6 Tips to Stay Organized

coffee-1276778_1920Things have been fairly busy lately. With sickness running rampant at the office, tasks have been piling up. I’ve been getting ready for my best friend’s wedding later this month. Add workouts and dance classes and catching up with old friends and you have a very busy mix.

I wanted to share a few things I do to stay organized. If you have any suggestions on being more efficient I’d love to hear them too!

1. Make all the lists
Every time you think of something that needs to be done, write it down. This can be done on an actual piece of paper or on your phone/computer. I like to make a giant to-do list, then create separate lists for grocery trips, trip planning, packing lists, etc.

2. Prioritize your tasks
Break down your to-do lists into two parts. Time-sensitive, must-do tasks. And everything else. That way you can focus on the urgent tasks and do the rest when you have the time. It also ensures you don’t forget about something that needs to be done ASAP.

3. Break it down
When approaching a huge task (like planning a vacation), it can easily get overwhelming, especially for an introvert. Write down all the small steps (figuring out accommodations, find flights, car rental, money exchange, etc) that lead to finishing the big task. Then start working on them one at a time. It’s way less stressful.

4. Use a day planner or organizer
Set aside time during the week to fill out a weekly planner. Start by writing down all your daily tasks first (work, food prep, laundry, workouts, etc). Then add all your urgent tasks (like work or personal projects). Extra spaces can be filled with hobbies, social time, or recharge time. My personal favourite is the Passion Planner, but there are tons out there.

5. Stick to it
Follow the schedule you’ve made up. The first few weeks will be full of trial and error. You may need to make adjustments here and there. But stick with it, it’s worth the effort.

6. Reward yourself 
Treat yourself when you’ve been successful in staying on track. Then keep up the good work!

Do you have any other tips or tricks?

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Introvert guide: trip planning

street-409993_1920I love traveling overseas. While using a travel agent can be helpful and they can advise you of any entry requirements, I still prefer to plan out my own trips. I love the flexibility of planning things myself. Plus as an introvert, I may need to switch things around when I’m feeling overwhelmed. I wanted to share a general idea of how I plan my trips.

1. Make a budget.
Create a flexible budget for your travel expenses. This should include flights, accommodations, food, transportation, tickets/tours, souvenirs, misc, and an emergency fund. It’s always better to over-budget for things. Rather than finding out you can only afford two meals a day once you’re there.

2. Create a timeline.
If I’m planning a trip, I’ll create two timelines. One is for the trip itself. I’ll plan out where I want to stop and how long I want to stay in each place. Making sure to account for travel time via plane, train, bus, etc.

I try to buy my flight tickets at least three months in advance. Once they’re finalized I’ll book the accommodations and rail passes within a month. I’ll buy tour or event tickets closer to the trip unless they’re in short supply.

3. Research everything.
I make an extensive list of everything the destination has to offer. Then I’ll choose one thing per day that I MUST see. These become my priorities and I’ll plan each day around a single attraction or event. I’ll keep a list of other interesting things in the area if I have more energy. But some of my most rewarding travel experiences have come from wandering around and exploring.

4. Book flights.
I’ll compare prices on Google flights, FlightHub, Expedia and actual airplane company websites. Keep in mind what time of day you want to leave and when you’d prefer to arrive. Also decide how long of a layover is acceptable and what your approximate budget is. Once it’s booked, I’ll keep a copy of the confirmation on my phone. But I’ll also print out a copy. That way I can check in without a WiFi connection.

5. Book accommodations.
Now it’s time to book accommodations. I use Expedia and TripAdvisor to find the best deals. Even though I’m a huge introvert I love hostels. They’re inexpensive and I’m still able to get my quiet time. But I’ll check the reviews to ensure it’s in a safe location, is clean, and has friendly staff. I’ll also look up their check in and check out times. Whether you can drop your luggage off early. And how to get there from the airport. Keep in mind what you want (price, location, room size, privacy, distance to transit) and what things are optional. But if hostels are not your cup of tea, you can also check out Airbnb, bed and breakfasts, motels, and hotels. I love booking through Expedia because I can pay for the room ahead of time.

6. Figure out transportation.
If you’re renting a vehicle you may need to get an international driver’s license. Also check into car insurance. You may get better coverage through your credit card company than through the rental company. I usually rely on public transit as it’s cheaper and less stressful. In Scotland and Ireland I paid cash for transit. But in Japan I ordered a JR rail pass ahead of time. Then picked up a reloadable PASMO card once I arrived for the lines not covered by the pass.

