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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10 Tips for Surviving and Thriving This Holiday Season

By Patty Gardner

Thriving-During-Holiday-Season-515x386The holidays can be tricky for people who are already on a tight budget with their time, money and stress level.  I know I already have more to do than I can possibly do and the holidays just about push me over the edge.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  There are things we can do to survive and even thrive during this holiday season.

1.       There are SO many things you could do during the holidays, and most likely, your schedule will not allow you to do all of them.  So before you get started, CHOOSE what activities are most important to you and schedule them in.  Decide which activities are the LEAST important and mark them off the list.  You can’t do everything so decide ahead of time what you will do.

2.       Skip what you can.  Just because you’re invited to something doesn’t mean you have to go.  Since there are more than enough activities to choose from, skip what you can so you can focus on the things you really want to do.

3.       If you like shopping for Christmas presents at the stores, then schedule shopping time.  If you don’t, do as much shopping as possible on-line.  But do it soon so you’ll be sure to get your gifts on time.

4.       If you’re attending or hosting parties, don’t be ashamed to buy food pre-made.  Yes, homemade is usually better but you can only do what you can do.  So if you’re short on time and energy, buy it at the store!  There’s no shame in that.

5.       Do the minimum on the house.  Yes, I actually said skip the housecleaning – but not all of it!  Straighten, vacuum, keep the bathroom(s) clean and clean the kitchen as you go.  If you spill something, clean it immediately.  If you get something out, put it away.  But if time is short, don’t worry about a lot of cleaning.  Just do the minimum.  You can catch up when the holidays are over.

6.       Cook easy meals.  Use your crock pot whenever you can.

7.       Don’t pack your activities in too tight.  If you already have an event for one evening, don’t try to plan something else that day, too.  It’s tempting to schedule events back to back, but don’t do it.  That will definitely stress you out.

8.       Allow down time.  You want to get through the holidays with your sanity so schedule some time to just relax.  It might be hard to fit it in, but it’s important.  It can be time for just you or time with the family.  But don’t go, go, go – unless that’s what you like.

9.       Don’t start something new!  If you’re thinking about making big changes to one of your systems (planner, cleaning schedule, etc.)DON’T.  Wait until January when things are slower.  Even if your life is busy all the time, January will still be slower than December.

10.     Don’t skip the things that are important in an effort to save time.  I’m talking about basics like your spiritual life, your sleep, good food, time with family, exercise.  You think you’ll save time by skipping these but in the end they cost you much more than you gained.

So which of these do you need to put into practice in order to thrive this holiday season?

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Thanksgiving is Coming! Is your Planner Ready?!

By Patty Gardner

Thanksgiving is coming, and it’s going to be at my house again (like it has been for the last 20 years or more).  I’ve hosted so many times that I can almost plan the menu and prepare the food with my eyes closed.  But I don’t.  And even though I know what I’m doing, I still use my trusty planner to figure out what to do and when to do it.

The first thing I do is pull out last year’s planner and read about how last year’s Thanksgiving went.  Then I get out my calendar and highlight Thanksgiving on my monthly calendar so I can see at a glance how much time I have before the big day arrives. Since I have ADHD, I don’t always have a realistic view of how much time has passed or how much time is still remaining.  That’s why it’s important for me to have a visual reminder of exactly when the holiday is – more than just a box on the calendar – a HIGHLIGHTED box.

FC - Thanksgiving 3Then I go to the Thanksgiving page in my planner and insert a blank piece of paper.  On that paper, I write down who I think will be coming so I can get a count.  I also decide what time we’ll eat and write down a tentative menu.  We like to have most of the same foods year after year but we tried to include a few new things each holiday.  Anyway, on that blank piece of paper I jot down any thoughts I have about the menu, the guest list or anything else about the holiday.  I start doing this in October at the latest.

As November gets closer, I start finalizing the recipes and assigning foods to other family members (I let them tell me what they want to bring and then make it fit the menu).  I write on the Thanksgiving planning page who’s bringing what.

A few weeks before Thanksgiving I start writing down all the extra things we’ll need like plates, silverware, napkins, salt & pepper, butter, coffee (I always forget coffee), ice, etc.  It sounds silly to write all that stuff down but I want to make things as easy and mindless as possible on Thanksgiving.  I don’t want to forget anything and I don’t want to be stressed.

At the beginning of the week of Thanksgiving I write out a plan.  My plan includes what I’m cooking and when.  I get pretty detailed about what needs to be done when.  And I post that plan so it’s visible to everyone.  Then if they want to help, they have a better idea of what to do and I know what to tell them.

FC - Thanksgiving 2

And then . . . when it’s all over, I write details on my notes page about how it went and what I might want to do different or the same next year.  And before the lights go out on Thanksgiving, I move on to Christmas . . . no wait, I already started planning for Christmas.  But that’s an article for another day!!!

 

 

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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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6 Ways to Use a Planner To-Do Page

By Patty Gardner

6 Ways to Use a Planner To Do Page

I’m pretty sure that all time management experts recommend using a personal planning system of some sort.  It can be anything:  an electronic planner, your smart phone, a paper planner (my personal favorite), your computer or tablet, or even notebooks, steno or legal pads, or index cards.  It doesn’t matter what you use as long as you use it and it works for you!

And therein lies the problem.  Most of the pre-printed systems are designed to be used a certain way and most people try to use them the way they were designed even if they don’t work for them.  Sometimes the planner you’re trying to use isn’t worth saving – it just doesn’t work.  So toss it.  But sometimes you can tweak it and make it work.  Here are a few points to consider:

  • Just because the planner provides lines for you to write on doesn’t mean you have to write on them.  My planner’s lines are too narrow so I use two lines instead of one.
  • Just because the “box” says it’s for the prioritized task list doesn’t mean you have to write the task list there.
  • Just because another area says it’s for appointments doesn’t mean you can’t put to do items there, too.
  • Just because an area is blank and isn’t supposed to be written on doesn’t mean you can’t.
  • You can write in your planner any way you want!

I’ve been using a planner for a very long time – I can’t function without it.  Just ask my family.  That being said, I’m not sure I’ve ever used my planning pages the way they’re supposed to be used.  But my modifications worked for me.  Below are six examples of different ways I’ve used my planner over the years (and sometimes in the same week!).  I’m hoping these examples will give you ideas for how you can better use your planner.

6 Ways to Use a Planner To Do Page

Example 1.  This example uses the planner page as intended.  You make a list of everything you need to do and then prioritize the list using A, B and C and 1, 2 and 3.  A’s are items that MUST be done that day or bad things will happen.  B’s are items that you should do.  C’s are things that you can do if you have time.  If you don’t do them, nothing will happen.

I personally have a very hard time prioritizing in this way.  If your list consists only of “extra” things you needed to do, like pay bills, schedule an appointment, etc –this method is easier.  But I include pretty much everything I need to do and it’s hard to decide whether dinner is more important than laundry and which should be done first.   So I’ve never done my list this way.  But I know a lot of people have success with this method.

6 Ways to Use a Planner To Do Page

Example 2.  On this page, my list consists only of items that must be done that day.  In the bottom section, the daily tracker, is a list of the daily things I need to do.  On the top right of the page is a reminder of a friend’s appointment so I can follow up.  On the top left is my menu.

 6 Ways to Use a Planner To Do Page

Example 3.  On this example I divided my day into sections and made my list based on what I hope to accomplish during each time segment.  Again my menu is on the top left.

6 Ways to Use a Planner To Do Page

Example 4.  On this example, in the prioritized daily task list section I have one column of daily chores and one column that is all the other things I would like to do.  The circled items (you could also put an asterisk by them) are items that are very important.  My menu is in the daily tracker.  And the area at the top right includes things I need to do as soon as I get up.

6 Ways to Use a Planner To Do Page

Example 5.  On this example I use the appointment schedule to record my to do’s.  I plug in the things I have to do at set times and highlight them so they stand out.  Then in the spaces between, I write what I’m planning to do during that time period.  I use the prioritized daily task list area for details about those items.

