No matter how busy you get, there are some things you should not forget

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All of us are very busy.  We have consuming jobs, families, businesses to manage and errands to run.  If you are in the process of simultaneously working full-time as an employee and building a business on the side, your time pressures are even more extreme.

This is no excuse for letting certain things slide.

I called my best friend Desiree today (Tuesday) to catch up on the latest from her corner of Americus, Georgia.  And during the course of our conversation, she let it slip that her birthday was on Sunday.  Yeah, the Sunday as in two days ago, the one that I, her best friend, forgot.  Despite the fact that we had chatted about it on the phone last Thursday.

After apologizing profusely, I couldn’t shake the very crappy feeling I had for letting the details of my life overtake that which I hold most dear.  It got me thinking:

There are certain things you should never let slide such as:

  • The birthdays of your spouse and kids
  • The birthdays of your parents
  • The birthdays of your grandparents
  • The birthdays of your siblings
  • The birthday of your best friend
  • Your wedding anniversary (if married)
  • Uttering (with real feeling) the words “I love you” to your spouse and kids each day

I don’t say this to guilt trip anyone, for guilt is highly overrated and generally leads to misery, not action.  I say it so that you make sure to do the following things:

  1. Create your own list of “I must remember these dates.” Don’t make it too big — no one cares if you don’t send a Saint Patrick’s day or Halloween card.
  2. Examine each item, and decide what action you want to take on each.  For some, it may be just a phone call.  For others, it is buying and shipping a gift or setting aside a whole day to spend time together.
  3. Place each item with the corresponding time required in your calendar.  So if your brother lives across country and you want to send a gift as well as call, put one date for “ship present to bro” and another (on the birthday itself) for “call bro and wish happy b-day.” If you are really into organizing, schedule time to shop for and buy the gift as well.
  4. Get a system of accountability in place to make sure you complete the task.  Sometimes calendaring the item isn’t enough.  You may need to send a post-dated email to yourself to remind you.  Or have your assistant (if you have one) put it in his/her tickler system for you.  Or put a huge post-it note on your bathroom window.  Whatever it takes for you personally to get it done.

Human relationships are fragile.  I have learned this the hard way by being “too busy” and letting some precious friendships slip through my fingers.

Desiree and I have been through a lot together in our 22+ years of friendship, so I know this is not a deal-breaker.  It will not stop us from cackling with no teeth in our rocking chairs when we are 92. But I do know that it has motivated me to step up and take action so that it doesn’t happen again.

Learn from my mistake — get your “important” list done today.

10 Responses to “No matter how busy you get, there are some things you should not forget”

  1. This one struck a chord … it’s amazing and/or frightening how many holidays and birthdays have seemed to “sneak up on me” since I started working for myself a couple of years ago.

    Working without a time clock is a wonderful thing and I wouldn’t go back if there were a shotgun in my back. But the downside is creating a mental timeclock and remembering it’s okay to punch out once in a while, lest you miss everything that really matters.

    (Note: as a married male, I’m not including anniversaries – aren’t we supposed to forget those?)

  2. John Trosko says:

    I am a big believer that the important things will always squeeze through, no matter how organized you are.

    But I feel there’s a difference between the things you have to do, vs. the things you want to do.

    It’s the things you want to do that require a little upkeep, and list-making.

    That’s what makes life fulfulling.

  3. >>>> Don’t forget to call your mom.

    And for that matter, also dads like to get some spontaneous attention now and then, not because you need something, but because you care.


  4. andy says:

    I rely on my wife’s system: she makes a note of the date/event on the calendar on the side of our fridge.

    Each year, when she buys a new calendar, she sits down and copies over the important dates to the new one. We don’t ever really look at it and think “Oh, crap, so-and-so’s birthday is tomorrow” but we do have that general, nagging feeling of something coming up and then check the calendar.

    For me, a fully automated reminder (as I’ve seen online) seems too artificial… that is, your special day wasn’t important enough for me to vaguely commit to memory, but thanks to the internet “happy birthday to you.”

    I think Pam’s approach above balances out those concerns.

  5. This is an excellent topic – I think that birthday cards or e-mails is a great way to keep in touch with professional contacts as well as friends. If you don’t do anything else with your professional contacts at least a thoughtful card or note once a year on their special day can go a long ways.

    I found these pages from a google search to help you keep track of birthdays:

    Also, in, in the free version, you can add a birthday to any contact and say you want a reminder e-mail sent to you x days before the birthday. That way you can give yourself a few days notice to get a card in the mail. You can also get a 5-week view of who’d birthday is coming up!

  6. MyNameIsMatt says:

    I’m personally not a big birthday person, so that probably explains my reaction some, but I don’t go out of my way to remember things like birthdays, and if there’s any kind of social obligation to offer a gift, then I’m less likely to perk up to it. I get this superficial sense of being driven by an affluent consumer culture. Not everyone’s like me, though, so I don’t mean to offend.

    I agree about not getting so wrapped up that you overlook little things, especially things that are important and meaningful to those you care about. If that’s a birthday, fine. I try making each opportunity meaningful and special in my life, but it’s more the meaningless moments that I look forward to than the typical moments that society’s built up. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely look for any excuse to party, so I’ll take advantage of what I can, but even without a reason you shouldn’t need one when you’re around the right people as I’ve found your best friends are those that stick around when nothing special is happening.

  7. The sad truth is that it’s all too easy to forget to do the little things for the people we love – because we know they’ll forgive us for nearly anything. It’s ironic that the relationships that mean the most are the ones we tend to take for granted when the business of life gets too hectic, don’t you think? Thanks, as always, for terrific food for thought.

  8. One thing that gives you a big shock is when someone you always meant to get to know better or whose birthday you forgot gets diagnosed with a terminal illness. That is happening to me all too often these days, and it is making me use those Plaxo reminders I used to blow off.

  9. Pam you are a Peach! So when is your birthday? Mine is August 24 Virgo man with a lotta Leo I think!!
    Pam, Happy Birthday a little early or belated as necessary!!

  10. David says:

    I totally second what you’re saying. Little things mean a lot sometimes.

    One thing I discovered to remind me of important dates is the special date reminders in Obviously, they’re there to make you remember to BUY things for people; but no one is forcing you to do that. I put a ton of important birthdays and other dates in there; for each date, you can set it up to remind you 30, 15, 7, etc, days in advance, or even set up more than one reminder in advance. For people far away, I get reminded with enough lead time to send out a physical card or gift. It’s great.

    I’m sure there are a lot of other web apps that allow you to do this, but since I use Amazon anyway, this is a good one for me.