Secret #3 Two Ahead
Would you like to step off the hamster wheel?
I have a strange obsession with old homemaking books. There’s a strange comfort in reading about the ridiculous effort women had to go to in their homes. But once in awhile, I pick up a gem.
The Complete Home: A Popular Encyclopedia of Domestic Life and Affairs (phew, that sounds serious) by Mrs. Julia McNair Wright, written in 1879. Aunt Sophronia is sharing all her sage advice with her nieces. One niece, Miriam, is describing a plaque she received as a wedding gift. It says, ‘Always be an hour in advance of your work.’ Miriam goes on to say this:
I saw at once that here was the key to the order that reigns at Mrs. Burr’s. If I were an hour beforehand with work I should never be hurried nor worried; if I began at once, the habit of being in season would be fixed. I saw also that the one hour would by good judgment in planning grow to many, and I should always have time to spare… (pg 36)
Today, our lives move at breakneck speed. I figured if they needed an hour in 1879 we need two!
What is the ‘two-ahead?’ secret?
Now, not later.
Being two-ahead means preparing for the next two hours, two days, two weeks, two months, two years…
When you’re new to thinking ahead or have little ones, two hours is a good place to start. What’s coming up right around the corner? Are you leaving the house, is a meal coming, will you need to feed the baby? Get ready now.
Next, think about the next two days. What preparation can you fold into what you’re doing today? Make extra rice for later in the week, order laundry detergent from Amazon, fill out paperwork for the doctor’s appointment coming up.
Stretch yourself, think two weeks ahead. Look at the calendar. Are you prepared for birthdays coming up, will you need any special clothes, do you need sunscreen for the upcoming BBQ?
Planning two months ahead is the big leagues. Again, look at the calendar. What’s on the horizon and how can you be ready? Is there anything special you will need to buy – get it on the list and roll it in with your regular errand day.
Two years ahead is thinking seasonally. Imagine what you will need at this time next year and the year after that. Will you be attending the same events or doing similar activities? Make a checklist now and save it. Jotting down a few reminders will prevent having to recreate the wheel.
5 terrific reasons to get, ‘two-ahead?’
Imagine the and ease of walking through your days and weeks ready to roll.
Being prepared makes us feel competent and together.
And it’s much easier to maintain a good attitude and sweet demeanor when we’re not feeling like a hot mess.
Behind, lagging, catching up, behind the eight ball, clearing the decks, digging out of a hole – not very inspiring, right?
The further ahead we are the easier it is to roll tasks into our day when it convenient, not when its do or die.
So instead of all the negative connotations of not keeping up, think; get the ball rolling, forward momentum, a clean sweep, advance guard, beforehand, sooner, in anticipation of…
Being in control and being controlling are different things.
As you get ahead (see reason 2) you gain control over your circumstances.
Part of having control over our lives is being in control of our money.
Desperation does not result in good decisions.
When it comes to spending wisely, time is your best friend.
I don’t know about you, but I create many of my emergencies.
Deadline stress, waiting on others, late-night marathons and nervous sweats are not part of the ‘two ahead’ lifestyle.
Put ‘two-ahead’ into practice
Knowing what you plan to do tomorrow (I know, you have kids, but be optimistic) and preparing for it, is an excellent way to start thinking two ahead.
Make a list, and lay out the things you need. Clothes, tools, supplies, lunch prep, papers, pack bags; line it up and hit the floor running.
Anything food related
When I have dinner in process early in the morning, my entire outlook on life improves.
Looking up at 5 p.m. and thinking, “Hmm, what should I have thawed out eight hours ago?” – not good.
A simple meal plan and a weekly trip to the grocery store – that’s a great place to start.
Making extra as you cook dinner barely takes extra time or effort. Double the roasted vegetables. Make a second pan of burritos and freeze them. Pack lunch as you clean up the kitchen.
More advanced methods include mega freezer cooking, preparing time-consuming parts ahead (pizza and pie crusts) and bulk buying for the pantry and freezer.
