All You Need To Know About Time Management

By Carmen Coker

When it comes to your life, would you categorize yourself as…

a. A highly effective person?
b. A moderately effective person?
c. A poorly effective person?

Now, here is the cold, hard truth about your answer, no matter which it may be: YOU CAN BE BETTER.

Granted, this very truth brings up the million-dollar question: how?

The answer is simpler than you think! Better yet, the effects are immediate. Even better still, it is a rinse-and-repeat system that will take your time management and productivity skills to new heights.

The Big Reveal

In life, there are those individuals who are goal-setters and those who are goal-getters. A goal-setter is someone who either likes the idea of or is very good at setting goals, but doesn’t put the necessary actions behind them. As such, the goals never come to life and remain well-meaning (but worthless) words on paper. On the other hand, a goal-getter doesn’t just set and believe in goals, but also has the follow-through to achieve them.

Dr. Stephen R. Covey wrote about the secret of goal-getters in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “The key is not to prioritize your schedule but to schedule your priorities.”

A-ha! Much of what comes into your day – emails, text messages, phone calls, meetings, snail mail, conversations – they are just vehicles for other people’s priorities in your life. If you always schedule in “all that stuff” first, then there will always be little to no room for your own priorities, goals, and dreams.

The Ins & Outs

This is the very reason why you should trust your priorities to help you make decisions, infuse your priorities into your daily routines, and stick to your priorities, no matter what challenges you face. In the end, doing so is the best way to avoid common time-sinks like lack of focus and procrastination.

Here are three guidelines to defining your priorities and becoming a goal-getter who is the envy of everyone around you:

1 – Deep down, you are driven by a set of core values and principles. For example, maybe you are motivated by faith, family, excellence, independence, love, power, honesty, wealth – or maybe a mixture of. From the get-go, decide what these values are. They will set the tone for your goal-getting success.

2 – Brainstorm the wish list of objectives that you would like to accomplish, either in the short-term or long-term. Next, break this wish list down into projects and tasks.

3 – Calendar out the projects and tasks in order of importance and also set a date for project completion.

REMEMBER: act as the gatekeeper for your time. Before putting anything on your schedule, ask if it will support your priorities – fully, partially, or not at all. While there will be surprises and unavoidable hiccups here and there, stick to your schedule as much as possible.

The Bottom Line

Your priorities act as your internal compass, helping you to stay focused, make clear decisions, and feel balanced and fulfilled. A highly productive person uses his/her values to guide every step, including how and where to spend time. Here’s how you can learn more and get started today!

Ready for more time in your life? Download your FREE copy of The Ultimate Productivity Planner™ right now, and start saving 90 minutes (or more) every day…even if you think time management is a myth!

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Jerry Seinfeld’s Surprising Tip To Increase Productivity

By Carmen Coker

Have you ever had to do something day-in and day-out, and you didn’t really feel like it? (Go to work, anyone?! What about organize the house…wash dishes…do laundry…mow the lawn?)

Betcha didn’t know that comedian Jerry Seinfeld, of all people, can help you out with your case (or cases) of the really-don’t-feel-like-it blues.

Seinfeld was once asked about his secret tips for success and productivity. To which he said: “Don’t break the chain.”

He went on to explain that, in order to be a good comedian, he needed to write every single day. BUT sometimes he didn’t feel like it.

So he would put a big red “X” on his calendar every time he sat down to write. Day after day, he would make the “X’s” across the board until, eventually, he had a long chain. His ultimate goal was to not break that chain, and this idea was enough to motivate him to keep writing the many jokes and skits that have made us laugh throughout the years, even when the desire to do so wasn’t really there.

Interestingly, there are lots of applications of “don’t break the chain” – daily, weekly, biweekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, etc. For more, watch this:

Today’s easy organizing challenge is to follow in Jerry Seinfeld’s footsteps, considering where and how you aren’t being organized or productive in your home, work, or life. Then pick one area and create the longest chain of X’s possible! For example:

  • Environmentally…

I haven’t organized my files in months. To declutter, I will spend 90 minutes each Saturday morning organizing my file cabinet until it’s complete.

  • Mentally…

I could finish this project in a week’s time, but I’ve been procrastinating on it for ages. To get this off my plate (finally!) and clear my mind, I will spend an hour every night this week until it’s d-o-n-e.

  • Socially…

I have so many people to email and call back! To be a better friend, I will make a list of these individuals, and contact one per day until every last person is checked off the list.

  • Personally…

I want to lose 10 pounds. To get healthy, I will exercise every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday until I reach my goal weight – then keep exercising every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to maintain.

  • Emotionally…

I never take any time off. To get some much needed R&R, I’m going to plan one getaway each quarter, actually GO, and…enjoy!

Want Bigger Results? Instead of picking just one area where you aren’t being your most organized and productive, pick ten areas to “chain” one at a time. As soon as you complete the first chain (area), roll right into the second, then third, and so on.

Carmen Coker is a former US Air Force officer turned professional organizer. If you want to whiz through to-do’s quicker than ever before, she recommends (& uses!) this FREE MP3 to boost productivity. Try it, and…get stuff done!

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Finding Time – As Seen In The Washington Post

By Carmen Coker

Would you agree that FINDING TIME for your most important life goals is often difficult to do when you are juggling a busy schedule?

What’s worse, for the time-starved, the ick factor doesn’t just stop at the basic frustration of not finding time! These nasty feelings come right along with it:

  • Unfulfilled (Am I ever going to…? I said I wanted to do that years ago.)
  • Uninspired (I do the same thing day in, day out. I can’t ever seem to squeeze in some fun!)
  • Unhappy (This is not the way I want my life to be. I want to dream, explore, live! But instead I feel like I’m just existing.)
  • Undone (I always do and do for everyone else, but what about me?!)
  • Unorganized (Others seem to be moving and shaking through life. Am I the only one who can’t get it together?)

There’s no doubt about it – if you remain disconnected from your life goals and aspirations, big or small, you will always feel unbalanced and unsatisfied.

Take Deb Hardy, for example. Deb is a 48-year-old creative spirit who lives in Seattle. When I first met Deb, by day, she enjoyed her job at a large technology firm, so much so that she put all her energy into it. But, by night, she had little to nothing left for anything else when she got home, except a little TV watching and internet surfing.

What Deb discovered was that work, TV, and internet didn’t truly feed her soul – she really wanted to find time for art. She explained that “I’ve started to feel like a fraud. I call myself an artist, but I’m not making any art.”

Compounding her general dissatisfaction, Deb admitted: “I have this mental block, where I feel life is all about obligation, drudgery, doing what I should do, making other people happy, never disappointing anyone. I must have been a Puritan in a former life.”

Can you relate? All work and no play, well…you know the how the saying ends.

Fortunately, through The Washington Post’s Timehacker project, I was paired with Deb to help her solve the problem of finding time to live her life more fully and creatively.

Here are the top finding-time tips and takeaways from our sessions:

  1. Identify your top five values. Once you do, it’s easier to see if your actions are in line with your values. And if they’re not, once you have a clearer idea of what’s important, you’ll have more impetus to change.
  2. Schedule time for fun first, before anything else. Otherwise, you’re trying to “squeeze” it in, and that rarely works. When you schedule something, it shows it’s significant to you, and you’re more likely to follow through and make it real.
  3. Figure out what you have to let go of in order to make time for what you really want. Ask people you trust for their honest opinions and constructive feedback of how you spend your time.
  4. Find the space, not just in the calendar, but the physical space, to create art, and make the space inviting and organized, so you’ll be drawn to spend time there.

You can read more about Deb’s journey to finding time, including how she applied the above tips (and more!) to her life and what challenges she overcame in doing so, in the full article in The Washington Post.

In the end, Deb realized that she had not made “fun and play a priority for many, many years.” Which is why, she created this artwork to inspire:

Deb Hardy art

Artwork by Deb Hardy

Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted. Well said, Deb! Truth is, you can’t be your most productive self unless you take time to relax, rejuvenate, and regroup – and enjoy your life goals as you go.

Carmen Coker is a former US Air Force officer turned professional organizer. Thousands of busy people have benefited from her expertise featured by CBS, NBC, The Washington Post and Real Simple magazine – now it’s your turn! If you want to get organized and calm the chaos in your life, go to CarmenCoker.com for her free video how-to called the Secrets of the Super Organized™.

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How to Stop Procrastinating

By Carmen Coker

I find that, when it comes to organization, getting started is half the battle.

If you’re procrastinating on an organizing project, the key to pushing past the procrastination is to find out what motivates you. Know your motivators before a wave of procrastination hits, and you’ll be prepared to deal with it — head-on — as soon as it arrives.

So ask yourself, “What makes me want to get things done? To get organized?”

Here are some possibilities…

(1) Free time.

It’s well-established that if you simplify life, you save time.

But just how much time, exactly, will you save? US News and World Report recently demonstrated that the average American spends 1 year of their life looking for lost or misplaced items at home and in the office.

1 year = 365 days = 8,760 hours = 525,600 minutes = 31,536,000 seconds

Any way you put it — it’s a lot of time! A lot of time you could have been doing other things…

(2) Money.

Think about your biggest organizing problem. Let’s just say, for example, that it’s your home office.

Assume that you’re losing $20 a week ($3 a day) in personal resources — lost time, energy, productivity, sanity — because you don’t have an effective organizing system in place. (It’s probably much more than $3/ day, but we’ll go for a moderate amount.)

Imagine you decide against de-cluttering your home office and continue down the same unorganized path for the next 5 years. You will lose over $5000 of resources!

Although that $5000 is just a hypothetical figure, it puts disorganization in a whole new light.

(3) Positive energy.

According to the book The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People by Dr. David Niven, it’s important to establish a schedule to take your tasks from “To Do” to “To Done.”

Dr. Niven writes: “We often feel overwhelmed by the chores that have to be done on a regular basis. We clean the kitchen, then the living room needs to be vacuumed…and 16 other things need to be done. With a routine, you will not be lost in wondering what’s next.”

Precisely how much will a household routine boost your level of happiness? 100 Simple Secrets explains: “In a study of families, regularity in household routines improved daily personal satisfaction by about 5%.”

(4) Shaping your destiny.

I realize that for some of you out there, home organization may be just about as fun as boot camp. But in this day in age, when life keeps getting crazier and crazier, you can’t afford not to be organized!

Dr. Wayne Dyer once said, “Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice.”

Isn’t that so true? It definitely applies to organizing…

If you know you have to get organized, you can choose to procrastinate, and your disorganization will just cause you more frustration. Or you can choose to get motivated, get organized, and truly know the freedom that comes with it.

It’s always your choice…

(5) Tough love.

There can be some undesirable consequences that accompany disorganization.

– Can’t find your keys in the mornings = late for work

– Forget a birthday = guilty feelings (you) and hurt feelings (birthday boy or girl)

– Neglect to declutter the house = embarrassing mess to explain away to visitors

– Pack a suitcase without a purpose = too many socks and too few undies

– Pay a bill after it’s due = excess late fees

– Overlook expired car registration = traffic ticket and possible fines

I’m sure you could add a few more examples to this list!

It’s time to get organized — and stop putting yourself in situations where you wish that you had made organization a priority. Shoulda, coulda, woulda.

For the purpose of this article, I’ve applied the above motivators to organizing specifically. But you can relate this same formula to other areas of your life where procrastination plagues you.

Knowing your strong inner motivators + Knowing where you’re vulnerable to procrastination = Knowing how to push past procrastination

It’s that simple. Although sometimes we tend to make it harder than that!

Martin Luther, German priest and scholar, opined “How soon ‘not now’ becomes ‘never’.” Your “nows” are fleeting — don’t let them slip away!

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3 Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Organizing Goals

By Carmen Coker

If you want to get organized and stay organized, you may need to change how you approach the process in order to get the most out of it. Common organizing mistakes such as picking out the wrong organizers may be the reason why you can’t get organized even though you’re giving it your all. Here are three typical problems people encounter when trying to get organized – and how to fix them – getting you back on the path to big organizing results.

Problem 1: You copy an organizing idea that looks good on paper.

Ever tried an organizing idea from a magazine, and it never really worked for you? The reason this failure likely happens is you try to achieve an organizing ideal – or what you believe organizing should be – instead of organizing according to your own rules. Break this pattern by crafting systems that work with your habits, routines, personality, and lifestyle – systems you love – rather than trying to copy what looks good in glossy magazines.

Problem 2: You try to accomplish too much organizing at once.

It’s a safe bet that the clutter in your life did not build up overnight. It likely has taken days, weeks, months, or maybe even years to become so … messy! In the same respect, getting rid of clutter is typically not an overnight success. For you, as it is for many people, this realization can become so overwhelming that it stops you in your tracks. Counteract this overwhelm by breaking larger organizing projects into smaller, bite-sized tasks. Then (realistically) schedule those tasks on your calendar, and follow through.

Problem 3: You don’t use flexible storage and organizing solutions.

To illustrate what a flexible storage option is, it’s best to describe what it is not. For example, non-adjustable shelves might hinder your organizing attempts, as you could run into dimension issues. Avoid this setback altogether by investing in organizers that can adapt to your personal needs, ones that modify, extend or retract, move, or otherwise give you additional flexibility.

How have these common organizing mistakes sabotaged your organizing goals? Please let me know your thoughts, experiences, ideas, and other comments below.

Carmen Coker is a former US Air Force officer turned professional organizer. Thousands of busy people have benefited from her expertise featured by CBS, NBC, The Washington Post and Real Simple magazine – now it’s your turn! If you want to get organized and calm the chaos in your life, go to CarmenCoker.com for her free video how-to called the Secrets of the Super Organized™.

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This Idea Will Change The Way You Organize Your Time

By Carmen Coker

A popular Zen parable tells of a Wanderer who happened upon a raging river. He wanted to cross it, but there was no bridge.

Afraid to wade across the river on foot with such a strong current, he spent hours building his own raft from vines and trees, which ultimately carried him safely to the other side.

However, once across the river, he thought to himself: “This is a good raft; I might need it again if I must forge another river.”

So the Wanderer carried the raft with him for the rest of his life.

The Big Reveal

From the outside looking in, the Wanderer’s decision might seem ridiculous. Why would this obviously resourceful guy carry a heavy raft around when he didn’t need to do so?

