Thursday, March 26, 2009

Double Life

So I just landed back home in Barbados yesterday and although I left St. Lucia feeling pretty darn proud of myself having sorted what to pack and what to leave - so I can function there and here without having to always pack so much stuff that I hit LIAT’s skyrocketing overweight charges - of course, as soon as I was in the sky I started to think “Oh, shoulda packed cold porcelain, we don’t have a microwave in Bim”…”Oops, didn’t bring banana fibre and still need to do that sample moulded mirror frame…”

Living a double life was always going to be difficult. But as with all these things they give me something to talk about – and this time I was reminded of something I read in the Clear Your Clutter book;It was a description of a very wealthy family that had exactly duplicated their homes in the two countries they lived in – same building, double sets of everything, clothes, food, furniture, toys, everything. So they could hop in their plane and walk back into their totally familiar home without suffering the dislocation most of us ordinary folks would feel.

View of Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, sunset

I’ve been inspired by that story ever since reading it. I’m far from rich enough to afford to duplicate everything but I am lucky enough to have a home base in both islands and so I am working towards being able to leave a range of items in each place so I can transfer back and forth with as much ease as is possible. It’s a work in progress.

I do find though, that doing this back and forth is forcing me to think about being organized more and more – it’s amazing how much you can get thrown off track by being out of your familiar place and routine.

Simplicity is the key – that’s the simple truth. The less you have to cart around with you all the time, the more you can carry: In your hands or in your head.

I’m reminded I was supposed to be reading Getting Things Done as part of my efforts to get organized, and trying out various software bits n pieces for the same effort; well folks, I confess I have indeed been blown off course in that regard, I still have them all to try out!

There are though, a few things that I do use that work for me to help me keep generally organized and also to ease travel; mostly very low tech since though I may aspire to having gadgets, I have other more important things to spend money on at the moment.

Here’s my few basic organizational tips

To Do list - mine remains a simple table in Word; I just divide it into a few headings and keep the list up on the laptop all day long. I put a Status column into which I type ‘YAY’ in bold letters when I’ve done things, and a Follow Up column for any that’s needed.

To help you figure out your appropriate headings , here are mine:

Communicating (emails, calls)
Home / Personal
Errands (any trips out)

A little notebook in my bag – things fly in and out of my head at light speed – if I can get them on paper fast, I at least have a chance of remembering them! Some people keep one by the bed – I’m thinking about that, but I’m not sure it won’t make me even more easily disturbed from a solid sleep…I’d like to have a Dictaphone, not least of all because sometimes even I can’t read my own handwriting…

DVDs instead of CDs – they hold more than 5 times the information. Of course if you can afford a big-memory mini storage device that’s great, but otherwise, DVDs are a very cheap alternative. This is good for freeing up small hard-drive space so your computer will work faster, reducing the number of objects you have to store and search through, and for travelling light…and in that respect, use a soft cover DVD holder pouch and make sure you label the DVDs on their face with all file headings.

Good old fashioned files and boxes and LABELS everywhere– front, back, top, bottom – that way, no matter which way is up, you can see what it is.

Sort your information into files – whether physical or digital – sort things into groups as you most often use them (Admin, Artwork, Blogs, Jewelry Pics, Family Pics,…) and always take the few seconds to save or place in the right place. Sounds obvious, but it’s still worth saying. Set aside a time each week to sort those that fall through the cracks.

Use online storage – this is something I’m just starting to explore, but I figure it will reduce the volume of things I need to travel with and it provides a back up – seen way too much history dissolved in hard drive meltdowns! Online email of course works too – I hardly use my Outlook anymore as I find it very frustrating when I don’t have my laptop and need to access an old message.

Online Networking – this is something I feel is so useful, but I also fear for it’s tendency to overwhelm your life. My advice, choose a few sites that suit you – for me, that’s LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Allocate time to them and try your best not to keep hopping back to them –if you’re like me and you get the email notifications it is SO tempting to just hop over all the time and then Whoh! It’s time for my evening mug of tea, where did the day go?!

Tips I picked up recently (and I apologize, I didn’t bookmark it, but it was from a Tweet) for handling handling 20,000 people you follow on Twitter (no I don’t, but the concept helps anyway!) Like the person, I use Tweetdeck – then from your desktop, you can see tweets, replies and DMs – and most importantly, you can set Tweetdeck to refresh every 15 or more minutes – that way you won’t be going constantly to read new tweets every few minutes. Try and set times that you check these sites and a max time to spend doing it - even if it’s for work.

The concept of limiting your time works in all areas though – and that’s the one bit of software I’d suggest for anyone having a hard time not getting lost playing solitaire or facebooking or whatever – there are a number of programmes out there that will alarm you when your times up or even shut you down. Here’s a link to some free ones.

So, I suspect I should still read "Getting Things Done – I still really need to work on my time budgeting and management…

Hope these simple tips were helpful – do share them using the ShareThis links or button below and please do share your own tips and thoughts using the Comments box too – it makes my day when people chime in!

Next post I WILL be sharing some of those Caribbean Creativity sites – look out for it – hey, subscribe so you don’t miss it!