6 Ways to Use a Planner To Do Page

Example 6.  On this example, I limit my list to only 10 things that are important for that day.  I have more things I would like to do but setting a limit helps me focus on the most important things.  When I’m making my list (it’s a good idea to use pencil), sometimes I have to erase something in favor of something else that I decide is more important.  The list at the top right includes about 5 things that can be completed very quickly.  I’ll do those when I have a minute between tasks.  If I happen to complete all 10 items before the end of the day (I don’t think that ever happened), then I’ll make a list of 5 more.  Again, my menu is in the daily tracker section.

So just because the planner page designates certain areas for certain things doesn’t mean you have to do it that way.  Don’t be afraid to modify your page so that it works for you!  You should never be a slave to the planner.  The planner is your servant!  Make it work for you!

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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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5 Ways Your Planner Can Help You Act, Instead of React

By Patty Gardner

Do you act or react?  “Acting” is definitely a less stressful way to live but most people spend their life RE-acting.

What is reacting?

  • Being late to an appointment because you’re gathering the stuff you need at the last minute.
  • Being late to an appointment because you can’t find your keys or bag or items you need to take.
  • Paying fines on library books because you forgot they were due.
  • Running out of gas because you didn’t realize you were low or didn’t take the time to stop and fill it up.
  • Getting arrested because you forgot to pay your speeding ticket (this has not happened to me, by the way).
  • Having your electricity shut off because you forgot to pay the bill.
  • Paying an exorbitant amount of interest because you signed up for the no interest for one year financing but then made your payment late.

Besides the embarrassment, financial hits and other consequences, reacting also makes you feel like you’re always behind.  You’re reacting to all the things life throws at you instead of acting in advance.

How do you get ahead?  How do you become an actor instead of a reactor?

1.       Have a planner, calendar or electronic device and use it faithfully.  It won’t work if you don’t use it.  And if you don’t use it, unless you’re one of those naturally organized people, you won’t be ahead of the game but running behind.  Carry it with you.  Put it out where you can see it.  Set reminders on your phone to check it.

2.       Write everything down!  If you stop and pick up library books, write on your calendar when they’re due.  Then put a note a few days ahead reminding you to return them.  If you sign up for an account and have to choose a user id and password, write it down.  If you think of something you need to do, write it down.  Don’t rely on your memory.  It will fail you!

3.       Look ahead.  If you don’t look ahead in your planner, tasks and appointments can still catch you by surprise.  It’s good to have a day when you sit down and look at the coming week, make notes about what you need to do and observe appointments.  If you need to, put extra reminders in your planner.

Here’s an example from my planning routine.  My husband rented a piece of expensive equipment for a job he was working on and he had a set amount of time before he had to return it or we be charged a very expensive penalty.

  • I noted the date due on my calendar.
  • A week before the equipment was due, I put a note on my calendar.
  • A few days later, I put another reminder.
  • After the equipment was shipped, I wrote the tracking number in my planner.
  • I put a note on my calendar to check the tracking.
  • On the actual due date, I put a note on my calendar to check the tracking to be sure it had arrived on time.

An example from my library routine:

  • After I go to the library, I put on my monthly calendar the date the books are due.
  • Then on the daily page, I put “did you return library books?”
  • A couple of days before they’re due, I put “library books due 12-26-13”
  • After I return all the books due that day, I put a mark through the note on my monthly page so I know I did it.

4.       Use questions instead of to-do’s.  Did you notice on my library example I put “did you return library books?”  I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to be told what to do.  Sometimes my to-do list feels more like it’s bossing me and then the last thing I want to do is whatever is on that list.  But a question feels less offensive and less bossy.

I know this strategy is dumb, and I don’t use it for everything, but sometimes I have to do crazy things to keep myself motivated and on track.

5.       Put follow-up in your planning system.  I haven’t gotten a ticket in a long time, but when I did, I took extra steps to keep myself out of trouble.

  • I recorded the date due on the appropriate planner page.
  • A week before the ticket was due, I wrote pay the ticket. 
  • The day before the ticket was due, I checked my bank account to be sure the check had cleared.

While paying the ticket was important, making sure they got the payment was just as important.  Follow-up can save you a LOT of trouble!!!

Another example is a 0% financing for one year deal.  If everything goes well, they’re a great deal, but one tiny mistake and you’re in serious hot water.  We took advantage of one of those recently.  To stay out of trouble, I set up automatic payments delivered four or five days ahead of the due date.  A couple of days before the due date, I always checked to be sure the payment was made properly.

Paranoid? No, just careful.  I’ve had too many things go wrong to trust the system.  But I do trust my planner.

So which are you?  A reactor or actor?

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Making an Organized Transition to College

By Monica Friel 

Are you sending a child off to college soon, or do you know someone who’s about to embark on this great adventure? Here are some tips for an organized transition to college dorm living:

Weed Out. Eliminate what you can before you even begin packing. Think clearly about what you’ll need to keep now that your life will need to fit in a tiny dorm room.

Organize. Organize the space you live in now. It will help with packing up properly and you’ll be happy to return to a simplified and organized place during breaks.

Prepare for small space living. Make the most out of every inch of space so that you won’t be feeling cramped. Use vertical wall space and contain like things with baskets/containers.

Financial. Make sure you are linked to the students debit card so money can be sent quickly. Chase Quick Pay is a terrific option.

Coordinate with your Roommate. You don’t need two coffee pots and 2 refrigerators. Get in touch and make a plan for who will bring what.

Move with Plastic Bins.  Pack up the car with plastic bins. They can be pack & unpacked easily. Parents can also take the empty bins back home.  They’re reusable and great for packing and storing at home over the summers.

Shop before Departure. Don’t wait until you arrive on campus to complete your checklist. Avoid making last minute purchases. College towns know you’re coming and hike up the prices accordingly.

Monica Friel

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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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Use Your Planner: 9 Tips for Making it Easier

10 Reasons (3)

By Patty Gardner

Do you ever neglect your planner because it seems like too much trouble? There are things you can do to make it easier to use.

1.      Take it with you as much as possible.  Keep it in your purse or bag or hand, but take it with you.  If it isn’t with you, you can’t use it.  If you don’t want to take it into stores or people’s homes, leave it in the car.  You can always go get it if you need it.

2.       Keep it near you when you’re home.  I don’t mean you have to wear it around your neck, but keep it handy.  When I work at my desk, my planner is on the desk next to me.  When I go downstairs and cook or clean, I keep my planner on the table.  As much as possible, I keep it near where I’m working.

3.       Keep it OPEN.  If it’s closed, you’re less likely to use it.  Remember – we want to make it as easy as possible.  The small step of having to open it might keep you from using it, especially if you’re in a hurry.  So keep it open.

4.      Keep it supplied with things you need.  If you use post-its, keep them in the pockets of the planner.  Always have a pen in the pen loop or at least nestled next to the pages (when I’m using mine a lot, I don’t always put the pen back in the pen loop).  Make sure there’s blank paper and current inserts.

5.       Keep it cleaned out.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand using a planner that’s so full I can’t open the rings without papers falling out.  That makes me NOT want to use it.  If that doesn’t bother you, then don’t worry about it, but if it does, then keep it cleaned out so overflowing rings won’t keep you from using it.

6.       Make sure you LIKE it!  If you hate your binder or your pages are boring, you probably won’t use it.  If your set-up isn’t working, you probably won’t use it either.  So do what you can to make it work for you.

7.       Look at it often.  If you never look at it, you may as well not have it.  Get in the habit of taking a look at it frequently.  The more you look at it and realize how much it helps you, the more you’ll use it.

8.       Have page finders or markers of some kind for the sections you use frequently.  If it takes too much time to get to the section you need, you won’t do it.

9.       Limit the amount of loose pages.  If you open your planner and a bunch of stuff falls out, you’re not going to want to open it.

If you have a planner but don’t use it faithfully, why don’t you?  If the hold-up isn’t any of these items, figure out what it is and try to fix it.  A planner is an extremely valuable tool that can make the difference between chaos and calm.  Sometimes you need a completely different system, but most of the time your current system just needs a tweak or two.

Have you struggled with any of these issues? What keeps you from using your planner?

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Tips to Balance Work and Kids During the Summer

By Monica Friel 

Summer is here! If you have school-aged children, you know the havoc that can wreak on working from home or getting projects done around the house. Here are some suggestions to help you navigate between working and enjoying quality time with your kids at home.