Often times, we make this same decision in our own life. In doing so, we hang on to something that was useful at one point but has since become irrelevant clutter.

Now, your “rafts” may come in various shapes and forms – maybe it’s too many commitments, maybe it’s a poor-fit household routine, or maybe it’s too much stuff. No matter, the underlying question remains the same: Is this clutter in your schedule, in your work, in your life holding you back?

The Ins & Outs

It’s important to be fiercely protective of not only your time and how you spend it, but also your space and what you bring into it. Wise decisions about your time and space allow you to preserve these precious resources, whereas foolish decisions can do just the opposite.

No one wants to play the fool! So to help you make those wise decisions – and help you release the “rafts” that are taking over your calendar, wasting your time, and diminishing your space – answer these five questions:

1. What areas of my home/work life could benefit from systems like checklists, automation, etc?

2. What commitments no longer support my top priorities and should be erased from my calendar?

3. Where does clutter stop me from enjoying and/or fully utilizing my home/office space, and how can the clutter be removed?

4. Where do I waste time and/or procrastinate throughout the day, and how can I stop doing so?

5. What are the biggest things about my life that I/my family complain about, and how can I/we smartly resolve these issues?

The Bottom Line

“Rafts” that clutter your mind, your time, and your space (amongst others!) are all stumbling blocks to your best life. A highly organized and productive person understands that doing less and having less often means creating more time and space for the things that truly matter.

So…where can you remove clutter that may be hindering your quality of life?

Carmen Coker is a former US Air Force officer turned professional organizer. Thousands of busy people have benefited from her expertise featured by CBS, NBC, The Washington Post and Real Simple magazine – now it’s your turn! If you want to get organized and calm the chaos in your life, go to CarmenCoker.com for her free video how-to called the Secrets of the Super Organized™.

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Five Simplify-Life Tips From Albert Einstein

By Carmen Coker

Click here to download and print off your motivational poster.

In today’s fast-paced world, it is normal to crave simplicity and serenity – and lots of it. The modern view of

1) Learn to say “no”.“simplifying life” focuses less on doing without (unless that is your preference) and more on

bench sitting

slowing down, enjoying balance, and experiencing fulfillment. Here are five timeless lessons about simplicity from Albert Einstein – and how you can apply his genius to your own life, simplified.

Einstein’s connection with the Jewish people was said to be the strongest bond in his life, yet when he was offered the presidency of Israel, he politely declined the invitation.

[EINSTEIN-LIKE FIX] A lot of people say time management is getting more done in less time. Wrong emphasis! In reality, using time wisely is getting more – more of what is really important to you – done, and ignoring the rest. Only say “yes” to commitments that support your personal priorities and values, and say “no” to those commitments that don’t – even if it is as important as a presidency.

2) Change things up.

Einstein once explained his idea of insanity as: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

[EINSTEIN-LIKE FIX] It’s true – if you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you always got. If you want to simplify and get organized, yet you keep doing the same things that hold your life in chaos, then your life will never change. Step out of your comfort zone and try something new, better, and different in the realm of simplicity – something that will stretch your idea of what is possible.

3) Use smart systems.

Witnesses claim Einstein did not rely on memory to recall his phone number – he referenced a phone book instead.

[EINSTEIN-LIKE FIX] With an estimated 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts a day, there is a lot of competition for attention inside your head. While your brain is an amazing organ, the odds are stacked against you that you will remember everything important. Find or create your own system to track essential information, even if it is as basic as using a phone book!

4) Take regular breaks.

It is believed that Einstein conceived the theory of relativity, not while holed up inside a high-tech laboratory, but rather while riding his bicycle.

[EINSTEIN-LIKE FIX] Although it may seem counter-intuitive, our minds need an occasional rest in order to remain alert, productive, and creative. Schedule regular 20-minute breaks into your daily schedule, using your break time to truly disconnect from your work with fun activities to boost your energy and cognitive power like meditation, a water-cooler chat, or a short Einstein-approved bike ride.

5) Visualize what you want.

Einstein’s greatest breakthroughs in science were born from Gedankenexperiment, or visual experiments carried out in his mind.

[EINSTEIN-LIKE FIX] For many years, visualization techniques have been used in areas like health, athletics, education, business, the arts, and science to break boundaries, create positive change, and facilitate success – amongst others. Visualize your path to simplicity, envision reaching beyond the grasp of chaos and clutter, and take your simplify-life results to the next level.

Carmen Coker is a former US Air Force officer turned professional organizer. If you want to get organized and calm the chaos in your life, go to CarmenCoker.com for her free video how-to called the Secrets of the Super Organized™.

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Quiet The Chaos! Work-Life Balance Tips That Work

By Carmen Coker

Have you ever been at home, and yet thinking of something that needs to be done at work? Or been at work, and yet thinking of something that needs to be done at home?

No matter if you try to separate them, your personal life and work life are intrinsically linked. That is to say, if you feel unbalanced personally, then that feeling can bleed into your work life and leave you feeling unbalanced professionally – or vice versa.  This is a fact that many articles with work-life balance tips fail to mention.

This linkage is especially problematic for women who tend to become emotionally attached to both home and office, and it even affects celebrities, who typically have assistants to help them manage their mounting to-do list. Kelly Ripa, co-host of Live! with Kelly and Michael, shared: “I’m like any working mom. When I’m at work, I’m remembering what I forgot to do for the kids, and when I’m with the kids, I’m remembering what I forgot to do at work.”

couchWhen you are feeling unbalanced, in order to find relief, you must become aware of your clutter.

Now, you may be thinking: “I know where my clutter is! I trip over it every morning on the way to the bathroom.”

But that’s just the problem! We tend to think of clutter as “stuff” in our space: piles of paper on the desk, clusters of toys on the rug, and mounds of mail on the kitchen counter.

While this is true, there are other types of clutter that can creep into your life.

For example:

  • Do you over-commit to people, organizations, or causes? Then you have something that clutters your schedule.
  • Do you have someone in your life that bleeds your energy and patience, so much so that the very mention of their name causes you great stress? Then you have something that clutters your spirit.
  • Do you look for a distraction, like a TV show, whenever you know you have work to be done? Then you have something that clutters your habit patterns.

Clutter can permeate more than just your surroundings; clutter can permeate all or parts of you. In the same respect, organizing is more than managing your belongings. Organizing is managing you – all parts of you – so that you feel balanced and in control.

So the next time you seem discombobulated … stressed … overwhelmed … chaotic … unbalanced … then examine the areas of your life – both at home and at work – that need to be de-cluttered. This will ultimately help you pinpoint the source of the problem so that you can find relief fast.

Carmen Coker is a former US Air Force officer turned professional organizer. If you want to get organized and calm the chaos in your life, go to CarmenCoker.com for her free video how-to called the Secrets of the Super Organized™.

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The Secret To Becoming A Productivity Superstar

By Carmen Coker

There’s likely not a day that goes by where you, or someone around you, comments on how time flies or time is money.  It’s a given that you know how important time is, but … how do you make the most of it?

Traditional productivity strategies tend to emphasize “getting things done” through managing lists, goals, priorities, plans, and calendars. Indeed, all those facets of productivity are important and should not be discounted.

But there are multiple components to productivity – physical, mental, emotional – and these traditional productivity strategies often overlook something, without which, your productivity will remain low … unsatisfactory … broken.

And that something is: ENERGY MANAGEMENT.

If you are unable to manage your energy, the hard truth is that all the productivity strategies in the world will not help you. Maintaining high to moderately high energy levels isn’t difficult, you simply must find the best ways in which your body responds. For example:

1) EATwise
Garbage in, garbage out. It’s no secret that what you ingest into your body has a direct correlation to your drive and output. So, step away from the chips and soda …

2) SLEEPwise
Your energy levels today start the night before. Make sure you go to bed early enough to get the right amount of ZZZ’s you need.

3) BREAKwise
It is believed that Einstein conceived the theory of relativity while riding his bicycle. Research backs up this example – skipping break time actually decreases your productivity and creativity.

4) MINDwise
Safeguard what gets into your head because that will influence your attitude. As much as possible, avoid negative people, vibes, or news, and surround yourself with positive people and environments.

5) SPACEwise
Clutter zaps your energy on a subconscious level, whether you realize it or not. Keeping a tidy space will free up the energy once consumed by clutter for other more important things.

REMEMBER: don’t be deceived by the simplicity of the above suggestions. When used in combination with traditional productivity strategies like list-making and prioritizing, you will reach productivity superstardom!

keyboard

Carmen Coker is a former US Air Force officer turned professional organizer. If you want to get organized and calm the chaos in your life, go to CarmenCoker.com for her free video how-to called the Secrets of the Super Organized™.
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When To-Do Lists Don’t Work

By Carmen Coker

Generally speaking, a list is a good thing because …

When you write a list, it helps you focus. When you follow a list, it keeps you on track and moving toward list completion. And when you cross off list items, you feel productive.

And yet, despite proven results and positive qualities, lists don’t always work for everyone, every time because …

When you have to make a list, it means you have lots to accomplish. When you have lots to accomplish, you suddenly don’t want to do anything but sit on your couch, watch TV, and eat ice cream.

In other words, making a list is making you procrastinate. At this point, you’ve entered into a mind-game between your lazy self and your productive self, and your lazy self is winning!

If you find yourself in a similar situation, I encourage you to fight back by creating a NOT To-Do List to help you get organized.

The NOT To-Do List is exactly as the name implies – a list of things you do not want to do.

For example …

The Not To-Do List for Housekeeping

  • Throw shoes by the front door
  • Let mail pile up on the kitchen counter
  • Forget to file bills at the end of month

The NOT To-Do List for Time Management

  • Hit the “snooze” button on the alarm more than once
  • Check email more than 2 times per day
  • Turn on TV while getting ready for work

With the NOT To-Do List, you’re giving your lazy self permission to be lazy while, at the same time, giving your productive self permission to get things done.

Carmen Coker is a former US Air Force officer turned professional organizer. Thousands of busy people have benefited from her expertise featured by CBS, NBC, and Real Simple magazine – now it’s your turn! If you want to get organized and calm the chaos in your life, go to CarmenCoker.com for her free video how-to called the Secrets of the Super Organized™.

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Last-Minute Tax Organizing Tips

By Carmen Coker

In the words of Dave Barry, “It’s income tax time again…time to gather up those receipts, get out those tax forms, sharpen up that pencil, and stab yourself in the aorta.”

Filing taxes = huge pain. We all know it. We all go through it once a year. And while there’s no way around tax season, there is a way to make the process less stressful – preparation. A little bit of preparation can make a huge difference in your tax filing experience, whether you do so weeks in advance or at the last minute. Not only can it help you get your tax refund faster if you qualify, but it can also help you avoid the high levels of stress normally associated with finishing your taxes.

If you’d love to come out the other end of tax season unscathed, then here are the best organizing tips to help you do just that. Think: T–A–X–E–S!

(1) Tally: Decide how many hours you need for tax prep. 

First, choose a final date, such as “I want to be done with my taxes by April 10th.” Then work your timetable backwards from that date, planning around your work schedule, family responsibilities, and extracurriculars.

Second, think about how long it has taken you in the past to complete your taxes. If six hours of tax prep has been enough previously, then this year will likely be no different unless you had major changes in your life. So pencil in two hours on your calendar for three days between now and April 10th, or maybe one hour each evening for the next week.

(2) Assemble: Gather all tax-related documents.

Search your files, baskets, and bins. Your objective? To find any and all receipts, canceled checks, and other papers that support an item of income or deduction. Plus, be on the lookout for important tax forms like W-2s and 1099s in the mail.

Don’t forget about the charitable donations you’ve made over the last year! TurboTax ItsDeductible™ is a free software that tracks and adds your donations year-round and accurately determines the value of your donated items.

(3) X-cessorize: Compliment your tax prep efforts.

I’m not talking shoes and purses here! It’s all about storage. Now that you’ve got each and every one of your tax documents assembled, they must be organized in one central location, so as not to get lost.

There are lots of different tax organizers that can keep your tax papers in order.  If you’re not into fancy-schmancy, then you can dress ‘em down with the oldie but goodie manila envelope.

(4) Evaluate: Assess how you want to file your return.

Will you prepare your return personally or will your accountant? Are you eligible for free help at an IRS office or volunteer site? Will you purchase tax prep software or e-file online?

There are many possibilities to consider! Weigh them all and find the option that best suits your needs. These variables may require modifications to your tally and time line. If so, refer back to #1.

(5) Schedule: Make a date to officially file your return.

If you’re doing your own taxes, make an appointment with yourself. If a tax rep is doing your taxes, promptly make an appointment with that individual. In either case, schedule asap – before the calendar fills up – and schedule a date several days ahead of the April 15th filing deadline, just in case a contingency comes up and you need more time to complete the filing process.

Remember: It’s never too early to start tax prep for next year! Looking ahead prevents a last-minute tax crunch and all the pressure that comes with it.

How do you get organized for tax season? I’d love to find out! Please share your thoughts, experiences, ideas, and other comments below.

Carmen Coker is a former US Air Force officer turned professional organizer. Thousands of busy people have benefited from her expertise featured by CBS, NBC, and Real Simple magazine – now it’s your turn! If you want to get organized and calm the chaos in your life, go to CarmenCoker.com for her free video how-to called the Secrets of the Super Organized™.

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3 Sneaky Reasons You Lose Time

By Carmen Coker

Having trouble finding extra minutes in your day? These simple things could be costing you precious time. Here’s how to stop ‘em!

1. You can never say “no.”

Being a yes-man or yes-woman stems from a longing to feel important/needed or from a fear of hurting/disappointing someone. As a result, you are continually over-committed and over-scheduled.

[FIX] When you always say “yes” to others, inevitably, you will end up saying “no” to many of your life priorities. Having an honest response ready will help you feel confident in sending your regrets. Something as simple as this will do the trick: “Thank you for thinking of me! I’d love to support you, but I am unable to right now due to other personal obligations.”

2. You are good at being busy but not productive.

From the outside looking in, you appear like one heck of a busy bee. But from an insider’s perspective, you tend to do something just to do it, even though it may not be the highest priority task at the time.

[FIX] Henry David Thoreau said it best: “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” Practice mindful productivity (instead of mindless productivity) by only giving thought, time, and effort to the truly significant.

