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Snow Day – No Car Day!

What did you do on your snow day? If you don’t live in East Tennessee you may be saying, “What snow day?”  We can wake up to several inches of snow. Really, it is nice being home, feeling good and not having a choice to leave.  It is also a great opportunity for a Snow Day Organizing project!

One of my clients with young children says she tries to plan “No Car Days.” That would probably do a lot to reduce our stress as adults if we did that regularly. This area of the country isn’t equipped like the North to clean the roads quickly, and with our hills, mountains and curvy roads, it is smarter to stay home.

On one snow day, I slept in, fixed pancakes for breakfast and then conquered a project on my list – dug through, cleaned out and organized (putting like items together) several drawers of tablecloths and stuff like that.

I did drag my daughter in to show her which ones were family pieces, so in case I croak someone would know where the older ones came from. Maybe I should practice what I preach and label them with their history.

Don’t ask me why they were in these drawers, but at the bottom were several board games, such as Mother Goose. They will stay out because shortly my 3-year old granddaughter will be ready to play them. That is fun to think about!

In the afternoon, I read a book and relaxed. Tomorrow I plan to try a recipe I dug out that I used to make as a teenager, Spanish Cream. Now, if you have looked at my picture on the website, you will realize that that wasn’t yesterday. I wonder if I will even like it, but it will be interesting to see.

I also took a walk in the woods and enjoyed the beautiful snow.

So what do you do on your day at home?

What To Pull Out of Your Files for the New Year

Having a filing system is essential for keeping paperwork under control and holding down the paper piles.

Sometimes, even organizers break their own rules. I had actually gotten behind on filing at home. Recently, I bit the bullet and did all of my neglected home filing for the past 3 months. And the reason this is a “no-no” is because doing it all at once is a terrible job; even listening to Car Talk on the radio wouldn’t take the pain away.

As we start 2018, vow to no longer procrastinate this year and to stay organized. Why not get a head start? Now is a good time to organize, re-prioritize, and purge your files. When doing so, go ahead and pull out:
1. Everything for your 2017 taxes
2. Anything that is considered a “business expense”
3. Any material that you want to focus on in your business in 2018.

In doing so, you will already have a jump-start on the new year. I even recommend doing this frequently to avoid my home-filing situation.

Organizing Golden Rules

Follow these Organizing Golden Rules to guide any organizing project.

Consistency – When you form a good organizing habit, stick with it. Example: Always put your bills in the same place.

Like Items Together – Group information by subject. Name the file by asking yourself what you will be thinking when you need it.

Prime Items in Prime Space – Use it every day–keep it at arm’s reach. Use it once a week or less–you can get up and go get it.

What Will Make Me Need This? – This is a much more decisive question than “Will I ever need this?” Use it for papers in your office or home.

Simple is Smart – Ask yourself: “How and when will I need this in the future?” How it will be used will then tell you how to organize it.

Don’t Forget to WOW Yourself! – Patting yourself on the back will energize you to organize other areas. WOW yourself and keep moving forward!

Reclaiming Your Office

I bet you are wondering if a Professional Organizer ever needs to reclaim her own office. Yes!

Here’s how it went. Even professionals need to work at being Clutter-free & Organized.

I had been working pretty nonstop with clients – in their homes and offices. Plus, I had been
traveling with my business. Also, after every speech there is a certain amount to undo and put
away. Unfortunately, I came home and didn’t follow my own advice to allow for an office reentry day.

So what did I do? Well, if you have read any of my writings, you know I suggest an easy win. So my easy win was to empty all the trash containers. Immediate improvement! Then I practiced what I teach: I started in a corner of my office. That meant taking apart all the material from my Florida speech and getting my speaking case ready for my next presentation. One corner now looked much better.

Next I tackled my desk, which still was covered with material from a coaching session for some certification I am working on. I had left it a mess the night before, after finishing a 9:30 p.m. phone call from a coaching client on the West Coast. I must admit, when I walked out the door of my office that night, “I didn’t care.”

In organizing it is not “now or never”, it is now or later, and my later had come. Per my own advice, I celebrated when I started to see clear space. Then I went for lunch, came back and did some 3-5 minute tasks to get them off my desk. Next, on to organizing my standing desk. I had momentum! I could do it!

Organizing Tip 1. Start with some “easy wins”.
Organizing Tip 2. Start in a corner and work around the room.
Organizing Tip 3. Celebrate your successes. They’ll motivate you to keep going.

Finding Time To Do It All – Make a Plan

“Bad news – time flies
Good news – you are the pilot!”
– Michael Altschuh

How true this little short poem is! A plan can make you a better “time pilot”.

Make a plan to save time and get more done! Try standing up to make your plan. You will be more focused and work faster.

Take control of your schedule by listing what you have to do and then put beside each item an estimated time frame. When I do that, it brings me into reality of what is really do-able for that day. When I see I have 8 hours of items to do and only 5 hours of time, it makes me decide what is really important. I use this system in my office and for my personal projects on the weekends.

