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Blog: Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles
Paper Doll Sends You Over the River and Through The Woods



Dearest Readers:

Whether you're heading to Grandma's house for a traditional family holiday or jetting off to a hedonistic, sun-filled long weekend, don't be so quick to run out the door. Before you step one foot into a plane, train or automobile, here are a few tips to keep you organized so that next Monday, you won't feel quite as anxious Tom Turkey feels today.


Little Turkey Baby Costume @ Chasing Fireflies
(OK, this little turkey doesn't look anxious, but is just too cute to ignore!)

DiGiorno, Not Delivery

Nothing alerts thieves that a house has been left unattended than a full mailbox and a pile of newspapers and packages on the welcome mat. It's not only disorganized -- it's dangerous.

In the olden days, people had all sorts of things delivered to their homes...newspapers, milk and eggs...and then the process seemed to abate for a while. The sharply uniformed milk man had long since stopped making his appointed rounds. More and more traditional newspapers have folded, and digital versions have usurped the daily paper. And most of the mail seems to be junk.

Nonetheless, stopping deliveries is just as essential as ever. Many of us still subscribe to newspapers, even if only to the weekend (coupon-filled) editions. The popularity of organic foods and community farming means that people are getting milk and eggs, along with all variety of delicious produce, delivered once again. And, at least for now, the Post Office is still delivering mail.

Before heading out of town, call to put deliveries on hold. Are you still lucky enough to have a paper boy or paper girl riding that suburban route to deliver the daily news? Even if you suspend your newspaper delivery by calling the subscription office, consider speaking to your carrier directly (and maybe even your carrier's mom or dad) to make sure the message gets from the subscription office to the actual carrier. Similarly, don't just cancel this week's organic food delivery; make sure your regular delivery person knows to skip you on the route.

Of course, if you have concerns about someone dropping the ball (or, y'know, the eggs), now is the time to ask a neighbor or close friend to keep an eye on your house and take in any wayward deliveries or unexpected packages.



As for mail, skip those yellow "hold mail" cards and take the modern route. Head over to the U.S. Postal Service's Hold Mail link (under the Manage Your Mail menu) and arrange to have your mail held for anywhere from 3 to 30 days. You have the choice of picking up your held mail at the post office or having the backlog delivered on the day your mail service is resumed. If there's any chance that inclement weather or airline travel will cause delays in your return, you might wish to opt for the former or add a buffer day and have mail resumed a day or two after your scheduled return.

Don't Be a Technology Turkey

If you are headed out of town without your laptop -- or even if you're taking it, because a primary rule of technology is that it will eventually fail -- make sure you have the following support systems in place.
  • A complete and recent backup
Paper Doll doesn't care whether you're backed up to the cloud or to a secondary external drive (though both would be preferable). But your backup should be thorough -- make sure every document, preference file and whoziwhatsit is backed up.
  • A flash drive with your most important documents and templates

Folderix Finger Folder Flash Drive by Art Lebedev

You never know when an ideal prospect or an important client will decide to call from a Thanksgiving retreat with a request that you respond by close-of-business on Friday. Sure, you probably want to make Thanksgiving a family-only weekend, but wouldn't you prefer to at least have the option of taking advantage of a really good business opportunity? Wouldn't the holidays be even more fun if you knew you had just what you needed to turn 30 minutes of effort into a money-maker for all of next year?

Sure, if you use cloud-based backup and storage, you might be able to access your essential files from afar, but you never know when your sister-in-law's internet access will be on the fritz or your hometown public library inextricably has blocked access to the cloud support site you need.
  • A cheat sheet (in code, if necessary) of your non-memorized passwords
If you've gotten in the habit of letting your browser remember your usernames and passwords, you may not have typed anything but a high-security bank or brokerage password in quite a while. Perhaps you don't even bother to log out of some of your often-used low-security sites. Indeed, it's the low-priority sites for which you're least likely to recall your login data. Sure, it's no big deal to have your password emailed to you, but when you're on the road or using Grandma Bessie's old computer, wouldn't you like to make things as easy as pumpkin pie?

If you're in business for yourself, make sure you have the login and FTP information for your web site's control panel if there's any chance you'll need to make an update or correction while traveling. Even if your web designer is willing to make a quick fix over the holidays, you can't expect that he or she will have your login information handy.

