Monday, July 27, 2009

Travel Lite

For a recent trip overseas to visit my sister and her family in Singapore, my main goal was to travel light. Having a 7 month old in tow made this even more challenging, trying to remember all his creature comforts so he could rest comfortably both on the plane and in a strange place. This Google Docs spreadsheet was the actual spreadsheet that we used - note that toiletries and some common sense items have been omitted. Having traveled a bit, we don't bother listing out every clothing item, but rather we base our needs on the number of days and nights we'll be away. For example, this particular trip was 16 days and nights, so we figured we'll need at least one week's worth of clothes and underwear which can be washed and dried throughout the week. It also depends on if we're staying with relatives or in hotels with access to washer/dryer.

The nice thing about online spreadsheets is that it can be edited in real time. My sister "X"ed the items that she already had (e.g. diapers since she has a 1 year old) so it cut down our space by half - just enough space for those last minute gifts. My husband and mom could also review the lists on their PDAs and add to the baby items and help me pack various shared items that I might have forgotten.

There are plenty of other website that also have travel lists. Hopefully one of them will work for you.

General packing advise:
Specialized packing advise:
  • TripAdvisor - Each country has an advisory on what to pack. Just type in a country and click on the "Before You Go" link on the left hand navigation bar. Example: Thing to pack and NOT to pack for a trip to Cuba.
  • Lonely Planet - Similar to TripAdvisor, but you have to do some digging for specialized packing lists. Example: Packing list for Asia
  • Lastly (or perhaps first thing to check) is a simple Google search on "What to pack [insert destination]" If you every take a trip to my home state of California, here's a pretty good search result on packing lists for the Bay Area based on community feedback.
Do you have a favorite packing list technique or checklist that you use?

Lists Make Women Better Managers?

My Monday morning routine at work always starts out with a review of the previous to-do list and a short planning session of action items that I need to accomplish for the day. Lists get consolidated and new items get added on. In my college-ruled 8x11 notebook, I have Post-It flags taped onto the back flap for easy access and I color code my pages by "To-Dos" (short and long term), "1:1 sessions" and references. Though I don't usually write this on my list, the first item is always to get through the inbox and do a quick sort according to the Getting Things Done Method of answer now, monitor or delete. I was already doing this before taking the GTD course at work, but now there's a name for what I was doing.

Does all this organization make me a better manager though? I agree with Carol Smith in her interview "No Doubts: Women are Better Managers" with the NY Times that it's not the we make lists, but rather that we will DO what's on our to-do list that makes us more effective.

"I have been in this career for many years and I have seen, and this is a generalization, that women are better list-makers. They will do their to-do list. They will prioritize their to-do list. They will get through their to-do list. Maybe it’s because we do shopping lists. And if we have a problem — again, as a generalization — we will confront the problem and deal with it head-on.

I think that has really made me good at managing people, because I think they always know that they’re going to get a real answer."

Now back to work...

Friday, July 24, 2009

My First Baby List

Like most parents, when we found out we were having our first baby, we were not only estactic but wanted to give him everything that he would need to be comfortable and to thrive. The tricky part was knowing what was absolutely necessary to buy versus what was just hype. My strategy for putting together a registry was to first ask my mommy friends and family three simple questions, 1. what could you not live without in the first few months for the baby? 2. for yourself? 3. for your husband? For question three, they all unanimously said essentially "your husband doesn't need anything." While inquiring, friends were helpful in offering other advise as well as items they were no longer using which saved us from buying items that we want to "try" but didn't know if we wanted to invest in (e.g. Euro bathtub) as well as larger items that we wouldn't have the space to store when we were done (e.g. crib)

Next, I scoured the web for other people's opinions, Babies R Us buying guide, Baby Bargains book, and consolidated everything in the basic baby items, nice to have items, and items for mom. The key was to keep the list as simple as possible.

Taking this list to start the baby registry was helpful in keeping me focused. It's so easy to get distracted by all the "cute but unnecessary" items and to get ahead of yourself and getting things you won't use for at least 6 months like bibs and baby proofing supplies. The list is also helpful if you're building your registry online first. Of course nothing can replace recent mommy friends who are willing to help you register on-site at the store and point out what you might have inadvertently left of your checklist.

I uploaded my baby checklist to Google docs for you to use and I will continue to update it and make it better based on your suggestions. Make it your own by creating a copy for yourself - Go to "File" in the Toolbar and click "Create a Copy". For recommendations, I hyperlinked some of the cells (in blue) to the actual product website, article, etc.

Hope you find this useful as you prepare to bring home your bundle of joy.
One thing to keep in mind is that as long as your baby has enough to eat, a place to sleep and lots of love, he/she will have a good start to life.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

How it All Started

My love for lists started when I moved to the United States from Taiwan in the first grade. To learn English, my parents gave me a diary and I would enjoy visualizing each room in the house and list out everything that I could think of in each room. The kitchen was my favorite - all the utensils, spices, appliances. Of course, I couldn't spell anything so I would ask my sister to translate.

Eventually, the lists became detailed schedules. In college, I would write out my schedule in black ink (yes, it had to be black) in a Franklin planner and then as the day went on, I would write down in red ink what actually happened that day. If I got 90% done what I planned to do, then it was considered a good day where much was accomplished. Even after I graduated from the Franklin planner, I would create my own hour by hour/minute by minute schedule to the extent my family would tease me about my OCD.

I crave checklists as well and the best are those that are the aggregation of "must haves" from friends and family with subjects ranging from packing lists to wedding planning to baby planning.

To those who share in my compulsion to have a list or checklist for everything this blog is for you. My goal is to over time to develop a library of open source checklists that I can share with you. Feel free to modify them and I hope you will find them useful!