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Stop Forgetting to Send Greeting Cards!

Stop Forgetting to Send Greeting Cards!

It’s Valentines Day this week… did you send cards to the people you care about? Hopefully you’re not trying to get comfortable in the doghouse.

Wouldn’t it be great to get permanently organized to send cards? If this is something you’d like to improve upon, I have several suggestions that include some great Outlook tips!

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Outlook Task Settings

    There are many options out there for getting reminders one-at-a-time, and you can certainly write birthdays into your calendar. However, for many people this still doesn’t seem to work for getting cards out in the mail on time. A system that works well for me is to use an Outlook task to pop up and remind me to write cards once a month. I usually do this the last week of the month on a day when I am going to be in the office doing administrative work. You can use an equivalent reminder in your own time management system if you don’t use Outlook.

    Hyperlink insert

      I have developed a spreadsheet that I refer to each month when it’s time to write cards. In the notes area of the Outlook task, I have provided myself a hyperlink to this spreadsheet so I can get to it quickly. You might want to do this for a lot of different reasons–from the menu bar of your task, you choose “Insert–File” and then navigate to the document you want. Just before clicking “Insert,” note there is a drop-down arrow where you can choose to “Insert as a Hyperlink.” This trick is very useful for any task that involves a frequently-accessed document.

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      You can have a copy of my Greeting Card Calendar spreadsheet to use for yourself. Some people refer to this kind of list as a “perpetual calendar.” It’s just an easy way to list everyone’s birthdays and all of the holidays permanently in one place. You can sort it and filter it in various ways, and I have written instructions for using it right into the document. When it’s time to write cards, just open the spreadsheet and filter for the occasions for that month. Anytime you hear of someone’s birthday, make a solid habit of adding it to the list.

      If you need to mail the cards out later, write a small send date on each card where you would place the stamp, and place it with your outgoing mail to send at the right time. There are some great options for sending out cards online (not e-cards), such as American Greetings, CardStore, HallmarkGreetz, and SendOutCards (these are sold by individual distributors). All of these options will send out a personalized paper card from you with a stamp on it. It’s great to be able to create all the cards for the month at once and post-date them to be sent out automatically!

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      For organizing paper greeting cards themselves, I recommend purchasing a greeting card organizer box from your local discount store. They usually come with dividers for the common types of cards, and they also typically come with a few cards to get you started. You can also use an expandable accordion file that you label with your own categories, but boxes do work better for flipping through your collection easily.

      Sending greeting cards is a great way to make your friends and acquaintances feel remembered and special. Now you can be that person who always remembers!

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      Lorie Marrero is a Professional Organizer and creator of The Clutter Diet, an innovative, affordable online program for home organization. Lorie’s site helps members lose “Clutter-Pounds” from their home by providing online access to her team of organizers. Lorie writes something useful, funny, interesting, and/or insanely practical every few days or so in The Clutter Diet Blog. She lives in Austin, TX, where her company has provided hands-on organizing services to clients since 2000.

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      Last Updated on July 17, 2019

      The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

      The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

      What happens in our heads when we set goals?

      Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

      Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

      According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

      Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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      Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

      Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

      The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

      Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

      So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

      Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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      One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

      Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

      Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

      The Neurology of Ownership

      Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

      In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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      But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

      This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

      Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

      The Upshot for Goal-Setters

      So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

      On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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      It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

      On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

      But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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      Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

      Reference

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