Jan 062010

One of my goals for this year is to do better on my thank you note writing, my angst over which I have written about recently. For me, this is one of those “hard” resolutions like losing weight or saving money. Simply saying (or even writing down), “I will be more prompt in my thank you note writing.” is not going to cut it. When your goal is difficult and something that you have tried and failed to achieve in the past, it can be discouraging to attempt it again.

While I was trying to figure out how to do better on my thank you note writing, I came up with a process for analyzing difficult goals. I have written the process down below and have created a worksheet you can download here in Word or Adobe .pdf format to work through the specifics of your own situation. (Note that it might be a good idea to either create a binder or notebook to store your worksheets in if you are printing them out or a Ruly folder on your computer if you are storing them electronically.)


  1. Dissect your goal. Make a list of all the small tasks that have to be done in order to achieve your ultimate goal.
  2. Understand the obstacles. For each step in your goal, make a list of the things that have derailed you from achieving each step in the past. Include things that are both within and beyond your control.
  3. Create options for addressing each obstacle. Try to come up with multiple solutions for each obstacle. You will really need to exercise your creativity here.
  4. Adjust expectations and identify sub-goals. If there is an obstacle for which there are no options or no realistic options, perhaps the goal itself needs to be adjusted. Rather than feeling that you are a “failure” for not adhering to your goal all the time, rewrite the goal into something that takes into account your obstacles. You may also identify a sub-goal based on the obstacles you have identified.

One of the benefits of thinking in detail about your goal is that you can clarify whether your goal is solving the right problem for you. You can also see where you are going wrong in achieving your goal. There might be aspects of your goal that you are doing very well on and just one or two troubling steps that are foiling all your good work.

As I ran through this exercise myself, it was eye-opening to see that some of the things derailing me from my thank you note goal are items that, if addressed, could help me achieve not only with this goal but improve my life in other ways as well! For example, I identified that one of my obstacles is devising a system of recording thank you notes to be written that can be updated any time any place. If I had such a system (electronic or paper), I could use it to record other things as well, such as my thoughts, to do list items, etc. I don’t really like the idea of carrying around a device (like my iPhone) everywhere I go and I am not sure how something like a notepad and pen would work out. However, I will be experimenting to see what works best for me in this regard.

Another thank you note obstacle I identified was the problem of not having thank you notes on hand. The answer to this obstacle is relatively simple . . purchase or make thank you notes to have ready. Fortunately, making cards is something I can get behind and enjoy! I came up with the following very simple thank you note that anyone can do and that had the side benefit of decluttering my house of existing art supplies and recycling materials that might otherwise have been thrown away!

Here is the finished product:

My brief instructions:



  • Letter-sized paper that would be suitable for writing a handwritten note on (I used colored cardstock I already had but anything from plain white paper to specialty papers could be used.)
  • Small scraps of paper, ribbon, material, etc. for decorations


  1. In a word processing program, select a landscape orientation and set the margins to be 0.25” all the way around. Format your document for two columns. Type the word “Thank You” or “Thanks” four times in a font you like. Your finished thank you notes are simply a piece of standard size paper cut into quarters. Decide whether to put your thanks at the top, bottom or along the side of your note. I just eyeballed approximately where the words should go to fit on the paper. You can always creatively trim the paper in step 2 if you are a bit off. If this aspect of the craft project gives you fits, you can download the templates I used here: top, bottom, left side.
  2. Cut the paper into quarters. A paper trimmer is a fantastic investment here. I purchased an inexpensive one a few years ago and use it all the time. The one I use is a Carl Personal Rotary Trimmer that looks similar to this Swingline one, which is great because it is compact and has no sharp edges that can cut my children if they find it.
  3. Add just a hint of decoration near the words “Thank You” and leave the rest of the note blank for writing. I used small scraps of decorative papers. You could also use ribbon, fabric, yarn, sequins, stickers, stamps or decorative punches or any other unused decorating materials around your home.
  4. After the thank you note is written, purchase a box of generic “invitation” size envelopes, like these, which are sized to fit quarter-sized paper.  Or, you could also recycle envelopes you already have (such as those you receive in the mail from charity notecard mailings, etc.) and cut the notes to fit.