Get work done early in the morning. Make a plan in the morning for the work that needs to get done and regularly stick to the block of time that you set aside. Work efficiently and let your kids know when your working hours will be.

Keep kids busy with age-appropriate chores. If they have a place they want to go, give them a list to complete before departure. A little perk to get the house straightened up while they’re motivated. They may not do it like you, but it’s a great way to teach them.

Share the load. Talk with other parents and see if you can coordinate a regular babysitting co-op. This way, kids will have friends to play with and the parents will share the babysitting load.

Stick to a routine. Your kids will get used to the routine if you make sure there’s something fun in it for them at some point in the day. If they can be patient and quiet while you’re on the phone with a client, you can take them to the pool in the afternoon.

Forward your calls. Smart phones, tablets and laptops make taking the kids on an adventure without “leaving” the office possible. If you have to talk with clients, allow your child to bring a friend so they can have fun even if you can’t always engage.

Of course it all depends on what age your kids are and how independent they can be. Work is important, and so is making fun summer memories for your children.

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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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Going Vertical

By Naomi Cook

Ah …college graduation time – no more classes, no more books! I remember what a great time in life that was – no obligations (for the moment, anyway) and lots of celebration! Plus, I was finally able to check out of that cramped concrete cube that was my bedroom, closet, office, living room and kitchen all rolled up into one! Add in a roommate and I think to myself now, “How did I ever survive?!”

Wherever you live now, when it comes to organization, go back to thinking like a college student. Floor space is limited, but as the typical ceiling height of most rooms is 8 feet (at least!) take a look at all of the available wall space in your home.

Yes, walls aren’t just for artwork and tiny shelves holding grandma’s knick knacks…they are valuable real estate in any home. One of the first things I bought for my apartment after college was a 6 foot by 6 foot bookcase, which is divided up into 25 cubbies. It is still the best investment I ever made.

fpQT15K3The bookcase is now in my dining room and it has become invaluable for holding books and magazines, light bulbs, office supplies, and much more! Some of these items don’t need to be seen and are covered by 3 table runners to add visual interest and a pop of color. All that and it takes up barely any room!

Technology has helped tremendously and now laptops don’t require desks, unlike the big old desktop computers (a.k.a. beige dinosaurs!) of years ago. Stereo systems have been replaced by iPods, and tube televisions have given way to wall mounted flat screens. Here are some other inexpensive ideas for going vertical throughout your home:

Shelves are one of the simplest ways to go vertical. Use them for media in your living room, cookbooks in your kitchen and spare towels in the bathroom.

Hooks are another great idea, and these days you can find plenty to fit your style and color scheme. Use them to display your costume jewelry and handbags in the bedroom, mugs in the kitchen and hair dryer in the bathroom.

Door Organizers are perhaps my favorite way to go vertical. Without any need for power tools, you can slip them right over a door! Use ones with pockets for belts and shoes in the bedroom and small items in the pantry and bathroom. Use ones with hooks to set out your clothes for the next day in the bedroom and extra coats and umbrellas in a closet.

Whatever methods you choose, enjoy your home and design it as a reflection of you…and for goodness sake please throw away that blacklight poster!

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The Most Important Part of My Planner

10 Reasons (1)

By Patty Gardner

To-do list? A-Z tabs? Calendar?

No.  None of those.  The most important part of my planner is the notes page.  Yes, you read that right – the notes page.

daily notes

I’ve been using Franklin Covey’s two pages per day for 20 years and the Notes page has been and will continue to be the most important part of my planner.

The notes page is important because that’s where all the good stuff  is.  In the future, no one is going to care about what was on my to-do list or what appointments I had that day.  But the information on the notes page is interesting.  It’s important.  It’s valuable.  It’s a record of my life and my family’s lives.

When I need to write something down, I never have to think about where to write it.  I grab my planner and start writing on the notes page.  When I need to retrieve information, I don’t have to wonder where it is.  I know it will be on one of my notes pages.

Of course, the key to retrieving information from the notes pages is the monthly index.

This page includes: Details about a conversation from the agent who handles our health insurance. Spending. Directions to the title company. Information about some work the city did in my neighborhood. Email address for the closer on our house sale. Information about an offer we made on a house.

And now, here are a few samples of some of my notes pages.

Other things I record on my notes pages:

1.       Information.  When anyone tells me anything, I write it down on the notes page.  For example, yesterday I went to Public Storage to rent a storage unit (we’re moving in with family until we find a house) and I pulled out my planner and wrote down the important information – like unit number and password.  Yes, they gave me paperwork with all that information, but in the chaos of moving, I might accidentally misplace it and then I won’t know which unit or how to get in.  But I promise you I won’t misplace my planner.

2.       Lists.  My daughter was coming over one day and I had several things I wanted to ask her about.  I made a list on the Notes page, and when she got here, I made sure I asked her everything I had written down.  I always think I’ll remember but I don’t.

3.       I use it as a journal.  I used to record funny things the kids said and did.  Now I use it to record funny things the grandkids say and do.  I love looking back and reading about their antics.

4.       I track ongoing issues.  I’m currently dealing with some pretty major peri-menopause symptoms and I record on the Notes page what’s going on.  It helps me see patterns and provides information for doctor appointments.

5.       I record questions I want to ask at future doctor appointments.  If I have a doctor’s appointment scheduled for the next month, as I think of things I want to ask or talk about, I turn to the appropriate page and write my notes on the page.

6.       When I sign up for a new on-line account, I record the user id and password on the notes page.  Then I put that same information in the A-Z tabs.

7.       I record instructions.

8.       I record things that happen.  For example, about a month ago a plumbing company was working on the road near our house.  The dump truck’s brakes failed and the truck, pulling a trailer carrying a backhoe, rolled down the hill.  One of the employees jumped in the truck and got it stopped but not before the trailer clipped the edge of the road and turned over.  The still running backhoe landed on our split rail fence.  Yes – this kind of stuff happens to us on a regular basis.  Anyway, I wrote details about what happened as well as took pictures.  And in case you’re wondering, the company paid for the fence.

My son and I were having a discussion about my memory recently.  I told him that I had a great memory.  He said, “You don’t have a great memory.  You just have a great system.”  Wow.  He was right.  I have a great system and it helps me remember the details of my life.  And the most important part of my system is the notes page.  It’s the glue that holds it all together.

Do you have a notes page? Do you have a place in your planner where you write everything?  How easy is it for you to retrieve information?

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How to Keep a Big Project From Stressing You Out!

By Patty Gardner

Have you ever had a big project you needed to do but you were completely overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start?  The solution to that problem is simple – break the project down into smaller steps.   Here are a couple of examples from my life.

I have two quilt projects going right now.  I was feeling overwhelmed so I made a couple of charts for my planner that broke each quilt project down into manageable steps.

The first chart is just a bunch of boxes.  Each box represents a square of the quilt.  For some reason, I’m more motivated to quilt if I get to check off a box each time I finish a square.  Plus I can see at all times where I am in the project.

Quilt 1

The second chart is a little more detailed since I was in the beginning stages of the project when I made the chart.  The chart lists the steps required to sew the top together, boxes representing each square, and then a few steps at the end for finishing.  I felt a lot better about this project once I made the chart.  And each time I mark off a step, I feel like I’m making progress and the project doesn’t seem so overwhelming.

 Quilt 2

So it’s your turn.  Take a look at your to do list and see what projects could be broken down into smaller sized pieces.  Then make a list of all the steps required and get started!  You’ll be surprised at how much less overwhelming it feels.

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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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8 Reasons Why it’s Better to Make Your To-Do List the Day Before

By Patty Gardner

Do you make tomorrow’s to-do list before you go to bed or first thing in the morning?  I’ve always made my list the night before and I think that works better for these eight reasons:

1.       If I make tomorrow’s list before I go to bed, I sleep better.  I have a plan for the day and I know exactly what I need to do as soon as I get up.  Plus I’m not trying to remember what I have to do tomorrow because I already planned it out and wrote it down.

list2.       When I’m making the list the night before, it gives me more time if I discover something that needs done beforehand, like making sure certain clothes are clean, having cash on hand or taking food for the office potluck.

3.       If I wait until the next morning to make my list, I lose a lot of time in the morning trying to decide what to do.  By the time I get up, get dressed and figure out what I want to do, the day is already well underway and I feel behind.

