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  • Works for Me: Google Calendar

    It happened gradually, starting when Alex was born nearly four years ago, and then escalating dramatically when Tyler was born two years ago: DISORGANIZATION.

    Before kids, I was one of the most Type-A, organized people you would ever meet. Now, I sometimes struggle to remember to pay the bills on time.

    Here’s one way I’ve learned to adapt: I no longer have a paper calendar on my desk. There was no point – half the time, I wouldn’t be able to find it, one quarter of the time, I’d forget to write something down, and the other quarter of the time, I’d forget to look something up. I realized I needed another way.

    My new way turned out to be Google Calendar. It has a reminder function that I use constantly. I list appointments and send myself multiple reminders – usually one week ahead, and then the day before, and sometimes additional reminders if I need to act before the actual event. I’ve even created a recurring weekly event, with a corresponding weekly reminder, to remind myself to pocket my office key card every Monday morning. That became a necessity after I forgot the card three Mondays in a row upon returning from my maternity leave after Tyler’s birth.

    The reminders are particularly useful for events scheduled way ahead of time that I’m likely to forget because my brain simply has no room left to store extraneous information. Things like calling in to the jury duty phone line to see if I am supposed to report the next day, and dental appointments that were scheduled at our last cleaning six months ago.

    I simply can’t keep track of paper anymore, but with Google Calendar, I don’t have to. I must admit, I don’t keep notes on it the way I would on paper – partly because an online appointment book doesn’t feel anything like a journal, and partly because I just don’t feel comfortable putting personal details and information online, even though logic tells me it’s perfectly secure. But that’s okay – Google Calendar keeps me from dropping the ball on so many things, and that’s all I ask.

    Find more Works for Me Wednesday tips at Rocks in My Dryer.

    What do you do with old toys?

    I usually donate things that the kids have outgrown to Goodwill, but they’re not taking toys anymore due to all of the recalls. So now I’m not sure what to do with the five bags that are currently sitting in my upstairs hallway. Here are the ideas I’ve come up with so far, none of which are as effortless as simply loading up the car and heading to Goodwill:

    1. Find a different charity to take the toys. While this seems rather obvious, I’m not sure where to start. I’m going to ask around, though.
    2. Have a garage sale. Unfortunately, this isn’t easy because we don’t have a front yard (we live in a townhouse). Some friends have mentioned doing a group yard sale at one person’s house, which may or may not happen.
    3. Give them to or swap toys with a friend. I’ve tried this but can’t find any willing takers. I suppose some friends might want one or two pieces, but it would take way more time and energy than I have to dole the toys out a few at a time. One alternative I’ll consider is hosting a swap party, though again, I’m not sure where I’ll find the time and energy for that.
    4. Sell them on eBay. I just don’t think the return will be worth it.
    5. Take them to a consignment store. Unfortunately, I’m pretty confident only a few of the toys in the bag would be consignment-worthy. There are a lot of small toys in there, like rattles, links, and such.
    6. List them on a site like Freecycle or Craigslist. I’ve never used these sites, and I’ve heard both good and bad things, so I’m hesitant.

    I’d love to hear more suggestions, so if you have any, please leave a comment or send me an email at cfoblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

    Review: Whomi What To Do Pad & Clarity Agenda – Plus a Giveaway!

    The folks at Whomi sent me a couple of products to try out, and I’m happy to report that I really like them. The first item is the tri-sectioned What to Do Pad, with separate pads for “Buy,” “Do,” and “Contact.” I keep this on my desk and jot down notes as things come up. The thick paper tears off easily at the perforation, a feature I appreciate since I’m frequently doing it one-handed while holding Tyler with my other hand.

    The second item that I received is the 2008 color-coded Clarity Agenda. It flips open the long way, and the top page displays a normal weekly calendar, while the bottom page has color-coded rows. I had a little bit of difficulty testing this item since it is, after all, intended for 2008. I also wasn’t quite sure what to make of the color-coded rows – I know these are supposed to be great for busy moms who have to keep track of family members’ schedules, but my kids are young enough that they don’t have their own schedules yet. What I realized, though, is that the rows are great for reminders and notes.

    Thanks to a scrapbooking friend, I got the idea of jotting down the kids’ milestones and noteworthy stories in a calendar for transference to a scrapbook later, when I had more time. I haven’t really gotten around to scrapbooking, and I’ve been lax about note-taking too, but the Clarity Agenda will make that easier next year. I’ll use one row for Alex and another for Tyler, and when something note-worthy happens – whether it’s Alex counting to 20 all by himself or Tyler speaking his first two-word combination – I’ll write it down.

    The third color-coded row will be great for things like birthday gift ideas. Earlier this year, I started writing down web sites and other ideas to remember for special days. For example, that’s how I remembered Norman Love Confections for a friend’s birthday a couple of months ago.

    I love the look of both these products – they are clean, modern and compact. They also have a nice, hefty feel that implies quality. Of course, at $15 for the What to Do Pad and $30 for the original-sized Clarity Agenda, these products aren’t inexpensive. But they make great gifts. Ask for them for the holidays, and buy some to give away.

    Speaking of giving away, Whomi has generously agreed to send a Clarity Agenda to 3 lucky CFO readers. To enter, visit the Whomi web site and tell me in the comments what your favorite Whomi product is. Be sure to provide a way for me to contact you in case you win. The contest ends at 11:59 p.m. PST on Monday, December 3.

    Update: I’ll use a random generator to select the three winners. (You probably figured that, but I just wanted to put it out there.)

    Organizing/Cleaning Games

    Here are some suggestions to help make organizing, cleaning, or just about any project a little more fun:

    • The Task Bowl – Take 10 small pieces of paper and write down a task on eight of them. On the other 2, write down a fun activity. Fold the papers in half, put them in a bowl, mix them up, and pull one out. Complete the task or activity, then reach in for another piece of paper and repeat until all 10 pieces of paper are gone. This is best for small tasks and activities that you can accomplish in a fairly short time span.
    • Sticker Chart – You probably know all about sticker charts if you have kids, so how about making one for yourself? Give yourself a sticker for each task you complete and give yourself a treat when you accumulate a certain number of stickers.
    • Beat the Clock – Set a timer and challenge yourself to accomplish a task or set of tasks before the timer goes off. Alternatively, the time limit could be set by a certain number of songs played on the radio or the length of a CD. Even if you don’t complete the task, you’ve gotten off to a good start and will be more likely to finish (and you can always re-start the timer).
    • Swap tasks with a partner or family member. You can each agree to do something the other person hates doing (for example, in our family, Marc cleans the bathrooms and I vacuum).

    Adapated from the latest issue of the Get Organized Now newsletter.

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