Tell Us Your Favorites

I’ve written recently about a couple of tools I use to do my planning and organizing (here, here, and also here.)  I’m very curious about what you do?   Whether it’s very simple or complex, I’d like to hear about them.  Are there particular steps or questions you use in preparing for either your day, your goals, events, etc that you have found very useful?  How about those things that haven’t worked for you?  Is there anything you haven’t had much luck with that maybe we should avoid?

We learn best by doing, I believe, but it’s wonderful to also learn from others’ experiences.  We can learn what others have either struggled with, or had success with, and then apply to our situations…that’s when we can truly understand the benefits of the procedure or technique.  So please comment with your successes or failed approaches.  I’d love to learn from them as well!

Put Your Thoughts Together In A Mind Map

Being prepared is about getting organized and adding a little forethought. It’s good to have some help. Consider this.
Whether you need to organize your thoughts, build a flow chart, get a picture of how issues interrelate, or simply keep track of your research findings, you probably could use a mind map. Mind maps are a great way to make your thoughts visual…like a visual outline. The mind map has a single idea as its center or hub to which other concepts, words, pictures, etc are added that associate with the center hub idea and radiate outward from the center in parent and child topics.  For example,

Mind map example Click on image to enlarge.  This mindmap was created using iThoughtsHD for iPad.

With a mind map, you simply drop your ideas down as you think of them and after your brainstorm session you can move the “thoughts”, regroup, and make relationships between them and more.  I’ve used flowcharting software and other mind mapping software in the past.  In fact, I created many mind maps with a desktop mind mapping software and I was able to import them into my iThoughtsHD software on the iPad…I just find this easier on the iPad.  It also allows me to create or edit existing mind maps when I have down time or rather unexpected time because I’m waiting for a flight or meeting to begin.

Mind mapping is used for problem solving, outlining, condensing material like while conducting research on a topic, and more.  The mind map above, outlines key issues involved in storm preparations for example. You could easily use it to make and adjust your emergency plans. It allows you to think more clearly when you can isolate on one issue at a time, like Food and Water or Shelter in the image above. Then use it to breakdown each issue into the details of your emergency plan.

I’ve developed one that I use to track my values and goals:

Goal setting example

 Click on image to enlarge

Whatever your need is, you’ll be pleased with how your thoughts flow when you simply begin to add issues to the center, parent, or child topics.  Find your mind mapping software and watch your thoughts about those topics flow and become better organized.  You’ll be able to explain your ideas to others more easily as well.

Of course, you can always do this without software…the software just makes it easier to rearrange ideas and keep things organized.

Interested in keeping your day organized?

I have a great software option for you to consider if you make a to-do list or list things you want to accomplish.     To-do lists can be for your workday tasks or as simple as a grocery list. Some people make such as list on a daily basis while others only when they’re planning to do something (like a shopping trip, or camping trip) where they’re going to want to be sure to remember things to buy or pack.

I’ve heard others say they make a list, but then the day starts and what they planned to do is shot to heck.  So they don’t make any more lists.  I’m not sure how they can be in control of their time otherwise.  I like the idea of staying on course as much as possible.

The to-do list exists to ensure you do what you assigned as most important for that day.  Although other events or urgent matters arise throughout the day and you must attend to them, the to-do list is there to beckon you back to the important matters of the day.

Interested in keeping your day better organized?  I’d recommend a web-based software tool called Todoist.  It is available at  There is a free version which has good capabilities or as a means of trying it out before you upgrade.  The premium version with all the bells and whistles only costs $29/yr right now.  So it isn’t a big investment for the return on efficiency you get.  I use the premium version.

Better Organized: 

In Todoist, projects can be anything you decide, e.g. Lose 30 lbs by next January; Land the Thompson Account.  Create a project (which can have sub-projects) and then list tasks associated the project.  What makes this software more unique is the tasks can be nested just like the projects.  So,  one project may be broken into sub-projects and so can the tasks associated with it, for example:

  • Home projects
    • Build deck project
      • Task:  Mark off site location
      • Task:  Buy wood and other materials
      • Task: Schedule date when Bob and Harry will be available
        • Sub-task:  Check Bob and Harry schedules’
  • Personal Improvement projects
    • Project Goal #1
    • Project Goal #2 etc
  • Land Thompson Account project
    • Etc.