4.       When I plan, I always plan what we’re having for dinner.  Planning the night before gives me time to thaw anything I might need for the meal.

5.       Knowing what I’m doing tomorrow helps me prepare mentally, especially if it’s going to be a tough day.

6.       Making my list the night before helps me know what time I need to get up.  If I have a lot going on, sometimes I need to get up a little earlier.  If it’s going to be a slower day, I can take my time in the morning.  But I only know that if I know what’s going on.

7.       When I make my list the night before, I notice if there are any conflicts or if there’s too much to do.  That allows me to make adjustments before the day gets started.

8.       If there’s something I need to do first thing in the morning, I might miss it or be late if I wait to make my list until morning.

When do you make your to-do list? 

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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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Clean & Green: Help The Environment By Getting Organized

By Monica Friel

We all want our beloved earth to last and flourish for future generations. How we utilize what we have can truly make a difference in our pursuit of helping the environment. When you think about your stuff; what you buy, how you use things, why you keep what you keep, it enables you to take an honest look at how you’re doing your part to reduce, reuse, recycle and repurpose. Here are a few ways that the process of getting organized can actually help you to be more earth friendly:

Knowing what you have. When your space is organized, you know where things are, you can look and know immediately if you need to replenish your supply. In your closet, for example, if you keep all of your white shirts together, you can see exactly what you have, know what condition it is in, and decide when it may be time to add or subtract from your collection. In any area, knowing what you have will help you to make well informed purchases.

Keeping a mental inventory. Through the process of organizing, you must weed out and make decisions about what to keep and what to eliminate. This process of going through each and every item not only helps you get rid of what your not using, it also helps to mentally inventory what you have so you don’t over-purchase.

Strive to minimize. With all the attention that’s been given to environmental friendliness, there is an endless supply of gadgets and gizmos you can purchase to help in your green initiative. However, retailers don’t often mention that one of the most important elements in being earth friendly is not what you purchase, it’s what you avoid purchasing. When making any purchase, be clear about its use and value to you, as well as what effect your purchase may have on the environment. Small purchases add up. Think of what you can do to reduce your personal consumption.

If you desire to be more organized and want to be environmentally conscientious at the same time, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Your home is not a recycling center. Do you have a perpetual pile for the always elusive yard sale? What about the pile of things you want to eventually sell online? Stop putting it off, set a date, mark it on the calendar and hold the sale or post the items and get the ball rolling. If you don’t give yourself a deadline, the items could linger endlessly. Remember, having a yard sale, selling online or donating your items means putting things you no longer use  back into circulation, not only helping the environment, but also helping someone who may not be able to purchase that item new.

Sentimentality vs. Functionality: Is your space filled with sentimental items that you’ve been guilted into keeping? For example, Grandmothers rocking chair in your basement. Is Grandmother being honored by her rocking chair sitting there, or does the fact that its there taking up space you’d like to use for something else frustrate you whenever you walk past? If so, think of ways you can minimize what you have by still honoring Grandmother. Can you take a photo? Save another, smaller item that reminds you of her? Find alternate and creative ways to remember her, wouldn’t you want someone to do the same for you?

Beware of being over-earth friendly. Many times we hang on to things because they are too valuable to toss or give away. In the pursuit of finding the perfect owner, items linger in your home indefinitely causing clutter and frustration. If you’re pile of recyclable plastic bags is overtaking your kitchen pantry, set time aside to get them to the store’s recycle bin, or get rid of them. Think of an item’s recycle value in comparison to the value of that space.

So if you want to make some headway in your green initiative, it’s a good idea to start getting organized today!

Monica Friel

 

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It’s Time for a “Time Makeover”: 5 Tips for Mastering Your Calendar

Take control of your busy schedule with a few easy ideas! By Joshua Zerkel

Time flies when you’re having fun, but what if you’re not having fun and your time still seems to fly away? Do you ever feel like your schedule runs you, rather than the other way around? Maybe you’re feeling like you can’t get everything done, or that you don’t really know where your time goes. Sound familiar? If so, a “time makeover” might be just what you need! Here are some simple strategies to help get your calendar under control:

  1. Take stock. To truly maximize your use of time, it’s helpful to first find out how you’re currently spending your day. In a journal or on a notepad, write down what you’re doing from hour to hour for a few days. Note what your current daily schedule is (if you have one), what’s working, and what isn’t. Also notice what your energy rhythms are—are you more “up” in the morning, or are you more of a night owl?
  2. Check it out. After keeping a log for a few days, start looking for patterns. Are you spending most of your time on the things that you want or need to do, or are you wasting lots of time procrastinating or surfing the web? Where is time being used well, and where do you see room for improvement? Also see whether the things that are most important to you are synchronized with when you’re the most “up.”
  3. Build blocks. Group your different daily tasks into categories, and then make the categories into “time blocks.” Common categories are work time (time you spend at your job or business), admin tasks (paying bills, processing paper, etc.), pleasure time (breaks and other downtime), and kid-related time (carpooling, getting the kids ready for school).
  4. Fill it in. Look at a blank calendar and start setting up your revised schedule. Put your time blocks onto your calendar based on how much time the tasks within each category take up. As things come up during your day or your week, you’ll now have time literally “blocked out” for the tasks to fit into. Try to group related tasks together—for instance, if you noted in your logs that you were paying bills online on Tuesday and writing checks on Friday, try to group those together on your calendar. Every process that you can group or streamline will make a difference in how efficient you can be.
  5. Keep at it. After you’ve filled in your time blocks with tasks, you’ll be left with a revamped schedule. Try implementing your new schedule slowly—that way you can make adjustments and tweaks. If something works well—great! If not, see if you can shift a task to another time block or shift the blocks around. Keep with it until you find the mix that works for you.

You can get control over your schedule! With a little advance planning and a few of my tips, you’ll soon be master of your day once more.

Joshua Zerkel

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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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There’s More To a To-Do List Than To-Do’s

I know that sounds crazy.  A to-do list is a list of things to do.  What more could there be?

Actually, there’s actually a lot more.  Like:

1.       Choosing the right to-do’s based on importance.  It’s tempting sometimes (okay, always) to do the things that are easy, fun or the most satisfying.  But those aren’t usually the most important things.  And the problem with having a lot of those things on your list is that frequently we do those instead of the most important things and then we run out of time!  So we marked off a bunch of meaningless tasks but we missed the priorities.  Have you ever done this?  I have.  Every time I do it I kick myself because I know better.  And I end up paying a heavy price by missing a deadline or having to do something late in the day when I’m exhausted.

to-do list 2 (2)

2.       Choosing the right to-do’s based on goals.  Sometimes we have to do what we have to do regardless of whether it fits the goals we have for our life.  But we also do a lot of stuff we don’t have to do that doesn’t fit our goals.  We do it because we feel like we should, or we can’t say no, or we didn’t look at our calendar when we said yes.  But as much as possible, we should put items on our to-do list that fit our goals.  For example, maybe your goal is to exercise every day.  But instead of exercising, you say yes to a bunch of other things that prevent you from being able to exercise.  Optional things.  Things you could have said no to.   If something doesn’t fit your goals for your life and it’s optional, seriously consider whether you should do it.

3.       Choosing the right number of to-do’s.  This is completely personal but it’s important that you know the magic number for YOU.  My friend, Doug Puryear, author of Your Life Can Be Better, puts a maximum of 5 things on his list.  When he gets stuck, he puts 1 thing on his list.  He knows that more than 5 means he won’t get anything done.  I like to put 10 things on my list.  I am rarely able to accomplish all 10, but if I do, I will put 5 more tasks.  Limiting the list to 10 forces me to think about what’s really important and keeps me from being sidetracked (at least not as much).  If my list is too long, I tend to do the easy things or the things that sound fun.  So find your magic number so your list will work for you.

