Monthly Archives: February 2012

Getting Things Done – Reference Files

What is your general reference filing system like? Do you have two, big-ass metal file cabinets, meticulously organized and lovingly labeled? Do you have big canvas-covered hanging file boxes (as I do) and keep only the bare minimum? Do you have hoarder-esque stacks of crap lining the walls of your office? Or are you all digital, scanning receipts and tossing them later?

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According to David Allen, in “Getting Things Done,” your filing system must be “fast, functional and fun, or you’ll resist the whole process.”

Allen recommends an “alpha system” organized entirely by A-Z as opposed to multiple systems. One simple alpha system files everything by topic, project, person or company so that it can only be in 3-4 places if you forgot where you put it. I’m not sure I’m down with this, as I like to keep my reference files according to subject (i.e. – vacation ideas, childcare articles, etc). He also recommends using the heavy-duty metal filing cabinets, having sh!t-tons of fresh file folders available, and labeling every damn thing with a label maker. OK, I agree with all of that. Also, files should be purged at least once a year – for sure…

 OCD: End of month gut check

OK so this month, I put routines in place for morning and night, started writing up and accomplishing two weekly goals every Sunday, instituted the grocery list template, the menu planner, the wipe-off chore list, a petty cash system and clipboards galore… I think I’ve really taken February by the balls here. Doing my best to get into some better habits – maybe acting like more of a grown up (now that I’m pushing 40)… All that good shit…

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Tech Tuesday: Goodreads

If you are a total bibliophile (read: dorkass) like I am, you’ll dig on Goodreads, a social networking site for book lovers that allows you to peruse what your friends are reading and post your list and reviews. Every member has a “bookshelf” with a list of books that they are currently reading, have completed reading, or are anticipating reading. The site has been around since 2007, but I’ve only recently been turned on to it via Facebook friends – probably because my nose is always buried in a book (or my Kindle).

Goodreads was the winner of Lifehacker’s “Hive Five Best Book Recommendation Service.” Once only web-based, you can now download the Goodreads app for your iPhone or Android device to keep track of your reading list (handy when you’re at the book store), search book reviews, and receive personalized recommendations based on what you’ve previously read and reviewed. Goodreads also “hosts” book clubs, which I’m particularly interested in as I don’t have the time – thanks to the kiddos – to go to a real-life book club, plus I’m painfully shy (I know, right…?)

I just started using the site and have yet to brain dump my huge list of books I’ve read, am reading, or intend to read, and start writing reviews. I need to take it a little bit at a time, I think, starting w/ my Kindle library and working from there.

Come take a gander at Goodreads – let me know what you think.

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Why People Fail – Productivity Exercises

Started reading this awesome book last week – “Why People Fail: The 16 Obstacles to Success” by Siimon (no that’s not a typo) Reynolds.

In my opinion, productivity is all about doing the tasks that get you what you want and chucking all the extraneous crap. An impossible feat, if you don’t know what you want. The first part of Why People Fail is dedicated to exercises aimed at helping you figure out your goals, followed by methods to streamline your life in support of those goals. The following drills are meant to clarify your thinking.

Life Purpose – what is the primary reason you get up in the morning?

Write three possible life purposes that should inspire you and make you more effective.

Job Purpose – write down the three most important tasks you have at work and put them in order of priority. This should help you clarify what action items really need to be done towards your purpose, and what items are BS.

Weekly Purpose – every Sunday, write down the one or two most important tasks that you’d like to accomplish the following week

Ideal Person Clarity – write down what type of person you’d really like to be; choose five character traits you wish you possessed. Then, act the part. (A little weird, but you get the picture).

I went through all of these exercises last week – a bit personal to share, but super thought provoking. My favorite is the weekly purpose – on Sunday evenings, I write down two tasks (in my Moleskine, natch) that I want to do either every day the following week (to get into a habit) or to complete by the end of the week. This week I’m bringing my lunch every day and starting my workout in our sexy home gym (aka: the garage). Last week I went out for a 30 minute walk in the sun every day and did the reworked the monthly budget. Good stuff.

If you’re interested, I highly recommend the book. You can also check out his blog at http://www.siimonreynolds.com/siimon’s-blog.aspx

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I Love My: Greeting Card Organizer

Like you suckers, I am mind-melded to my iPhone, iPad, Macbook Air and all the other electronic tethers that keep me in touch with the universe. However, not to get all depression-era schoolmarm on you, there’s nothing that replaces the awesomeness of receiving a thoughtful card in the old timey mailbox on your special day. The problem is, in our electronic bubble, it’s sometimes hard to remember these occasions (seriously there should be no excuse for this with the eleventy billion calendar and occasion apps that are available) and be to prepared with the perfect greeting card.

Here is a $10 investment that is totally worth it!