If you enjoy taking meals to new moms, sick people or families in crisis, having a few of your go-to options in the freezer makes this a breeze. Frozen cookie dough means you can bake a fresh batch of cookies at a moment’s notice.
Businesses call this a tickler file.
In my experience, 31 folders are overkill for the average family. I get by with one folder labeled, ‘Pending.’
Every paper associated with an event in the future I stash here. Medical forms, flyers from church, invitations…I know right where to look. As part of my weekly routine, I take a quick peek in here to be sure nothing’s falling through the cracks.
Digital information goes into my calendar notes section on the day of the event.
Special events and holidays
First, tackle next month. When that’s under control, think bigger.
Create a yearly calendar of every event, holiday and birthday you can imagine. Continually add to it.
Besides the obvious, note things like music recitals, soccer signup, the church Christmas play, your neighborhood garage sale. You may not know the exact date, but these things tend to fall in the same month each year. The more you know, the better you can prepare.
How far in advance can you shop for greeting cards and gifts? If your cash flow allows you to buy a year ahead, shop for all the cards at once. Don’t forget to have a few graduation, new baby, wedding, anniversary and condolence cards too.
Similar to special events, a change of seasons offers particular challenges.
Think about home maintenance, cleaning, switching clothes, and school, what can you get a jump on.
Here’s an example: winter illness. With children, it’s inevitable you will have a round of the common cold every winter. What do you like to have on hand to cope? Facial tissue, essential oils, salves, soup, special fluids, etc. Save yourself a last-minute trip to the store by gathering these items in September.
Saving money for significant events
Think way ahead. A decade or more.
Do you have landmark anniversary coming up? Would you like to do something extravagant? How about your parents? Will you be throwing them a 50th-anniversary party?
Do you have college savings accounts for your children? Retirement? A house? Getting these set-up, even if you can only invest a small amount each month, will build the habit and put compounding interest to work.
What’s the plan for replacing cars and appliances? Not to freak you out, but these things have a lifespan, whether we are ready or not.
Using the power of your calendar – the more you know, the smarter shopper you can be.
My sister is a master at finding deals on her kid’s clothes. Some stores mark down items to $1-2. She stocks up, even a year in advance.
Sports gear, outerwear, camping gear, toys, games are a fraction of the cost at certain times of the year.
Kids grow out of some items so fast they barely use them. Create an exchange with a group of parents and share the wealth.
Take inventory at the end of any season and make a shopping list of things you need to replace, then keep an eye on the end of season clearance racks, CraigsList, garage sales, and thrift stores.
Summer activities and travel
Going to any summer camp or playing sports requires a physical. Have you ever tried to get your child a last minute physical in August?
If you are traveling, check your passports, some countries won’t let you in if your passport expires within six months of your arrival.
Do you need special shots for an out-of-country experience? Some immunizations require multiple doses, over a period.
And again, what gear, clothing, and supplies do you need.
Start packing for a trip at least two days in advance – the earlier, the better.
Our friends came to visit in December (Washington state) – they live in Hawaii.
Their kids had grown out of all their mainland clothes. Swimming suits are not appropriate for the Nutcracker. We spent the first few days of their trip finding clothes to (literally) cover their backs.
One time I had to stop at a mall on the way to a friends wedding because I failed to notice that my pregnant body didn’t fit in anything remotely wedding-esque.
Run a reel
Here is a great tip for peace of mind and disaster prevention:
Grab a pen and paper – mentally walk through an upcoming event/project/day. Imagine getting out of bed, getting dressed, preparing your kids, going, doing, coming home.
Any glitches? Jot everything down that comes to your mind’s eye. Now you can head off 90% of your issues.
The other 10%?
Like Robert Burns said, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Well, he said, “gang aft a-gley.” WHAT?
Anyway, you can only do so much. But the ‘two ahead’ mom has options!
This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. This keeps the site up and running.
Options and margin, that’s the beauty of being ‘two ahead.’
What will you get two ahead on? Leave a comment.
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