7. All the details.

Entry requirements.
You may need vaccinations. Vaccinations usually need to occur weeks/months in advance so it’s good to find out early. You may need a travel visa. Sometimes you have to apply for it before your trip. Other countries allow you to apply for and pick up your visa upon arrival. Also, certain countries won’t allow you entry unless you have a return ticket. So make sure you have that ready to go too. You can always contact a country’s embassy for their current entry requirements.

Register yourself.
I registered with the Government of Canada travel website before my trip. They keep you updated with weather and travel advisories. I actually got a typhoon warning while in Japan which was super helpful. They’ll also notify my family if something were to happen.

Travel insurance.
Travel insurance gives you peace of mind and it’s usually not too expensive. Be sure to read the agreement and know who to contact if something were to happen. I always keep a copy on my phone and a paper copy with me.

Foreign currency.
It’s always helpful to have a little cash with you. You may need to order currency from the bank. Order it at least a couple of weeks before you leave. Also check to see what the limit is for bringing in currency. For example, you can only bring 10,000 Philippine pesos (about 250 CAD) into the Philippines. So I brought some USD as well and exchanged it once I got there.

Get directions.
I keep a copy of my itinerary, directions to/from the airport and contact information on my phone. I’ll keep a paper copy too in case my phone battery is low. I’ll also send my family a copy if they need to get a hold of me while I’m gone.

Plan for meals.
If you don’t have food sensitivities or allergies, feel free to skip this one. You can request special meals with most airlines. Once you buy your ticket, you can log in and make a special meal request. You may have to call some airlines to make this request but it’s easy to do. Follow up a day before your flight and mention it as you’re checking in and/or boarding.

During the planning phase, I make up a list of gluten free restaurants and their addresses. Once I arrive, I can look up the addresses on Google maps and get directions. Some companies even coordinate “food tours” for those with dietary restrictions. They contact restaurants directly to arrange a safe meal. I would definitely consider this if I went back to Japan. I also printed out a card in Japanese explaining my allergies. And I brought a ton of gluten free protein bars to ensure I didn’t starve if I couldn’t find something safe to eat right away.

Pack smart.
I only bring carry on when I travel which reduces my stress. But there are certain things I always take with me. I brought a power bank for charging my phone and it was a lifesaver. I also brought an adapter/converter so I could charge my electronics while in the Philippines and Japan.

Do you have any helpful tips?

How I plan things

coffee-2306471_1920There’s something extremely satisfying about watching a well-planned event come to fruition. Seeing all your hard work, research, time, and effort come together is such an awesome feeling.

I recently planned a coffee date with a few friends. I thought it might be interesting to run through how I approach the planning process. I’d love to learn how you plan for things too!

1. Choose the type of event.
In this particular case, I wanted to invite a few friends for coffee. But in the past, I’ve planned camping trips, movie nights, vacations, and road trips. The bigger the event, the greater the complexity (and the more lists I make). But I find that the more I do it, the more comfortable I become in organizing people and making decisions.

2. Pick your people.
There’s nothing like getting together for a one-on-one coffee date. However, in this case, I thought it would be fun to have a slightly larger group. As a result, I decided to invite 9 people. Now this isn’t because I enjoy chaos and want to cram that many people together. But it’s highly improbable that everyone will be able to make it due to conflicting schedules. In fact, I’ve never gotten more than 3-4 people to commit at any one time. So even though I’ve invited 9 people, it will likely be a smaller group of 4-5 who actually come.

3. Pick your stress level.
Coordinating two people can be a challenge. Trying to match schedules for multiple people is stressful and painstaking. If you’re doing it for a momentous occasion, like an anniversary celebration or bridal shower, it’s worth it. However, I decided to make things easier on myself. I decided to choose a date and time and if people could make it, that was awesome. If not, that was okay too.

4. Define the details.
I chose a day of the week and time I knew worked for most people. I picked a Sunday in the late afternoon. Two of my friends work morning shifts and wouldn’t be able to come earlier than that. Additionally, if anyone wants to extend the socializing past the coffee date, it won’t be too late. I also picked a location that was central to most.

5. Make a decision.
I was the one who made the final decision regarding the details of the event. However, I did run them past one of my friends, who agreed that everything seemed reasonable.