For bigger projects you may want a Project Action Plan. Go to www.clutterfree.biz/clutterfree-services/business/  to print one.

1. Stand and list the items to do.
2. Put a time estimate for each item.
3. Reality time – look at the time available and then match it with what is most important to accomplish.

You can also click here to print a Project Action Plan.

Does Your Time Management Go Out the Window with Stress?

The other day, I had a really good day working with a client rescuing a room in her home. It did involve over 3 hours of drive time, so all in all, it was a long day. To top it off I had a one hour Mastermind Call and a one hour teleseminar, plus email to do. I could have skipped the Mastermind Call or the class, but was determined to plow through.

Well, I paid the price. I got my calendar days mixed up and called a coaching client thinking maybe she had forgotten our call, only to find out I had jumped one day ahead. She did laugh and tell me it
made her feel good to know I make mistakes, too. What do you do when you push yourself too far?

The icing on the cake was when I had a cup full of cat food for my garden cats and a cup of bird food in my hand – you guessed it, I poured the bird food in the cat dish. The look on the cats’ faces immediately had me fixing that!

I made myself sit down, take a deep breath, and think about how pushing myself and getting out of balance creates more problems. It isn’t efficient use of my time, and I do not have to be Wonder Woman.

Another telltale sign that I have pushed myself too far is when I stop hanging up my clothes at
the end of the day for several days. It’s a sign that my self-care is out the window.

Do you have signs that are reminders that you need to slow down? Please leave a comment to share.
We can all learn from each other.

Organizing Tip #1
Cramming too much into your day throws time management out the window and increases stress.
Organizing Tip #2
Look for the personal signs that tell you to slow down and honor them. Rethink your schedule of priorities.
Organizing Tip #3
Self-care allows you to give more to the people around you – at your job, at home, in the community. Put yourself on your priority list…at #1!

Clear Your Mind’s Clutter onto Lists, Calendar

Mind ClutterMind Clutter results in lost time, frustration, reduced effectiveness and diminished productivity.

Ever approached your work with the thought, “I have so much to do, I don’t know where to start”?

One of the first things I suggest is a “Mind Clearing.” Let the mind relax by capturing all the To-Dos on paper. If some items are like tangled webs, the use of a project-action plan or a white board can untangle them.

Relief is almost immediate, because the mind has space to think and process what is important. Even if you are not in control of the projects you’re assigned, making the To-Do List can be calming. Suddenly there is clear space, freedom to think. This leads to deciding what is most important and to making a step-by-step plan to get it done.

Put work you are concerned about on your calendar even if it is scheduled out several months. Unfinished projects contribute to our mental clutter.

Time management specialist David Allen says: “It is not that we have too much to do. We have too many things left unfinished.”

Creating focus time is a way to get projects done and eliminated from your To-Do List. Do you work best focused for long periods on one project or do you do best with variety in your day?

You can do in 15 minutes what will take you an hour with interruption, so build into your schedule an
uninterrupted hour to focus on a project.

Here are some ways to make sure that hour is uninterrupted:
– Explain to others why you are letting voicemail answer your calls.
– Move to another space, for example, an empty conference room.
– Put a sign on your door that says “Working on a project. I will be available at 11:00.”
– Turn off the email notification and your phone.

An hour of focus on a task/project allows you to stretch your prime time and complete projects. This will have a tremendous effect on eliminating mind clutter. An added benefit could be that you get work done that you normally come in early or on Saturday to do.

Grab a sheet of paper, a whiteboard or your favorite electronic tool to do the Mind Clearing.

Next look at your calendar and schedule some blocks of focus time.

Taking these steps will reduce your mind clutter, leaving you clearheaded and moving forward to accomplish your goals.

Quick Kitchen Organizing Project

Taking my own advice in the kitchen. . . .

Recently as I tried to close the kitchen drawer which holds my plastic lids for storage containers, I realized I had to do something. Lids were trying their best to jump out, crawl out, or fall out the bottom onto the kitchen floor; there were just too many pieces in the drawer.

Time to have a Lid Party! So this morning, I took all the lids out and put like ones together. Taking all of them out at once would make me finish the project. Next, I emptied the drawer that was filled with all the bottoms and put like sizes together. Then I matched bottoms to tops.

You guessed it – a number of items without matches. All right, I confess: 6 bottoms with no tops and 25 tops with no bottoms. I think that container tops and bottoms are like clothes hangers – they multiply at night when you can’t see them do it.

Finally, I checked the refrigerator and dishwasher to make sure none of the matches were hiding from me. Then out went all the unmatched pieces. How wonderful to be able to close those kitchen drawers!

Organizing Tips:
1. Don’t be overwhelmed by this mini-project for the kitchen. It’s quick, fun and immediately satisfying. Get
your children to help!

2. Once your matches are made, ask yourself the Clutterfree & Organized question: “What
will make me need this?” Be honest, you probably don’t need a dozen old chicken salad containers.