3. You rely on memory alone.

You have 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts a day, and yet only five to nine items stay in your short-term memory at any given time. The odds are against you! Leaving stuff in your head means leaving stuff forgotten.

[FIX] Here’s one theory of Albert Einstein’s that isn’t taught in school: “Why remember my phone number when it’s in the phone book?” Believe it or not, witnesses claim he did not rely on memory alone to recall his number – and there is pure genius in its simplicity! Find or create your own system to track important information.

Remember:

There is such a thing as PRODUCTIVITY KARMA. If you don’t value your time (or the time of others), then your time will not value you, and … it will slip away.

Carmen Coker is a former US Air Force officer turned professional organizer. If you want to get organized and calm the chaos in your life, go to CarmenCoker.com for her free video how-to called the Secrets of the Super Organized™.

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How To Double Your Storage Space For Organizing

By Carmen Coker

Isn’t it amazing how you can look at something every day and not see what’s really there?

A few years ago, I was going to lunch with a friend, and we were stopped at a traffic light behind a delivery truck. My friend randomly asked me if I noticed anything strange about the logo on the truck.

Immediately, sensing a trick question, I searched to find something different … out of the ordinary … obvious. I couldn’t come up with a single idea.

(Here, you give it a try – it’s FedEx.)

Never one to back down from a challenge, I guessed: the colors? The size? The style? No, no, and no.

I was out of guesses! It was a logo I had seen countless times on boxes, trucks, and airplanes. In theory, I should have been able to see a difference, but at that moment, the logo appeared the same as it always had … and so I relented.

Grinning mischievously, my friend told me to look directly between the last two letters of the logo, or the “e” and the “x.”

FedEx

And there it was – the shape of an arrow, hidden in plain sight between the letters.

Many times, your usable or extra space can act like that arrow – in full view yet unnoticed, and thus, unused. Aside from the obvious option of de-cluttering, here are three simple ways to double your storage space for organizing:

1.      Change your spatial perspective.

Problem: During your waking hours, you generally observe your living space from a vertical angle, either standing or sitting. Doing so limits the imprint of your environment in your mind’s eye.

Solution: Grab a cushion for your head and lay down on the floor for five minutes, taking the time to focus on everything from floor to ceiling and corner to corner. Does scrutinizing from a horizontal angle allow you to see storage capacity where you didn’t previously? (It also might help you to do this with a spouse or friend for a second opinion.)

2.      Check your familiarity at the door.

Problem: If you agree with the saying “familiarity breeds contempt,” then you can appreciate that, if you experience a certain living area day in and day out, you tend to see what you want to see (I don’t have enough room!) instead of seeing the true storage potential of the space itself.

Solution: Move something substantial to a new spot, like switching your computer from the left side to the right side of your desk. Leave it there, and repeat this step with a new item for five days in a row. By the fifth day, the small acts of rearranging will have a large impact how you view the space – and storage possibilities – around you.

3.      Look up and over.

Problem: 80% of everyday organizing is accomplished downwards from 3-4 feet high. Think: baskets on the floor, drawers in the dresser, cabinets in the bathroom, and containers under the bed.

Solution: While lower-level storage is important and should be fully utilized, there is a lot of storage room at higher levels, too – walls, ceilings, rafters, and doors. Ensure you are not ignoring the upper spaces that are readily available to you.

WARNING! If you are thinking something like a wall is a wall is a wall – not more storage, then consider the discovery process this way. When an oil prospector finds oil, it’s a given that the oil is under the surface of the earth and that it has to be drilled and refined in order to become a usable resource. Such is often the same when you discover storage space! It’s there. It just has to be “tapped” by using proper storage and organizing solutions.

How about tripling or quadrupling your storage space? To learn more, go here http://bit.ly/GetTotallyOrganized now. In this free webinar, award-winning professional organizer Carmen Coker will show you how to say goodbye to clutter and finally create the home and life you desire (and deserve)!

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The Top 5 Reasons Why You Can’t Get Organized

By Carmen Coker

Getting organized means…quality of life…high levels of energy and productivity…creating space in your home and life for the things that really matter…being fully present. Getting organized is a huge part of being all you can be physically, mentally, emotionally, and more.

Given these amazing benefits, what’s stopping you from getting organized? Here are the TOP 5 reasons why you can’t get organized:

1 – Can’t break free from the daily grind

Whether you’ve got one small organizing project to tackle, or you’re looking to organize your entire house, the question becomes: “How do I fit in organizing in between breakfast and morning meetings…diapers and dinner…laundry and housekeeping…Scandal and bedtime?”

Being perpetually trapped in the day-to-day could mean another year (or two, three, or more) passes you by – and still you are no closer to your organizing goals.

2 – Not being prepared for common situations

There are some spots that need organizing regularly, like mail, toys, and clothes. I bet if I ask you to list off the clutter hot spots in your home or the ways in which you waste time, you could list them 1, 2, 3 – without much thought.

You likely know the moments that make you disorganized, and if you let them, these moments will continue to steal away your hope of getting organized.

3 – Not connected to your why-power

Just saying “I want to get organized” will not sustain you. Why? It shows that you are interested in enjoying the many positives that organizing affords, but you aren’t 100% committed to doing what it takes to fully realize those positives in your own life.

If getting organized – whether it’s your kitchen or your attic or your files – is not connected to your why-power (aka your deepest motivator), then you’ll easily fall off the get-organized wagon.

4 – Don’t know what you don’t know

In order for getting organized to work for you, you need a complete organizing system, or know-how. Know-how generally consists of more than just tips like “to organize your shelves do this”. These are what I call surface tips, since they tend to repair the surface of things, and often just for a short time.

If you don’t have the know-how or don’t have access to the know-how, then getting organized can be an uphill climb.

5 – Too many negative influencers

Negative influencers are anyone or anything that hinders your organizing progress, either intentionally or unintentionally (spouse, kids, parents, pets). Despite your best efforts to get and stay organized, these guys just get in the way.

Not understanding how to deal with negative influencers will have nothing but a negative effect on your organizing success.

Did you know…there are not just five reasons why people can’t get organized – there are 26 total? Good news! All of the reasons can be easily fixed. To learn more, go here http://bit.ly/GetTotallyOrganized now. Let me show you how to say goodbye to clutter and finally create the home and life you desire (and deserve)!

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51 Ways to Get Organized Now

By Carmen Coker

Are you ready to get your life more organized? To help you get a jump start, I’ve put together a list of 51 easy and quick ways to get organized and feel more balanced today.

Please don’t let this number overwhelm you – you don’t have to do all 51 at once! Read through the list, prioritize the ones that will give you the best benefit and tackle a handful of those to begin with. In no time at all, you’ll find that your life is much more organized and stress-free!

Time Savers
1. Store take-out menus by using a 3-hole punch and a simple binder for easy access.

Picture1

2. Organize loose recipes and torn-out magazine pages with a 3-ring binder and clear plastic sleeves

3. Make a meal or two ahead of time. Freeze and have it ready for those crazy days when you have no time – or energy – to cook.

4. Create a laundry-room “Lost and Found.” Designate a box or basket to hold items found in pockets and lonely single socks.

5. Organize clothing into four categories: formal, work, casual and sport and store in separate areas of the closet for quick and easy access.

6. Keep cleaning supplies together in a plastic bin to keep them organized in a single space easy to find and easy to access for all types of chores around the house.

7. Place your purse, briefcase and keys in a designated area every day so you always know where they are.

Maximum Efficiency
8. Create a garage sale box and keep items you plan on selling in one location.

9. Take 30 minutes as you watch a favorite TV show and finish the mending pile you have on your sewing machine.

10. Sort your mail over your garbage can or recycle bin. Junk mail will never make it into your home or on your counter tops!

11. Don’t answer the phone for a few hours. You’ll be surprised at how much more productive you will be.

Stress Relief & Peace of Mind

12. Keep labeled folders to store warranties and operating manuals together for appliances and household items.

13. Buy a label maker. Use it!

14. Create a gift bin or shelf/storage area. Keep gifts bought ahead of time there, labeled and ready to go.

15. Computer and electronics cables: untwist, label, straighten each and every line, then plug them all back in bundled neatly together.

16. Unsubscribe to unwanted email newsletters or updates from companies that you no longer want. Use the “unsubscribe” link usually found at the bottom of the emails.

17. Delete as least 25 old email messages from your Inbox that you don’t need any more. Then empty the Trash or Deleted Items folders in your email system.

18. Check your candle supply to be ready for potential power outages. Make sure all flashlights in the house have fresh batteries in them.

Budget-Friendly Organizing

19. Place risers under your bed frame to lift and add storage area.

20. Position hooks or organizers behind doors to corral your stuff, there are all kinds of holders for hats, purses, shoes, coats and belts that fit standard door frames.

21. Use old muffin pans to sort nails, screws, and other hardware in garage.

22. Empty tissue boxes make great plastic grocery bag dispensers.

23. Hang a rack above a kitchen island to hold pots and pans, freeing up cabinet space.

24. Those empty holiday card boxes are also great to use as drawer organizers.

25. Organize your battery stash by implementing a storage solution such as bags, containers or drawer dividers. Organize by battery type and size.

26. Gather up all the loose change from your purse, house, car and laundry room. Bag it up and take it to the bank or one of those coin sorting machines at the local grocery store.

27. Organize your coupons. Use a small accordion folder made for such a purpose or a system that works for you.

28. Gardening tools can be stored vertically on simple hooks attached to the walls so they’re easy to get to when you need them and they’re out of the way when you don’t.

29. Use a bead-storage craft box with a clear lid to store jewelry in various compartments.

30. Use decorative votive candle holders to organize small desk items such as tacks, rubber bands, binder clips, business cards, etc.

Declutter Your Space
31. Purge your sock drawer – toss any that have holes, are worn out, faded or have no match.

32. Gather post-it notes and scraps of paper with names, addresses and phone numbers on them and record them in a central address book.

33. Go through your DVD or CD collection. Organize by donating or tossing outdated ones, uploading music to your iPod and destroying old software ones.

34. Tackle receipt clutter. Take 15 minutes and search out pesky unwanted receipts throughout the house, car and your pocketbook. Toss the ones you don’t need, file the good ones.

35. Clean out your wallet – toss out receipts, extra change, expired coupons and ID cards, etc.

36. Go through your kitchen spices. Throw out expired ones and make a list of what you need to replenish your store.

37. Clean and organize the surface of your office desk. Tackle the drawers if you have the time.

38. Tackle the medicine cabinet. Throw out old, expired items. Make a note for what you need to restock.

39. Restock or purchase your home’s first aid kit.

40. Make your bed first thing in the morning to start the day off right.

41. Create a pet zone. Keeping Fifi’s crate, leashes and collars, food dishes and toys all together frees up space and helps keep mess to a minimum.

42. Recycle an old paper towel holder to organize girl’s headbands and elastic hair accessories.

43. Hang a fish net from the ceiling to store stuffed animals, dolls, or action figures.

Conscious Organizing
44. Situate a charity box in your home where items to be donated can be stored.

45. Dedicate a day to “being nice.” You’ll find that emotional clutter gets cleared away quickly by a positive attitude and “pay-it-forward” actions.

46. Make an appointment for yourself that you’ve been putting off: Hair, dentist, manicure, massage, dermatologist, etc. Take care of yourself and you’ll take better care of your life.

47. Estate planning. Review your preparations and update where needed. Tackle one task you’ve been putting off for this.

48. Gather all unused wire hangers and take them to the dry cleaners to recycle.

Sneaky Organizing
49. Before the kids go to bed, have a 10-minute race to see who can pick up the most stuff.

50. Hide a quarter in a stack of clean clothes to be put into drawers and tell the kids whoever finds it gets to keep it.

51. Install a basketball hoop over a laundry basket for slam-dunking dirty clothes.

 

Carmen Coker is a former US Air Force officer turned professional organizer. Thousands of busy people have benefited from her expertise featured by CBS, NBC, and Real Simple magazine – now it’s your turn! If you want to get organized and calm the chaos in your life, go to CarmenCoker.com for her free video how-to called the Secrets of the Super Organized™.

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Solve This Productivity Riddle and Save 10+ Hours of Time, Every Time

by Carmen Coker

Riddle me this: What is something that is no-cost to do, but if not done, is very costly? Hint: the answer has to do with time management, goal setting, and being productive in your home, work, and life.

The Big Reveal

If you answered “plan,” then you are close. If you answered “planning,” then you are spot-on! While the former is important, it shouldn’t be confused with or used in lieu of the latter.

Reason being, plans are pretty. Plans make us feel productive. Plans are what people should have. Life plan – check! Career plan – check! Weekend plan – check!

The problem is this: a plan easily becomes stagnant and outdated. More often than not, as soon as a plan is created, it is in need of revision, even though it may be just days (or hours) old and even though a lot of time and effort likely went into the making of.

Planning, on the other hand, is dynamic. It is the action to a plan’s inaction, and it always moves you and your life forward.

This is a vital distinction that successful people have been making for years. Case in point: Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was one of only five U.S. Army officers to ever wear five stars (and, oh yeah, who was also the 34th U.S. President), once explained: “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

The Ins & Outs

In any endeavor, not just in battle, Eisenhower’s words ring true. Planning is a powerful tool to improve your life – and it’s free. There’s no reason not to do it.

But, hold up! Who has time to throw in a bit of planning in between breakfast and morning meetings…diapers and dinner…Scandal and bedtime?

In the day-to-day of life, planning becomes one of the first things to fall to the bottom of the to-do list. And, if we’re totally honest here, sometimes it falls off the to-do list completely!

However, if you consider that a SINGLE hour of planning saves TEN hours of doing, then the avoidance of planning altogether drains more time than the actual planning itself. Phew! It seems you really do have time for planning after all.

Now that you’ve solved this productivity riddle, here are five ways to become a power-planner:

1 – Make it real.

Allow for a planning morning or afternoon at least once a quarter, and in advance, schedule these as non-negotiable appointments on your calendar. (Yeah, you “know it.” But…do you “do it”?) This step not only sets a positive intention, but it also turns planning from a nice thought into a new reality.

2 – Own it – loud and proud.

When you keep something to yourself, it’s easy to get away with…doing nothing. Tell someone – your spouse, your best friend, or your personal assistant – that the planning process is now a top priority for you.  Saying so aloud to this person should keep you honest.

