I used to be a sentimental pack rat. Anything that had some vague pleasant memory attached to it would be kept. Actually, I think even items that came from not-so-pleasant times were also held on to. Maybe it's because the rawness of the emotion has its own flavor it becomes an acquired taste to revel in it. I'm guessing that's why we like sappy depressing love songs when a relationship ends.
But a thought occurred to me that swung the pendulum the other way for me and turned me into a strategic minimalist, and it's this – everything shall perish. Nothing remains behind, and even if it remains past your time, you won't know or care about it afterwards. I'm sure others will say protect things for posterity, but I decided to be a little selfish and be in this world like a traveler rather than a settler, as advised by the Prophet (SAW).
So out went all the trinkets, garbage, love letters from spurned high school crushes (did I just say that out loud?), old clothes, and more. Apartment living helped drive this mentality, and thus I'm not a paper person. I used to be a person who liked physically writing things out, but no longer.
This takes me to the tools I use – I don't use paper tools at all. I like to use tools that are integrated and easily accessible at any time – namely via my cellphone, a tablet, or laptop connected to the internet. If you want, you can use analogous tools on paper or from other services, but my approach (which I think, btw, is greener for those concerned with no wasting paper) will be to use electronic tools to help keep my life priorities in front of me.
So what's needed?
1. Goal Planner
A goal planner will be needed for taking care of the high level stuff. What would you like to accomplish in the coming months and years ahead. What is your mission and vision for yourself and family, questions of this nature are recorded and tracked in your goal planner.
2. Task Manager
Your task manager is where all the nitty-gritty details of life that you need to get done should be recorded. You should have something portable and easily accessible that you can record whatever pops in your head at any time.
Your calendar is where you'll lock down either appointments or time blocks – things that have to happen at a specific time and none other. If you have flexibility in moving something around, it doesn't belong in the calendar.
4. Project Planner
Whoa, this is a bit of a departure, but don't worry – the planner can be as something as simple as a tool that can do outlining like MS Word or Google Document, or as sophisticated as MS Project.
5. Finances Tracker
You should know how your money flows in and out regularly. There are paid tools to do this, and there are free tools. I'll mention what I use below. But in a nutshell. You should have a good idea of your money-in and money-out at all times and be ready to take corrective actions as needed.
In my case, I use the following tools
Toodledo.com is an online planning tool with a lot of flexibility and sophistication. It can be used for goal planning, project planning, and task management. There are also numerous 3rd party apps designed to access and manage tasks and goals from your Android or Apple mobile phone.
2. Google Calendar
I use this for my appointments as well as timeblocks for certain types of activities I want to do. What's really good about google calendar is it's supported on numerous browsers and as a native app for a bunch of device types.
Mint is a free tool that can be used for tracking your money flow. You just add all your accounts (bank, credit card, investment, etc) and mint tracks in real time how your money is moving, trends, budgeting, and a bunch more. If you're like me and you have no intent of ever intending to attempt to balance a check book, this is it.
You should do the following:
1. Pick the Best Tools for You
Although I've provided some suggestions, the best tools are the ones that you feel the most comfortable with, and which you'll consistently maintain. Whether it's paper or not is irrelevant – what matters is that you use regularly and successfully.
2. Go Get 'em
Ok, so we said pick, but now set them up and get them ready for the next phase of your training.
3. Play Around with Them
It's always good to experiment and play around with new tools (obviously only the safe tools!). Add tasks to your planner, sync accounts to mint, get your hands dirty (or your feet wet) and become accustomed to the interfaces you'll be playing around with.