There you go! Chic, cheap and very simple.

If you are artistic, like my incredible nanny/artist, you can get as fancy as you like. Here is the handmade thank you note she just gave to me. WOW!

If you are a business owner, you can also adapt this idea for your business. It would be a great way to recycle old letterhead, business cards, promotional items, etc. Here is an example of the thank you notes I created for Ruly using cardstock and a promotional mini-mechanical pencil.

Like it? Post a comment this month on any article (not just this one) and I will send you one! Post your comment then email me your address at info@beruly.com and a little ruliness will be headed to your mailbox in the near future, while supplies last.  A few rules: your comment must be in English, relevant to the post it applies to, and is not spam.

Now . . . there is the small problem of actually writing those thank you notes I have prepared. Off to do some writing!  🙂

Jan 042010

It will be a difficult week transitioning back from holiday schedules to regular schedules.  Perhaps you are also trying to start new routines as part of a New Year’s resolution as well.  Do your best not to get overwhelmed by what you are facing and take a few moments to breathe every now and again!

Now that we are off to a fresh new year, one of the to do items is to refresh our calendars. As I was going month by month through some planning for the year, I thought it would be helpful to give a short preview of how 2010 lays out with regard to holidays and other matters.

Perception of time is a complex issue and in fact there is a whole science of the “philosophy of time.” No one knows exactly how time is represented in the brain.

“[T]he perception of [time] is crucially bound up with memory. It is some feature of our memory of the event (and perhaps specifically our memory of the beginning and end of the event) that allows us to form a belief about its duration.”

–“The Experience and Perception of Time,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

The above fascinating article (which I confess I don’t completely understand) addresses such complex questions as how our brains process events in time and why we don’t perceive the future.

It seems possible that perception of time could vary from person to person and that we all have strengths and weaknesses with regard to working with time. Take for example, the numerous formats of calendars and planners available. Some people like a monthly paper calendar, others a full year viewed simultaneously, others weekly or day-by-day checklists. Some need a combination of all of these. Others eschew all paper calendars and rely on electronic methods instead.

When I am working with time, I find it essential that I look first at the long view of what time there is to work with and then focus in progressively smaller, from years, to months to weeks to day-to-day tasks. Other people I know find looking at the long view overwhelming and just want to focus on day-to-day, week to week or month to month. Both approaches have their limitations. Long-range planning has to be adjusted frequently to adapt to the inevitable changes of life. Short-range planning, while flexible, can be limited in its effectiveness. Decisions we make in the moment today may be “wrong” when viewed on a longer time scale.

First things first, when is our next vacation? 2010 looks to be a near perfect year from a holiday scheduling perspective. All of the major U.S. holidays fall at or very close to a weekend so there are many 3 and 4-day holidays to look forward to and no awkward one-day-off-in-the-middle-of-the-week type of holidays. You can save your precious vacation time for a good long summer vacation or split it up throughout the year for numerous mini-vacations.

  • Martin Luther King Jr. holiday comes two weeks from today on Monday, January 18.
  • President’s Day Holiday comes on Monday, February 15, which happily coincides with Valentine’s weekend. There are sure to be a lot of romantic vacations that weekend. School celebrations of Valentine’s Day, however, will probably be pushed up to Friday, February 12. The Winter Olympics in Vancouver start that weekend as well.
  • Easter, although not a work holiday, comes Sunday, April 4. Spring Break for many schools comes the following week, April 5-9, although it varies quite a bit. If you have children in school, now would be a good time to find out when this break occurs and include it in your planning. If you are planning a spring vacation and have some flexibility in your scheduling, you might want to avoid traveling during spring break weeks to save some money.
  • Mother’s Day comes Sunday, May 9.
  • Memorial Day comes May 31. There are five Mondays in May this year so it will seem like quite a wait for it to come.
  • Father’s Day comes Sunday, June 20.
  • Independence Day comes on Sunday, July 4th with the federal holiday granted the following day on Monday, July 5th. We get a built-in 3-day weekend as a result!
  • Labor Day comes Monday, September 6th and Columbus Day, Monday, October 11.
  • Halloween falls on a weekend again, Sunday, October 31 (which usually means it is celebrated on Saturday night in many places).
  • Veterans Day is November 11 and falls on a Thursday this year so if you take just one vacation day on November 12, you get a 4-day weekend, followed by another 4-day weekend two weeks later for Thanksgiving on Thursday, November 25. If you celebrate Hanukkah, you might need both of these long weekends to get prepared as Hanukkah comes early this year, December 1-9. If you celebrate Christmas, you could get a jump start on your preparations as well.
  • Christmas Day falls on Saturday, December 25 with the holiday falling on Friday, December 24 and we kick of 2011 on a Saturday as well so 3-day weekends for Christmas and New Year’s as well!

