Now's the time to mark calendars

Make the rest of the year less stressful by taking time this month to make appointments, note birthdays and special events and buy tickets for outings.
With a little early intervention, this could be the year we all remember everybody's birthday, get first dibs on early-morning chiropractor appointments, cash in our frequent-flier points before they expire and drag discards out to the curb in time for the bulk trash pickup.
In these overscheduled, multitasking times, staying ahead of the curve is a daily challenge. With the clock racing from Monday to Friday, who has time for worrying about when school lets out next spring, or renting a beach house for July, or remembering Mom's 80th birthday in October? But spending a little time in January to plot the events we know are coming up can make every other month much easier to navigate.
I've been accused by family and friends of being hyper-organized: I maintain three separate appointment calendars; I buy Christmas presents all year; I change my furnace filter every three months. But dates and deadlines still sneak up and breeze past me.
No time like the present
So I have gotten into the habit of setting aside time in January to make doctors' appointments and Wolf Trap reservations and jot down important events. I know, for example, that my car is about due for servicing.
My son has already asked to go back to the same camp he loved last summer. And I just checked, and my driver's license expires in May. So why not make those arrangements now, or at least make a note on my desk calendar to do it with plenty of time to spare?
Having some of these plans nailed down may even keep me from grinding my teeth at night. (Besides, if I grind, I'll just have to make another dental appointment.)
How to begin?
This weekend is a good time to gather the family around the kitchen table and talk about what's coming up. Ask everyone over the age of 12 to bring their calendars, Filofaxes, Palm Pilots and school schedules.
UMake a master schedule of dates that are fixed in the future: first and last days of school, Scout camp, family reunions, any business travel you know about, vacation weeks. Calendars from previous years can help you remember events you might forget.
UFigure out when appointments are due for dental checkups, eye exams, dermatological visits. Don't forget distemper shots for Fluffy. And throw in the 50,000-mile checkup for your car. Call in the next couple of weeks to set up these appointments.
UJot down birthdays of family and friends on your 2003 calendar. The more organized might even buy all the cards for the year and address and stamp them. (No, I don't go that far.)
UMark the calendar for spring window washing, seasonal gutter cleaning, bulb planting, etc. Jot down reminders about carpet shampooing and painting needs too.
UResolve to keep tabs on paperwork: health insurance forms, subscription renewals, car registration, bank statements, frequent-flier points. ( I keep a file box of airline statements and my ticket and baggage claims so once or twice a year I can match them up and make sure I've been credited for everything due me. The airlines make plenty of mistakes.)
UIf there are cultural or sporting events you know you want to attend, call now for schedules and find out when tickets go on sale, and mark these dates on your calendar. (You'll get a great choice of seats too.)
UThink ahead to those predictably stressful times of year, and do what you can in advance. Supplies for the beach house can be picked up in April. School uniforms for next fall can be ordered in June. Back-to-school supplies are often in stock by July.
UAnd as for next Christmas, go ahead and pick up wrapping paper and tree lights this weekend; anything left is probably 75 percent off. And if you get boxes of cards now on clearance, you can mark your calendar to begin addressing them in early November.
Yeah, right.

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