Organizing for a Great Adventure

Location: Pendleton, OR.

The skinny: Oxford Suites couch. With a complimentary glass of wine.

Thoughts (compliments of the wine) : Planning to move across the world is not an easy task.  I have yet to freak out about the process. Why? What have I done differently this trip than other trips? Why do I feel more prepared now than ever?

Analysis: We’re down to the wire on packing and moving. I’m really thankful to have had enough time off work to plan for the event. Two months before the final push, I scaled down to two-three shifts per week at the coffeeshop, leaving week days to focus on tasks needing to be accomplished before our trip.

At the beginning, the planning seemed overwhelming. But I started with a simple, yet effective organization system. This seems ridiculously simple, I know. But bear with me. I found it incredibly helpful, so I’m sharing it with you.

First, I mapped out all tasks I wanted to complete before leaving. Okay, not all of them. New tasks present themselves as you’re going about the process.  I started with a Big Ideas Map to get my head clear. Then I broke down the pieces into smaller, more bite-sized chunks of ideas. And from there into even smaller chunks which manifested themselves as actual TASKS. It’s helpful to have the big goal in mind– now I know not only what TO DO, but also WHY.

Simple, right? So I started with just one 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper, turned horizontally, lined with three columns: “LIFE”/ “LOGISTICS” / “FUN”

Beneath each column, I jotted down the big-big ideas based on type. Vaccinations? Under “Logistics.” New camera? Under “Fun.”
Okay. So big ideas are on paper, how do I know what to get done and when? I researched the important tasks related to life, health and work in Thailand and learned quickly that some tasks operate on a strict timeline, (the Japanese-Encephalitis immunization requires two shots with 28 days in between), while others are flexible. So, I drew a calendar and penned in the dates of tasks on a strict deadline. (Flight to Phnom Penh.) Then I penciled in the dates that were still in the works. (Post all furniture to Craigslist.) Once I understood which things were imperative to accomplish as soon as possible, delegating the work was easy.

Okay, so Big Ideas. Check. Timeline. Check. Now what? I need to figure out what it is that I actually have to DO to get something done. That’s where the daily list comes in. A simple paper tablet was an easy way to keep the list clean. I focused on doing a only few things everyday and made sure to cross them off when they were done. That way I wouldn’t feel overwhelmed by trying to do too much in a day and I knew I could relax when those things were crossed off. Done and Done.

Too simple, right? Well, here are a couple other key things I learned:

1. Fear No Task. Daunting as some might be, (like “get the ever-so-painful-and-expensive-Japanese-Encephalitis shot”), waiting accomplishes nothing. In fact, it usually creates MORE problems. So, I tackled the bigger ones first to get them out of the way. That left more time for the fun tasks!

2. When in doubt of what to do, just do something. Start with something easy. I found myself cleaning or doing laundry. It’s productive, helps clear my mind, and hey, I get something done!

Lastly: Keep all the lists! I tend to scribble in the margins, so by keeping a stack of old lists, I knew I wouldn’t lose an important number. Plus, I could review with satisfaction all the hard work I spent getting everything organized.

The most intangible learning experience is harder to pass along: enjoying each task. Getting an oil change is not the highlight of any typical Tuesday, but it’s part of the journey. They’re all part of the journey; even the small, seemingly insignificant moments make up the sum of the trip. After all, a Japanese Encephalitis shot wouldn’t be necessary without this great adventure! And boy it felt good to cross that one off the list.


About KShaw

English teacher in Thailand. Global Traveler. Amateur linguist. Reader. Writer. Photographer. Musician. Friend.
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