It doesn’t count until you write it down

It doesn’t count until you write it down

Nice Modern Art Museum

I rarely leave home without a yellow tablet of paper that contains my life’s to-do’s separated into quadrants. My hyper-organization is a result of my awful memory; if I don’t write it down, I absolutely wouldn’t remember anything. It’s also the product of giving me something to do when I need to pass the time, whether in a boring college class, riding on public transportation or waiting for a friend.

While my to-do’s are generally immediate, I’ve also been thinking about what I want to accomplish while I’m in France. As I said, if it’s not on paper, I will either forget all about it or remember but not hold myself to it. To prove that I was listening in some of my classes (OK, maybe just the PR ones), I’m also trying to set SMART goals–specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. And now you all can hold me to them, too.

  • Stay in shape
  • This is the vaguest of my goals because I have yet to figure out HOW exactly I’m going to stay in shape, other than taking the stairs every day. Gyms here tend to be expensive and inconvenient: what a combination! And that’s only because I have no other option. However, now that bread and cheese is its own individual food group, I’m going to have to find a way…even if that means rollerblades.

  • Try one new restaurant a week
  • As a frugal traveler with a kitchen, it’s easy to get sucked into wanting to eat at home all the time. However, even with the right ingredients, you can’t learn local cuisine by osmosis! Eating out is also a great way to practice my French and possibly meet people, so I’m going have to pry myself off my computer and into a new restaurant once a week.

  • Try one new recipe a week
  • I still want to be the next Julia Child. Or maybe just the Julia Child wannabe, like in “Julie and Julia.” Either way, I want to broaden my cooking horizons and try to make use out of all the fabulous ingredients I find at market. My attempts have been half successes, half learning experiences so far, so I’m inspired to keep going.

  • See two French movies a month
  • While my reading comprehension isn’t bad, I get caught up on dialogue. Especially dialogue that’s going at real-life speed, not the pronounced even keel of my professor. Movies are also a great way to pick up on slang and culture–and French cinemas still give a student discount!

  • Read one French novel a month
  • Une Française à New-York has been collecting dust on my bookshelf for the past few years. I dug it out for the trip over here, and I’ve been laughing at the complete shift in perspective ever since. It’s crazy to read an actual French person’s perspective on America–including her complete disbelief at the fact that we pick up after our dogs and eat lunch in front of our computer! Even though I have to read with a dictionary by my side and can’t get through more than a few pages at a time, I’m really enjoying it and it’s great for my French. Win-win.

    My goals are officially written down and hanging up next to my desk. No more slacking off on Facebook for me–the next few months are all about French language, culture and nightlife, of course!

    How do you keep yourself on track when you’re traveling or living abroad? What are your goals for a trip? How do you measure the success of a “living abroad” experience?

  • When you add wine to the bread and cheese food group, it gets tough. I joined a gym, but you're right, it's definitely NOT convenient. I've got a ball and bands in my apartment and that helps. The endless stairs and walking help too…if I can extract myself from this damned computer! Restaurants are really expensive so I save those for when “the visitors' are here. But I now count dinners at the homes of friends and I work really hard to get those! And I always ask for the recipe. Which usually is “start with such and such, add a little such and such or this and that if you want, cook it until it's done” Most of the such and such's and this and that's I don't recognize! But the fun part is, I'm learning to cook like the French. By what's available and a little inventiveness. Movies are a great idea but I try to watch movies in French that I've already seen in English. It helps me try to figure out what's going on. Historic movies with “old” language are impossible for me however. As for reading…that's a lost cause. I just try to find an old copy of yesterdays newspaper and plow my way through that! My success after living here will be speaking fluent french but more importantly, understanding the way french people think and their view of the world. I'll probably have to stay a long time!

  • Lists are a life saver for me when I'm traveling. Not to-do lists, but lists to keep note of things I hope to write about. I love my iPhone, but a small notebook and a pen can never be replaced!

  • camorose

    Yup! One of my quadrants is now “blog stuff” and I'm always marking down potential post ideas. I was stoked when I saw the “yellow tablet” aka Notes on the iPhone, but it's just not the same as a pen and paper!

  • SoloFriendly

    I am a notorious list-keeper from way back. Like you, if I don't write something down the minute I think of it, I forget it. I keep a to-do list for daily items as well as long-term things, potential blog posts, and of course, my travel to-do lists are pages long. 🙂 It helps me stay organized. I've thought about carrying around a digital recorder, which is quicker than writing things down, but then eventually I'd have to transcribe it anyway, so might as well write it down to begin with.

  • Amanda Plasencia

    Check out evernote.com. It's like the sticky note application on macs, but more user friendly! I loved this blog, I feel that writing to-do lists is the only way that I've been able to survive the year. If you don't like using the internet, look at the moleskin journals. That has also been huge for me in terms of organization! Miss you!

  • kate

    thank you for this. you make me feel less freakish for my compulsive list-making 🙂 i'm the same way- if i don't write it down it doesn't get done/accomplished/finished.

  • camorose

    People always tell me to carry a recorder, but I think the process of writing things down is the best part for me! I love the satisfaction of crossing things off a list 🙂

  • camorose

    I used the teuxdeux.com application for a while, but I always go back to the yellow tablet. I'm becoming my mother more than I'd like to admit!

  • camorose

    I used the teuxdeux.com application for a while, but I always go back to the yellow tablet. I'm becoming my mother more than I'd like to admit!

  • camorose

    I feel like I can remember us both writing lists in the Mac lab ALL THE TIME during class together.

  • I definitely agree with you and the others – nothing beats pen and paper for lists! At any one time I have numerous note books on the go and I'm constantly finding post-its with scribbled notes on 🙂

    For staying in shape, I have found DVD's a good way to diversify my keep fit routine and to stay motived. I bought several on Amazon and try and do them a few times a week. Maybe you could buy French ones and become a pro at French keep fit?

    Good luck with the French novels… I think this one may be hard and if you stick to it you merit a good pat on the back! Despite living in France on and off for 14 years and being fluent, I find reading in French boring – I just cannot get stuck into a book in the same way as I do with an English language book. I always have a French and an English novel on the go at the same time, but somehow the French one never gets finished… maybe that should be my goal?

  • I really need to get into the habit of writing things down when abroad. I have a freakish memory when it comes to remembering places, restaurants, etc., however I feel like my writing is missing something in regards to conversations I hear and have.

  • camorose

    I write epic blog posts in my head, but they're never as good when I finally get around to putting them in print. Can totally relate 🙂

  • camorose

    I have a few DVDs, but I just don't have a really good space to stretch out.
    I think that my novel choice is really key. I'm always super interested to find out what she's going to say about the Americans and our lifestyle next–it keeps me intrigued! It's just so cool to read the opposite perspective. However, I have absolutely NO idea what book I'm going to read next…and keep in mind that I bought this book three years ago and JUST got around to reading it 🙂

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  • Love your goals! I need to write down things too, even if it's a to-do list. I HATE having to-do lists be digital.

  • camorose

    I've used teuxdeux.com and Mac Sticky notes but nothing is the same as a real piece of paper and pen. It's not the same satisfaction when you just delete something–you have to cross it out!

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