To-Do List 1

to-do list 3 (2)

4.       Choosing the right to-do’s based on the day’s schedule.  I am NOT good at making to-do lists.  Are you surprised?  I was when I realized it.  I thought I was great.  What I am good at is making a nice, long list of everything that needs to be done SOMETIME.  But when it comes down to planning what I’m actually going to do tomorrow, I’m not so good.  Here are some of my issues:

  • I’m overly optimistic about what I can accomplish.  If I make the list the morning of, I’m better.  But when I make it the night before, I plan way too many tasks or I plan tasks I can’t possibly do based on my schedule.
  • I tend to make a “wish list” rather than an actual “plan”.
  • I write down things I know I should do but not necessarily things I know I will do.
  • I always think I have way more time and energy than I really do.  Even though I know how long things take, I still plan as if I don’t.
  • And I’m notorious for thinking this is the day I’m going to get up early and get started right away.
  • Oh, and I forget to allow for interruptions like unexpected errands, phone calls, texting, etc.

That being said, when you make your to-do list for tomorrow, for it to be effective, you have to take into account what kind of day you have planned.  For example, when the little kids come over, I know I’ll have a few hours while they’re napping, but the rest of the time I’ll be at their beck and call.  I’m okay with that – that’s what grandma’s do.  But it’s foolish for me to plan a full day of tasks unless I have an attitude of “I’ll have this list ready in case I have an opportunity.  But nothing is urgent so if I don’t get to any of it, it’s no big deal.

When I was working full-time, I was very frustrated at first because I felt like I had NO TIME.  I’d been a full-time homemaker for years and the house and family were my first priorities.  Suddenly I didn’t have any time for the house but there was still plenty to be done.  I planned tasks for the evenings but never could get to all of them.  Finally I sat down and figured out the problem.

7:30   Get up, shower & dress, eat breakfast
8:30   Leave for work
6:00   Get home from work.  Immediately start dinner, eat and clean-up.
7:00   Tasks
8:30   Couch time with husband.  Exhausted.
10:00 Bedtime.

When I looked at my schedule, I realized I had about an hour every night to do tasks.  No wonder I wasn’t getting anything done.  From then on, when I made my evening to-do list, I made a list of tasks that would take about an hour.  I was still frustrated with my lack of time but now I was able to plan realistically.  So when you get ready to make your to-do list for tomorrow, look at your schedule and plan realistically based on what’s going on that day.

to-do 4 to-do 5

Making a to-do list isn’t simply writing down the things you want or need to do tomorrow.  Unfortunately a good to-do list requires some thought and effort.  How are you at making a to-do list?

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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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Your Lack of Planning Does Not Create An Emergency For Me – Or Does It?

By Patty Gardner

Have you ever heard the saying, “Your lack of planning does not create an emergency for me?”  I love that saying and wish life really worked that way.  But it doesn’t.  The fact is that other people’s lack of planning creates emergencies for me all the time (and honestly, sometimes it’s me creating the emergencies!).  But if I refuse to help because they weren’t organized, I feel (and look) like a jerk.

So what do you do when you’re dealing with people who are chronically unorganized and keep creating emergencies for you?  Sometimes these strategies can help:

  • Anticipate.  Sometimes you can see the situation coming.  Because of past experience, you know what’s going to happen.  In that case, you prepare yourself mentally to deal with the emergency because now you know it is coming.
  • Plan Ahead.  This takes anticipating a step further.  You anticipate the emergency and you come up with a solution beforehand so it’s not an emergency for you.
  • Remind.  This one doesn’t always work but it’s worth a try.  If you know something’s coming up, remind the person involved in case they are willing to go ahead and act on it in a timely manner.  I’ve used this strategy a lot in the past.  Some people appreciate it and some don’t.  I worked with a music minister who did not appreciate it.  He was a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants person and any reminders felt like nagging and pushing.  I learned to back off and let the chips fall where they may.  It was very frustrating for me and I didn’t end up working with him much longer.
  • Do it yourself.  If you know what’s going to be needed, sometimes you can take care of it yourself.  Again, some people appreciate that and some don’t.  My boss at the law office where I worked loved it.  He’d come in at the last minute, tell me what he needed, and I already had it ready.  But he was unusual in that he was a great delegator.
  • Keep your routine tasks up to date so you can take the time to handle an emergency without creating a new emergency.  That same boss at the law office tended to throw last minute things at me all the time – many that I didn’t see coming.  So my daily strategy was to get as much of my regular work done as soon as possible so that when he threw an emergency at me, at least my regular work was caught up so I could focus on the emergency.

The bottom line is that not everyone is organized and that’s just the way it is.  Rather than fight it, it’s best to just accept it and do what you can to deal with it.  As Julie Morgenstern says:  “You can’t always control what life throws at you but you can control your response.”

Has anyone’s lack of planning created an emergency for you?  How do you handle it?

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5 Things That Keep You From Reaching Your Goals

By Jenny Layton

Goals image

January has come and gone, and if you’re like most people, your new years resolutions might be starting to collect some dust by now.  Some studies show that as little as 8% of New Years Resolutions ever come to be. So what happens to all of that January enthusiasm as the months slip into February, then March? How can we even up the odds, and make our New Years Resolutions a reality?  It starts by recognizing some of the biggest mistakes people make when they set goals:

1. Your goals are too much of a stretch.

If you haven’t started working on those goals by now, chances are you are expecting too much out of yourself. Because it’s easy to bite off more than you can chew, it’s okay to scale back the goal once reality sets in. (Scaling back is actually a huge success strategy.) Evaluate the time you really have to dedicate to your goal, and set revised goals that will fit more realistically into your life.

2. Your goals focus on the wrong thing.

Sometimes you just need to adjust the target. For example, you might have hoped to lose 20 pounds by June 1, but if you aren’t seeing any progress yet, consider a different approach. What if you commit to exercising three days a week, and replace soda and sweets with water and fruit? That gives you new, specific action items that are more easily attainable, and you never know – you might just come close to accomplishing your original objective.

3. You don’t post your goals where you can see them daily.

Studies show that you are 40% more likely to accomplish your goals just by writing them down. Daily review of your goals not only helps you look for opportunities to achieve them, it also allows you to grow more comfortable with goals that challenge your current paradigm and take you out of your comfort zone. You feel more confident taking risks, and more motivated to follow through.

4. You are too much of a perfectionist.

It’s human nature to raise the white flag the moment you get off track, or when things don’t go as planned. You might skip the whole workout because you are short on time, or you don’t bother to set goals for the week because it’s already Tuesday and it feels like the week has gotten away from you. That is the kind of thinking that keeps you stuck in a place you don’t want to be. My motto? “Done is better than perfect.” Work with what you have; utilize the time you’ve got. Successful people start with the resources that are available, and create results where others give up. A partially organized project is still an improvement from before. A half-day of healthy eating puts you ahead of where you’d be if you’d given up at lunchtime. Done is better than perfect – because perfection is a myth. It doesn’t really exist!

5. You don’t give yourself a pat on the back.

We all need to feel recognition for our hard work, and we can’t always count on other people to give it to us. Acknowledge your own achievements with positive self-talk, or by writing about them in your journal, sharing them with a trusted friend, or even treating yourself to something special. Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool, and crucial to maintaining momentum when working on your goals.

Did you know there are other powerful tools to help you reach your goals? Click here to learn more about them!

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10 Reasons Why I Use a Planner

10 Reasons

By Patty Gardner

Planners are extremely effective tools for helping you keep your ducks in a row.  I’ve been using a planner for 20 years.  Before that I had a calendar and a to-do list.  My family knows that if I don’t use my planner, bad things happen.  In case you’re skeptical about the benefits of using a planner, here are 10 ways my planner helps me manage my life:

1.       I don’t remember anything if I don’t write it down.  If I write it down, it’s like magic and I can usually remember it even if I never look at it again.  But if I don’t write it down, it’s gone forever.  So if you ask me to do something, make sure I write it down!

2.       I need to see the big picture so I know what I can and can’t do.  No matter how hard I try, I can’t see the big picture in my head.  It has to be on paper.  And seeing the big picture helps me plan so I don’t get worn out or bored.

3.       I get overwhelmed easily, but if I write everything down, it doesn’t seem so bad.  Or I see that it really is that bad and I can figure out how to fix it.

4.       If everything I need to do is swimming around in my head, there’s no room for anything else – like creativity.  So getting it out of my head and on paper allows me to think about other things that are more fun.

5.       I can’t make Plan B if I don’t have a Plan A.  And if Plan A isn’t on paper, it’s not really a plan – at least for me.  I need to SEE things – on paper.