In lieu of an actual cheat sheet, I'm still a huge fan of the Internet Password Organizer™,

 

which I reviewed at length over three years ago. Stripped of the paper wrapper, it appears to be a traditional address book. Just tuck it in your carry-on or your inside jacket pocket -- don't tempt fate by storing it in your laptop bag.
  • Instructions and codes to call your home, office and cell voicemail
Don't laugh. Most of us check our cell phone voicemail from our cells and our home or office voicemail in person when we get back, and many of us have all of the codes programmed into our oh-so-smart phones such that we haven't had to remember them in years, if ever. Assuming wherever you're visiting isn't so far over the river and into the woods that it hasn't upgraded from rotary dial phones, you will be able to call in to your home, office and cell voicemail from any touch-tone phone, even if you can't get service on your cell (or if it dropped to the cabin floor and got run over by the beverage cart).

Again, even if you've chosen to have a work-free holiday, you'll stress less if you prepare for all eventualities.
  • A list of essential phone numbers
The more we become dependent upon the web, the less we rely on our memories. Create a few emergency contact lists on your computer (so they'll be easy to update in the future) and take the precaution of printing a few copies. Make sure you have:

--Travel-related numbers, including the priority/loyalty/miles contact numbers and your account numbers for the airline, the front desk at your hotel, the rental car agency and anyone who helped you make your travel plans.

--Emergency family contacts for your child's school and any parents who count on you to drive carpool. If your Sunday morning flight runs into some delays and doesn't get your family home until late Monday evening, you'll want to be able to update anyone expecting you or your children.

--Client/Customer contact numbers. It never fails; whenever I go on vacation, I get a (staticky) voicemail from a client, begging for a return call, with no return phone number. In the age of Caller ID, many people assume it isn't necessary to leave a phone number, and not everyone realizes that a crystal clear connection on their end of the line doesn't mean their message can be understood.

Don't Just Prepare For Takeoff -- Prepare for (a Soft) Landing

It's no joke that most people feel like they need a vacation when they return from vacation. Re-entry after a day of return travel and multiple days of unusual eating and sleeping patterns can cause stress. Consider taking the following steps to ensure a smooth return, for you, your family and for the people in your work/life who depend on you.

Set a reminder in your computer or task system or post a note on your calendar for Monday morning to revise your voicemail when you get back. If you're setting a "Happy Thanksgiving" voicemail message or something that otherwise tells people you'll be away and won't return to the office until Monday, make sure the first thing you do on Monday is change back to your standard message. Otherwise, you return from lunch on Wednesday to find, "Um, I don't know if you're back yet or if you missed some flights, 'cos your message says you'll be back two days ago…and I really need someone this week, and maybe I should call somebody else..." Grrrr.

Similarly, make sure your autoresponder ends when it's supposed to. Sometimes, missing one check box can mean you're sending out "Gobble, Gobble" messages well into December. Send yourself a quick test email when you get back, just to make sure everything is working properly.

If you still have a landline, don't be tempted to change your outgoing message to a jolly one letting everyone know you're headed away for the holiday. Although most people calling you are friends and family, random callers and scallywags employed by companies with which you do business don't need to know your house has been abandoned for the week.

Prepare your desk for your return. Before heading out the door, clear your desk of clutter. File away your reference files and put any papers reflecting tasks to do upon your return in your tickler file, or pile them in order of when they need to be accomplished (with the deadline date in the upper corner or on a sticky note). Make a list of your top three priorities for Monday and put it square in the middle of your desk. When you return, focus on those tasks for a few hours before being tempted by email.

Check your calendar for the week after the holiday. December sneaks up awfully quickly after Thanksgiving, so make sure you know what's on your schedule for the next few weeks. Let your brain do some back-burner brainstorming while you're playing front-yard, Kennedy-style touch football.

Finally, while flying or riding or just couch-surfing after too many carbohydrates, flip through your calendar pages of the past year to recall the people and events in your life and business worthy of gratitude. You may value some people because of the warmth they've brought into your life or the revenue or referrals they bring your way, but also take note of those whom you've helped the most. Hasn't your hard (or inspired) work for them given you a particular sense of esteem and value for which you are thankful?

For more holiday-related organizing tips, please check out Simplify the Season & Save Your Sanity.


Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers. As always, I'm thankful for you. (And for Paper Mommy, without whom there would never be a Paper Doll.)

posted on: 11/22/2011 10:30:00 AM by Julie Bestry
category: Paper


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Discuss This Post


by S. Spencer on 11/22/2011 3:40:02 PM:

Thanks for the reminder. Even though I don't travel, I've been in homebound chaos for way too long and got terribly lax on doing regular, frequent backups, and haven't been diligent at recording my changed log in info. That will be my pre-new-years resolution!

by Julie Bestry (Paper Doll) on 11/22/2011 7:13:32 PM:

My suspicion is that the best way to achieve thorough backups is to automate the process. Set it and forget it!


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Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles


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