May 20, 2015
Failing to plan means planning to fail

Legendary funnyman Spike Milligan once said: “We haven’t planned anything, so nothing can go wrong!” Never was a truer word spoken, because if no plans exist, then they’re not going to fail.

However, although Milligan hit the comedic bullseye with his customary deadly accuracy, bumbling planless through life is a recipe for disaster. Bad enough under normal circumstances, but when extra layers of activity are added because it’s summer, you’ll eventually find yourself in the right place on the wrong day, or the right place on the right day but without the tickets, or wearing the wrong clothes. Dressed in a dinner jacket and bow tie at a summer evening barbecue will mark you out as a member of the catering staff. And if you think everyone will eventually forget about your fashion faux-pas, you’re in for a disappointment. They won’t.

So sit down and buckle up for our 15 top tips for being organised this summer – we’ll make it as near effortless as possible.

1.  Don’t panic! There will be time for everything if you draw up a plan early enough. We know couples who devote the first few days of January to working out their personal plan for the whole year ahead. Now there’s a resolution that’s worth making!
2.  Get a system and stick to it. It doesn’t matter if you’re a pen-and-paper person relying on a page-a-day diary or a tech-savvy smartphone user with an app that talks to you, so long as everything you need to remember is carefully entered into it and referred to. No point in having the information and then ignoring it.
3.  Synchronise diaries. Plan major diary disruptions in conjunction with colleagues so you can pick up important tasks between you. Self-employed? Let clients know well in advance when you’re going to be away, and suggest alternative timescales so you’re still looking after them.
4. Make a note of everything. Once you’re sticking to a system, the whole thing will collapse like a house of cards if you fail to include something like a school sports day that falls on the same day as a client pitch.
5. Prioritise. So the sports day does fall on the client pitch day? Re-arrange the diary. No-one’s going to mind if they’re given enough notice. Or get a substitute. Grandmas love sports days, and the most precious thing you can give an older person is time.
6. Check your documents. If your passport’s close to its expiry date, you’ll need to renew it or you may not be allowed to travel. Similarly, is your travel insurance still up to date. And don’t leave them at home when you head to the airport.
7. Leave instructions with colleagues. Make sure all the important work projects are covered in case anything develops in your absence.

8. Sneak under the radar. Consider putting the ‘out of office’ message on your email 24 or even 48 hours before you actually go. Anything you can do for clients during that period will enhance your reputation as a diligent supplier.
9. Think security. Get into the habit of being on your guard against pickpockets. Bags should always be zipped and carried in front of the body; wallets shouldn’t be carried in hip pockets. Keep your wallet in your hand, with both in your pocket. Never use phones and other tech equipment without being aware of your surroundings, and who’s watching you. Organise all your documents in one secure place.

On holiday
10.  Don’t make a meal of it.   It’s so easy to eat too much on holiday. Indigestion and a larger dress size await!
11. Don’t make a meal of spending either. Sure, Stetsons are commonplace in Las Vegas, but can you really see yourself wearing one at home? Thought not. Using Solo Expenses to record what you buy keeps a record of all your expenditure on one place, and allows you to check that you’re staying within budget. You do have a budget, don’t you? No? Read item 12.
12. Budget. Money’s no object for only a handful of people. Those of us that don’t fall into that group ought to be aware of what we can afford to spend, and stay within that limit. It seems pointless to have a blast with a fortnight or more in the sun, only to spend the rest of the year trying to pay off the credit card you paid for it with. Work out a daily spending limit before you go, and check with SoloExpenses that you’re within it at the end of every day. If you go over on one day, ease up on spending on subsequent ones.

13. Have a rainy day backup. This is part of the broader thought that you should know what you’re going to do in a new city or resort before you get there. A lot of time will be wasted if you sit down to breakfast on Day One and have to start by saying: “Now what?” Similarly, if your plans depend on sunshine, what will you do if there isn’t any? Think it through beforehand.
14. Take batteries and chargers. If your holiday happiness depends on being surrounded by technology, make sure you have the means to keep it alive whilst you’re away.
15. Get a new bag. There’s an unwritten piece of male folklore that says any bag carried by a woman is marginally too small for its contents. Get a new one for you holiday (even in the airport, if you must) and turf out the unnecessary contents of the old one. Carry just what you need. Need an excuse? Refer to item 14.

Do all of that, and you’ll turn Spike Milligan’s thought on its head: nothing can go wrong precisely because you planned well at the outset.

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