Foggy Stairs

Planning Tools for Our International Move

In Other Posts by Jamie

It’s time to get serious about turning that unorganized information into a stepwise action plan.

Pet passports, visas, insurance, international banking,… when you’re moving to a new country there’s a lot to be done. And if you’re also trying to tie-up your career, manage Medicare enrollments, choosw a Social Security strategy, downsize, and what not — planning tools for a successful retirement and international move come in handy.

We’ve settled on four project management tools to organize our transition from working life to retirement.

  • A List of Checklists
  • MeisterTask, a browser based project management app
  • Evernote, a cross-platform app designed for note taking, organizing, and archiving
  • Excel spreadsheets for budget management and cost of living projections

Begin with a List of Checklists

Susan and I both depend on checklists to keep organized on larger projects. Checklists help you make sure nothing is forgotten and help keep projects in scope.

Other Resources

Both MeisterTask and Trello can be integrated with Google Calendar.

Related Posts

So the first thing we did was sit down together to identify all the different checklists we are going to need. We identified 34 individual lists that we sorted out into the 7 family projects that we are going to need to manage successfully in the coming months if we are to realize our goal of settling in to Valencia by the end of September 2017.

Those projects are:

  • Selling the House
  • Disposal of Personal Property (sell, keep, donate or store a lifetime of accumulated stuff)
  • US Accounts (to close/consolidate/transfer/notify)
  • Travel Documents
  • Legal wills and power of attorney
  • Reconnaissance Visit
  • Go Valencia (travel logistics — documents, tickets, transfers, packing lists, etc.)
  • In Valencia (immigration documents, accounts, housing, etc.)

Our list of checklists identified the projects but we still needed a tool to organize the detailed tasks required to complete each project and to track our progress over the next few months.

A Free Project Management Tool for the Task Details

For most of my career project management software was expensive, non-portable, and very complex. In recent years though a couple of browser based project management tools, Trello and MeisterTask, have been developed that are easy to use and the free versions are ideal for our family projects.

I ended up selecting MeisterTask for managing all our projects related to retiring, selling our house, and moving to Spain. My choice was based on the experience I had using it to manage development of training videos for one of my clients. I like the visual appeal, simplicity and flexibility of MeisterTask. And since I started using the tool for our retirement plans, we’ve added an editorial calendar for managing the GentleCycle blog to our MeisterTask account too.

A MeisterTask Project for Moving to Spain

MeisterTask Project Page

A MeisterTask project is basically a web page that has one or more sections laid out horizontally on the page. We use the sections to identify what stage each individual task is at to give us a bird’s eye view of our progress.

Project tasks are individual items that you can drag and drop to reorder them within a section or to move them from section to section. Clicking an individual task reveals notes, checklists, images, attachments, deadline dates, colored labels, and discussion notes.

You can have as many projects as you need—one for “Selling the House,” for example, one for “Spanish Travel Documents,” and so on.

You may want to consider Trello too. It’s also an easy to use planning tool. I think Trello might be a bit harder to get used to, but the Trello team has done an excellent job with the Getting Started materials.

So I’ve started to create detailed plans for each of the seven projects that compose our “Retire and Move to Spain Master Plan”. It’s an on-going process because I add or modify individual tasks that compose each project as I learn more about what needs to be done or how to do something.

Almost every aspect of these projects is new to us, or at least has a new twist to it. So we’ve accumulated lots of notes background information. Getting our notes organized was a bit of a challenge too.

Getting the Research Archive Organized

Over the past several months of information gathering, I skimmed and grabbed anything that seemed even remotely related to our choice to live in Spain. At first everything about Spain was new, there was so much of it, and dang — the important and worthwhile stuff was written in Spanish. So I bookmarked webpages or dumped the notes I made into my Dropbox folder which ended up being the equivalent of a couple huge stacks of paper. Whenever Susan had a retirement question, I was confident the answer was in those virtual stacks — somewhere.

Now that we need that information it’s high time we got our notes and clipped webpages organized. Which is where archive organization features of Evernote come in.

I created an Evernote Notebook for each major “Task” in our seven projects. Then I sorted our individual notes and the articles I clipped from the web into the appropriate notebook. Then I “stacked” (grouped) all of the notebooks related to a project together. To minimize confusion, I made sure to name each notebook and notebook stack in exactly (or almost exactly) the same way I named the corresponding elements in MeisterTask.

Budgets and Cost Projections in Excel

We actually started with an Excel workbook as our only project management tool for the move to Spain. That lasted for almost a month until we decided it was just too cumbersome to use Excel for a project with as many facets as ours. So now we’re using an Excel workbook to track foreign exchange, keep our family budget and create pro forma cost of living projections.

I’m saving the spreadsheet details for a future post so keep an eye on GentleCycle if you’re interested in that.

Jamie Wyant is a retired American.  After living in Valencia, Spain, he set out on a long, slow journey with his wife, Susan, and their senior cats.  He writes about the joys and tribulations of living and traveling gently .  Jamie also manages the technical aspects of