3 – Take inspired action.

If you doubt its potential, then the planning process won’t ever seriously happen or create fruitful results for you. Read the autobiography of any influential person you admire – no doubt, planning will be part of their recipe for success. Let their example, in turn, reframe how you look at planning and what it can do for your personal growth.

4 – Bring in the heavy weights.

Planning on your own can have low impact. Ask mentors or trusted friends to get involved and mastermind the planning process with you. They will not only introduce new ideas but also challenge you to reach higher than, if left to your own devices, you would ever dare.

5 – Filter, filter, filter.

Infuse your personal priorities into the planning process. Put up a list of your top priorities for everyone to see, and filter all planning concepts through this list. Trusting your priorities is the way to avoid chasing poor-fit opportunities and getting off-track – and wasting time and productivity as a result.

The Bottom Line

Never underestimate the power of planning. A highly productive person uses planning as a secret weapon to save time, exceed goals, and “get stuff done”!

So…how can you leverage planning to improve your home and life?

 

Carmen Coker is a former US Air Force officer turned professional organizer. Thousands of busy people have benefited from her expertise featured by CBS, NBC, and Real Simple magazine – now it’s your turn! If you want to get organized and calm the chaos in your life, go to CarmenCoker.com for her free video how-to called the Secrets of the Super Organized™.

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What Aristotle Exposed About Getting Organized

Aristotle once said: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

It’s hard to argue with Aristotle, one of the greatest scientists and philosophers the world has ever seen. It’s even harder to argue, given that his very name means “the best purpose.” Indeed, his advice encourages you to be the best that you can be.

I’d like to take this example of Aristotle’s logic a step further by changing “excellence” to “organizing.” (Here’s hoping he won’t mind me taking a little creative license!)

So…let me ask you: Is your life full of chaos and clutter, or order and serenity? Your answer reveals what you repeatedly do.

aristotle

Need perpetual inspiration? Download the above graphic here for your personal use.

Carmen Coker is a former US Air Force officer turned professional organizer. Thousands of busy people have benefited from her expertise featured by CBS, NBC, and Real Simple magazine – now it’s your turn! If you want to get organized and calm the chaos in your life, apply for a complimentary 60-minute Get-Organized Strategy Session today!

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Break the Procrastination Cycle

By Carmen Coker

Everyone’s got one of those tasks that never seems to get done, no matter what. You know you are in trouble when you start to joke about it, laughing at your failure to accomplish the task. Making light of the situation takes the sting out of the fact that you have procrastinated yourself into Never Never Land.

Yet, when you ignore tasks you should do, that doesn’t mean they leave your mind. They remain nagging little thoughts that may:

  • Keep you awake at night.
  • Distract you from other tasks and projects.
  • Become enablers for excuse-making.

Think of all the things to which you have given lip service, or mind service, about getting done – but subsequently, you pushed them aside for something else, or perhaps nothing at all.

“How soon ‘not now’ becomes ‘never’.” ~ Martin Luther

Never, nada, zilch, zero. Have no doubt that those results are the only results that procrastination will give you.

Today’s challenge is to break free of the procrastination that has become a vicious cycle in your life. Pick one task that’s been eluding completion for too long now – and just do it!

Get Bigger Results | Instead of picking one task for the entire week, pick one task for each day of the week. 

Carmen Coker, a former U.S. Air Force officer turned professional organizer, helps individuals clear the clutter that holds them back from living their best life. Claim your free copy of 7 Days To A More Organized YouTM at http://lessonsfromorganizing.com/want-your-story/ – and reduce the clutter in your life in one week or less!

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10 Easy Ways to Get More Organized Today

How long have you been telling yourself that you need to get more organized? Honestly. A month? A year? A decade? A lifetime?

No matter how long you have been tolerating clutter in your home and life, you will likely agree that:

  • Nothing good comes from clutter – only chaos, stress, frustration, loss, pain, wastefulness, hassles, and ineffectiveness.
  • Any amount of time is too long to struggle with clutter and the ill-effects it has on your space, time, mind, energy, money, and more.
  • You can get started today, removing clutter and making space for the more important things in life.

If you are like most, acknowledging the above factors is easy; acting upon them, especially the last one, isn’t.

You may explain away your inaction with: I don’t have the time. I don’t have the money. It’s too hard. I’m too overwhelmed. I’ve gotten by so far, so what’s the point? Even so, the reality won’t change – tomorrow, you will either be one day closer to your organizing goals and the home and life you desire, or one day further away.

It’s time to face the stories you are telling yourself about getting organized and set your excuses aside. Here are 10 action items that will help you get more organized today – in less than 20 minutes!

  1. Pick one chore that you’ve been doing but that could be done by another person, like a spouse, older child, or assistant – then delegate it. Permanently. Doing so will free up some “me” time or…some time to get organized!
  2. Consolidate half-full bottles of cleaning or laundry supplies. Doing so will free up extra space in your cabinets and on your shelves.
  3. Create a project/task to-do list for something for which you’ve been procrastinating. Doing so will make you feel as if you are getting things done, and boy – isn’t that a good feeling?
  4. Go through your kitchen fridge/freezer and toss any expired food, beverages, or condiments. Doing so will inspire you to restock with some big-energy foods that will help you be über-productive.
  5. Open your mail that’s been piling up, recycle or shred what isn’t needed, and file the rest away. Doing so will help you finally get rid of that nagging task that has to get done anyway!
  6. Remove three pieces of clothing from your closet that have seen their better days, and recycle them. Doing so will help tidy up your closet – and help Mother Earth.
  7. Clean out your purse or briefcase, making it more orderly. Doing so will make your day lighter!
  8. Choose a never-before-used recipe from a cookbook and plan a healthy, home-cooked meal for this week. Doing so is like milk…it does the body good! (Psst! That’s the most important part of finding life balance.)
  9. Start writing your Christmas cards early, before the season catches you off guard. Doing so will make your friends and family insanely jealous that you have got it so “together”!
  10. Schedule an appointment you’ve been putting off, like one with your hairdresser, auto shop, or doctor. Doing so will help you feel like you are finally getting back on track.

Pick one to do today, or do them all over the next week. Either way, you will feel more energized and organized!

Carmen Coker is a former US Air Force officer turned professional organizer. If you want to get organized and calm the chaos in your life, go to CarmenCoker.com for her free video how-to called the Secrets of the Super Organized™.

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All You Need to Know About Time Management

When it comes to your life, would you categorize yourself as…

a. A highly effective person?

b. A moderately effective person?

c. A poorly effective person?

Now, here is the cold, hard truth about your answer, no matter which it may be: YOU CAN BE BETTER.

Granted, this very truth brings up the million-dollar question: how? The answer is simpler than you think! Better yet, the effects are immediate. Even better still, it is a rinse-and-repeat system that will take your time management and productivity skills to new heights.

The Big Reveal

In life, there are those individuals who are goal-setters and those who are goal-getters. A goal-
setter is someone who either likes the idea of or is very good at setting goals, but doesn’t put the necessary actions behind them; as such, the goals never come to life and remain well-meaning (but worthless) words on paper. On the other hand, a goal-getter doesn’t just set and believe in goals, but also has the follow-through to achieve them.

Dr. Stephen R. Covey wrote about the secret of goal-getters in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “The key is not to prioritize your schedule but to schedule your priorities.”

A-ha! Much of what comes into your day – emails, text messages, phone calls, meetings, snail mail, conversations – they are just vehicles for other people’s priorities in your life. If you always schedule in all that “stuff” first, then there is no room for your own priorities, goals, and dreams.

The Ins & Outs

This is the very reason why you should trust your priorities to help you make decisions, infuse your priorities into your daily routines, and stick to your priorities, no matter what challenges you face. In the end, doing so is the best way to avoid common time-sinks like lack of focus and procrastination.

Here are three guidelines to defining your priorities and becoming a goal-getter who is the envy of everyone around you:

1 – Deep down, you are driven by a set of core values and principles. For example, maybe you are motivated by faith, family, excellence, independence, love, power, honesty, wealth – or maybe a mixture of. From the get-go, decide what these values are. They will set the tone for your goal-getting success.

2 – Brainstorm the wish list of objectives that you would like to accomplish, either in the short-term or long-term. Next, break this wish list down into projects and tasks.

3 – Calendar out the projects and tasks in order of importance and also set a date for project completion.

REMEMBER: act as the gatekeeper for your time. Before putting anything on your schedule, ask if it will support your priorities – fully, partially, or not at all. While there will be surprises and unavoidable hiccups here and there, stick to your schedule as much as possible.

The Bottom Line

Your priorities act as your internal compass, helping you to stay focused, make clear decisions, and feel balanced and fulfilled. A highly productive person uses his/her values to guide every step, including how and where to spend time.

Carmen Coker is a former US Air Force officer turned professional organizer. If you want to get organized and calm the chaos in your life, go to CarmenCoker.com for her free video how-to called the Secrets of the Super Organized™.

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The Lost Productivity Secret

By Carmen Coker

If you could have a conversation with the late Steve Jobs, right here and now, and he offered you the key to productivity and success – would you listen to his advice?

Why wouldn’t you?! Every era has their icon, and one could easily argue that Mr. Jobs was the king of the computer age, and beyond. His ideas revolutionized the world in which we live. Sadly, he was taken before his time, as many of the great ones are. But he was, in fact, generous enough to leave us with his productivity rule of thumb. So…listen up!

The Big Reveal

When asked the reason for Apple’s achievement and innovation, Steve Jobs explained: “It comes from saying ‘no’ to a thousand things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much.”

Doing too much seems to be part of modern life. Every day offers new chances, friendships, challenges, and ideas. Indeed, the world is a creative, exciting – and busy – place to be.

But are you letting these explorations, if you will, distract you from the most important thing? From making forward progress? From being truly great?

The Ins & Outs

The word “no” is the most powerful weapon in your productivity and time management armory. It’s simple, and it’s free – a true win-win. The problem is that many people find it difficult to say it for many reasons like: maybe you’ll seem rude, maybe the proposition feeds your ego (if you’re honest about it), maybe you feel pressure from others, maybe…the list goes on.

Here are three guidelines to ensure you can say “no, thank you” when you need to most:

1 – Clearly define your vision and priorities.

While this may seem like an oh-yeah fact, human beings often lack mindfulness about these very fundamentals when making decisions, and this can quickly cause a loss of focus. [Tip] It’s vital to separate your vision and priorities into primary, secondary, and tertiary levels, going from most important to least important. Keep a master list beside your desk, in your planner, or on your mobile for reference at any time.

2 – Use your vision and priorities to strictly screen all opportunities.

In the busyness of life, sometimes the day-to-day overwhelms the big picture. [Tip] Review your vision and priorities daily to keep them top-of-mind, plus constantly utilize them to screen decisions, big or small, about what you purchase, how to use your time, what projects you allow, and more. Weigh each opportunity according to whether or not it supports your primary, secondary, and tertiary levels. If it doesn’t, then mark it off the list.

3 – Have your no-can-do response ready.

When other parties are involved and demanding answers, it’s not uncommon for individuals to be at a loss as to how to send regrets in a genuine and honest way. [Tip] To avoid bumbling and why-did-I-say-that moments, create and memorize a simple script like: “Thank you for thinking of me. I’d love to support you, but I am unable to right now due to other obligations and priorities. Keep me in mind for next time, ok?”

The Bottom Line

Say “yes” to only those experiences that let your vision and priorities shine brightly. A highly productive person knows when and how to respectfully (and authentically) turn down anything that doesn’t sustain his/her values, goals, and dreams.

Carmen Coker is a former US Air Force officer turned professional organizer. If you want to get organized and calm the chaos in your life, go to CarmenCoker.com for her free video how-to called the Secrets of the Super Organized™.

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Wanna Get Organized? 4 Must-Do Steps

You’ve vowed to finally transform your “clutter mountain” into a “clutter molehill.” Now that your mind is set, how do you successfully negotiate the ins and outs of getting organized?

(1) Have specific goals.

Don’t say: I want to get organized.

Do say: I want to organize my estate.

Speaking in generalities leads to doing in generalities – or no results. Take the time to make specific organizing goals so that you get the fabulous organizing results you deserve.

(2) Calendar it to make it real.

Don’t say: I’ll get to organizing the garage when I have time.

Do say: I need to schedule a day to organize my garage.

If you treat organizing like a regular appointment, you are more likely to take it seriously and follow through on your get-organized goals.

(3) Focus on one thing.

Don’t say: This week, I’m going to overhaul my kitchen, organize my files, get ready for taxes, clean out my closet, update my address book, re-do my schedule…

Do say: This week, I’m going to organize my tax paperwork.

If you try to take on too many organizing projects, you will surely fail. Focus on one task, and one task only, until it is complete. And let that success, as little or big as it may be, propel you onward.

(4) Have a positive attitude.

Don’t say: Organizing my closet? Yikes! I don’t know if I can…

Do say: Organizing my closet? I’m ready! I’ll save so much time getting dressed each morning…

Your thoughts channel real power to help you achieve your organizing milestones – so think positively not only about the process but also the end result, and put those brain waves to good use!

Carmen Coker is a former US Air Force officer turned professional organizer. If you want to get organized and calm the chaos in your life, go to CarmenCoker.com for her free video how-to called the Secrets of the Super Organized™.

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Wanna Get Organized? 4 Must-Do Steps

By Carmen Coker

You’ve vowed to finally transform your “clutter mountain” into a “clutter molehill.” Now that your mind is set, how do you successfully negotiate the ins and outs of getting organized?

(1) Have specific goals.

Don’t say: I want to get organized.

Do say: I want to organize my estate.

Speaking in generalities leads to doing in generalities – or no results. Take the time to make specific organizing goals so that you get the fabulous organizing results you deserve.

(2) Calendar it to make it real.

Don’t say: I’ll get to organizing the garage when I have time.

Do say: I need to schedule a day to organize my garage.

If you treat organizing like a regular appointment, you are more likely to take it seriously and follow through on your get-organized goals.

(3) Focus on one thing.

Don’t say: This week, I’m going to overhaul my kitchen, organize my files, get ready for taxes, clean out my closet, update my address book, re-do my schedule…

Do say: This week, I’m going to organize my tax paperwork.

If you try to take on too many organizing projects, you will surely fail. Focus on one task, and one task only, until it is complete. And let that success, as little or big as it may be, propel you onward.