10 Reasons I Use a Planner

6.       Without writing it down, I always plan too much – more than any one person can do.  But when I write it down and schedule it on the calendar, or put time estimates next to each item, I am more realistic about what I can do and it’s much easier to prioritize.

7.       A planner provides a place to write down all my brilliant ideas and be able to find them again.  If I use notes and post-its, there’s no guarantee I’ll be able to locate those brilliant ideas again.

8.       I think better with a pen.  Seeing my thoughts on paper (I use my planner as a journal, too), makes them easier to process and figure out.  It’s also easier to see positive or negative patterns when it’s written down.

9.       My planner provides a permanent written record of events, calls, activities, funny things the kids and grandkids do.  I have all my planners from the last 25 years.  There’s a wealth of information in those planners that I treasure.

10.     Without a written plan, I tend to spin my wheels and waste my time.  It’s like I don’t know what to do next.  But if a task list is on paper, I am much more likely to be productive.

If you use a planner, why do you?  If you don’t use a planner, why don’t you and how do you keep your ducks in a row?

1311037-fp-guru-bio-pattygardner

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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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Teaching Children to be Organized

By Naomi Cook

“Give a Man a Fish, Feed Him For a Day. Teach a Man to Fish, Feed Him For a Lifetime.”  This Chinese proverb explains the importance of education and in turn the value of responsibility and accountability for one’s self.

Kids learn by example when it comes to actions.  Walking, talking, laughing and more…Have you thought about how the state of your home can impact a child’s organizational skills as well?  Since television shows on hoarding have been appearing, the world has learned how impactful the disease really is, especially on children.

On a lighter note, children are visual creatures, and that is something good to understand when it comes to helping them get (and stay) organized.  Read below for ideas that can help at any stage of life.

Preschool aged children – These little guys will need your help.  Appeal to their visual senses, while also turning clean up into a game, and they should easily grasp organizing fundamentals such as:

  • Using Simple Storage: Those fabric cube bins with handles seem to come in every color these days and are appearing in more and more stores.  They are also soft and easy for little hands to carry around.  Better yet, they can slip into most bookcases easily.
  • Using Pictures: For toys small enough to fit into the bins, attach pictures of the toys, showing which items go in which bin.  For bigger items, attach pictures to the wall over its “parking spot”.
  • Using Size Arrangement: For books, dolls, and game boxes.
  • Using Color Arrangement: For stuffed animals, construction paper, and art supplies.

Elementary school aged children – These guys are learning independence through a full day at school, but will still need your help.  Let them continue to build on the fundamental organizing skills and let them input fun new ideas.  At this stage, arrange the bars and shelves in their closet for them to be able to pick out their own clothes.  Work with them to group like items together by size, like short sleeve shirts, long sleeve shirts, jeans and pants.  After that, if you’re really adventurous, work on arranging each of those groupings into color order.

You can also introduce them to one of my favorite tools…the Label Maker!  Let them have fun labeling where everything goes.  Choose tapes in their favorite color and a fun font!  Warning…labeling can be addictive!  Supervise them or you will be going to your local office supply store every day to buy more tape cartridges!

Middle school aged children/ High School Aged Children – These guys have reached independence yet their schedules are filling up at this point and organizing may not be a priority.  Build on the fundamental skills by introducing magnet boards, dry erase calendar boards, and assignment/activity planners.

At this stage in life, most parents will implement an allowance in exchange for doing chores around the house, including keeping their rooms organized.  Money talks, so any other form of bribery isn’t really necessary!

Ultimately, you want to give your kids an appreciation for their belongings, as well as your home.  By following the organizing fundamentals and building upon them gradually, you will set them off to become organized adults.  In turn, they will teach their children, and when those grandchildren come to your house notice if they are sprouting buds of understanding organization.  If not, tell your children that you want their years of allowance back!

 

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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.

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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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How to Avoid Drowning in Junk Mail

by Patty Gardner mailbox

Some people love mail and some hate it.  Some check their mail box as soon as the mailman comes and some check it whenever they get around to it.  Of course, these days there’s not as much mail as there used to be.  But piles of mail can still be a problem unless you have a method to deal with it.

Here are two ideas for dealing with mail:

Option 1:

Process it daily, as soon as you take it out of the mailbox.  This is my preferred method.  What I mean by process is:

1.  Throw away junk mail;

2.  Put magazines on the coffee table to read later during couch time;

mail - bills

3.  Put bills in the bills to be paid slot on my desk;  

4.  Put unwanted credit applications on the shredder to be shredded later (usually when my granddaughter comes over – she LOVES shredding paper).

5.  Anything that needs to be acted on is noted in my planner and then put in the top tray on my desk.  I don’t necessarily do it right then but I put it in the appropriate place and note it in my planner so I won’t forget.

This whole process only takes a couple of minutes and then I never have to deal with a pile.

Option 2:

Pile it for processing later.  For this method, you retrieve the mail from the mailbox and quickly skim it to see if there’s anything urgent.  If there is, you deal with it right then.  If there isn’t, it all goes in a box designated for mail.  On a set day each week, you sit down and go through it all.

mail - stackablesOf course, besides the mail that comes in the mail box, there’s mail that comes in the in-box of your computer.  That mail can actually be handled in the same manner.  Process it daily or process it weekly.  Either way works.  But it’s a good idea to clean your inbox out regularly so you don’t miss anything and can easily retrieve information you might need.

These additional tips might help with inbox management:

1.  Flag items that are important so they stand out.

2.  Set up folders so you can move processed items into the appropriate folder and OUT of your inbox.

3.  NEVER move an item to a folder until it’s processed – either DONE or NOTED IN YOUR PLANNER.

4.  Respond to emails as quickly as possible.  Not only does that get them out of your in-box, but it also pleases people when we respond quickly.

5.  Delete everything you can.

mail - folders 2

6.  Don’t use your inbox as a holding center.  Only allow items in your inbox that are waiting to be processed.  If they’ve been processed, get them out of there!

7.  Set up a folder for THINGS TO SAVE or IMPORTANT.  There are some things I know I want to refer to again and I don’t want to take a chance they might get deleted.  So I put those items in my THINGS TO SAVE folder and I know they’ll be safe.

8.  Once in a while clean out your folders.  Most of the information you’ve saved you won’t need forever.  So occasionally go through and delete the folders you’re finished with.

How do you process mail – electronic and paper?

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Learn from the Experts: Insights from FranklinPlanner Gurus

Have you ever felt like you were in a planning rut? Start the year with some new planning ideas. We have several master planners right here at FranklinPlanner.com, and each of them plans differently. We decided it might be fun to share a few of their tips with you.

TraciTraci –

“A couple of years ago, my planner was stolen from my car. That was terrible! I lost everything—I keep my whole life in my planner. Now I make sure to keep it with me at all times.

“I’m a very structured planner. I follow the original planning method that Hyrum Smith taught when he started the Franklin planning system. This year I’m using a Seasons planner. The tasks on my Prioritized Daily Task list are ranked with ABC 123, and I use the appropriate marks for completed, delegated, forwarded, etc. I like to keep a space between my work-related tasks and my other tasks, so I can see at a glance what I need to work on at any time of day.

“I use my monthly calendar tabs constantly. I mark important events there so I know at a glance when they happened. For more details, I just turn to the specific day in my planner. This year when I wrote my Christmas letter, my monthly tabs made it easy to note the details about what my children have been doing and where they are in their busy lives.

“I have a contacts list on my computer, but I like to print it off and keep it in my planner so I always have important numbers whenever I might need them. I also have other address lists that I copy and shrink to fit in my planner.

“I love to read, so I keep a section in my planner that lists my favorite books as well as the books I’m interested in reading.

“I find that being consistent in the way I plan helps me focus on more important things, like my family, my job, and the things I do with my church.”

GaryGary –

“I start planning with my 2-page monthly tabs. They’re the ideal place to record upcoming events. I keep track of future meetings, community events I’m involved with, and when employees are going to be off work. I meet with a superior on a monthly basis, and the backside of the two-page monthly tabs is the perfect place to keep notes and questions that I want to discuss during that meeting. As questions arise I just jot them there, so I don’t forget what I want to talk about each month.

“I don’t use my daily pages every day—sometimes I just stick with my routine. When I have meetings, however, I move ahead in my planner to the day of the meeting and write down all that I need to discuss in that meeting on the Notes page. And when I’m in meetings, I write my tasks on the Prioritized Daily Task List. It gives me quick recall of what we talked about.

