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January 4, 2018 / paulio10

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

In mid-December, before Christmas, I reviewed everything I could find about all the good things that happened with my family during the past year, because memory fades; I like to combat my annual end-of-year depressive feelings with actual evidence – all the different ways I helped my community and neighborhood, big things and small; all the fun things we did, the projects I actually completed, trips and holidays, all the changes for the better that occurred during the year.

That prepares me to do the next step: review my past year’s goals, see what was completed and what is still left to be done; and for creating my next years goals – which is very inspiring to me because it creates the energy and feelings of the future in my consciousness – something I desperately need at the end of every year.

So I did all of that in December, thankfully; but then I caught a bad cold after Christmas, which I’m still fighting off today, though I’m feeling a bit better now. The problem is, I let my tickler file go.

Today I am trying to catch up on my tickler file; tasks and reminders I had scheduled myself to do on specific days of future weeks and months. Since every day has actionable items, I really am supposed to check the “today” folder each day, but I kind of let it go for the last week or so. Now I need to go thru the last few December items and make sure I didn’t miss anything important while I was sick, and look at the January folder.

You see, with a physical paper-folder style tickler system, you have folders representing each day of the month (1-31) that cycle around and around, the front one is always “today”. And you have folders for each of the months (Jan-Dec), with the “next month” one placed just in front of the “1” (first day of the month) folder.  This way, at the end of the month, after you see what’s in the “31” folder, the very next folder is the next-month one; followed by the “1” folder for next month. So, to catch up, I needed to look at folders:  28, 29, 30, 31, January, 1, 2, 3, 4, since today is January 4th.

This probably sounds old-fashioned, and you’re thinking, why don’t you just use an electronic calendar like everybody else?  Well I do use electronic calendars too; but there are a few reasons a physical tickler file is better. First, low-tech drains less of your energy to “create” and “edit” items – it’s a piece of paper and a pencil. Your brain can focus on what it is you’re trying to accomplish, and scribble it down – very simple and easy. Need more room? Grab another page! Digital calendars are much harder and more stressful, to find the right thing to click on, to do what you’re trying to do.  Any struggle subtracts from your concentration on the task at hand. Also, tickler files are great because you can schedule recurring things in more real-life combinations – I have items I only do every 2 months or 3 months or 6 months; things I only do every 2 weeks; something to do next Friday AND 4 Friday’s from now; etc.  And, no calendar I ever saw can handle this – for recurring events, if I don’t actually process the item for a few days or a week, I can scoot out all remaining repetitions of the item by that many days or weeks! This makes sense for some things like doing backups, or changing the air filters in your home. If you try to replace the air filter monthly, but you let it slip 2 weeks this time (oops!), the next time to change it isn’t only TWO more weeks out; it’s a full month from now – all future times for changing these air filters have pushed out further into the future. Digital calendars don’t easily support this feature.

It’s always surprising how many things are stored in these tickler folders, it’s usually more than I expect. The human mind is so good at forgetting things without letting us know what is missing, or even how much is missing. You just don’t know. If you track everything in some kind of filing system or database, so that you won’t miss anything in the future that you ever thought of, you will be astonished at the large quantity of items you would have otherwise forgotten you had planned on doing.

I already knew this, I’ve been doing this for years; but today, when I opened that January month-folder, I could not believe the vast amount of stuff that had accumulated “to be done” in January, according to my past self, during 2017!

There were 33 items in there.  I’ve never seen so big a tickler folder before!  It looked way too daunting.

I thought I’d break down these items for you – not just as a strange snapshot into the inner workings of someone else’s busy life, which people rarely share; but also, for you to notice how many of these things fall into the category of “I would have forgotten that!” if it had not been written on a piece of paper and stashed into some folder to be reviewed again at the proper time – right NOW.

