Category Archives: Organization

January 1st Chores

I have some regular chores that I check-off at the beginning of the year.

  • Throw away old clothes. Look for clothes which haven’t been worn all year and give them to a charity. I take this tip from Oprah who suggested turning all your hangers to face the back at the beginning of the year. If they haven’t been turned around by the end of the year, then you know you haven’t worn them all year.
  • Backup your computer. Hopefully, you do this on a regular basis, but just in case you haven’t, now is a good time.
  • Copy your wallet. Take out everything from your wallet and scan it and make a physical copy just in case you lose a credit card or your whole wallet. Also copy your passport if you haven’t already.
  • Adjust your budget. At the beginning of each year I look at my budget and see what items need to be adjusted. There’s a good chance your cable bill and phone bill have gone up. What are ways you can reduce your bills?
  • Go though your emergency supplies. See what needs to be added/updated/thrown-out.
  • Goals for the coming year? Think about new goals for the year and what you need to do to reach them.

If you have any other beginning of the year tips, please share them.


Contingency Day

This topic is not for the squeamish, but one which everyone has to face – DEATH.

If you accept this reality, then one of the things that the bill-payer in the family can do is create a folder labeled “Contingency Day.”

That’s where you keep all the documents that your spouse/heirs will need to keep going or get your affairs in order.

The Wall Street Journal has written a good article about this along with the picture below.

Here are the links:

Calendar 101

Calendar 101 – Doesn’t it sound like one of your school’s dullest and most boring classes? Sure it does.

Actually, it’s a class that is never offered, but it’s a life-skill and a key to goal setting.

I usually need some impetus to write about a subject, such as “Calendar 101,” and this time it came from Toastmasters. (A public speaking club)

The club publishes a monthly schedule, usually two weeks in advance. The schedule lists nineteen jobs and the people scheduled for those jobs each week.
A total of 76 jobs and 76 people are assigned for the month.
The Toastmaster on week #1 is John Smith.
The Speaker on week #1 is Mary Jones etc.
This continues for 76 monthly jobs.

Now, let me give the people in Toastmasters a pat on the back. They are incredible. They want to improve their lives, their job performance, and their sense of confidence. They make a two-hour commitment, usually once a week, to go to meetings and put themselves in what can be a very scary situation. Did you know that public speaking is the number one adult fear?

And so you would think, wouldn’t you, that Toastmasters would be organized and know how to handle a calendar?

I also need to mention that Toastmasters make reminder phone calls to people about the coming week’s schedule. People usually call on Saturday or Sunday and many times it goes like this.

(Tom – talking on the phone)
“Hi Carl. How are you doing? This is Tom Terrific. I’m just calling to remind you that you’re scheduled to be a speaker this coming Wednesday.”
Many times Carl will answer this way – “I am?”
“Boy, I’m glad you called me because I completely forgot about it. Is there anybody else who could fill in for me? I am really swamped this week. I don’t know if I have time to put together a speech.”

They whine and make excuses and I feel like shaking them and scream, “That’s why we’ve got a schedule!”
“Didn’t you write your assignment down on your calendar?”
And when they do answer they usually say, “Well no, I put it in my binder or it’s somewhere on my desk.” They always have some sort of excuse.

But, I guess I understand a little bit, because there really is no “Calendar 101″ class. You won’t find one in any regular school that I know of.

In the business realm, you can take a one-day, Franklin-Covey Day Planner class. Unfortunately, it costs a minimum of $299, but you do get a fancy calendar.

Also National Seminars has a one-day “How to Get More Organized” class for $169. But, it’s interesting that nowhere in their brochure do they use the word calendar.
How can you be organized without a calendar?

So, borne out of this irritation and lack of available information, I’ve put together Tom’s “Calendar 101″ class.

Here are my Calendar Commandments:

Commandment #1
Keep an Electronic Calendar

There are two basic ways you can handle a calendar these days –
electronically, using a computer or a paper calendar with pen or pencil.
I actually use a combination of the two and I’ll explain why later.

Let’s talk about computer options.

These days there are many ways to have computers generate and store a calendar.

– You can enter and store it in a handheld device like a PDA or Phone.

– You can buy a computer program to create the calendar. Many people use Outlook and it has a nice calendar function.

– You can create and store your calendar on the internet, so that theoretically it’s always available to you – assuming you always have internet access.

The advantage of a computer-based calendar is that you enter recurring events in the calendar once and never have to worry about re-entering. Birthdays, anniversaries, recurring meetings, household chores, car maintenance, all can be entered once and never again.

I did a quick check of my yearly calendar and I have 303 recurring events over the coming year. If I had to use a paper-based calendar and copy them all down at the beginning of each year, it would be a pain or just wouldn’t get done. You also can make mistakes in the copying process if you transfer information from one paper calendar to another.