(4) Have a positive attitude.

Don’t say: Organizing my closet? Yikes! I don’t know if I can…

Do say: Organizing my closet? I’m ready! I’ll save so much time getting dressed each morning…

Your thoughts channel real power to help you achieve your organizing milestones – so think positively not only about the process but also the end result, and put those brain waves to good use!

Carmen Coker is a former US Air Force officer turned professional organizer. If you want to get organized and calm the chaos in your life, go to CarmenCoker.com for her free video how-to called the Secrets of the Super Organized™.

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5 Easy Closet Organizing Ideas

By Carmen Coker

Where is it?! You shout as you dig deeper. You tear into drawers, look behind doors, and peer under the bed to see if it is hiding among the dust bunnies.

It’s just another typical morning, where you are racing against the clock and searching for the ever-elusive finishing piece that will bring your outfit together – belt, shoes, purse, shirt.

You are not alone! In fact, the average woman spends almost one year of her life rifling through the closet to find the perfect ensemble for work, nights out, vacations, and other activities. If you would like to rewrite this statistic in your life and use that one year for something more important, then here are five easy closet organizing ideas to help you do just that.

 

PROBLEM: Your closet is jam-packed.

EASY CLOSET ORGANIZING IDEA: If you can’t see your favorite little black dress, you won’t wear it. To motivate and inspire you to downsize, adopt a charity – one that benefits from your donations and in which you strongly believe.

 

PROBLEM: You can’t decide what, in your closet, to get rid of.

EASY CLOSET ORGANIZING IDEA: Only 20% of your closet includes go-to items that you wear again and again. To remove the dead weight and give your closet room to breathe, focus on the remaining 80% that you rarely, if ever, wear.

 

PROBLEM: You feel overpowered by the mess in your closet.

EASY CLOSET ORGANIZING IDEA: It’s hard to wrap your head around getting organized when you are staring at a wall of clutter. To remedy the overwhelm and pinpoint a starting point, separate your closet into small blocks, and using a top-down approach, organize one block at a time.

 

PROBLEM: You don’t know how to organize your closet properly.

EASY CLOSET ORGANIZING IDEA: Organizing systems are best defined by your own habits and routines. To determine how to organize, think about how you naturally look for items in your closet or decide what to wear – by color, type, season, or activity – then arrange your closet accordingly.

 

PROBLEM: You’re not confident that you can keep your closet organized for more than a week.

EASY CLOSET ORGANIZING IDEA: Staying organized is about keeping organization top-of-mind. To maintain your get-organized goals, create and stick to a closet mantra like “one thing in, one thing out” or “1-1-1” (donate one bag of clothes on the first day of the first month of the year).

 

Carmen Coker is a former US Air Force officer turned professional organizer. If you want to get organized and calm the chaos in your life, go to CarmenCoker.com for her free video how-to called the Secrets of the Super Organized™.

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5 Easy Steps to Let Go of Clutter & Reclaim Your Life

By Carmen Coker

Have you tried to get organized before, either on your own or perhaps with the help of a book, magazine, or course, but with no luck?

This is a common outcome because, most of the time, organizing tools are about de-cluttering your space. While this is an important part of the get-organized equation and should not be ignored, it is only a single, small component of your large, full life.

You see, organizing is more than just organizing the stuff around you. It is organizing you – all parts of you and your environment – so that you feel balanced, fulfilled, and happy. Transitioning from traditional to holistic organizing mindsets and techniques is one small change that can make all the difference not only in your efforts to get organized, but also in your overall health and wellness.

In this same spirit, here are five powerful-yet-easy steps to let go of clutter and reclaim your life:

1) Think beyond the space around you.

[PROBLEM] When picturing the clutter in your life, it is normal to think about the piles and stacks – the “stuff” in your space. However, there are actually six types of clutter that influence your general well-being: physical, virtual, behavioral, emotional, mental, and temporal (of time).

[FIX] Brainstorm a list of what you are tolerating in your life, which is often helpful in identifying which types of clutter are adversely impacting you. Select a single toleration from this list each week, and take steps toward either positively changing it or eliminating it altogether.

2) Visualize your path to becoming an organizing superstar.

[PROBLEM] Like the proverbial can’t-see-the-forest-for-the-trees analogy, it becomes difficult to imagine yourself, totally organized, when your life is a disorganized mess. Instead, feelings of overwhelm (Where do I start?), frustration (Why is this so hard?), and guilt (Why can’t I do this?) hijack your heart and mind.

[FIX] Let go of the negative “I can’t” or “it won’t work for me” attitudes for good. Visualize your path to organizing and simplifying success, envision reaching beyond the grasp of chaos and clutter, and take your results to the next level.

3) Tap into your organizing personality.

[PROBLEM] Viewing amazingly organized homes in magazines makes you feel as if that ideal is what you must achieve in order to finally get organized. While there is nothing wrong with trying to be Martha Stewart, it can backfire if the concept does not fit your habits, routines, personality, and lifestyle.

[FIX] Analyze how you operate, day in and day out, and determine where you can improve upon or implement systems to make your life easier. Craft organizing systems that work with you and for you – systems you love – rather than trying to copy those that look good in glossy magazines.

4) Use your core values as a filter.

[PROBLEM] In every moment of your life, you live in choice. While this may seem like an oh-yeah fact, human beings often lack mindfulness about personal space and time when making decisions, and this can let in clutter on many levels.

[FIX] Select your top five core values (such as faith, family, excellence, independence, and love) and constantly utilize them to screen decisions, big or small, about what you purchase, how to use your time, what type of habits you allow, and more.

5) Practice reciprocity with your space and time.

[PROBLEM] Given the busyness of the world, it is not unusual for you to want to have more free time or more space for what is most important. On the flip side, it is also not unusual to complicate your life by doing more and acquiring more than is truly necessary.

[FIX] Be consciously aware of how you treat your space and your time – both resources are gifts, and it is important to treat them as such if you want more of each to open up to you. In the end, if you do not value and honor the time and space you have, neither will value and honor you.

Carmen Coker is a former US Air Force officer turned professional organizer. If you want to get organized and calm the chaos in your life, go to CarmenCoker.com for her free video how-to called the Secrets of the Super Organized™.

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5 Secrets for Waking Up Organized

By Carmen Coker

Scarlet O’Hara famously said in Gone With the Wind, “Fiddly dee, I’ll worry about that tomorrow!” And if you want to have a hectic morning, then you should definitely try to emulate her. But if you want to have a smooth morning routine, a little planning and prep the night before will help you get organized and ready to be on your way…

1) Select your clothes.

Pick out your clothes for the next day. Iron anything that needs it. Don’t forget accessories: jewelry, cuff links, hose, socks, shoes, panties, boxers, scarf, tie, or purse. If you have kids, the same should be done with their outfits.

2) Pack your bags.

Fix your lunch, get your gym bag ready, and make sure all necessary items for the next day are tucked into your briefcase, backpack, or purse. Again, if children are in the picture, then their bags should be prepared as well.

3) Check your planner.

Look over tomorrow’s activities. This will refresh your memory about must-do items or things you need to take with you the next day.

4) Collect your stuff.

Place your keys, cell, wallet, purse, laptop, briefcase, etc. in one spot, preferably close by your door. It’s a good idea to make this staging ground near an electrical outlet, so battery-powered items can recharge overnight.

5) Get your sleep.

Go to bed in time to sleep 8 hours (or whatever your body requires to be rested). Otherwise, you are guaranteed to hit the snooze and sleep later than you should!

Carmen Coker is a former US Air Force officer turned professional organizer. If you want to get organized and calm the chaos in your life, go to CarmenCoker.com for her free video how-to called the Secrets of the Super Organized™.

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Oprah Helps You Get Organized With This

By Carmen Coker

Oprah Winfrey once said: “What we dwell on is who we become.”

The word dwell is a very poetic and almost old-fashioned word, one that you likely don’t use in everyday vocabulary. But don’t be fooled by romantic notions – it is a word that has powerful consequences.

To dwell means “to exist in a given place or state” or “to fasten one’s attention.”

If you are a dweller, you will create one of two outcomes – a choose-your-own-adventure of sorts. On the one hand, you can create positive results if used for good, like dwelling in a success mindset, or you can create negative results if used for bad, like dwelling in self-pity.

So…let me ask you: Do you dwell on/in chaos and clutter, or do you dwell on/in simplicity and serenity? If you want to get organized, your choice will make all the difference in the world.

Carmen Coker is a former US Air Force officer turned professional organizer. If you want to get organized and calm the chaos in your life, go to CarmenCoker.com for her free video how-to called the Secrets of the Super Organized™.

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Easy Organizing Challenge: Consolidate

By Carmen Coker

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What do ketchup, hairspray, and cleaning wipes have in common? They are just three of many everyday household items that tend to exist in half-empty states, often with their “twin” nearby.

So…instead of one full ketchup bottle, you have two partially-filled ones. Instead of one hairspray, locked and loaded, you have three that individually are a weak shot. Instead of one brimming container of cleaning wipes, you have four in various states of emptiness.

Sometimes, your home can become like a proverbial Noah’s Ark, where you bring in and store things two by two. Your Easy Organizing Challenge is to go through your home – check bags, boxes, bottles, and bins – to find candidates for consolidation. Ask yourself: where can two (or more) become one?

If you need some quick ideas, here are common offenders: liquid soaps, shampoos, hair styling products, lotions, facial cleansers, medications, makeup, cleaning solutions, detergents, paints, alcohol, condiments, dressings, sauces, beverages, cereals, snacks, chips, crackers, and cheeses. However, this is not an all-inclusive list!

Warning: There are times when you legitimately need two or more of something because you are stocking up or like to have a reserve. That’s not the issue here – focus on where you have two or more parts of the same thing, parts that can easily combine to make a whole.

Carmen Coker is a former US Air Force officer turned professional organizer. If you want to get organized and calm the chaos in your life, go to CarmenCoker.com for her free video how-to called the Secrets of the Super Organized™.

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The Best Organizing Tips To Get Your Tax Refund Faster

By Carmen Coker

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In the words of Dave Barry, “It’s income tax time again…time to gather up those receipts, get out those tax forms, sharpen up that pencil, and stab yourself in the aorta.”

Filing taxes = huge pain. We all know it. We all go through it once a year. And while there’s no way around tax season, there is a way to make the process less stressful – preparation.

A little bit of preparation can make a huge difference in your tax filing experience. Not only can it help you get your IRS tax refund faster if you qualify, but it can also help you avoid the high levels of stress normally associated with finishing your taxes.

If you’d love to come out the other end of tax season unscathed, then here are the best organizing tips to help you do just that. Think: T–A–X–E–S!

(1) Tally: Decide how many hours you need for tax prep.

First, choose a final date, such as “I want to be done with my taxes by April 1st.” Then work your timetable backwards from that date, planning around your work schedule, family responsibilities, and extracurriculars.

Second, think about how long it has taken you in the past to complete your taxes. If six hours of tax prep has been enough previously, then this year will likely be no different unless you had major changes in your life. So pencil in two hours on your calendar for three Saturdays between now and April 1st, or maybe one hour each Monday and Wednesday evening for the next three weeks.

(2) Assemble: Gather all tax-related documents.

Search your files, baskets, and bins. Your objective? To find any and all receipts, canceled checks, and other papers that support an item of income or deduction. Plus, be on the lookout for important tax forms like W-2s and 1099s in the mail.

Don’t forget about the charitable donations you’ve made over the last year! TurboTax ItsDeductible™ is a free software that tracks and adds your donations year-round and accurately determines the value of your donated items.

(3) X-cessorize: Compliment your tax prep efforts.

I’m not talking shoes and purses here! It’s all about storage. Now that you’ve got each and every one of your tax documents assembled, they must be organized in one central location, so as not to get lost.

There are lots of different tax organizers that can keep your tax papers in order. You can dress ‘em up in style with something like the Buttoned Up® Tax Filer. Or if you’re not into fancy-schmancy, then you can dress ‘em down with the oldie but goodie manila envelope.

(4) Evaluate: Assess how you want to file your return.

Will you prepare your return personally or will your accountant? Are you eligible for free help at an IRS office or volunteer site? Will you purchase tax prep software or e-file online?

There are many possibilities to consider! Weigh them all and find the option that best suits your needs. These variables may require modifications to your tally and time line. If so, refer back to #1.

(5) Schedule: Make a date to officially file your return.

If you’re doing your own taxes, make an appointment with yourself. If a tax rep is doing your taxes, promptly make an appointment with that individual. In either case, schedule asap – before the calendar fills up – and schedule a date several days ahead of the April 15th filing deadline, just in case a contingency comes up and you need more time to complete the filing process.

Remember: It’s never too early to start tax prep for next year! Looking ahead prevents a last-minute tax crunch and all the pressure that comes with it.

Carmen Coker is a former US Air Force officer turned professional organizer. If you want to get organized and calm the chaos in your life, go to CarmenCoker.com for her free video how-to called the Secrets of the Super Organized™.

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Five Simplify-Life Tips From Albert Einstein

By Carmen Coker

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In today’s fast-paced world, it is normal to crave simplicity and serenity – and lots of it. The modern view of “simplifying life” focuses less on doing without (unless that is your preference) and more on slowing down, enjoying balance, and experiencing fulfillment. Here are five timeless lessons about simplicity from Albert Einstein – and how you can apply his genius to your own life, simplified.

1) Learn to say “no”.

Einstein’s connection with the Jewish people was said to be the strongest bond in his life, yet when he was offered the presidency of Israel, he politely declined the invitation.

[EINSTEIN-LIKE FIX] A lot of people say time management is getting more done in less time. Wrong emphasis! In reality, using time wisely is getting more – more of what is really important to you – done, and ignoring the rest. Only say “yes” to commitments that support your personal priorities and values, and say “no” to those commitments that don’t – even if it is as important as a presidency.

2) Change things up.

Einstein once explained his idea of insanity as: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

[EINSTEIN-LIKE FIX] It’s true – if you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you always got. If you want to simplify and get organized, yet you keep doing the same things that hold your life in chaos, then your life will never change. Step out of your comfort zone and try something new, better, and different in the realm of simplicity – something that will stretch your idea of what is possible.

3) Use smart systems.