“I like the 7 Habits planner because its Prioritized Daily Task List is divided into three sections. I use one section for work, one for my family events, and another for church and community events. I also like the Special Days form because it helps give me a theme for meetings and events as I plan them.”

KirstinKirstin –

“If you’d had the opportunity to hear Hyrum Smith teach about planning, you’d use a planner. I went to a training years ago and left feeling like I had just been taught the secret of life. It was a great moment. When I got home and started implementing the things I had been taught, I realized that my personality required a slightly different approach.

“I’m a task-oriented planner. I like to keep track of the things I need to do and check them off when they’re done. I prefer a weekly view because I can keep track of my tasks a week at a time without flipping through pages. I don’t really appreciate being told which day I’m supposed to do something—even by my planner. With a weekly view, if a task isn’t completed one day, it’s still there for me to work on tomorrow.

“When I learn of things I need to do later in the month or year, I jump ahead and write it on my To-Do list for that week. That way I don’t have to hold it in my memory. I’d forget it for sure. The FC Studio planner lets me see what I need to accomplish before week’s end. It’s bright and easy to read, and loaded with a lot of fun, bright colors.

“I like the Memories section on the pages. It’s fun to go back and read them later. Here’s one, ‘Slept outside on the trampoline. Husband went inside at three am—the kids went inside at six—left me outside alone. Won’t sleep on the trampoline again.’ It’s great. That was not a comfortable night’s sleep, but sleeping out on the tramp is like a rite of passage. Now that’s done, and we have a family memory.

“The monthly tabs are helpful too. I use them to track big events. Sometimes I use colored washi tape to block off vacations. I’ve even used different colored tape in the planner for different family members so I can see at a glance who is doing what. It helps when things get really busy.”

However you plan, the best suggestion we can give is to stick with it. Hopefully, reading about the different ways that some of us plan has inspired you to keep working on your own planning routine. Perhaps we’ve given you some new ideas to try this coming year. Good luck, and happy planning.

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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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How To Get Organized In 2015

By Monica Friel

Does your New Year’s resolution involve getting organized? Make 2015 the year that you commit to better organization. Don’t think of being organized as an elusive, far-off goal. Create routines to help lighten the load and bring the chaos to order today. Here are 5 tips to help get you started:

Structure Your Day When time is unstructured, it can leave you feeling scattered and unaccomplished. Start each day with a clear plan. Make lists of what you need to do and prioritize them. Structure your day around those goals.

Create Habits Small habits of putting away and finishing up what you’re doing can have huge benefits in maintaining order. Here are some creative ways to get a new habit to stick.

Do Less. Creating a tight schedule without time to re-group will set you up for failure. Plan ahead for inevitable distractions. If things happen to run smoothly, you can make productive use of that extra time.

Be Charitable Having a good cause to donate to will help get the clutter out, while helping someone else in need (not to mention the tax deduction). Regularly assess what you have and weed out the excess.

Create A Place  If you have 15 minutes to straighten up, but don’t know where to put anything, that 15 minutes is wasted. Having a place for everything is essential to living organized. Invest in furniture and containers to make maintaining order easier.

Organization doesn’t just happen, it  is  a discipline and a constant process. Commit to making 2015 your most organized year yet!

Thanks, Monica!  We know 2015 will be a great year!  

Monica Friel

 

 

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6 Questions to Consider When Organizing a Space

by Patty Gardner

I don’t mind cleaning, cooking, doing laundry, making a grocery list or running errands, but please don’t ask me to organize a space in my house.

I’m NOT good at organizing and I don’t enjoy doing it.  It actually stresses me out to look at an empty closet or cabinet and know I have to figure out how to arrange it.  It’s a little easier if I’m just moving things around, but I still don’t enjoy it.

That being said, we remodeled our kitchen several months ago and the pantry needed organized.  I put it off as long as I could but finally had to face the music.  It was stressful and unpleasant and stressful but I got it done.

Now my idea of organized may not even be close to your idea of organized but it works for me.  For my purposes the pantry is organized.

pantry

If you’re space organizing challenged like I am but you need to organize a space in your house, here a few things to keep in mind.

1.       What are your goals for the space?  Obviously my goal for my pantry was to store food and to do it in such a way that we could find what we needed fairly easily.

2.       Is it easy to use?  Do you have to reach up too high for things you use frequently?  Do you have to squat down to get things you need?  Do you have to move one thing to get to another?  Those types of complications make it HARD to use and that’s no good.

3.       Can you maintain the system?  I tried grouping similar items when I organized my pantry but I knew I wouldn’t be able to maintain it.  When I get home from the store, I don’t want to take the time to carefully arrange the food.  I just want to get it put away as fast as I can.  So I started out grouping but I knew I wouldn’t keep doing it.

4.       Does it take too much time and effort to maintain?  Maybe you are able to maintain the system, but how much time and effort does it take? Is that how you want to spend your time?  If you do, that’s great.  If not, maybe it’s a better idea to simplify or come up with something different.

5.       Does it actually accomplish anything other than looking pretty?  A pretty space is awesome as long as it’s functional.  So if your organizing results in pretty AND functional, you hit the jackpot.

6.       Does it make sense to others using the area?  If you’re the only person using the space, you can do whatever you want.  But if others are using it, too, the system needs to make sense to them and they need to be able to help maintain it.

Since I’m space organizationally challenged, I keep my systems as simple as possible.  If they’re too complicated or time consuming, I won’t do them.

Do your organized spaces look like the ones in the magazines or are they more like mine?

1311037-fp-guru-bio-pattygardner

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5 Ways to Make Room for Incoming Christmas Gifts

By Jenny Layton

Christmas is just over a week away, and while our children may be dreaming of the pile of presents under the tree, we are left wondering where to put it all. In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, here are five SIMPLE ways you can stay ahead of the problem.

Joy photo

Chip away at it for just 15 minutes a day. The strategy here is to eat the elephant a bite at a time. By setting the timer for just 15 minutes a day, and filling up a bag or a bin with items you are no longer using, you will quickly clear some major space for those gifts sitting under the Christmas tree. Start at one end of the house and work your way through each room, going through closets, cabinets and drawers. After three weeks, you’ll have spent over five hours purging the clutter!

Get the kids involved. It’s sad but true that items begin to lose their value over time. The novelty wears off, new interests develop, and toys, clothes, and old electronics just don’t feel as fun anymore. Because “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” Christmas is the perfect time to teach your kids how to bless the lives of others by donating some of their personal belongings to charity. In the process, they will also learn how to make space for new things they really want. Stephen Paul has said, “The space for what you want is already filled up by what you’ve settled for instead.” Enlisting the kids in the clutter-clearing process is a victory on two fronts; it provides an opportunity to establish habits of abundance and generosity at an early age, and it certainly helps make room for those incoming Christmas gifts. Start by recommending that they donate as many items as they hope to receive for Christmas.

Establish a home for the gifts before they are purchased or unwrapped. It can start as early as the checkout line. Consider the available space you have, and ensure that you have the room for what you are purchasing. This is particularly relevant for large items that might look exciting online or in the toy store, but cause a lot of inconvenience once they are unwrapped. For smaller items, clear a shelf or have hangers waiting. You can even have containers ready. This will make putting away the Christmas gifts something you actually look forward to!

Consider a Christmas morning bin. We’ve all gone through the case of the missing gift card or earrings. On Christmas morning, small items have a tendency to get lost in all of the opened gifts and wrapping debris. Providing a bin for each person to place opened gifts into will give those treasures a temporary home, ensuring that everything is safe and sound until they are a safe distance away from the Christmas morning mayhem.

Trust in having less. The simplest solution to having too much is to bring less into your home in the first place. Can you even remember what you received last year? Can your kids? Trust in quality, not quantity, and don’t give in to the cultural pressure to flood the tree with more gifts than you truly have room for.

Outsmart the storage dilemma by implementing one or more of these tips, and you’ll enjoy a holiday season that is a little less focused on stress, and a little more centered in the joy of giving.