Another advantage of an electronic calendar is that they don’t get messy, like a paper calendar. You can always print out a new clean copy at any time.

My electronic calendar is slightly different from the ones above.
I use a word processor to create the calendar.
It’s very simple.

I use Google Docs, but you can certainly also use Microsoft Word or really any word processor which can handle tables.

You can download this calendar on my website at this location:
It should open with Microsoft Word.

It really doesn’t matter which electronic calendar you use, as they all have the advantages we mentioned above.

Commandment #2
One Calendar is Best

Here is why the one calendar rule is so important.
I was talking to my wife one day and she said, “Remember the party we’re going to have on the 23rd.”
And I said “Party? What party? I don’t know anything about a party.”
She said, “It’s on the calendar.”
I said, “Just wait a minute.”
I go to the family calendar and I look at it and say, “Honey, there’s no party listed on the 23rd.” She replied, “Oh it must be on one of my other calendars.”

The moral of the story is, the more calendars you have, the more chance you have for problems and miscommunication.

My wife and I now both share our Google docs calendar. It’s setup on her browser and opens automatically every day.

In a work situation, you’ll probably have another work calendar with your appointments and meetings and that’s understandable. If you can put them into your family calendar that would be great, if not you may have to have a separate work calendar.

Commandment #3
Keep Your Calendar Where You’ll See it on a Regular Daily Basis

If you have a calendar and it’s not accessible or plainly visible, then it’s of no use to you. You might as well not even have it.

I start every day at my computer and so my calendar is there staring at me very early in the morning.

Other people may keep the calendar on the refrigerator or close to the phone. It really doesn’t matter. It just has to be plainly visible to you every day.

There’s an old saying, “Out of sight, out of mind.”
It certainly applies to your calendar. It has to been in plain sight, where you’ll see it every day.

Commandment #4
Discipline Yourself to Look at Your Calendar Every Morning

It only takes thirty seconds to glance at your calendar and see what is scheduled for the day and you’re set. Yet it’s amazing that people won’t take the time to do it.

I once had an appointment with a woman who kept a calendar in her PDA. She missed the meeting and explained that she had the meeting scheduled in her PDA, but hadn’t bothered getting it out and looking at it for the day. She needed to learn the discipline of looking at her calendar, first thing in the morning.

After your early morning coffee ritual, look at the calendar first thing in the morning. If you complain that you’re just too busy, get up five minutes early and take the time. It’s worth it.

Commandment #5
Transfer Your Calendar Daily Items to Your To-Do list for the Day

When you look at your calendar and you see, two or three things which need to be done for the day, write them down on your daily To-Do list.
(You do have a To-Do list, don’t you? But that’s another topic.)
Rank them in order of importance or time sequence, whichever makes sense.

If you look at your calendar and see that it’s your mother’s birthday today, write down, “Call Mom” on your To-Do list.

Commandment #6
On Sunday, Plan for the Coming Week

I like to look at my calendar on Sunday and see what is scheduled for the coming week.
Is there any activity which needs preparation or action ahead of time?

Are there birthdays or anniversaries which need gifts bought?

If I’m a speaker on Thursday, I need to make sure I’m prepared for that speech.
(Note – I usually start speech preparation at least a month ahead of time.)

Commandment #7
Write it Down

One of the things we learn as we get older is that our memory’s not getting any better.
At times, I definitely seem to have “Ole-Timers Disease,” or we also call that, ”Having a Senior Moment.”

Here’s a story that makes the point.
An 80-year-old couple were having problems remembering things, so they decided to go to their doctor to get checked out and make sure nothing was wrong. They explained to the doctor about the problems they were having with their memory. After checking the couple out, the doctor told them that they were physically okay, but might want to start writing things down and make notes to help them remember things. The couple thanked the doctor and left.

Later that night, while watching TV, the old man got up from his chair and his wife asked, “Where are you going?” He replied, “To the kitchen.” She asked, “Will you get me a bowl of ice cream?” He replied, “Sure. “She then asked him, “Don’t you think you should write it down like the doctor said, so you can remember it? “He said, “No, I can remember that.”
She then said, “Well, I also want some strawberries on top. You had better write that down ’cause I know you’ll forget it.” He said, “I can remember that! You want a bowl of ice cream with strawberries.” She replied, “Well, I’d also like whipped cream on top. I know you’ll forget that, so you’d better write it down.” With irritation in his voice, he said, “I don’t need to write that down, I can remember it.” He then went stomping into the kitchen. After about 20 minutes he returned from the kitchen and handed her a plate of bacon and eggs. She stared at the plate for a moment, looked up at him and said,
“You forgot my toast.”

So, here’s the trick. When you hear about a date or an activity, write it down on your calendar. If the calendar is not handy at the time, write it down on a piece of paper and then transfer it to your calendar when you get home.