Witnesses claim Einstein did not rely on memory to recall his phone number – he referenced a phone book instead.

[EINSTEIN-LIKE FIX] With an estimated 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts a day, there is a lot of competition for attention inside your head. While your brain is an amazing organ, the odds are stacked against you that you will remember everything important. Find or create your own system to track essential information, even if it is as basic as using a phone book!

4) Take regular breaks.

It is believed that Einstein conceived the theory of relativity, not while holed up inside a high-tech laboratory, but rather while riding his bicycle.

[EINSTEIN-LIKE FIX] Although it may seem counter-intuitive, our minds need an occasional rest in order to remain alert, productive, and creative. Schedule regular 20-minute breaks into your daily schedule, using your break time to truly disconnect from your work with fun activities to boost your energy and cognitive power like meditation, a water-cooler chat, or a short Einstein-approved bike ride.

5) Visualize what you want.

Einstein’s greatest breakthroughs in science were born from Gedankenexperiment, or visual experiments carried out in his mind.

[EINSTEIN-LIKE FIX] For many years, visualization techniques have been used in areas like health, athletics, education, business, the arts, and science to break boundaries, create positive change, and facilitate success – amongst others. Visualize your path to simplicity, envision reaching beyond the grasp of chaos and clutter, and take your simplify-life results to the next level.

Carmen Coker is a former US Air Force officer turned professional organizer. If you want to get organized and calm the chaos in your life, go to CarmenCoker.com for her free video how-to called the Secrets of the Super Organized™.

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Five Get-Organized Power Tips

By Carmen Coker

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How many times have you bailed on getting organized because you felt uninspired to keep going, or even get started? There is more to organizing and decluttering than sorting and storing. In fact, your lifestyle choices heavily influence how engaged you feel during the organizing process and, as such, heavily influence your organizing results as well. Here are five science-based solutions that will boost your motivation to reach your get-organized goals.

1. Get restful sleep.

Too little sleep hinders your productivity and focus, amongst other serious health consequences. (Source: Sleep Foundation) Make sure you go to bed early enough, tonight, to get the right amount of ZZZ’s you need for organizing, tomorrow.

2. Wear bright colors.

Warm colors like red and orange stimulate your mind. One British study found that, when evenly-matched Olympic athletes competed, those in red won significantly more. (Source: Health Magazine) Wearing these colors will supercharge your energy levels to achieve more while organizing.

3. Fuel your body properly.

Evidence points to the fact that your diet impacts your brain chemistry, which in turn, impacts your personal energy and mood. (Source: WebMD) Eating fresh fruits, leafy greens, and lean meats as well as drinking water are all smart choices to fuel your body for high-performance – and organizing success!

4. Turn up the music.

Music energizes you. In fact, clinical music therapy uses music to connect people to movement and motivation.(Source: American Music Therapy Association) By turning up your favorite tunes, your energy, intensity, and big decluttering results are sure to follow.

5. Have a positive attitude.

Human beings have a strong mind-body connection, and because of this, the psychological benefits of attitude often manifest into physical benefits. (Source: Mayo Clinic) Using positive self-talk like “I can get organized” is a must-have resource in your organizing toolkit!

Carmen Coker is a former US Air Force officer turned professional organizer. If you want to get organized and calm the chaos in your life, go to CarmenCoker.com for her free video how-to called the Secrets of the Super Organized™.

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3 Sneaky Reasons You Lose Time

By Carmen Coker

Having trouble finding extra minutes in your day? These simple things could be costing you precious time. Here’s how to stop ‘em!

1. You can never say “no.”

Being a yes-man or yes-woman stems from a longing to feel important/needed or from a fear of hurting/disappointing someone. As a result, you are continually over-committed and over-scheduled.

[FIX] When you always say “yes” to others, inevitably, you will end up saying “no” to many of your life priorities. Having an honest response ready will help you feel confident in sending your regrets. Something as simple as this will do the trick: “Thank you for thinking of me! I’d love to support you, but I am unable to right now due to other personal obligations.”

2. You are good at being busy but not productive.

From the outside looking in, you appear like one heck of a busy bee. But from an insider’s perspective, you tend to do something just to do it, even though it may not be the highest priority task at the time.

[FIX] Henry David Thoreau said it best: “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” Practice mindful productivity (instead of mindless productivity) by only giving thought, time, and effort to the truly significant.

3. You rely on memory alone.

You have 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts a day, and yet only five to nine items stay in your short-term memory at any given time. The odds are against you! Leaving stuff in your head means leaving stuff forgotten.

[FIX] Here’s one theory of Albert Einstein’s that isn’t taught in school: “Why remember my phone number when it’s in the phone book?” Believe it or not, witnesses claim he did not rely on memory alone to recall his number – and there is pure genius in its simplicity! Find or create your own system to track important information.

Remember:

There is such a thing as PRODUCTIVITY KARMA. If you don’t value your time (or the time of others), then your time will not value you, and … it will slip away.

Carmen Coker is a former US Air Force officer turned professional organizer. If you want to get organized and calm the chaos in your life, go to CarmenCoker.com for her free video how-to called the Secrets of the Super Organized™.

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How To Double Your Storage Space For Organizing

By Carmen Coker

Isn’t it amazing how you can look at something every day and not see what’s really there?

A few years ago, I was going to lunch with a friend, and we were stopped at a traffic light behind a delivery truck. My friend randomly asked me if I noticed anything strange about the logo on the truck.

Immediately, sensing a trick question, I searched to find something different … out of the ordinary … obvious. I couldn’t come up with a single idea.

(Here, you give it a try – it’s this company.)

Never one to back down from a challenge, I guessed: the colors? The size? The style? No, no, and no.

I was out of guesses! It was a logo I had seen countless times on boxes, trucks, and airplanes. In theory, I should have been able to see a difference, but at that moment, the logo appeared the same as it always had … and so I relented.

Grinning mischievously, my friend told me to look directly between the last two letters of the logo, or the “e” and the “x.”

And there it was – the shape of an arrow, hidden in plain sight between the letters.

Many times, your usable or extra space can act like that arrow – in full view yet unnoticed, and thus, unused. Aside from the obvious option of de-cluttering, here are three simple ways to double your storage space for organizing:

  1. Change your spatial perspective.

Problem: During your waking hours, you generally observe your living space from a vertical angle, either standing or sitting. Doing so limits the imprint of your environment in your mind’s eye.

Solution: Grab a cushion for your head and lay down on the floor for five minutes, taking the time to focus on everything from floor to ceiling and corner to corner. Does scrutinizing from a horizontal angle allow you to see storage capacity where you didn’t previously? (It also might help you to do this with a spouse or friend for a second opinion.)

  1. Check your familiarity at the door.

Problem: If you agree with the saying “familiarity breeds contempt,” then you can appreciate that, if you experience a certain living area day in and day out, you tend to see what you want to see (I don’t have enough room!) instead of seeing the true storage potential of the space itself.

Solution: Move something substantial to a new spot, like switching your computer from the left side to the right side of your desk. Leave it there, and repeat this step with a new item for five days in a row. By the fifth day, the small acts of rearranging will have a large impact how you view the space – and storage possibilities – around you.

  1. Look up and over.

Problem: 80% of everyday organizing is accomplished downwards from 3-4 feet high. Think: baskets on the floor, drawers in the dresser, cabinets in the bathroom, and containers under the bed.

Solution: While lower-level storage is important and should be fully utilized, there is a lot of storage room at higher levels, too – walls, ceilings, rafters, and doors. Ensure you are not ignoring the upper spaces that are readily available to you.

WARNING! If you are thinking something like a wall is a wall is a wall – not more storage, then consider the discovery process this way. When an oil prospector finds oil, it’s a given that the oil is under the surface of the earth and that it has to be drilled and refined in order to become a usable resource. Such is often the same when you discover storage space! It’s there. It just has to be “tapped” by using proper storage and organizing solutions.

 

Carmen Coker is a former US Air Force officer turned professional organizer. If you want to get organized and calm the chaos in your life, go to CarmenCoker.com for her free video how-to called the Secrets of the Super Organized™.

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Photo Mess? Here’s An Inspirational Idea For Organizing Photos

By Carmen Coker

Dear Organizing Guru,

While cleaning out my old bedroom, I found three photo boxes of old pictures. I’m not sure what to do with them. I don’t really want to keep them, but I feel bad throwing away memories. I know if I turn to my husband for advice, he will just tell me to get rid of them. I’m not sure I want to pay money to scan them. Any tips?

Jenn
Chicago, Illinois

 

Reframe.

You already know what you want to do because you told me specifically − you don’t really want to keep the photos. It seems your hesitation lies not in what you are going to do but your guilt about what you are going to do.

Because it’s “the feeling” not “the follow through” that’s stopping you, it’s important to reframe how you’re thinking about this choice. You aren’t throwing away memories, you are throwing away stuff … the memories will always be there.

With this in mind, the question now becomes: how do you deal with the guilt? There are several ways to circumvent guilt when organizing, but this is a client favorite.

Remove.

Since there are bad memories mixed in with the good, and you don’t want the bad memories to remain, go through the photo boxes and immediately dispose of the pictures that bring back negative thoughts and emotions.

Warning: Not all photographs are recyclable. Before tossing them into the blue bin, first check out this article about recycling old photos.

Reminisce.

Determine the time frame that your photo collection encompasses and then think about three to five of your favorite memories from that time period. Sift through the photos that remain and select the “best of the best.” In other words, pick out which pictures best embody your best memories.

Rework.

What remains should be a handful of pictures of which you can display and enjoy on a regular basis. You can do this by:

  • Scanning them and making a desktop slide show.
  • Creating a small, beautiful scrapbook for your coffee table.
  • Putting them into a collage in a hanging frame, in a photo cube, or on a personalized tea cup. Services like Shutterfly give you lots of options for this.

Remember!

The last step is key because you celebrate the memories instead of tucking them away. Making this organizing project into an experience with a happy ending will, in turn, make it easier to explain away the guilt you are feeling, so that you can move forward.

Carmen Coker is a former US Air Force officer turned professional organizer. If you want to get organized and calm the chaos in your life, go to CarmenCoker.com for her free video how-to called the Secrets of the Super Organized™.

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Quiet The Chaos! Work-Life Balance Tips That Work

By Carmen Coker

Have you ever been at home, and yet thinking of something that needs to be done at work? Or been at work, and yet thinking of something that needs to be done at home?

No matter if you try to separate them, your personal life and work life are intrinsically linked. That is to say, if you feel unbalanced personally, then that feeling can bleed into your work life and leave you feeling unbalanced professionally – or vice versa.  This is a fact that many articles with work-life balance tips fail to mention.

This linkage is especially problematic for women who tend to become emotionally attached to both home and office, and it even affects celebrities, who typically have assistants to help them manage their mounting to-do list. Kelly Ripa, co-host of Live! with Kelly and Michael, shared: “I’m like any working mom. When I’m at work, I’m remembering what I forgot to do for the kids, and when I’m with the kids, I’m remembering what I forgot to do at work.”

When you are feeling unbalanced, in order to find relief, you must become aware of your clutter.

Now, you may be thinking: “I know where my clutter is! I trip over it every morning on the way to the bathroom.”

But that’s just the problem! We tend to think of clutter as “stuff” in our space: piles of paper on the desk, clusters of toys on the rug, and mounds of mail on the kitchen counter.

While this is true, there are other types of clutter that can creep into your life.

For example:

  • Do you over-commit to people, organizations, or causes? Then you have something that clutters your schedule.
  • Do you have someone in your life that bleeds your energy and patience, so much so that the very mention of their name causes you great stress? Then you have something that clutters your spirit.
  • Do you look for a distraction, like a TV show, whenever you know you have work to be done? Then you have something that clutters your habit patterns.

Clutter can permeate more than just your surroundings; clutter can permeate all or parts of you. In the same respect, organizing is more than managing your belongings. Organizing is managing you – all parts of you – so that you feel balanced and in control.

So the next time you seem discombobulated … stressed … overwhelmed … chaotic … unbalanced … then examine the areas of your life – both at home and at work – that need to be de-cluttered. This will ultimately help you pinpoint the source of the problem so that you can find relief fast.

Carmen Coker is a former US Air Force officer turned professional organizer. If you want to get organized and calm the chaos in your life, go to CarmenCoker.com for her free video how-to called the Secrets of the Super Organized™.

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How To Break Mental And Emotional Attachments To Your Clutter

By Carmen Coker

A wise Zen master once said: “Be like the wind. Blow over everything without becoming attached to any of it.”

Have you become attached to your clutter? When you are tied to your clutter – whether it’s emotionally, spiritually, mentally, or otherwise – decluttering becomes all the more difficult to accomplish.

Here are five simple ways to break the “ties that bind” when it comes to clutter and help you release any attachments you have to your “stuff”:

1) Adopt a charity.
Adopting a cause of your choice – one that benefits from your donations and in which you strongly believe – will help you make the right decision when the time comes.

2) Practice gratitude.
Hold the item in both hands, and be thankful for all the good things it has brought into your life. Now, envision giving this item to someone else and the many good things it will bring to this individual, encouraging the chain of thankfulness to continue.

3) Think transformationally.
Hold the item in both hands, and think about how it pollutes the environment around you and/or how it is no longer a good fit for your life. Now, envision giving this item to someone else to whom it brings happiness, comfort, or care. Thus, it is transformed from a negative (piece of clutter) into a positive (treasured or needed possession).

4) Take photos.
When you capture a “special something” in photographs, it often provides you the safety net you need to let go. Placing these pictures into a slideshow on your computer desktop, a scrapbook, or a memory box are effective ways you can cherish its meaning and importance instead of the object itself.

5) Hire a professional organizer.
When looking for organizing help, have you ever thought something like: “my husband would just chuck everything out the door” or “my friend would just get mad at me because I can’t get rid of things as easily as she can”? Unlike many in your inner circle, pro organizers come from a spirit of understanding and offer non-judgmental organizing advice that works. Although it may be cheaper to ask friends and family to help you, decluttering will go more smoothly and quickly with a trained expert. Plus, you are guaranteed a happy result!

How can you be more “like the wind” (and less attached to your clutter) today?

Thank you Carmen!

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The Key to Finding Balance and Getting Organized

By Carmen Coker

When you are responsible for taking care of others – whether it is at work, at home, or both – then taking care of YOU can become a low, maybe even non-existent, priority.

