What will you do today? Just try to “get through the day”? How about spending your time doing things that make tomorrow better and easier to navigate?
There’s an old Indian proverb that says, “Yesterday is but a dream, tomorrow but a vision. But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness, and every tomorrow a vision of hope.”
So, what does “today well lived” look like?
For too many people, it’s getting through the day. It’s doing those few things that absolutely have to get done and pushing everything else to tomorrow over and over again. It’s mortgaging the future. It’s like having a giant weight on your shoulders with all the things looming from the past.
What we want to be doing are those things that are going to make tomorrow better. They are things like setting up systems that will handle routine tasks for you. At the very least, they will remind you to do these routine things at the right time. You never have to hope you’ll remember.
This idea of doing work today that will make tomorrow better will be the theme for this month.
I’m going to give you two quick examples
Just after the last new year, Real Simple magazine published responses from several readers to this question: “What New Year’s resolution will you never make again?”
One response caught my eye:
To send birthday cards to all my relatives. I’m from a family of nine, and we all have kids. I’m trying for 2 years now, and I just cannot keep up with the amount of mail.
Let’s design a quick system to make this one easy. If you’ve ever attended one of my workshops or read my book Get Organized!, you’ve heard about this one. Our object will be to handle all birthday cards in one sitting one time a year.
The first step is to make a list of the people to whom you send cards. I recommend putting them in a spreadsheet. One column will be for the name, one column for the street address, a column for the city, one for the state, and one for the zip code. Finally, add a column for the person’s birthday. You could do this not only with family, but close friends or co-workers as well.
As the first of the new year approaches, mail merge that spreadsheet and print a set of address labels.
Buy a card for everyone on the list with one trip. During the year, enough charitable organizations send birthday cards that we usually have enough cards on hand without having to purchase more.
Now you have cards with envelopes. You have labels. You have return address labels. You have stamps. Sit down and match it all up. Sign the card, put it in the envelope, and attach the correct address label. Go through the whole stack that way.
Go back and seal all the cards. On the next pass, put the return address labels on all the cards.
The next step is to take each envelope and pencil in the date the card needs to go in the mail. You have this information on your spreadsheet. Pencil the date where the postage stamp will later go.
Here comes the magic.
Take the whole stack of cards, and put them in your Tickler File. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, join the email list. The first gift you receive explains in depth how to create it and how to use it.
You’ve just earned the right to forget about birthday cards! On the first day of each month, when you open not only the Tickler File for that day, but also the file for the new month, there are all the cards to mail that month. Use the postage stamp to cover the date you penciled on the envelope. Drop each card into the Tickler File for the day it needs to go in the mail.
Like everything else you do, you’ll need a trigger to remind you to go through this one-time-a-year ritual. On your digital task list, create a repeating task for a day in late December to print your birthday card labels.
There’s a second simple system that comes to mind every year about now. If you’re like me, you received a few gift cards over the holidays. How do you keep up with them? Let’s set up the system.
Take one blank file folder and label it “Gift Cards.” Inside, place a few pieces of card stock. Line each side with four paper clips.
Next, paper clip the gift cards. You’ll be able to clip 16 to a single piece of card stock…eight on the front and eight on the back. Alphabetize the cards so it’s easier to see what you have. You probably also have some e-cards on 8 1/2 x 11 pieces of paper. Put those in the folder between the pieces of card stock.
Do you have coupons or gift cards with expiration dates? For example, did you buy a gift card and it automatically earned you a bonus card of 10 or 15 dollars with the stipulation the card had to be used during January? Put all of those in the very front of the folder in chronological order.
Now that the folder is prepared, we need a trigger to cause us to look at it at the right time. Put the whole folder in the Tickler File. I like to see mine every Saturday.
On Saturday, I pull the file for that day just as I have pulled the Tickler File each day for over 40 years. There’s the folder of gift cards. My wife and I take a quick look at what’s about to expire and what cards we might want to use during the week. Pull those cards and refile the folder for the next Saturday. It’s that simple and we never lose a card!
Your call to action is to look at your own life and decide what simple systems you can set up today that will make tomorrow better and will make your future self thankful.