The nesting of both projects and tasks allows you to plan more clearly and keep you organized.  Define your project, delineate the tasks, schedule them and get it done.

Increase efficiency:  On the efficiency side of managing my day, this Todoist has me smiling.  You can forward an email to a project and Todoist creates a task in the project for you.  Now you can assign it to a specific time and date or perhaps mark it as delegated (Labels function makes this tool very flexible.) The tasks can be automatically added to your calendar as well.

I am particularly pleased that I can assign a website page that I’m viewing as a task.  I can’t tell you how often I have been doing one thing online and an article caught my eye.  With Todoist, I can add that webpage as a task and not spend the time right now to read it.  This cuts down on time robbing distractions immensely.  I have used reading lists in the past, but then I forget that there are things on my list to read.  Being able to make the website a task is great.  You’ll love it too!  Once you come upon the date and time allotted to reviewing the webpage, the URL is in the task and you’ll be brought to the desired page.

Integration and availability:  Check out and see how to make this software work with your devices.  Again it is web-based.  I use it on my smartphone, iPad, and desktop and it is always synced.  I like how I can do my planning and the tasks are visible on all my platforms and in my calendar program.

Enjoy being better organized!

Coupons Here

We’ve added a new page where you can find coupons for the products you use. So while you’re visit us here, take a moment to check out our new Savings Center. Type in your zip code to search for local deals as well. Simply setup to print and print the coupons from here.  Tons of categories…

Are You O.K? Where Are You?

FEMA and NOAA are designating the week of March 3-9, 2013 as National Severe Weather Preparedness Week.  So over the course of this week, we want to help you with your preparation for a new season of weather perils.   Again, the goal here is to get you thinking of the Spring season and how you may be affected.   This is the fourth post in our series.

I wanted to simply point out some resources that you should look into as you look at your severe weather preparation or really disaster preparedness readiness.  Today the topic is communications.

You can think of communications in three ways:

  1. Pre-planning your information
  2. Receiving information
  3. Post event communication

Pre-planning your information covers things you tell family members ahead of time.  “If this happens, then I want you to go here.”  An example, would be your fire escape plan.  “If there’s a fire, get out of the house and meet at the telephone poll across street or at our neighbor Mrs. Smithwick.”  This communication is a plan for what to do should something happen.  It’s decided upon and discussed with family members ahead of time so everyone knows what to expect.

Receiving information concerns how you will receive alerts and notifications as well as family status (location of members etc) just in advance of a severe weather or other disaster event.  It would be good to include this information in a pre-planning communication plan as well.   A very simple example of a portion of this may be,  “We listen to the radio and hear that a warning has been issued.  Let’s text each other so we know where everyone is.  Also, whoever is home and has time, go across the street and tell elderly, Mrs. Smithwick about it…be sure it’s safe for you to go first.”

Lastly, post event communication.  Surely, your family members will want to hear from you.  Even those family and friends who may not live locally, but may be aware that your area just experienced a significant event.  They will try to contact you and/or you may want to contact them.  Maybe an example here is, one member of your family contacts a person who is away and then let that someone in turn inform others in their area.

All of this may sound complicated and you may not believe you have the time to create such a plan.  You don’t need to do all this thinking and coming up with ideas on your own.  Go to and browse the site.  I want to specifically lift up the Make A Plan tab.  It has:

  • A Family Emergency Plan template that you can print and fill out.
  • Family Communication tips
  • A way for you to sign up to receive text messages from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency)
  • Questions you may want to ask schools and workplaces
  • Information about utility shut offs, vital records, and more

If you select the “Plan to Protect Yourself & Your Family” link from the Make A Plan drop down menu, you will be delivered to these resources and can get going right away.  It’s a great way to begin the planning process and when it’s completed, you have a communication plan that everyone can be made aware of and that you’ll have should you find yourself in a potential disaster situation.

#severeweatherweek  #safety  #prepared

Keep Track of Everything-What’s Your System?

We all use something to remind ourselves to do, regular, but not everyday tasks.  These regular tasks include paying bills, responding to official correspondence, etc.  The system we use may not even look like a system.  For example, saying “I just wait until the bill collector calls” is still a system.  Today, many have cellphones or other devices that can alarm us or send emails when it’s time to do something.  As we get more and more into the information age with it’s technology, I thought a brief review of a tried and true, pre-technology, reminder method may be helpful.  You can match its benefits up against what you use and make changes as necessary.  Here we go.