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My heavy-duty plastic card organizer purchased from Amazon.com came with 6 removable dividers (now carefully labeled -with the exception of “birthd&y..” with my Brother labeler) and a hinged snap lid. It’s acid-free so it won’t f*ck up any handmade or specialty ($$$) cards and is sturdy enough to survive any closet avalanches. I’m sure there’s something sexier or more Etsy-crafty available if you aren’t interested in a huge hunk of plastic, but since mine lives in a storage closet, aesthetics were not a major concern.

Together with my perpetual Google occasion calendar – the one that texts me one week before birthdays and anniversaries pop up – I am prepared to remember everyone’s special day by sending a kickass card in a timely fashion.

Now I just need to get my butt down to the local Hallmark, because I’m running low on humorous birthday greetings to file in my awesome card organizer.

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Organizing for Tax Time

It’s that time of year again… F and I filed our taxes back on 2/7 (and still haven’t gotten our refund check in yet, but that’s a topic for the IRS…) Our 2011 return required a sh!t-ton of organizing and tight record keeping because of our relocation, business travel and related expenses.

Here is what I did this year. It’s admittedly analog, but considering the fact that we ended up with a 104-year old man doing our taxes at our HR Block, it was the best solution in retrospect. (I’m not joking…F and I were wondering if we could get a discount on the service if he dropped dead mid-meeting, it was a distinct possibility). I’m sure there that presenting all of this info to our ancient peepaw accountant in any other format would have made him crap his Depends.

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The three-folder income tax filing system

  1. Income – place all W2s, 1099s, and other income statements in this folder. Create a cover sheet that lives on top – or stapled inside front (either handwritten or your favorite spreadsheet app) that details all information contained inside and totals it out.
  2. expenses and deductions – clip together by category: business expenses, medical, childcare, relocation, etc. Place a cover sheet as the top sheet of each category with those details noted. There should also be a cover sheet stapled to inside front of folder with a line item overview and associated totals.
  3. Investments – this is the home all statements (monthly, quarterly, annual), receipts, sale confirmations, dividend notices, etc. Again, the cover sheet – organized by line item – should go into this folder for quick reference.

The spreadsheets listing the receipts are KEY!

Finally, It would be in your best interest to peruse the instructions for the 2011 tax forms, just so that all of your expenses are deductible and that you’re not missing anything. I know it’s not exactly light reading, but it may get you a few bucks back in the long run, and who doesn’t love getting the money back that they so generously gave the US government?

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Friday Bites: #4 Establish a Morning Routine and #5 Menu Planning + Groceries

Mornings are uniquely stressful affairs in Casa Lopez, but evenings can be a bitch as well – especially work nights. Getting back to work and having both kiddos now in daycare together has allowed us to somewhat streamline our morning process (see my January 20 post: “Establish Your Morning Routine”). Of course, it’s somewhat dependent on when H wakes up since he is just 3 months. However, we’re getting there. The morning task list is set and we get it all done, with a few hiccups. So, on to the evening routine!

On deck for dusk:

1. Straighten house , wash all dishes

2. Put out clothes for following day (outfits for week have already been chosen on Sunday – I put them out and accessories the night before, changing to a better matching purse if needed)

3. prep breakfast, program coffee, make night/early morning bottles for H, cook O’s lunch and store

4. DVR clear and set up, alarms, charge electronics

5. nighttime pre-bed primping (we olds need to put on that retin-A nightly to avoid looking busted)0

Another seemingly routine task that can get out of hand in a hurry is grocery shopping. If I go to the store hungry and/or with the kiddos, all bets are off… I end up with a cart full of nonsense and way too much cheap wine. It’s time to rein that in and stick with a pre-determined list.

Here is a link to the grocery list template that will be instituted in our house starting with this week’s HEB run: http://www.vertex42.com/Files/pdfs/1/grocery-list.pdf

It’s handily divided into similar categories that I’ll find at the store, so I’m not running back and forth between aisles across the store like a jackass. I’ll let you know how it goes over the next couple of weeks. Give it a try!

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OCD Book Review: Everygirl’s Guide to Life by Maria Menounos

OK, I was skeptical at first…What could an impossibly hot, wealthy, celeb reporter conceivably have to put forth in the way of productivity advice? But, I have to admit, Maria Menounos is an OC-Delight. She’s unexpectedly marvelously anal retentive and her book had a few great take-aways that even a chubby, old mom like myself can put into play. Admittedly, the book reads like it is primarily aimed at young women just starting out on their own, heavy on very basic (and obvious to us elderly chicks) career advice, fashion do’s and don’ts and makeup tips. At my advanced age (did I mention I’m old?), I’m pretty well-versed on these subjects as well as keeping a home and “dating.” I guess I must have done something right – since I have a couple of husbands under my belt 😉

At any rate, the first couple chapters on organization and productivity are a fun read and offer a couple of good nuggets. Pics of her immaculately OCD-organized closet alone are drool-worthy. I immediately wanted to march my paycheck over to Container Store and go on a spree. However, since I can’t afford to install a spa or a screening room in our little casa, several of her suggestions in this realm were ridiculous.