Women, in particular, feel incredibly off-kilter when this occurs, but men are also not immune to self-neglect and its repercussions.

Here’s what I mean …

  • You’re working more hours, so that’s less time for exercise. You gain a few pounds, and your pants are fitting tightly … and you feel blah.
  • You’re juggling lots of responsibilities, so that’s less time for planning. You’ve put off your hair appointment three times, and your roots are scary-looking at best … and you feel blah.
  • You’re on-the-go from morning to night, so that’s less time for your mind to rest. You keep forgetting things, most recently your best friend’s birthday … and you feel blah.

I could go on with examples, but the “blah” feeling is your gut telling you that you’re off-balance. In other words, something in your life is not quite right.

Avoiding self-care, for whatever reason, takes a huge toll on your mind, body, and soul. As Jack Kornfield once explained, “When we get too caught up in the busyness of the world, we lose connection with … ourselves.” And that’s never a good thing!

It’s time to stop the self-neglect. This week, begin your journey back to balance by making an appointment that you really need. Whether it’s to see your health care provider or to see your hairdresser, masseuse, manicurist, or chiropractor – do whatever you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle and make you feel good, inside and out.

The bottom line is: The most important thing you can do to find balance and get organized is to take care of yourself.

Great advice as always Carmen! 

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The Biggest Organizing Mistake of All

By Carmen Coker

You’re sure to find a perfectly organized home when you open up any magazine. And those pictures make you think: Man, I wish my house looked like that! 

Of course, the ideal home doesn’t have to be in a book, in a magazine, or on TV. You may need to look no further than your next door neighbor or your own family to find the poster child for neat freak-i-ness. And that person makes you think: Man, I wish my house looked like theirs!

With organizing, as with most things in life, it’s sometimes easy to compare yourself with others. And when this happens, it’s important that you give yourself a reality check.

The perfectly organized home? The perfectly organized life? Here it is:

A perfectionist mindset is the biggest organizing mistake of all because it stops you from having the clutter-free lifestyle you’ve always wanted. Why? You become so fixated on how to “get it right” that you ultimately decide not to start or follow through on your organizing goals.

That’s why being perfectly organized should never be your goal. Instead, focus on creating organizing systems that fit your daily routine and help you have quick access to your belongings.

Of course, doing this is one of those things that can be much easier said than done. So it’s a good idea to remind yourself of the “imperfect action” principle…every single day!

A simple way to do this is to print off this article and cut out the phrase. Then tape it to a spot you see all the time, like your bathroom mirror, or nest it inside something you use a lot, like the loose change in your wallet. You’ll automatically know what it means, and it reinforces the idea inside your head, which is a key step to believing it – and putting it to good use.

Thank you Carmen!  Did you enjoy this article? Like it on Facebook and/or give it a  cheer!

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8 Lazy Ways to Get Organized

By Carmen Coker

Even if you don’t feel you have the time, money, motivation, or inclination to get organized, there are plenty of low-effort, big-win strategies for banishing clutter, saving time, and being productive.

Part 1: Shopping

Clutter starts at the store. You buy something you don’t need or even truly like … something you might need down the road, but never end  up using … something you thought you would return if you didn’t like it, but you lost the receipt instead. Now, lots of these little “somethings” morphed from a good idea in the store to clutter taking up valuable space in your life.

1. Remove one.

On average, a shopper makes three impulse purchases during 40% of store visits. Before you head to the checkout, whether it’s online or in store, look at your shopping cart and remove one item you grabbed spontaneously.

2. Walk away.

Everyone loves a good bargain. However, almost 90% of all impulse buys are made because the item is on sale. If you discover your favorite store is having a sale, and you know if you “check it out,” you’ll be tempted to buy yet another pair of cute shoes – walk away from the sale.

3. Pay cash.

According to the Journal of Consumer Research, it’s psychologically more painful to pay with paper, where the loss is more tangible, than it is to pay with plastic, where the loss is more abstract. Leverage this pain to crush the urge to go overboard on your shopping trips.

4. List it.

Stores know how to capture easy prey – you.  Unplanned purchases are heavily influenced by the sights, sounds, and smells of the displays. Don’t get caught in the trap! Making a shopping list and sticking to it will ensure you make it safely to the checkout line without extras in your cart.

Part 2: Space & Stuff

While clutter starts at the store, it multiplies at home. It tends to slowly creep up on you. At first, it’s just in the corner or on the table. No big deal, right? Then it spreads … amplifies … irritates … embarrasses … disgusts … until you simply can’t “take it” anymore.

5. Move forward.

Whether you have high, medium, or low levels of clutter – no matter – it’s still easy to get overwhelmed by the thought of getting organized. Create a charity bin, and choose one thing each day to place inside of it. It’s better to focus on one piece of clutter a day and continually move toward your organizing goals, than it is to get overwhelmed and stop completely.

6. Smooth move.

In any given day, you typically putter from room to room in your house without a second thought. Instead, make a conscious choice to declutter as you go. As you leave one area, pick up an item that doesn’t belong and take it to the place in which it does. No extra steps necessary!

7. Stop mail.

The average American receives 49,060 pieces of mail in their lifetime, and one third of it is junk mail. Save your counter space and time by using a free service like Catalog Choice, which streamlines the opt-out process for you so that you don’t personally have to contact each company individually.

 8. Skip traditional.

People tend to write or type lists, instructions, or requests. The process to do this – as well as any resulting paper required – takes up valuable minutes and space. Use your cell phone to record, save, or send out grocery lists, after-school chore instructions, or honey-dos via free mobile apps like Dragon Dictation. It’s much faster than traditional options, plus you won’t lose the note!

Getting organized takes work – but the time you dedicate to the process doesn’t need to feel like a second job. If you make these behaviors into habits, think of the space (and money! and time!) you’ll save in the end.


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5 Simple Ways to Declutter Your Home Now

By Carmen Coker

When it comes to tidying up your home, organizing and decluttering aimlessly isn’t enough. It’s essential to organize with one goal in mind, and that is to create a sanctuary where you and your family can easily live, work, and play for years to come. Here are the top five residential “trouble spots” for clutter, and what you can do to organize them.

1) The home office

The problem: Overcrowded libraries with books, magazines, and files as well as big electronics like computers, printers, and shredders mean little extra, useable space.

The solution: Toss magazines and newspapers first, as they are normally the easiest to part with and will give you a motivating “win” to start. Give away unwanted books to charity. If your budget allows, consider switching out a desktop computer for a laptop, opening up more room. Dust, label, and arrange the computer cables in an attractive manner.

2) The bedroom closet

The problem: Closets always feel too small, especially to the ladies.

The solution: Remove out-of-season clothing and accessories, and place them (neatly!) elsewhere in the home. Relocate or purge any items that don’t belong in a clothes closet, like sports equipment, papers, and junk. Then situate the remaining in-season items as if on display in your favorite store or magazine.

3) The kitchen

The problem: As the heart of the home, the kitchen sees high-traffic volumes – and it normally looks worse for wear.

The solution: Make your kitchen into an orderly command center. Remember: you want to make sure that your kitchen has everything you need to survive a crisis, not that your kitchen has just survived a crisis. Rethink any small appliances you don’t use on a daily basis. Chuck the junk mail, and use a tidy basket to hold bills and other essential paperwork.

4) The garage

The problem: The garage is a catch-all for … well, everything.

The solution: Pull everything out of the garage, purge the clutter, and then separate the remaining items into categories like auto accessories, camping equipment, yard tools, recycling containers, etc. Find a home for and use tasteful storage to display each category. The key to organizing a garage is to make use of the elevated space, like the walls for storage racks and ceiling for a false attic.

5) The yard

The problem: It’s easy to ignore the dead patch of grass in the backyard because you have more pressing matters, but the outside of a home is reflective of the inside of a home.

The solution: Have a “discovery session,” where you walk around your house making a list of necessary outdoor improvements. Then schedule a daily to-do on your calendar, or outsource the tasks, until all items are crossed off.


Thank you Carmen! 

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The Moments That Make You Disorganized: Common Clutter Traps To Avoid

By Carmen Coker

If you are trying to get organized, close your eyes for just a minute and imagine the moments that make you disorganized. Think through the last day, week, month, or even year(s) of your life … and you’ll see them there, as obvious as the big pile of clutter on your desk.

While it’s true that you should set goals to get organized – and stay motivated to see these goals through – it is often easier said than done. It’s almost as if human nature dictates you’ll be enthusiastic to start, but then quick to drop interest as time goes by.

As Zig Ziglar, the beloved American motivational speaker, once said: “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”

It’s important not to rely solely on your motivational prowess to get you through the moments that make you disorganized. The key is to accept the fact that your motivation will run out at some point and plan strategies to get you through “cluttery” situations.

Here are the top five moments that make you disorganized, and what you can do to outsmart them.

Snoozing

The problem: Hitting the snooze button is one of the most popular morning-time activities in the world. There’s no sleep benefit, as the rest you get is fragmented and, thus, non-restorative. There’s also no time management benefit, as the rest of your day is 9 … 18 … 27 minutes (or more) behind schedule.

The solution: There are lots of tactics to keep the snooze button at bay, including putting the alarm on the other side of the room, setting multiple alarms, or even super gluing your snooze button so that it no longer functions. However, the real solution starts the night before – make sure you go to bed early enough to get the right amount of ZZZ’s you need.

Dumping

The problem: It’s easy to drop things where they are, not necessarily where they belong. Whether it’s mail on the counter, clothes on the floor, or junk in your purse, the clutter will continue to pile up if you allow it.

The solution: Everything you need to know you learned in kindergarten, right? This includes putting an item back in its proper place after you use it. It’s really as simple as that! After all, it takes just as much energy to put the socks on the floor as it does to toss them in the dirty clothes bin, so why not get it right (and tidy!) the first time.

Shopping

The problem: Our world is becoming increasingly consumerist, especially in countries like the United States, Canada, England, and Australia. So much so that, according to the book A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink, “self-storage has become a $17 billion annual industry in the United States, larger than the motion picture business.” So if you keep shopping, you will eventually outgrow your home and have to feed the self-storage monster by getting an extra storage unit to accommodate all your things.

The solution: When shopping in the store or online, don’t let impulse get the better of you. You’ve likely heard of “think before you buy.” In other words, do you really need it? But better yet is “wait before you buy.” Wait three days – are you still thinking about the potential purchase? 80% of the time, you will have either forgotten all about it or decided it’s not a good idea. The other 20% of the time, you will still be pinning to have it. If and only then, should you proceed to checkout.

Memorizing

The problem: One of the biggest reasons you forget – birthdays, appointments, tasks, deadlines – is because you fail to write stuff down. You have 60,000 – 80,000 thoughts running through your head each day, so if you are hoping to simply remember everything based on memory alone, the odds are stacked against you from the start.

The solution: Create a “tickler” system, which allows you to remember the who’s, what’s, where’s, and when’s of your life. It doesn’t have to be a complicated system; it can be as simple as a sticky note on the bathroom mirror.  But it needs to fit with your organizing personality and routine … otherwise, you won’t use it and you’ll be back to square one.

Adjusting

The problem: Life is full of ups, like graduation, marriage, and birth. It’s also full of downs, like divorce and death. When you go through a period of adjustment, it can be difficult to stay on track. You may find you are overwhelmed, distracted, or perhaps even devastated by the change. As a result, clutter – clutter that you normally wouldn’t have or allow – creeps into your home, work, and life.

The solution: Create or get back to your routine and organizing systems as soon as possible. Relying on these tools will help you build a strong barrier to clutter, and they will also give you a massive sense of constancy and stability as you move forward to the next chapter of your life.


Thanks for the great advice Carmen! 

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When Lists Don’t Work

Generally speaking, a list is a good thing because…

When you write a list, it helps you focus. When you follow a list, it keeps you on track and moving toward list completion. And when you cross off list items, you feel productive.

And yet, despite proven results and positive qualities, lists don’t always work for everyone, every time because…

When you have to make a list, it means you have lots to accomplish. When you have lots to accomplish, you suddenly don’t want to do anything but sit on your couch, watch TV, and eat ice cream.

In other words, making a list is making you procrastinate. At this point, you’ve entered into a mind-game between your lazy self and your productive self, and your lazy self is winning!

If you find yourself in a similar situation, I encourage you to fight back by creating a “NOT To-Do” List to help you get organized.

The “NOT To-Do” List is exactly as the name implies; a list of things you do not want to do.

For example…

#1 The Not To-Do List for Housekeeping

  • Throw shoes by the front door
  • Let mail pile up on the kitchen counter
  • Forget to file bills at the end of month

#2 The Not To-Do List for Time Management

 

  • Hit the “snooze” button on the alarm more than once
  • Check email more than 2 times per day
  • Turn on TV while getting ready for work

 

 

With the “NOT To-Do” List, you’re giving your lazy self permission to be lazy while, at the same time, giving your productive self permission to get things done.

Carmen Coker is a former U.S. Air Force officer turned professional organizer and productivity expert. She provides organizing resources for small business at OrganizedEntrepreneur.com and for house and home at OrganizeClutterbugs.com.

Thank you Carmen!

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Check Off Those Summer Organizing To-Do’s – Here’s How

By Carmen Coker

The weather is great, you’re feeling energized from all that extra solar energy you’ve been absorbing and you’ve got some extra time off. Now is the perfect time to tackle one of those big organizing projects you’ve been wishfully thinking of. First, let’s review a few tips that will help you to get started and maximize your productivity.

  1. Pick one project. Yes, just one: Focus and stick with that project until it is done. Now is not the time for multi-tasking, even though it may be second nature. Often that really big job can be accomplished in one day as long as you develop a laser-focus.
  2. Research and prep: Take some time before you start your project to research how others have successfully tackled similar projects. You can find a wealth of ideas online for what to do – and what not to do as well. If you know that you will need baskets, boxes, shelves or other types of equipment, shop ahead of time to get the best bargains and have it all ready when to begin your project.
  3. Break the job into small pieces: This makes it easier to organize, delegate and keep you from feeling overwhelmed.
  4. Reward yourself: If just the thought of having a clean, organized space isn’t enough, set a reward for yourself to look forward to when you’re done, such as a massage or a nice dinner out that night.

