Managing the Bits and Pieces of Your Life


By Odette Pollar,

Is free time scarce to nonexistent in your life? When is the last time you took an entire weekend off to relax? Are you constantly tacking extra jobs onto an already busy schedule? Is your life more complex than it was a few years ago? Do juggling work activities, volunteer community efforts and family obligations clamor for your attention unendingly?

Faced with more stimuli, greater responsibilities and more choices--whether that is which cereal to eat or which college to attend -- the ability to keep it all in mind begins to fail. You may find yourself afflicted with CRS-- "Can't Remember Stuff." This strikes at inopportune times, like when you leave your desk with a question for a colleague and forget it between the five steps that separate your cubicles.

The pressures of handling the many demands on business, home and family life are real and can be overwhelming. Even your children have more to do and remember with jammed calendars reminiscent of a campaign schedule two weeks before the election. Here is what can happen. Your doctor prescribed an antibiotic for an ear infection. You use the medicine for a couple days, and then forget about the prescription until you discover it months later in the back of your medicine cabinet. You worry that your home computer will crash, knowing that it has been almost a month since you have done any backups. You need to keep track of your car mileage for business expense purposes but somehow end up trying to resurrect the totals from memory. These are some of the bits and pieces or odds and ends of life that somehow slip through the cracks. To prevent this from happening, design your own safety nets.

  1. Schedule certain activities for particular times of the week: pay bills on Monday night, run backups on Friday at the end of the day. As a reminder, schedule them on your calendar.
  2. Develop the habit of checking your calendar while you sip your first cup of coffee each day.
  3. Identify the most difficult task you have to do for the day and do it first.
  4. Keep whatever you use often at arm's reach. After use, rearrange things so they are ready for your next work session.
  5. Store an auto mileage log on your dashboard and tie a pen to the log book
  6. Link things that are difficult to remember with a strongly established habit. If you have to take your medication first thing in the morning, store the tablets with your toothpaste and toothbrush. If you have a number of pills to take each day and have trouble remembering their sequence, after you take the pills turn the bottle upside down. When all the bottles are upside down, you have taken all the pills you need for the day.
  7. Learn to record the amount of a check in your check register first. Then write the check.
  8. Divide incoming mail into categories: Bills to pay, letters to answer, things to read, kids' activities. Go through them once a week.
  9. Keep reading materials in a place where you are actually likely to read them.
  10. Identify one place in your home for your children and spouse to place important papers, so that looking for an item does not require a search throughout the house.
  11. Help kids break the procrastination habit. When they have large projects to do, help them break them into short segments and let them do a segment a day or a segment each week.
  12. For more effective communication, schedule regular short status meetings once or twice a week for family members. Hold the family meetings even if everyone is not available. This prevents meetings from being postponed until the rare moment when everyone is in.
  13. Arrange shopping, appointments and stops as logically as possible. This saves time, stress and money by planning ahead. Resist the impulse to make a quick trip across town to fulfill that need for instant gratification. Can it wait until tomorrow when you will be in the vicinity for another purpose?
  14. Use small chunks of time for weeding out a single file, add or delete names from your address book, or update your frequent flyer mileage log.
  15. Have one master calendar for the activities of your family. Give each member of the family a different color pen to use. Post it where everybody can reach it and everybody can read it. This helps makes logistics and organization easier.
  16. If you do the same activity twice a year or more frequently, it probably deserves a checklist.  Why have to rethink the steps again or try to remember the items to pack?

Odette Pollar is a nationally known speaker, author, and consultant. President of the management consulting firm, Smart Ways to Work based in Oakland, CA, her most recent book is Surviving Information Overload. Email to share your comments, questions and suggestions: Visit us at: call: 1-800-599-8463.

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