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Blog: Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles
PROJECT-ing the Right Attitude: Organizing Your Holiday Project Paperwork

Paper Doll loves a good project. Organizing starts with planning, and planning helps you take anything from concept to fruition (though occasionally through a pathway of false starts, hard work and snack breaks). I still miss writing term papers -- that's how much I like projects.

So, it's understandable that my eyes light up with glee when someone evinces skepticism or feels faintly overwhelmed at the idea of accomplishing all of those holiday tasks with glee. What? You're also dubious? "But it's a PROJECT!" I shout with excitement and maybe a bit too much diet Coke-infused wild-eyed abandon.

So let's start with the holidays. Let's say you cruised past Thanksgiving well enough, but started this week skidding to a halt (like a cartoon character on a race from the villain, only to round a corner and come fact-to-face with what is feared most) -- Christmas Eve is 10 days away, and you've got so much to do, you're not even sure what should be on the list.

Not sure what should be on the list? Start there. Make a list. Or several. Off the top of my head, I can think of numerous lists you'll want to start...but before you do, may I make some organizing suggestions, so you don't end up with sticky notes and floozies and half-written scribbled scrolls of wrapping paper?

Keep your project lists in one place. Try a:

1) Legal Pad designated specifically for holiday planning -- While I'm a huge fan of legal pads, I'll admit that the typical color schemes of lawyer-ly yellow (try saying that three times fast!) and pastels

aren't exactly conducive to Christmas planning (though they might work for Easter), and I've yet to see red and green holiday-themed legal pads, but a green legal padmight help you stay festive. The big attractions of legal pads for project planning are ample writing space and perforations, but don't tear the pages off until you're ready to use or store them. It's easier to keep track of a whole legal pad, flipped open to the right page (or marked with tape flags) than one oft-folded, wrinkled piece of paper.

2) Three Ring Binder -- If you've been reading Paper Doll for a while, you know how much I favor three ring binders for sorting and storing everything from recipes to driving directions. Pick from any of a variety of colors and sizes, though you'll probably want to stick with   something in the 3/4" to 2" range. Simply use divider tabs to separate out the individual categories you want to use. Since most binders come with a plastic cover on the front and spine, you can label your holiday or project binder creatively and decorate (without glue or mess) with snippets of wrapping paper, family photographs or apropos comics pages tucked under the clear plastic.

Need something even more festive? I learned this trick from watching how Professional Organizer and Daily Money Manager Nanette Duffey created a binder for her projects as our NAPO-Georgia chapter treasurer a few years back. Nanette runs a length of pretty grosgrain ribbon

through the interior and around the exterior of the spine. Experiment -- you can tie the ribbon in a fancy bow on the outer spine, or merely run it smoothly along the spine and glue the edges to the metal bar for the binder on the interior portion. Plan to recycle your binder? A little adhesive-backed Velcro will let you change ribbons as easily as you change shoes.

3) Project Organizer -- Our friends at Smead make a nifty Project Organizer, which I've referenced previously. It's a sturdy 2-ply tabbed accordion file, like the Tickler File sorters I love so much, in a good-for-all-seasons Navy/Lake Blue that signifies that serious work is contained therein. (In other words, nobody's likely to toss out your project notes, disdaining them as "doodles", when housed in the Project Organizer.)

The binder measures 9 7/8 inches wide by 11 3/4 inches high, so it's suitable for carrying in your briefcase, messenger bag or laptop case, or even pressed closely to your chest, guarded like a magic formula for holiday de-stressing. (Speaking of de-stressing, Smead's Operation Organomics has jumped into the act with a nifty Holiday To Do List countdown and printable holiday calendar to help you stay afloat during the last hectic weeks of the holiday season.)

The Project Organizer has ten pockets to hold your receipts, recipes and lists. Each left-side page is pre-printed with project headers and has spaces for dates, actions and status updates; the right side, along the pocket area, provides space for notes to track important contact and other information.

So, what can you keep in your project planner?

A calendar -- Keep track of all of your family, class or workplace events and to guard against conflicts.

Recipes -- If you've followed my advice in the past about keeping favorite recipes in sheet projectors, you can just pluck the recipe pages you need and later return them to your binders (once you've wiped off the figgy pudding).

Receipts -- How else can you tell if you're on-budget (or return items that duplicate someone else's efforts) unless you keep your receipts in one easily accessible location?

Lists -- What's a project without lists of what you have to plan, write, call, do, make and purchase? For example, during the holidays, you'll want to make at least a few of the following lists, depending on your plans:
  • Guest Lists
  • Menu Planning Lists
  • Decorating Lists
  • Gift Shopping Lists (with associated wish lists, size lists and a place to attach coupons or discount codes)
  • Grocery Shopping Lists
  • Greeting Card Lists
  • Address Change lists
  • Activity Lists to prepare for all of the family/work events
And this is merely what just one little Jewish, child-free, non-entertaining, non-traveling professional organizer can think of for getting your holiday lists in gear. If you want to master the special effects of being the Spirit of Holiday Lists (Past, Present and Future), you'll want to check out List Mama's (Jennifer Tankersley's) List PlanIt.

Stress Free Organized Christmas

We've talked about List PlanIt before, and it's only gotten more fabulous since then, with more than 500 lists for every imaginable need. For the holidays, List PlanIt's got an amazing array of delights: everything from a list of ingredients for the perfect gingerbread house on List Mama's blog to the official lists with advice on setting up holiday budgets, developing family traditions, completing crafts and preparing for parties. If you're not ready for a membership yet, there's even a List PlanIt Holiday e-Planner for just $7.

And of course, if you're struggling with planning, organizing, shopping, gift-giving, and other holiday projects, please check out my ebook,Simplify the Season and Save Your Sanity, to help restore some of your sparkling fa-la-la-la-la.

Projects aren't limited to the holidays, of course. In fact, just around the corner, starting New Year's Day, people will roll out their resolutions and their project plans. Paper Doll, for example, is going to start keeping track of all of the books I read.

Between books I buy, borrow and trade (remember this series?), I do a lot of reading, but once it's time to make a recommendation, if I haven't blogged about a book or kept it on my shelf, I may not have all the essential information to pass along. And, though I'm a member of Good Reads, it's no surprise that I'm a paper girl at heart and don't always think to log in to Good Reads until I get a notice about one of my pals' reading habits.

No more! Starting in 2011, I'm going to keep track of every book I read, just like singer Art Garfunkel, who has tracked every book he's read since 1968, here, or novelist Nick Hornby, who tracks the books he's bought and read in his Stuff I've Been Reading column in The Believer (and in his books The Polysyllabic Spree and Housekeeping vs. the Dirt).

What about your upcoming projects? Readers, please share your favorite (holiday or other) project tips...and let us know what projects you've got planned for the coming weeks and months.

posted on: 12/14/2010 10:30:00 AM by Julie Bestry
category: Paper

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Discuss This Post

by Janet Barclay, OrganizedAssistant.com on 12/15/2010 6:57:24 AM:

Julie, since I'm on Facebook every day (yes, I admit it) I have GoodReads connected to my FB account so part of my daily routine is to update my reading list as well as my movie list (on Flixster). I look forward to reading about what you're reading!

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Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles

by Julie Bestry

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Julie Bestry, President of Best Results Organizing in Chattanooga, TN, is a Certified Professional Organizer®, speaker and author. Julie helps overwhelmed individuals and businesses save time and money, reduce stress and increase productivity through new organizational skills and systems.

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