Now that you have the basics down for your big project, let’s take a look three common organizing hot-spots that are great for this season and several ideas and inspirations for keeping the clutter under control.

Gardening Workspace

  • Mount a large piece of lattice, found at any home and garden store, behind your potting bench. Large s-hooks can be easily used to hang tools, gloves and bags to keep your seeds in. (It looks super-cute, as well!)
  • Keep a medium-size galvanized bucket full of clean sand on your potting bench as an easy place to store your garden tools. The sand helps to keep the blades clean, stops  rust from forming and will even help maintain sharp edges.
  • Buy a garden or tool belt tote that fits securely around a 5-gallon bucket. You can find these at most garden and home supply stores. Just like a tool-belt for a bucket, this handy multi-pocketed belt will keep all your supplies organized while leaving plenty of carrying room in the center bucket.
  • Use a small clean pot to hold plant markers and a Sharpie for creating quick labels for your flowers or veggie garden.

Storage Sheds

  • This is a great project for a beautiful weather day. Drag everything out of your shed, create piles of keep, throw out and donate items and sweep and clean out the entire shed.
  • If it’s dark inside, install an inexpensive shop light that will encourage use of the space more often.
  • Purchase simple, heavy-duty storage shelves or racks and use them to place all the smaller items on, getting as much off the floor as possible.
  • And don’t forget the beauty of simple nails and s-hooks for hanging things out of the way. The more you get off the floor, the more efficient and attractive using the shed will be.

Pool and Beach

  • Wet towels, swimsuits and piles of toys all cause organizing distress. Moving from the pool to the beach and back again complicates things as well. For use at home, head to your nearest dollar store and invest in a few plastic laundry-type baskets or milk crates. Label them with bright colors and using water-proof materials to make it fun. Water will drain out, toys will dry and you’ll have one easy place to grab towels or suits from when it’s time to dry them out.
  • Get a pop-up mesh laundry bag to store towels and toys in when moving from pool to beach and back again. You can just shake it out to get most of the sand out of the bag and keep it out of your car and home.
  • Always have a large zip lock bag with you for cell phones and electronics. And take a tip from the surfer crowd, always carry a bottle of baby powder. It’s an absolute miracle at getting all the sand off and keeping it out of your car and home.

Thank you Carmen!

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Time-Wasting Habits – and How to Break Them

By Carmen Coker

When tackling a cluttered lifestyle, sometimes it’s not what you need to “get” that will help, it’s what you need to “get rid of.” Here are three common time-wasters – and actions steps that will help you to get them out of your daily routine so that you can enjoy a clutter-free, stress-free life.

Time Waster #1: Answering the phone every time it rings. Next time you rush to answer the phone when it rings, ask yourself this: Why am I answering the phone? Is it because it’s the polite thing to do? Am I expecting a call? Is it an emergency? Or maybe it’s my favorite radio station telling me that I won $1,000?

Whatever the reason, it’s practically second nature to drop everything when the phone rings. This instinct makes the phone one of the most dangerous enemies of productivity.

TAKE ACTION: Try each day to not answer the phone for one hour, then work your way up to more later on. Choose a time when you need to be at your most productive and turn the phone to silent mode. Hide it in a drawer, stick it in your glove box or even have your spouse hide it from you. But no matter what, don’t touch that phone! And see how much you will accomplish once you’ve removed that extra distraction.

Time Waster #2: Waiting for Perfection. If you are putting things off until the time is right or conditions are perfect, they will never happen. Perfectionism is a paralytic. It’s a powerful venom that causes productivity to die a slow, painful death.

Perfectionism poisons your productivity and makes you think: I’ll do this when I have more money; I’ll do this when the time is right; I’ll do this when I have enough resources; I’ll do this when I’m not so tired or I’ll do this when I lose a few pounds.

When we delay starting a task because we are waiting for the perfect time, the perfect place, or the perfect scenario, we might as well say “I’ll do this when I win the lottery.” With this mindset, your chances of accomplishing that task are just as slim as winning the lotto.

TAKE ACTION: I challenge you to think about a to-do that you’ve been saving for that “perfect” day and start it right now, imperfections and all. Remember, good is good enough!

Time Waster #3: Multi-tasking Gone Bad. Multi-tasking has become the battle cry of the over-worked, over-stressed and over-committed. In order to survive, we’ve been taught that multi-tasking is always the answer. Not true. The only proper way to multi-task is for those moments when it’s OK to be on auto-pilot – like emptying the dishwasher and watching the news. But for mindful tasks, like listening to your spouse or budgeting finances, you need to give full attention where full attention is due.

The bottom line is that the secret is to live in the present – one of the big benefits you’ll get from organizing your life that I constantly tout.

TAKE ACTION: When you’re working on the computer, shut down everything (yes, Facebook too!) so you can focus on just the task at hand. When you are decluttering your house, decide on a specific area, stay put and stay focused. Don’t leave the room and then decide to fold laundry, then pick up a few things in your kid’s room on the way back. Your time is not being used effectively and all of those projects could have been accomplished much quicker had they been done one at a time, with focus.

Studies have shown that, on average, people are interrupted an average of four times each hour. But here’s the interesting part – they often don’t go back to what they were working on before they were interrupted. So you can see how important it is that we identify the time-wasting habits we’ve absorbed into our lives and start working now on changing that behavior. Take away the distractions and the time-wasting habits little by little and you’ll be amazed at the clarity and productivity you’ll gain in your life.

Great advice as always Carmen! 

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How to Stop Procrastinating

By Carmen Coker

I find that, when it comes to organization, getting started is half the battle.

If you’re procrastinating on an organizing project, the key to pushing past the procrastination is to find out what motivates you. Know your motivators before a wave of procrastination hits, and you’ll be prepared to deal with it — head-on — as soon as it arrives.

So ask yourself, “What makes me want to get things done? To get organized?”

Here are some possibilities…

(1) Free time.

It’s well-established that if you simplify life, you save time.

But just how much time, exactly, will you save? US News and World Report recently demonstrated that the average American spends 1 year of their life looking for lost or misplaced items at home and in the office.

1 year = 365 days = 8,760 hours = 525,600 minutes = 31,536,000 seconds

Any way you put it — it’s a lot of time! A lot of time you could have been doing other things…

(2) Money.

Think about your biggest organizing problem. Let’s just say, for example, that it’s your home office.

Assume that you’re losing $20 a week ($3 a day) in personal resources — lost time, energy, productivity, sanity — because you don’t have an effective organizing system in place. (It’s probably much more than $3/ day, but we’ll go for a moderate amount.)

Imagine you decide against de-cluttering your home office and continue down the same unorganized path for the next 5 years. You will lose over $5000 of resources!

Although that $5000 is just a hypothetical figure, it puts disorganization in a whole new light.

(3) Positive energy.

According to the book The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People by Dr. David Niven, it’s important to establish a schedule to take your tasks from “To Do” to “To Done.”

Dr. Niven writes: “We often feel overwhelmed by the chores that have to be done on a regular basis. We clean the kitchen, then the living room needs to be vacuumed…and 16 other things need to be done. With a routine, you will not be lost in wondering what’s next.”

Precisely how much will a household routine boost your level of happiness? 100 Simple Secrets explains: “In a study of families, regularity in household routines improved daily personal satisfaction by about 5%.”

 (4) Shaping your destiny.

I realize that for some of you out there, home organization may be just about as fun as boot camp. But in this day in age, when life keeps getting crazier and crazier, you can’t afford not to be organized!

Dr. Wayne Dyer once said, “Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice.”

Isn’t that so true? It definitely applies to organizing…

If you know you have to get organized, you can choose to procrastinate, and your disorganization will just cause you more frustration. Or you can choose to get motivated, get organized, and truly know the freedom that comes with it.

It’s always your choice…

 (5) Tough love.

There can be some undesirable consequences that accompany disorganization.

– Can’t find your keys in the mornings = late for work

– Forget a birthday = guilty feelings (you) and hurt feelings (birthday boy or girl)

– Neglect to declutter the house = embarrassing mess to explain away to visitors

– Pack a suitcase without a purpose = too many socks and too few undies

– Pay a bill after it’s due = excess late fees

– Overlook expired car registration = traffic ticket and possible fines

I’m sure you could add a few more examples to this list!

It’s time to get organized — and stop putting yourself in situations where you wish that you had made organization a priority. Shoulda, coulda, woulda.

 For the purpose of this article, I’ve applied the above motivators to organizing specifically. But you can relate this same formula to other areas of your life where procrastination plagues you.

Knowing your strong inner motivators + Knowing where you’re vulnerable to procrastination = Knowing how to push past procrastination

It’s that simple. Although sometimes we tend to make it harder than that!

Martin Luther, German priest and scholar, opined “How soon ‘not now’ becomes ‘never’.” Your “nows” are fleeting — don’t let them slip away!

Thank you Carmen!

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51 Ways to Get Organized Now

By Carmen Coker

Are you ready to get your life more organized? To help you get a jump start, I’ve put together a list of 51 easy and quick ways to get organized and feel more balanced today.

Please don’t let this number overwhelm you – you don’t have to do all 51 at once! Read through the list, prioritize the ones that will give you the best benefit and tackle a handful of those to begin with. In no time at all, you’ll find that your life is much more organized and stress-free!

Time Savers
1. Store take-out menus by using a 3-hole punch and a simple binder for easy access.

2. Organize loose recipes and torn-out magazine pages with a 3-ring binder and clear plastic sleeves

3. Make a meal or two ahead of time. Freeze and have it ready for those crazy days when you have no time – or energy – to cook.

4. Create a laundry-room “Lost and Found.” Designate a box or basket to hold items found in pockets and lonely single socks.

5. Organize clothing into four categories: formal, work, casual and sport and store in separate areas of the closet for quick and easy access.

6. Keep cleaning supplies together in a plastic bin to keep them organized in a single space easy to find and easy to access for all types of chores around the house.

7. Place your purse, briefcase and keys in a designated area every day so you always know where they are.

Maximum Efficiency
8. Create a garage sale box and keep items you plan on selling in one location.

9. Take 30 minutes as you watch a favorite TV show and finish the mending pile you have on your sewing machine.

10. Sort your mail over your garbage can or recycle bin. Junk mail will never make it into your home or on your counter tops!

11. Don’t answer the phone for a few hours. You’ll be surprised at how much more productive you will be.

Stress Relief & Peace of Mind

12. Keep labeled folders to store warranties and operating manuals together for appliances and household items.

13. Buy a label maker. Use it!

14. Create a gift bin or shelf/storage area. Keep gifts bought ahead of time there, labeled and ready to go.

15. Computer and electronics cables: untwist, label, straighten each and every line, then plug them all back in bundled neatly together.

16. Unsubscribe to unwanted email newsletters or updates from companies that you no longer want. Use the “unsubscribe” link usually found at the bottom of the emails.

17. Delete as least 25 old email messages from your Inbox that you don’t need any more. Then empty the Trash or Deleted Items folders in your email system.

18. Check your candle supply to be ready for potential power outages. Make sure all flashlights in the house have fresh batteries in them.

Budget-Friendly Organizing

19. Place risers under your bed frame to lift and add storage area.

20. Position hooks or organizers behind doors to corral your stuff, there are all kinds of holders for hats, purses, shoes, coats and belts that fit standard door frames.

21. Use old muffin pans to sort nails, screws, and other hardware in garage.

22. Empty tissue boxes make great plastic grocery bag dispensers.

23. Hang a rack above a kitchen island to hold pots and pans, freeing up cabinet space.

24. Those empty holiday card boxes are also great to use as drawer organizers.

25. Organize your battery stash by implementing a storage solution such as bags, containers or drawer dividers. Organize by battery type and size.

26. Gather up all the loose change from your purse, house, car and laundry room. Bag it up and take it to the bank or one of those coin sorting machines at the local grocery store.

27. Organize your coupons. Use a small accordion folder made for such a purpose or a system that works for you.

28. Gardening tools can be stored vertically on simple hooks attached to the walls so they’re easy to get to when you need them and they’re out of the way when you don’t.

29. Use a bead-storage craft box with a clear lid to store jewelry in various compartments.

30. Use decorative votive candle holders to organize small desk items such as tacks, rubber bands, binder clips, business cards, etc.

Declutter Your Space
31. Purge your sock drawer – toss any that have holes, are worn out, faded or have no match.

32. Gather post-it notes and scraps of paper with names, addresses and phone numbers on them and record them in a central address book.

33. Go through your DVD or CD collection. Organize by donating or tossing outdated ones, uploading music to your iPod and destroying old software ones.

34. Tackle receipt clutter. Take 15 minutes and search out pesky unwanted receipts throughout the house, car and your pocketbook. Toss the ones you don’t need, file the good ones.

35. Clean out your wallet – toss out receipts, extra change, expired coupons and ID cards, etc.

36. Go through your kitchen spices. Throw out expired ones and make a list of what you need to replenish your store.

37. Clean and organize the surface of your office desk. Tackle the drawers if you have the time.

38. Tackle the medicine cabinet. Throw out old, expired items. Make a note for what you need to restock.

39. Restock or purchase your home’s first aid kit.

40. Make your bed first thing in the morning to start the day off right.

41. Create a pet zone. Keeping Fifi’s crate, leashes and collars, food dishes and toys all together frees up space and helps keep mess to a minimum.

42. Recycle an old paper towel holder to organize girl’s headbands and elastic hair accessories.

43. Hang a fish net from the ceiling to store stuffed animals, dolls, or action figures.

Conscious Organizing
44. Situate a charity box in your home where items to be donated can be stored.

45. Dedicate a day to “being nice.” You’ll find that emotional clutter gets cleared away quickly by a positive attitude and “pay-it-forward” actions.

46. Make an appointment for yourself that you’ve been putting off: Hair, dentist, manicure, massage, dermatologist, etc. Take care of yourself and you’ll take better care of your life.

47. Estate planning. Review your preparations and update where needed. Tackle one task you’ve been putting off for this.

48. Gather all unused wire hangers and take them to the dry cleaners to recycle.

Sneaky Organizing
49. Before the kids go to bed, have a 10-minute race to see who can pick up the most stuff.

50. Hide a quarter in a stack of clean clothes to be put into drawers and tell the kids whoever finds it gets to keep it.

51. Install a basketball hoop over a laundry basket for slam-dunking dirty clothes.


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