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New year, fresh start - 3 tips and tools to help you keep on top of things this year

I love New Year's resolutions. No matter how badly things come undone by the end of a year (thanks Christmas and burn out!), looking forward to a new calendar seems to ALWAYS give me fresh hope and inspiration. When I'm planning things for the upcoming year, my approach isn't go-big-or-go-home, it's more of the tweaking variety. I review what I did last year, make improvements and add anything necessary. So, I wanted to share my three top tips for approaching a new year with less clutter and more clarity:

Tip 1 - review past systems

Have a good long look at how you organised last year. Was it via a big wall planner, your phone calendar or a bunch of sticky notes posted all over the house (or a combo of all 3)? Doesn't matter which one it was - did it work for you? If so, great! If not, why? What did I introduce to the mix that was new? How did that pan out? Was it fixable and if so how can I tweak it to get it to work better for me and my family?

For eg, last year I introduced Trello to my 'mix'. I use it to list EVERYTHING! I have different boards for the different areas of my business, personal projects (photography), kids things, shopping lists, to-do lists....EVERYTHING! It is an awesome (and free!) tool and I love that you can colour code things and have multiple lists within the boards. See below for a great eg of how you can set it up!

Tip 2 - plan out schedule for the year ahead

I use a yearly planner and colour code various things so that I can see at a glance what's on. For eg I put in the kids' school holiday dates and start planning our breaks around those. I also use that info to promote our AirBnB house. I use the seasons to plan my wardrobe reviews ie changing from summer wardrobe to winter and vice versa. I use the major dates such as Valentine's Day to plan out some of my marketing activities and our personal milestones such as birthdays, anniversaries and religious dates including Christmas and Easter.

This year, I invested in Zinnia which is the most amazing IOS app/tool that I've come across to date. I have created multiple lists and planners in here to help me see at a glance what I have on and when. I transfer things from my lists in Trello into actionable dates in Zinnia. It may sound like a lot of work, but it isn't in reality. The colours I use in Trello are the same code as in Zinnia, so it's very easy to see instantly what aspects are happening on which days. OF course, there can be double (or triple) ups of things on in one day, and in those cases I may need to either drop something less important or urgent or come up with another solution.

I have daily planners, monthly planners and yearly planners. These are not detailed, but rather just reminders of things that I need to do regularly. By planning them out, I feel more in control and that helps lessen the anxiety I can struggle with.

There are stacks of templates and stickers to make it really reflect you. You can even use it for journaling and make it almost like an illustrated memoir. It's pretty impressive!

I've chosen the paid option which is about AUD$70pa which I can write-off against my business. There is a lite version but it is quite limited.

Tip 3 - set alarms

I can be a bit vague at times. Drives everyone in my household (including me!) crazy. So, to combat my forgetfulness, I put everything into my iPhone calendar AND set alerts for each event! Sometimes I set two alerts and sometimes its just one. This may sound like double handling things - they're in my planners AND my diary - BUT the iPhone is great at reminding me of upcoming things and it doesn't give me more than a month's plan view available. All of these products have limitations, which is partly why I use them all. The other reason is that the adding of them and the planning out of things helps me remember AND get a feel for busier times when I might need more support (eg extra cleaners' visits or outsourcing stuff in my business).

Again, I colour code my different calendars for easy ID'ing, but it's quite limited other than that.

I also block like activities to cut down on interruptions and for greater efficiency. For eg, I go through ALL the kid-related emails at the beginning of each day. These include school emails, sporting emails and social engagements and add anything necessary to the planner and diary. If I have to pay for anything, I add the event to the diary (including the address of the event) AND write in the notes when I paid for it and anything else that may be of help later.

So there you go. That's how tweaked thing for last year and as they've worked pretty well, I'll be continuing with them this year. The aim is always to try to keep on top of our fast-paced life and cut down on the overwhelm and resulting anxiety.

I would love to hear of how you keep on top of things in your household. Don't be shy to share!


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