In Toastmasters, when I receive my monthly schedule, the first thing I do, when I’m scheduled for the coming month, is to transfer that information to my calendar.

If you get an email about a particular date – write it down in your calendar.

Also, always carry a pen and paper with you to take notes and write down dates.
They will always out perform your memory.

Commandment #8
Differentiate Between Recurring Events and One-Time Events

When the new year starts and it’s time to get your new calendar ready for the coming year, it’s always nice to be able to differentiate between annual recurring events and events which happen on a one-time basis.

Many computer programs will take care of this automatically, but if you listed them incorrectly, you can have a problem.

When I use a wordprocessor to create my calendar, I use my first table column for recurring events and my second column for one-time events. Then it’s a simple matter of deleting the second column events for the coming year and keeping the first column recurring events.

Again, most electronic calendars allow you to note if an event is recurring or not.

Commandment #9
Use Your Calendar to Schedule Time for Yourself

People are exceptionally busy these days. They have commitments at work, commitments at school, family commitments, social commitments, but rarely do people make a commitment to themselves and schedule time on the calendar for their goals.

Find time on your calendar for yourself and write it down.
It’s your time and it’s a commitment to yourself.
You might make a commitment to exercise or to take an art class – it’s your choice, but write it down on the calendar.

If someone tries to get you to do one more activity, tell them, “Just a minute, let me look at my calendar.” And if you see that you’ve scheduled time for yourself, just answer, “Oh, I’m sorry. Something is already on the calendar for that time.”

Commandment #10
Use Any Other Low-Tech or High-Tech Devices to Remember Appointments

Just because you have a calendar and just because you’ve looked at it and seen what is scheduled for the day, still doesn’t guarantee success.

I’ve found that I can almost guarantee a 100% remembrance rate when I add in extra low-tech and high-tech devices to add to my calendar.

Nothing beats a large yellow sticky note, placed strategically on your desk/table, door or refrigerator. This goes back to the “In Sight-In Mind” philosophy. If it’s staring at you during the day, there’s a good chance it will be remembered and completed.

When my wife needs to remember to take food to work, she writes on a large yellow sticky note, “Bring Food to Work” and puts it on the door. It always works.


Some calendar programs will email or phone you for upcoming events. If you have tht feature – enable it.

Commandment #11
Check Your Calendar at the End of the Day

While it’s great to focus on what needs to be done today, it’s also necessary to be aware of what is happening tomorrow. You may have an early morning meeting. You may need food or special items from home. There are any number of reasons it’s important to glance at your calendar at the end of the day and see what is scheduled for tomorrow.

Maybe tomorrow is your day off. You wouldn’t want to forget that!
(I remember at least once in the last thirty years, going to work on my day off. It’s not only embarrassing, but I could have slept in!)

Commandment #12
Group Tasks Together

When you’re looking at your calendar to find an open date for an activity, try to group it, if possible, with another activity during the same day, but at a slightly different time.

Here’s an example.
My wife, when she takes time off from work for a doctor’s appointment, always tries to group two or more appointments together in the same day. She may go to the dentist in the early morning, doctor #1 in late morning and doctor #2 in the afternoon. She then may go to the hair dresser later in the day. By grouping her appointments all in one day, she can use one vacation day rather than four.

Tom’s Calendar Technique.
Here’s how I specifically keep and maintain my calendar.

At the beginning of the year I modify my last year’s computer calendar and create the coming year’s calendar. While the dates (1,2,3) stay the same, the days (Monday, Tuesday, etc.) change and I need to cut and paste these days, so that the new calendar is correct.

All recurring items, birthdays, anniversaries, etc., are in column one and nothing further needs to be done to them. This step saves rewriting hundreds of items in the new calendar.

Items in the second column are deleted because these are one-time events.

When my Google docs calendar is done. I save a copy to my computer.


Business Tip #1
Post Your Daily Calendar on Your Door

While it’s great that you know where you need to be at any particular time, it’s even better to let your co-workers know where you are during the day. In a large corporation, it can be maddening trying to find someone in a building about an urgent matter, when they are out of their office.

One professional uses a dry-erase board on her door to post her schedule for the day or to let people know if she has taken a day of vacation.

This is not only a professional courtesy to your co-workers, but is also a great time saver in the company.
In closing, I don’t claim that this is the best system in the world, but I do know that it works, because I use it on a daily basis. Give it a try and I’m sure it will help you regain some control in your life and help you achieve your goals.

Oprah’s Reverse Hanger Test


On one of Oprahs’s shows, she had Peter Walsh go to people’s apartments and homes and help them get rid of the clutter and mess. One of his tips was to turn all your clothes hangers backward. When you wore a piece of clothing, you could turn it around to the normal position. At the end of 12 months, those clothes which are still turned backwards in the closet haven’t been worn and should be donated to a charity of your choice.