Now that we know how much time we have off, when do we get paid? If you are an employee paid according to the most common biweekly time schedule, paychecks start on Friday, January 15 and end tidily on Friday, December 31.

One budgeting tip that has been helpful to our family is to figure out when the “bonus” paychecks occur. Even if you don’t receive a bonus as part of your pay, there are two built-in “bonuses” to your regular 26 paychecks. Most of us effectively need to subsist on 2 paychecks per month since 10 months out of the year, we only receive 2 paychecks. If you can work your home finances so that you are always subsisting on 2 paychecks per month, the “extra” 2 paychecks can be your “bonus.” In 2010, the “bonus” months are July and December. This timing is also fortunate to help with holiday spending at the end of the year.

So, many positive things for 2010! What other scheduling or budgeting items are you looking into at the moment? What type of calendaring system do you prefer to use? Please share in the comments.

Jan 012010

It is the first day of a brand new year! Although really today is much the same as yesterday and the day before, because it is New Year’s Day, it is infused with hope, promise, and a fresh start. Today is the day when many people resolve to make big changes in their lives.

In a world where there is a lot to worry, obsess and become depressed about, it is kind of amazing that the calendar turning one page is enough to get us to leave the past in the past, think big, dream new dreams and believe that our lives can be fundamentally different going forward. It is probably one of the best traditions we have!

Of course, some people get a little jaded about New Year’s because they have failed to achieve the resolutions they have made in the past. In January at Ruly, we are going to be discussing goal setting in general as well as the process needed to make progress toward a goal.

As for me, this year I am thinking a little differently about setting my goals. I have been really interested to view The Wall Street Journal’sLessons in Leadership” video series, where CEO’s of various companies are answering questions on everything from time management to motivation. While some of the answers are what you might expect, some are a little shocking. One of the more eye-opening quotes that stuck with me was:

“Don’t do stuff that you know you don’t like.”

–Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, in The Wall Street Journal Lessons in Leadership” video series

It’s a very simple concept but a powerful one too. How much time do we spend setting goals to do things that we don’t like doing but for whatever reason, we feel that we “have to” do them. What I liked about this concept is that Mr. Roberts seems to be saying, when you have a million things to do, prioritize your own happiness first, then look at the needs of others in your business or personal life. The result is a list of priorities that you will enjoy doing and that will satisfy others as well. Since we naturally put more energy into things we enjoy than things we detest, this seems like a winning solution to get optimum results.

For 2010, my personal resolutions are all about doing more fun things in my life . . . places to travel, experiences to have, etc. When I sit down to write my business goals for Ruly, they will similarly be focused on maximizing the enjoyable moments. When it comes to doing things I don’t enjoy doing, my goals will be to find ways to minimize those unenjoyable moments either through outsourcing to others, rethinking an unenjoyable process to inject more fun into it or streamlining the unenjoyable to take less time.

On Monday, we all get back to business as usual after a long holiday break. Routines and schedules resume. As you go about your normal activities, start to consciously ask yourself, “Do I like doing this?” If the answer is no, you may have an incredible opportunity to learn something new about yourself and make a change for your own happiness.

What are your resolutions for 2010? Please share in the comments.