple of them are from our honeymoon in India and likewise important.  Yet, by evaluating, I found one set that I had no sentimental attachment and little appreciation for – and I simply set it aside. Then I moved on to the next subdivision and then the next.

With each grouping I would gather them together.  From there, sometimes I would grab a piece I knew I wanted to stay and move it off to the side.  Other times I would grab a piece that I knew could go away and put that into the give away pile.  Often it’s easiest to pull out our favorites and least favorites.  It’s those things that fall into that middle ground that can stymie us – uh, how do I decide about this other piece?  Those can be easier when those are the only ones left – although I leave the favorites close by so they can be seen as I evaluate the ones that bring more ambivalence.

With each group I needed to ask myself how realistic it was that I would wear it and what I was saving it for.  I have a whole group of jewelry that I couldn’t bring myself to part with – they were too sentimental while I know that I will never wear them again.  Sometimes it’s important to challenge yourself – would you be able to wear and appreciate all your jewelry?  I know I tend to re-wear my favorites, in order to fully appreciate them.

It ended up taking me about 4 hours to sort and organize my jewelry – double from my high-end expectation of 1-2 hours.  I ended up getting rid of 3 of the jewelry boxes and have limited myself to using those 3 jewelry boxes I’d already decided on keeping.  You can see from the jewelry box below with jewelry in it, what I am getting rid of.

2 empty jewelry boxes and 1 filled one

2 empty jewelry boxes and 1 filled one – all being donated

There’s no point in my saying it was easy or fun.  It wasn’t.  It feels wonderful to have done it and to be more consolidated.  The more we can break an organizing task into sections, the more successful we can be – maybe even more so when it comes to jewelry. And remember, it’s easiest to regain order by completely emptying the thing you are organizing.  Does your jewelry need to be sorted and organized?