Its a fact of life that either your own life gets in the way, making you busy and simply distracted from remembering – or that the system you have in place is far from fool proof.
Not only is that really embarrassing for you when you do remember (do you send a belated card, just apologise, or just try not to mention it at all….), but it can also be very hurtful for the person who has been forgotten – they will get an unfair sense that you don’t care.
Who wants to be the one that forgets?
I’d much rather be the one who can be relied on to remember, even when life gets busy!
Most of my friends comment on how I always remember birthdays, and its not anything really special that I do – its just that I truly believe that its worth making the effort to make those I love feel special on their special day.
Its a priority for me.
I’m not perfect – in fact I have been known to forget one or two dates (oh the shame…..) – but on the whole, I have learned how to ensure that I am the least stressed possible throughout the year, by having the right present/card at the right time.
So – I thought I’d share the method I use, and see if it helps you too.
Use a system that works for you
The first thing I did when I thought about a system for me is to assess what I already used and what could fit in well.
I knew that if I had to look somewhere else for birthdays (such as a birthday book or wall calendar) then I would be guaranteed that a few dates would slip under the radar, which to me wasn’t acceptable.
I really believe that adding to what you currently do is the fail safe way to get things done – and that, for most people, is their diary.
I LOVE my diary – its used as my guide to life, and I write down EVERYTHING in it that I have to remember. Even down to allocating travel time to appointments, and writing in the day before what I need to have got ready for it so theres no last minute scramble – therefore adding in birthdays and special dates into my diary was a no brainer.
They had to be in there, and with a reminder a few days before as well to give time for present/card buying – and then I was sure that I wouldn’t forget them.
But although I need it in my diary, I first need to ensure I know what the dates are in the first place, and thats where a list comes in!
Keeping a list, and updating it
I totally advocate having a master list of special dates somewhere in your home.
This is the place where everyones special dates are kept, and any specific information is also (i.e. year of birth, year of marriage etc… so you can remember special years).
I suggest your home file (of course!) but a birthday book or a non year specific wall calendar would work just as well as long as you always know where to find it.
The special dates are listed by month, and therefore anyone in the house can see whats what when necessary. I simply ensure that new dates are added when they happen (i.e. a birth), and then forget about that as its simply my backup.
Its my backup because I keep my home file and my diary totally separate, with personal stuff in my diary and home/family information in the home file – and I need to have the list in my diary also.
As you are all very much aware by now, my diary is a filofax. I love it!, its just a very simple and organised way to keep track of my life, and has plenty of room for extra tabs and pages.
Within my diary area I have tabs for each month – as then its really easy to flip through to where I need to find, and I also have a bookmark for todays date so I can open it at the right page every time.
The tabs are helpful – but are in essence a waste of paper that could actually be utilised in a much more savvy way. So why not get the most out of them by adding in the important dates for each month on each monthly tab? That way I have them to hand when I am out with my diary, but there is a backup copy in the home file safe at home.
Simple – but so effective.
I write mine in – but equally you could just print off a second copy of your home file birthday pages and stick the relevant months on the right tabs. The good news is that, because you are writing on the monthly tabs, you only have to do this ONCE, as the tabs don’t change year on year,you just change the diary pages (just adding in any updates from the previous year of course).
So, I have a master list in my home file, and a monthly list on my tabs in my diary. The only time they get updated are when new events happen. They do take a small amount of time to set up – but only have to happen once and then you have a great record of what needs to be remembered.
I therefore have all the birthdays and events recorded, and a way to update them, but what about the all important remembering them!
Its worth spending the time….
I worked out that, for me, writing all the names down on the dates in question each year was a worthwhile time expenditure if it meant that I never forgot a birthday.
I told you it was a simple system now, didn’t I!
Yes, it takes time – and can be thought of as a hassle – but what about the alternative (forgetting)?
After all, you spend more time if you forget someones special day, if you have to run around getting a present and paying for quick postage, and worrying about if you have offended them by forgetting etc…..
So – every year at the start of the year, I write the relevant names on the right dates in my diary. I do it – I don’t moan, I just do it – usually between Christmas and New year while watching a good programme on TV!
It takes around 20 minutes – but then its there – and is all the reminder I need.
Special dates are the first thing that gets added to my new diary each year.
Planning is key to success
Of course, its all very well looking and seeing that someones birthday is coming up – but what about ensuring they get a card/present etc… on the right day?
I always have a stash of cards, wrapping paper, brown parcel paper and tape, and a box of suitable presents – all of which are bought throughout the year when I am in certain shops or see things in the sale.
This way I save money and time, but get a gorgeous present for people (usually better than the budget would allow if I went out in non sale time – so everyones a winner!).
If I see something for someone in particular then I will label that present in the box and add a star to their name on their birthday in my diary so I know that I already have the present ready – which is a lovely feeling!
On a regular basis (usually monthly) I then check whats coming up, work out what I have already and what I still need to get and how much time I need to allow for ordering things, and then this shopping gets added to my shopping list and done on my errands day with the knowledge that its being done in plenty of time for the special day.
Lastly, I add in on the relevant day (2-3 days in advance usually, on a day when I am at the shops to save an extra trip) a TO DO in my diary to post things out.
NOTE – if you use an online diary such as outlook, then it can be even easier to set up the birthdays as events, and then set a reminder alarm a few days in advance – this takes a little time to set up, but is again a once only requirement and then you can forget about it.
Ensure you have a master list of birthdays and other special dates thats kept safe, and update when a new date happens. Keep it where anyone can access it (Home File works well).
In order to remember these dates, then your diary is the best place to have them written down. Its the one place that most people check daily – whether it be a diary on your computer such as outlook, or a hand written one.
Take the time at the start of the year to write down the right names on the right dates, and add in a reminder a few days before to post the present/card in time. This does take a little time, but will save loads of time throughout the year, so pays dividends in the long run.
Make sure you have present and cards ready in time to post. Get into the habit of picking great presents up in sales, and have a stash of cards and wrapping paper etc… to hand at home.
Spending the time to set the system up will be worth it as you won’t forget a birthday again!
There are no miracle cures for not forgetting a birthday, but putting in a little time up front can save loads of time and hassle over the year, so is really worth it – otherwise you are just chasing your tail with that uncertain feeling of whether you have remembered or not – and who wants that?