Useful advice:

Create your own “Little Black Book” for reference – meant to house your most important information, so someone could theoretically “operate as you” if you were trapped under a bus.

This is a three-ring binder stocked with plastic sleeves and divided up into several categories:

• emergency contact information : names and numbers of most important friends and family members

• medical information: numbers for allllll of your doctors, dentists, Rx numbers and information, insurance card copies and information, allergies + conditions

• account information: photocopies of bills w/ account numbers and login/passwords, insurance, etc (should also have a digital version of this)

• important numbers: fire, police, attorneys, vet, business managers, landscapers, maintenance, basically all of your services

• insurance + warranty company info – home, life, auto, etc

• information and contact/account numbers for utilities – water, cable, power

• copies of SS cards, birth certificates, drivers licenses, plates

• travel information: accounts, frequent flyer numbers, car service, hotels

• birthdays + anniversaries perpetual calendar, along with address list for card mailing

Travel checklist – put a basic travel checklist in your iPhone notes and go through it/ print out + use every time you go on a trip (I do this now – but for specific trips, so I put a basic list in the phone to copy and paste…)

Grocery list + food diary templates. I use better templates than hers, but I embrace the concept anyway.

Bottom line: mostly frivolous and frothy (at least for anyone over 30) with a few good pieces of advice… Read the above points and save yourself $15.

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Getting Things Done: The “Next Actions” List

Returning to David Allen’s “Getting Things Done,” I’ve reached a portion of the book that I object to… The “next actions” list – as a separate entity from your calendar – or, in other words, the abolition of the to do list.

Maybe this is my reptile brain, pulling back from this concept in revulsion – but my daily to do list is a habit I don’t think I can or want to break. I’m totally dependent on it. At any rate, in the spirit of journalistic integrity, I’ll share his concept with you:

Allen maintains that there are two basic kinds of actions:

  • Those that must be done on a certain day and/or at a certain time (meetings, appointments)
  • Those that just need to be done as soon as you can get to them, around your other calendared items

Your calendar must show only the “hard landscape” around which you do the remainder of your action items. Allen goes on to say that the old habits of daily to-do lists are “bad” (gasp!) because you put actions on the calendar that you think you’d really like to get to that day, but actually might not, and then you have to shift them to the following day. Therefore, the “as soon as I can” stuff should be organized into different lists based on context required for that action. In other words, you have a “calls” list for when items that must be taken care of by phone, and an “errands” list for tasks that must be taken care of in the car, etc. All totally separate from your calendar. You get the picture. So now I have a calendar as well as SEVERAL different to-do lists (I’m sorry, “next action” lists…) that sounds like crazy talk to me. How is that possibly more streamlined than my Moleskine page-a-day 2012 journal? My appointments for the day are there, and I don’t mind having to rewrite an action item on a following day. In fact, it’s a useful exercise to review the list throughout the day and shift as needed, and then to close out my day with a final look – moving stuff over to tomorrow and beyond. It’s soothing, it’s meditative.,. then I know what I have ahead of me tomorrow and I can drift into dreamland with my glass of pinot noir… etc. etc.…

Maybe I’ll adapt this by breaking up my DAILY lists into these categories – as opposed to keeping a separate list/document for each that isn’t assigned to a day. I’ll give that a shot next week and report back.Image

What daily system to you use to manage tasks and appointments? And what are the pros and cons – do share!

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Tech Tuesdays: I’m Back + Obsessed

After a long 4 month hiatus from the working life, I found myself back in the saddle doing contract production management starting last month. Adding this element back into my life required some shuffling of time and priorities and consequently, I had to put OCDelight on the back burner for a while. Now we that have a routine down, I can hop back into the blog – and I have a lot to share, because I haven’t stopped reading since ending my self-imposed “maternity leave.” In fact, taking the bus means I now get an uninterrupted 90 minutes of reading time every single day. It’s tits!

Pinterest is a virtual, visual pinboard app helps you collect ideas. A curating tool, if you like. And jeebus knows I am all about curating my life in 2012.

I’m totally obsessed with it.

Pinterest also has a social networking function and is currently invite-only. However, it wasn’t exactly hard to wrangle an invite – just submitted a simple request form, and was “in” about a week later. Download your “pin it” bookmarklet and the iPhone app, and pin on the go. You can share your boards with your followers, follow others (both friend and stranger alike), and comment. I’m not into the social aspect as much as I find it so extraordinarily convenient to catalog all of my finds on the web in one place. I think if you were working on a brainstorming or creative project, Pinterest would also be super useful.

I currently have idea boards to collect ideas for home décor, stuff to do in Austin and for this blog. I anticipate adding a recipies/party board and maybe a fashion/beauty board – dunno…Let’s see where this thing takes me. It’s not like I don’t have enough demands on my time already, after all.

You can find me at pinterest.com/mrschrislopez. Feel free to hit me up for an invite.

Happy pinning!Image

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