Can an Index Card Make Your Life Better?

On a list of the most vital supplies that any home should have to make it a home, blank index cards probably wouldn’t be on it. And yet, these simple little slips of paper — these rectangular, cheap canvases — could be just the thing to make your life a little bit better this year. Consider these three ways in which you could use an index card to improve your life and home in 2016.

1. It can help you manage your finances

I found this New York Times article, “How Should You Manage Your Money? And Keep It Short”, to be quite interesting. In it, the author shares the title of a book all about using the mighty index card in your financial planning (The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated, a book claiming “everything you need to know about managing your money could fit on an index card.”), which looks like it could be useful in of itself. But the article also asked several other writers to take on the challenge of jotting down ideas on an index card, as well. The bottom of the article features images of the tips on the actual index cards.

Could an exercise like this help you finally master your finances this year? Maybe. It could definitely challenge you to focus on which financial goals are most important to you. By fitting it all on just a small index card, you’re distilling what the most important things about money are in your life, as well as streamlining the advice you’d like to take to its most concentrated advice nugget. This attention to just what matters to you and shortening of sometimes-long-winded money advice could help you finally commit to changes you’d like to make. (The small size also means it’s compact enough to be folded to fit in your wallet when you need to be reminded of your financial goals in the face of a tempting purchase that threatens your budget.)

2. It can help you make and keep new good habits (or break bad ones)

I’m sure he wasn’t the first nor the last to describe this way of getting into the habit of things, but Jerry Seinfeld’s “Don’t-break-the-chain” method of productivity has always stuck with me. As described by this 2007 Lifehacker article (and edited down for space), it’s an old idea, I admit, but still so good:

“He revealed a unique calendar system he uses to pressure himself to write. … He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. … He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. ‘After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.’”

Using this chain method sketched out on a index card (just draw a grid of how many days you want to make the chain challenge), you could help you build good habits this year.

3. It can help you focus your home design and DIY goals for the year

It is EASY to get sidetracked all year long when it comes to DIY and design. Not just from life stuff, but from other decor and DIY ideas that distract you along the way. If you have clear and distinct goals for your home this year, grab an index card and write them down! You can pin it up or tuck it away in a drawer (maybe even keep in your wallet when you go shopping) so you can refer back to it when you’re about to invest a lot of time and money into your home this year. You can make sure that investment is going toward one of the big goals that’s important to you.

More from Apartment Therapy: 

Making the Most of Your Tax Refund in 2016: Ideas for Saving & Spending

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How to Be Your Own Professional Organizer:

Lessons Learned: I Figured Out Everything I Bought for My Home Last Year

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How These 10 Beautiful Weddings Came in Under $10,000

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