This one organizational tip literally saves me hours of work. When it comes to being efficient and organized, I try to spend the extra effort planning a task or event the first time, so that I can use the template or outline when planning similar events in the future. I find that so much of what we do in life is repetitive, so it makes no sense to reinvent the wheel or continually redo a similar task over and over again. It is for this reason that I am a bit of a template queen. I try to consider every detail in planning an event or preparing for a situation and then save the template, so that I can use it time and time again. Of course, I am often making modifications or changes to my outlines, but the framework is there and thus the time spent planning and thinking through what is needed is down to a minimum. The possibilities are endless, but here are a few ways that I apply this concept:
- General Packing Lists – I have standard lists for each family member that include all of the basic things you would need for a sleepover or vacation. Of course, it needs to be tweaked depending on the season and the type of activities that will occur while away. My packing lists are made in a table format, so that I can change the “quantity” of the items needed and there is a box to check-off items as they are packed.
- Summer Camp Packing List – The kids basically take the exact same things every year, so I use the same list each and every year. I simply print it off when we are ready to pack.
- Christmas Shopping – again, my basic list rarely changes. You are typically buying for the same family and friends each and every year. I also include general terms like: coaches, teachers, volunteers, teaching assistants, etc. Again, this is made on a table with columns for the names, budgeted costs, actual amount spent and a check off box.
- Birthday Parties – I’ve already shared my template for planning a birthday party. Regardless of whether I’m planning for Eden or Shay, there are some basic planning guidelines I always follow. By using a template, I don’t have to worry about forgetting anything.
- Gardening – My mom loved to garden and had a real knack for tending to plants. I do not. Maybe some day when I’m retired and don’t have a million and one things to do, I could actually enjoy the process instead of just feeling like it something else on my “to do” list. Our front yard is very shady and over the years we have learned what works well and what doesn’t. We now have many perennials, but I always like to do a couple of pots and add a few annuals to my flower beds. I decided to make a list of what I need and how many of each. It just seems like every year, I am trying to figure it out all over again….why? Now I just write it down and use the same basic list from year to year.
- Camping – I love camping, but hate packing. Over the years, I have learned a few tricks to that help make our camping trips easier to plan. One is having a pre-set camping list that includes all of the gear we’ll need.
- Camping Menu Plan – I know this seems a bit extreme, but one of the things that has made my job way easier when planning a camping trip is to follow the same menu every time. We generally only go away once or twice per season, so repeating the menu is not an issue. This not only saves me having to figure out a menu, but also allows me to use the same packing list for the food and utensils we’ll need, as well as the shopping list that coincides with the menu.
Of course, the ideas for using this type of system are endless, but some others might include: Back to School Shopping and Medical Appointments, Dinner Parties (for planning and keeping track of who you served what to), Block Parties, Committee Work, Calendars, To Do Lists, Weekly Planning Templates, etc.
I am pretty good on the computer, so for me to whip up a document with a table embedded is pretty easy, but even if your skills aren’t that polished, it is really worth the initial effort. I find that this system really helps to relieve that “bogged” down feeling simply because I have less things to think about. I can spend the time actually going through the list and doing what needs to get done without spending the time thinking about it and planning from scratch. The other great thing about he computer is that you don’t have to have a bunch of notes or file folders with your documents stored around the house. Simply create files on your computer to store all of your templates and the various versions you create. I like to date or name each file I create, so that I don’t use my original template and so I have a record of how/what I did differently each time. Of course, this wouldn’t pertain to a packing list or Christmas shopping list, but more to the planning of events or different variations of my garden plans.
Hope this helps!