The items from my January folder, in no particular order –

  1. reminder to close two bank accounts at my old bank no sooner than January 16, because the last few charges & fees will have cleared by then.  (I moved this to my “16” folder, now that it’s January)
  2. reminder to edit my “10 year plan” document, which I do each year in December, to help plan our financial goals and other goals for the next year. I actually did this earlier; filing it away for next year.
  3. Look at our savings spreadsheet’s total columns to see if we met the goals we planned for by the end of the year.  I already did this; we did meet the most important savings goal, and still have a ways to go on the other one. Moved tickler item out 3 months.
  4. A reminder that our STARZ streaming subscription is still active; so I can decide if I want to delete it or not.  Monthly charges are annoying.  Decided to keep it 1 more month; moving it to February folder.
  5. A reminder that my car repair guy referred me to an engine-cleaning place, so we can see if the mysterious oil leak is properly fixed; I haven’t seen any drips for a long time, so I’m deciding not to do this one. But I don’t want to throw away the referral flyer; moving it to my Reference materials folder instead.  Out of sight, out of mind; I can always get it back later if I need it.
  6. A reminder to write an inspiring letter to my son about something I thought of a month or so ago, for the new year. Saving for a few days from now, when I am feeling better.
  7. My “backups” instruction list — is it that time already? I manually back up every 2 months: online contacts, mail filters (that are so important to me), certain constantly changing files, my greasemonkey and tampermonkey scripts, my todo lists and project lists (stored in the cloud), my Pinboard bookmarks, my various blogs, and my browser bookmarks. If it’s stored in the cloud, or locally on my computer, it WILL get lost/damaged/destroyed some day. Systems fail; companies suddenly close their doors; it will be my failing, not theirs, if I didn’t have my own copies of this data that is so important to me.  This page has step-by-step instructions of how I did these things last time, so it’s a no-brainer this time. I moved this item to be done in a few days.
  8. A reminder of an important conference coming up in March; I need to figure out where the money will come from to pay for it, register for it, get the time off work, and reserve the time on my work-calendar, according to what I wrote here.
  9. A reminder of a friend coming to visit in February.
  10. A reminder about a great idea for a future project I had, but don’t want to start yet; I moved it forward to think about in a few months.
  11. A note to myself about if I’m retiring this year (no, not for many years!), a change I can make to one of my LLCs that will be very important going forward. Put that back in for next year. (I have no good way to “tickler” something for many years in the future)
  12. Run MS Malicious SW Removal Tool on our laptops. I try to do this on a quarterly basis, even though it never finds anything (good). It doesn’t auto-run. I moved this out a couple days.
  13. Annual mileage chart – I always record the ending mileage from our cars each year, I’ll need it for tax preparation next month – I must do this first thing tomorrow. Looks like in 2016 we logged 19300 miles across 2 cars, and 2015 we logged 26400 miles; it will be interesting to see how last year played out.
  14. A reminder of when different business-taxes due dates are; Jan 15-30 = send W-2’s; Jan 15-28 fill out 1096’s and 1099’s if any; we do these ourselves because CPA’s charge too much for something that’s pretty simple once you know how to do it. Feb 15-28 we should complete business taxes; March to complete personal taxes. I will keep moving this one forward as a reminder.
  15. A note to call somebody I know at least 3-4 times this month, because, according to this paper (in my own handwriting!) they often feel sad during January, they told me that last year. I don’t remember writing this!  Good thing I did though; I hate missing opportunities to really help someone at a crucial time.
  16. A reminder to move any receipts I put in the wrong 2 folders, into the right 2 folders; I remember this screwed me up a couple years ago, I missed out on some tax writeoffs because I couldn’t find the receipts until later; so I always do this at the end of the year now.  I stopped and checked it just now since it’s so quick.
  17. A reminder to hold an annual meeting for one LLC that is a two-member LLC, with a list of the bits of information we should record, since my CPA always likes to see that during tax prep time.
  18. A reminder to order any valentines items online before the last week in January, because I got so mad that one year when I waited too long and everything was marked up extra, for valentines day.  I decided to plan ahead from now on. This I will do later this month.
  19. Prepare an end of year business statement for a trust that I manage for a family member. I’m happy to do it, takes maybe half an hour. I will do this later in Jan.
  20. a duplicate tickler item; throwing it away.
  21. Create a fresh “letter of income” for the trust related family member. Easy, takes 5 mins because I wrote down where I can find last year’s letter, I can just copy and edit it a little; I decided to stop and do it right now.
  22. A reminder to read more about the Tesla Model 3, which (at the time I wrote this page) was not shipping yet. I’ve been keeping up on the news; I’ll toss this one.
  23. A note about how certain taxes work and who to contact for questions; I think I had problems with this last year and needed a nice cheat-sheet like this.
  24. Download the tax planners from my CPA’s web site, with links, and which planners we used last year.
  25. A reminder for Jan 2027 to remind a family member that their passport will expire in March 2027, and they should renew it, because I know this person will probably forget. They don’t have a tickler system. But you know what? During the past year I learned you should renew your passport 1 year before it expires, because there are some countries that balk at honoring passports less than a year from expiring! So, I edited this tickler to go off on March 2026, instead, and put it into the March folder.
  26. A reminder list of passport expiration dates for everyone in my immediate family, so I can remember to get them a new passport before 1 year away from the end. In fact, one expired last year in January, it’s nice to see we got them a new passport since then.
  27. another duplicate; tossing this one.
  28. Reminder to burn a beeswax candle in tribute for my mother’s passing day coming up in a few days.  I may do this; filing away for next year.
  29. An obsolete item that only applied to last year; must have forgotten to throw it away last January.
  30. Reminder that the Hot Air Balloon event happens in late January! We missed it a couple years in a row, didn’t want to miss it this year. Their web site usually isn’t updated until a month or two before, so I couldn’t buy tickets or schedule it on our calendar before now.  The next step is to google this for our state, and put it on our family calendar if we want to go to it. I scheduled a task for Saturday to google it and decide what to do then.
  31. Our IRA investment fee-balance accounts need replenishing in January – this page tells me step-by-step how to do it, because the custodian has a very weird and confusing process. So easy, now that I have the steps in front of me. I’ll do this Saturday.
  32. Our local real estate group membership expires this month – I wrote down the discount code, so I can renew with a discount. Saturday.
  33. clean the air filter in our upstairs AC window unit – I try to do this every 2 months. And a reminder to press the reset button so the “filter” light goes out.  Saturday; and moving this to March folder.

Well that was a crazy assortment of stuff.  All of it was important to me at some point in the past; and still is.  And this only worked because I followed up today, to complete the loop.  The past-me hoped future-me would take action on these things in January 2018; the current-me says “I don’t know where all this came from, but I don’t mind doing these things because they’re the right things to do.”

And so it goes.  Happy New Year!

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