3. Reuse, recycle, donate! Use the containers for crafts, crayons, picture hangers, uncooked
pasta…you get the idea. Be sure to use a sharpie and write in bold letters what you are
storing in them. Give friends in need a lovely little meal and invite them to keep the
containers. Could a senior center use the containers for game pieces, sewing bits and pieces,
craft projects?

What ideas can you come up with to organize your kitchen drawers? Please share them with me!

Are You Always Running Late?

Do you often find yourself asking, “Why am I always running late, although I think I am leaving on time?” Running late creates Mind Clutter and negative mind chatter.

The solution is to understand The Gap. Planning for The Gap will get you to work and to business meetings on time. Plan for The Gap any time you have a set time you need to arrive somewhere.

You are probably wondering, “What is the Gap?” The Gap is the difference between when you think you are leaving and when you actually leave. Standing in your kitchen and telling yourself it is time to leave for work is not planning for The Gap. The time you actually leave is when you pull out of the driveway and go on your way.

The Gap includes the time it takes you to go out the door, get into the car, and pull out of the driveway.
The Gap may also include going back to the house for something you forgot, such as a bottle of water or feeding the cat. If you allow 10 minutes for The Gap, you’re probably safe. If you have children, 15 minutes may be more realistic.

Once you are at work, planning for The Gap will also help you get to meetings or appointments on time. Just as when you are leaving your house, The Gap includes the time it takes to gather materials for a meeting and tie up any loose ends.

Work through these steps while planning for The Gap:
– What time are you expected to be at your desk? What time is your appointment or meeting?
– Decide what time you could arrive and have a few minutes to breathe and be calm.
– Take into consideration what time you need to plan to leave if traffic is heavy or if you need to gather materials for your meeting or do one-more-thing.
– Determine the time you normally would plan to leave for work or for your meeting.
– Now add 10-15 minutes so you can arrive on time and stress-free.

Another thing to be aware of is “one-more-thing-itis”. This also can make you late for work or for a meeting. You could leave now but that means you might arrive a few minutes early so you think, “ I can do one more thing”. That is what gets many of us, including me, in trouble because the one-more-thing takes longer than you thought or it leads to another one-more-thing.

The key is to be okay with leaving a few minutes early. For those of us who fear that we might end up wasting 10 minutes with nothing to do if we get somewhere early, keep a book or an unread magazine in your car or spend the time reviewing your calendar.

Changing our departure habits takes focusing on the clock and being realistic. Planning for The Gap will get you to work and to business meetings on time. Once I started planning for The Gap, I was no longer pulling out of my driveway stressed or leaving my office uptight. In fact, my whole day went much better. See if you don’t feel the same positive effects.

Being Connected 24/7 is Counterproductive

Being available 24 hours a day, seven days a week is not something people decided — the trend has crept up on us silently like a fog. From the 1960s through the 1980s, many professionals went to work at 8 in the morning and left at 5 in the evening. Work rarely interfered with personal lives, with the exception of physicians.

For many of us that schedule is inconceivable. Some companies now demand you request permission to leave behind the laptop when you vacation. Seventy-five percent of vacationing employees check in by phone or email, some several times a day. As time management consultant and author Harold Taylor notes, “Work is no longer a place you go to and then leave.”

Should we accept this as the new normal, or is there reason to be concerned?

Many studies have concluded this constant connection is creating high levels of stress. And that causes a myriad of other issues including higher risk of heart conditions and problems with concentration and memory that affect work performance. Up to 90 percent of all primary health-care visits are related to stress, costing the U.S. economy $1.1 trillion in lost production and $277 billion in treatment for everything from heart disease to skin disorders.

Dr. Edward Hallowell, author of “Crazy Busy,” sees many people who can’t focus, are forgetful and think they have attention-deficit disorder. He labels their condition “attention-deficit trait.” Almost half of all American workers don’t take their vacation days. Apart from the health risks, people who don’t get out of the office tend to be less creative, less productive and, ultimately, less effective. To improve performance, people need to take time off.

Can you take control?

To develop the mindset that technology should work for you will require you change some habits and readjust your thinking. Consider the bottom-line benefits to you personally, to your family and to your career.

Deciding on real motivation to change is key to making the change. Here are some ways you can take back control:
– Set boundaries on how often you check email. If the idea of not being constantly available makes you nervous, start checking your email every 15 minutes and gradually build up to an hour, then two hours. Having your email notification constantly on is death to productivity.
– If you have a project that needs your full attention, turn off all communication devices. You will be surprised at how much faster you will complete the project when you give it your total focus.
– Do you get jittery thinking about going to lunch and leaving your cell phone in the car? A client of mine said she forgot to take in her cell phone to a lunch event and never enjoyed anything so much.
– Take your vacation. Start the year by scheduling time on your calendar.
– Have a no tech day. Resume your hobbies. Often our best ideas come to us when we are having down time.

Trying to be productive by being connected via technology 24/7 is counterproductive. Instead, we increase our stress, make more errors, find it difficult to focus and get our lives out of balance. Start thinking about time management in a holistic way and control technology so it works for you. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.”