As I said, this may be a little “retro”, however, it works and it’s simple. What I’m talking about is what was called a “suspense” or “reminder” system when I first encountered it.  The system is a method for handling paperwork and ideas or events you need or want to deal with at some point.  The system will remind you of whatever you tell it to remind you. Don’t get me wrong, I love technology and use online resources for banking etc. However, sometimes I let mail (bills and etc) pile up and then must schedule a time to figure out what’s in the pile and then deal with it. What I like about a system like the suspense system, is I can deal with the paper/mail as it comes in knowing that I’ve already placed it where I will see it again when I really need it.  When I record it in my phone as a reminder, I find I still need to go looking for the document anyway.  So this keeps the reminder and the document in the same place.

Okay, so what is this system? Get yourself an accordion folder and if it isn’t numbered for the days of the month, go ahead and number the tabs 1-31. If you use file folders at home, get 31 file folders and label them 1-31 instead.

Numbers on folder slotsAccordion File Folder

This is the infrastructure of your reminder system. The next step is twofold:

  1. As you process your mail and you receive a bill or correspondence that requires your response on a particular date of the month, say the 5th, place the document in corresponding tab of the folder, #5.   You may want to write the month and date on the top of the paper so you won’t lose track of the paper’s original home. (more on this later.)  Do this for all pieces of mail.  At anytime, you could write yourself a note and put it in the appropriate date folder for when you’d like to see it again.  For example, “bake cake for school bake sale on the Feb 17th”; place this note on the date you need to bake the cake or even a few days before to be sure you have the baking supplies you need.  This is your system, make it work for you.
  2. Each day, make a point to look in the folder/folder slot that corresponds to that day’s date.  Of course initially you won’t have much in the reminder system, but in time you will.  Pull out the papers that are in there and do what needs to be done with them. You may:
    1. Need to pay a bill, or write a thank you note, etc.
    2. Decide that an item can’t be done today, life changes doesn’t it,  and you may instead put it in a dated folder slot two weeks from today.
    3. Find, after you’ve been using the system a couple of months, that there are documents in the tab that don’t need to be acted on today, but rather, on the same day next month. For example, you may have pulled a bill that is due on the 5th of Feb, but today is the 5th of Jan. In that case, put the document back in the folder under today’s date tab. It will be there when that date comes around next month for you to act on then.  This is why it’s a good idea to write the month and date on the top of the paper as mentioned in 1 above.
    4. Once the task is complete, throw it away or file the document in your category file system that you probably have already (credit cards, utilities, medical, bank statement.etc)

I see these benefits:

  1. It’s simple.
  2. Doesn’t require much costs to setup and use.  (file folders and a pencil.)
  3. You decide when you want to see the documents again and therefore decide if seeing it on the due date or before is most appropriate.  This means you do some initial planning with each document.  You’ll say, “I need to be sure I have what I need for this, so let me put it in the system a few days ahead of time.”
  4. Your mind doesn’t have to stress about whether you will remember to do it.
  5. Real Estate, other property tax bills, driver’s license or license plate renewals that are due annually, semi-annually or quarterly can be filed and not lost.  (These bills come in to my house way ahead of when they are due, so I find them easy to forget/lose.)
  6. Now you just need to have one reminder set in your phone…”Check daily suspense folder.”
  7. If you’re away, your spouse or someone else who’s responsible knows what needs to be done.

Compare your system to this approach.  You may be using something fantastic and this is of no help to you.  Truth is, if what you’re using works, either keep doing it or maybe there’s some feature you could take from this.  If you’re having difficulty getting things done in time, I recommend this approach.  Try it for several months.  I think you’ll be glad you did.


What Will You Accomplish?

Here’s an important thought to ruminate on as you consider what you’ll accomplish this year:

“What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”

  -Dr. Robert Schuller

No really…go ahead and write down your answers.  It’s o.k. no one is looking but you.  You may have one idea or several ideas.

Now do not allow yourself to say, even to yourself, “ya but,…”  Simply and matter-of-factly allow yourself permission to accept the idea(s) as right for you…”Yes, that is what I would do!”

For now…that’s it and do not allow any person or thought to take them away.

Your mind will begin to create ideas that support their achievement.  Your eyes will become open to opportunities.


