Wednesdays are simplicity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
One of the issues people ask me about often is how I manage to stay on top of birthdays. The truth is I don’t remember birthdays. My system does, and it reminds me at the appropriate times. I decided to share my system here so that others can take advantage of having a built in reminder for birthdays.
First: Why I Don’t Use The Birthday Field
Most contact management software has a place to store birthdays. I don’t use it. Why? Because it only tells me about someone’s birthday on the day itself. That is absolutely no good if I need to mail a card or pick up a gift. I do put repeating birthday into my calendar software, but that is mainly so that I have a reminder to call the person on their birthday.
Onto my birthday system….
The Task Software
The first major component you will need is a task system that allows you to automatically repeat tasks. Ideally it should be one where you can also store some text, and it needs to be in a place that you will see it.
I use Remember The Milk for this, as I do for the rest of my tasks. Since I am in RTM every single day, I see repeating tasks as they come up. Outlook would also work, because it allows you to have repeating tasks.
You could also do this manually as long as you have a way to manage repeating tasks.
The Birthday List
Sit down and compile a list of all the people whose birthdays you want to remember. Go through your various sources, such as past calendars, Facebook and email. Write them out, grouping them by month, and then ordering by day. If possible, note the year of birth so that you can do something special for milestone birthdays.
As a side note, you can also include anniversaries in here, and be reminded the same way.
Set Up The Reminder
You are going to enter one task into your system: Check Birthdays. It will be due during the second or third week of the month, on a day when you usually have enough time to look at it. Type in your list of birthdays into the memo part, and set it to repeat.
For me, my birthday task is the third Monday of the month. I am routinely doing desk work on Mondays, and this fits right in.
Why not the first of the month? It’s a valid question. The answer is that processing the birthdays two weeks before gives you plenty of preparation time for those people who are at the beginning of the month. I used to just check all the birthdays at the beginning of the next month, but I found it was better to just move the date I check all birthdays for a given month.
Processing the Birthdays
When your reminder comes up as due, look at the memos and decide what you want to do. You will make more entries into your task system based on what you find.
For cards: Make a note to buy the cards you need. Once you have bought them and addressed them, write the day they need to be mailed under where the stamp will go, and enter that date into your task list. For example for a birthday that occurs on the 26th where the card has to go halfway across the country, I write 19 in the stamp area and make a task of “mail John’s card” on the 19th.
For gifts: make an entry in your task system to shop for the gift. Do a spot of brainstorming as you do this so you have some idea of what you might like to give. If you have no idea, make an entry to “call Susan and ask for gift ideas”. Once you buy the gift, make a note in your task list for when it needs to be mailed.
Making It Really Easy
There are ways to make this process even easier.
There are many websites (like American Greetings) and software that allow you to create your own cards. Get yourself some cards and envelopes (such as Avery Half-Fold Greeting Cards) from an office supply store, and do your own cards at home. This gives you the freedom to personalize a card as you wish, and you can make cards any time, day or night.
There are two types of easy gifts: one where the gift is sent from an online store right to the recipient, and gift cards. Whenever possible, use these two avenues for buying gifts. It will save you a lot of time, and often you get a better selection of gifts than when you venture into a store.
These tips are how I never miss a birthday. Do you have any to add? Share below.
Photo by Will Clayton