6. Send out the invites.
I then wrote up some invitation text with the details, threw in a few emojis, and texted the invite to my friends. I’ve learned from experience that people will not reply to my emails (even if I ask that they RSVP). So in order to ensure some kind of response, I’ve switched to texting. I always ask people to RSVP, even if they aren’t going. That way I can know roughly how many are coming and whether someone has read my text or not. I also like to invite people a couple of weeks before the event. If I don’t give them enough time, they may already have plans. But if I contact them too early, they may forget.

7. Relax.
All the prep work is complete! All you need to do is wait for people to get back to you. Then you can let things run its course and enjoy the event once it arrives!

How do you plan for things?

Introvert guide: 5 camping tips

men-2425121_1920This weekend is Canada Day and I’ll be spending it camping with friends! I love camping. You can get out in nature, spend time in reflection and solitude, and eat delicious food. On the other hand, there will be a number of other people there too, so I’ll need to prepare.

Preparing for a camping trip takes a lot of time and effort. There are packing lists, grocery lists, and to-do lists to create and utilize. As an introvert, there’s one extra list that gets added to the mix. Here’s my ‘how to survive a camping trip’ list.

1. Recharge before & after
Set aside time both before and after the big trip to recharge. If possible, get all your packing done two days before departure. Then you can spend the night before doing something relaxing. Go for a walk, watch a movie, or sit down with a book. It’ll help you relax after all the running around and prepare you for the craziness to come.

2. Scope out the area.
Once you arrive and set up, look for possible ‘recharge areas’. Check out walking trails, rivers and streams, and other secluded areas. When you inevitably start running out of energy, you already know where you can go. You can politely excuse yourself and head somewhere quiet. Even volunteering to gather/chop wood or do some kitchen prep can help you escape the chaos.

3. Snack often.
As an introvert, spending time with people takes a lot of energy. If I’m running on empty, social interaction becomes painful. Bring lots of snacks and be sure to refuel when you need it. Some of my favourites are homemade protein balls, dried fruit, sliced veggies, beef jerky, and lots of water.

4. Check your energy.
I usually forget to do this, so I’ve decided to check in with myself at mealtimes. Assess how you’re feeling and how much energy you have. Do I need a quick escape to the bathroom or do I need an hour alone with a book?

5. Know that you’re normal.
As an introvert, it’s so easy to get overwhelmed and burned out. Especially when you’re spending time with the same people over several days. This is a perfectly normal reaction. We love people, but time spent with them has to be on our terms. Taking time to read and relax, or escape on a walk when you need, is healthy. Enjoy camping the way you want to.

What are your plans this weekend?

How planning helps me relax

Girls having funI’ve gotten a lot of criticism over the years because I plan too much. I’ve been told that I need to ‘go with the flow’ and ‘just learn to relax’. But what most don’t realize is that planning things out is what allows me to relax. It seems contradictory but its very true. If I know what to expect in a given situation, I can be the most flexible and relaxed person in the room.

Planning creates order out of the swirling chaos in my mind. At any one time, my thoughts jump from one topic to the next intermittently. By writing things out, or creating mental lists, it creates order and gives me something to focus on. I can organize and process my thoughts, feelings, and emotions. I can come up with ideas, goals, and plans and then take steps to achieve them. Planning things, rather than just letting things happen, reduces the stress of not knowing what’s going on. As someone who doesn’t enjoy surprises, this is hugely beneficial.

Even when it comes to spending time with friends, I like to plan everything out from start to finish, laying out all the details. For example, when I spend summer weekends downtown with my friends, we choose a time to meet up. Once I know that, I’ll figure out how much time I need to get ready, to drive to the train station, to take the train downtown, and to walk to the meetup location. Having a time-frame to work within calms me down and keeps me on schedule. Plus, I never have to worry about being late (which is one of my biggest pet peeves).

We’ll usually start out with a game plan, like walking along the river, and we’ll see where the day takes us. In my head, I’ve already compiled a huge list of potential activities we could do. We could go to the movies, check out the shopping mall, peruse the open market, grab food at a restaurant, stop at a coffee or bubble tea shop, check out alternate walking paths, take the train to other locations, do impromptu photo shoots in the park, or just relax on the grass. Even though we’ll never go through that entire list, knowing what our options are allows me to relax as my mind is no longer focused on figuring things out.

Obviously life is unpredictable, I can’t plan everything, and flexibility is another thing I’m still working on. But planning helps me to de-stress, and I’m not going to alienate that part of myself, or feel guilty for it any more.

Have you had similar experiences?

Image credit: “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Nicole Pierce is licensed under CC by 2.0