Renew yourself.

© Techvisionary |

Fall is here and in some areas it is well advanced!  If you live in or near a region where tree leaves change color at this time of year, be sure to take advantage of the beauty.  You are, no doubt, going to be involved in cleaning the fallen leaves from your yard; raking, bagging, and dragging the bags to the curb for pickup.  At some point you may even find yourself complaining from the leaf cleanup work that “these leaves are from my neighbor’s tree, not mine!  They should be over here raking.”   Ok, maybe you haven’t said it, but, come on be honest.

Instead, you’ll tip your cup of cocoa to the neighbor when it’s all done, knowing that everyone has had to deal with this annual eventuality and you’ll rest happy and somewhat in better shape for the experience.  But on this side of the work, enjoy it:

Go now (it may be approaching too late in some areas) and see the brilliant colors of the changing landscape.  I’m heading out this weekend.  It will enrich your soul and provide you with a renewed energy and appreciation perhaps of the backyard clean up.

Here are some thoughts for you as you go:

  • Take or plan a lunch.
  • If possible, don’t just do a windshield tour, but rather, get out and enjoy the cooler air, stretch, hike, or the like as you experience the colors.  (You may even want to stay overnight, but you’d better have reservations.)
  • Dress for the cooler weather as you may be in an area that is at a higher elevation than at home; coats, hiking shoes (shoes suited for the cooler outdoors), sweaters, gloves, hat or something for your ears (depending how long you will stay outdoors.)
  • Pack your car with emergency rations (food, water, blanket(s), candle, matches, first aid kit, phone charger, etc)
  • Check you vehicle for safe travel before you head out; fluids (antifreeze, oil, transmission, brake, windshield washer), wiper blades, tire pressure and wear, belts, etc.
  • While driving, pay particular attention to the roads for potentially slippery areas:  wet leaves on the road, shaded areas that haven’t allowed any melting of frost, and bridges.  You will also most likely not be the only ones looking around at the foliage, so don’t get caught up in the viewing that you forget to watch where you’re going.  Recognize that the other guy may also be caught up in the foliage.

Be safe, enjoy, and take this necessary break in your routine.  This time of year will simply get more busy as the year closes out.  Again, enjoy and be safe!

Simple Readiness-Peace of Mind

My on-the-road peace of mind arrived today.  It’s a personal care kit, measuring only about 11″x 6.5″x 3″ and packed with over 40 support items, it serves as an on the road insurance package that will help someone survive while awaiting help.

I grew up in the Northeast U.S.  During the winter months especially, we always made sure we carried certain items in our cars in case we got stuck in  a snow drift as we traveled, even locally, on our way to work, visit friends, or simply running errands.  Some of these items included a snow shovel, a blanket, sand or kitty litter (to help with traction if stuck) and the like.  I’m sure we were told to have food and water, but I don’t remember carry those items.  I suppose the idea was simply to have those items that might help you only if the car was stuck and wouldn’t take a great deal to get you moving and on your way again.  In retrospect this seems a bit optimistic and short-sighted especially in light of the ease of having emergency supplies available in your vehicle today.  This is what I’ve found in The Ark, personal kit, 72-hour Survival Kits.

The Ark provides food and water that can help someone last up to 3 days which is also a FEMA recommendation.  It has a blanket, wooden matches, a candle, first aid kit, a lightstick and a hand warmer.  With this kit in the car, I’m comfortable knowing I’d be ok until help arrived should I not be able to quickly get on the road again.  Since the kit is so compact,  I’ve order one for each vehicle I have and will probably get at least one more  for the occasions that more than one person is in the car like on long trips.  Just stick them in the trunk and rest knowing they’re available.  Peace of mind for under $30.00!

My youngest son will be traveling alone for an over the weekend visit to a college about four hours away from home.  It’ll be the first time he’s driven that far alone, so I wanted to be sure he had this kit available if it became necessary.  Of course, he’ll travel with jumper cables, cell phone charger, GPS, and etc as well, but his mom and I will feel a lot better knowing he’d have food and water and something to care for himself until help would arrive.

Get some for yourself and your drivers.  Make them part of your mobile emergency kit so if you need to leave town/evacuate you have something ready.  They will make great gifts as well.  You can order yours here 72-hour Survival Kits.  It’s called the Survival Kit, Survivor-Pak The SUPER Ark.

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