 

JennyLaytonJenny Layton

Creator of The Happy Gal, Jenny is an author, speaker, professional organizer and coach dedicated to helping women live happier, healthier, more organized lives. www.thehappygal.com

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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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Instead of New Year’s Resolutions, try this…

By Patty Gardner

It’s getting to be that time of year – you know what I’m talking about – the time when you start thinking about goals for the New Year.  Unfortunately, statistics show the traditional manner of goal setting, making New Year’s Resolutions, doesn’t have a chance in heck of succeeding.  Most people abandon their goals before the month of January is even over.

I know the experts say you should set specific goals but maybe they’re wrong.  Certainly there are times when specific goals are necessary.  But sometimes you’re not trying to make big, dramatic changes – you just want to do a little bit better.

So if that’s you, maybe this year it’s time to try something different – something that will result in actually doing a little bit better!

The approach I’m talking about is less like a task on your to-do list (drink water, exercise, etc.) and more like analysis.

Let’s say you want to improve your eating habits.  We all know how difficult that is.  And setting specific goals like drinking 6 glasses of water or eating 1,500 calories or exercising 30 minutes a day may or may not happen.  Unfortunately, our mindset is usually that if we can’t do the WHOLE thing, we won’t bother to do it at all.  So instead of drinking 2 glasses of water, we don’t drink any.  Instead of exercising 10 minutes, we don’t exercise at all.  And instead of keeping track of our calories, we eat what we want and vow to do better tomorrow.

The analysis method eliminates that all or nothing thinking.

Here’s how it works.  You have generic goals like:

1.       Drink more water;

2.       Get more exercise;

3.       Eat better.

You can put those on your to-do list to remind you of your goals if you want to.  In fact, that’s probably a good idea.  You want to keep them visible because as you go through your day, you’re going to try to do better in those areas.  Then at the end of the day, you analyze how you did.  You can jot down a note next to each item or answer a question.

IMG_05011.       Did I drink more water than usual?

Yes.  I had water with my meals instead of having soda.

2.       What did I do to get some exercise?

I took the stairs instead of the elevator.

I walked in place for 15 minutes before I ate lunch.

3.       What good things did I do today toward a more healthy diet?

I had fruit for my snacks instead of chips from the vending machine.

Without the pressure of having to drink 6 glasses of water or eat 1,500 calories or exercise 30 minutes, you might just actually end up doing those things but they become your choice instead of something you HAVE to do.  And if you have a bad day, you had a bad day.  It’s not the end of the world and it’s not a reason to quit.

So when it’s time to nail down those New Year’s Resolutions, maybe you should think about the analysis method instead of the traditional goal-setting method.  You just might find that instead of abandoning your goals by the end of January, you’re actually making your life better, a little at a time.

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6 Tips to Help You Find the Motivation to Get Organized

By Monica Friel

Is it hard to find the time to get to that looming organizing project? People often say they don’t have the time, but it may have more to do with having the energy than the time. You can always find time for what’s important, but sometimes it’s hard to find the energy and motivation to tackle something that’s not on a deadline like keeping your desk organized or getting started on a big organizing project. Here are some tips to help you boost your energy and motivate you to get organized:

Work when you have the energy

Determine when your energy levels rise and fall and plan your projects accordingly. If you’re a morning person, carve out morning time to tackle tough tasks. Plan low energy, mundane tasks for after lunch and later in the day. Work within your own rhythms and you’ll feel more energized.

Take care of yourself

Eat a balanced diet, get enough sleep and regularly exercise to maintain optimal energy levels. If you’re not feeling well, you can’t expect to get much done. Sleep deprivation and illness can zap all of your energy. When you feel great, it will be easier to get motivated.

Get moving

If your job requires you to sit at a desk, make sure you regularly get up and move around. Studies show that we are actually more productive when we can move around. Think of tasks you can do while walking: make calls, listen to audio, collaborate with a colleague, or simply use the time to gather thoughts.

Play music

Music has the power to trigger energy. An upbeat song can quickly motivate. However, don’t keep the music on all the time–it works best to boost energy when it’s played periodically.

Schedule It

If you really want to get something done, get it on your calendar and stick to it. Carving out the time and putting it on your calendar will help ensure that it happens. Schedule time to get organized, whether it’s with a professional organizer or simply planning time on your own to get through it.

Break it down

Write down all of the projects (and parts of projects) that you need to get done. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed just by thinking (and re-thinking) of all we have to do. Create a list and break big projects down into smaller, do-able parts.

Getting organized can seem like a daunting task if you’ve let things slip, but it’s worth the effort to chip away at it. You’ll enjoy the feeling of knowing where things are and feeling more productive. That in itself will boost your energy!

monica

 

 

Monica Friel

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Go Quote: November 24, 2014

“Everyone who got where he is has had to begin where he was.”

– Robert Louis Stevenson

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How to Prepare Your Planner for a New Year

By Naomi Cook

Can you believe that 2015 is right around the corner?  Are you ready for it?  Better yet, is it ready for you and all that you have to do?!   Now’s the time to figure out your plan for your planner, and what better place to start than FranklinPlanner, where you can find a variety of paper planners to create your own unique system!

Do you prefer a paper planner, or do you favor having an electronic planner on your phone/computer?  Maybe you have taken on a hybrid of both, where you write down personal appointments in a paper planner, but add work appointments into your electronic planner.  I have gone through stages where I prefer one over the other, but have found that a paper planner is the right fit for me, because I am a fan of check marks and crossing off tasks.  Yes, I am a professional organizer and a perfectionist, and I’m proud of it!

Here are some simple steps that you can take to prepare your own perfect paper planner for the new year!  Can you say that 10 times fast?!

–     Things you will need: a mechanical pencil, an eraser, pens in different colors, paper clips, one brightly colored binder clip and a warm drink. Are you asking why you would need a warm drink? Well…it’s because you may be getting hand cramps from writing so much, and therefore it will come in very handy!

1)       Get out your 2014 planner, don’t toss it yet!  There is a lot of valuable information in there that will be repeated in your 2015 planner like birthdays and anniversaries.

2)       Ok, well you know what I’m going to say next…add in those birthdays and anniversaries to your new planner.  Use one color pen for birthdays and another for anniversaries.  As a quick trick to always remember how old someone is or how many years they have been married, add in parentheses after the name(s) that age of the person or number of years of marriage, and increase it by 1 every time you update to your next yearly planner!

3)       As you are scouring your 2014 planner look for any other pertinent information like any tasks that never got done, and any phone numbers or e-mail addresses that were quickly jotted down.

4)       Gather all of your new appointment cards and invitations and start entering those.  I like to use pencil for these dates in case any get rescheduled.  It looks cleaner to erase than cross out.  Once I’ve jotted those down, I like to staple the appointment card or clip the invitation to its coordinating page.  It may make your planner a bit thicker, but you’ll be able to see when an event is coming up.  Once the date has passed take out the appointment card or unclip the invitation and toss it.

5)       Add the brightly colored binder clip (so you can differentiate it from the paper clips) as a page marker so that you always open it up to the current week.

Now that you’re done, put the planner aside until January 1st, celebrate the end of 2014, and get excited for the beginning of an organized new year!

Until next time, stay neat people!

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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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Business Card Bombardment!

By Naomi Cook

As a self-employed business owner, aside from working with clients in their homes, I spend a lot of time in my home office. It’s wonderful to get out of the office and network with new people who can help you and your business grow. However, while a lot of networking can help both you and your business grow, it can also create a dust covered growth on the corner of your desk…yes, stacks and stacks of business cards!

It’s not atypical to arrive home from a networking session with a dozen to a couple dozen business cards. Don’t panic…we can work through this together! Follow these simple steps when you get home from your networking event, so you have the people that the cards belong to fresh in your mind. Don’t stress about this too much, the process should be quick and painless!

1) Lay out the cards in front of you and first pull the ones that you want to take immediate notes on, if you haven’t had the opportunity to do so at the event. Write down anything of interest that you talked about with a person, even if it’s a hobby that the two of you share.

2) Take 3 sticky notes and jot the following three words down, one on each. Grab 3 rubber bands as well to group the cards together in each category.

  • Contact – If they are someone to call or e-mail about an upcoming opportunity.
  • LinkedIn – If they are someone who you don’t need to talk to about anything at this point but simply want to add them to your LinkedIn account to stay connected.
  • Referral – If they are someone who you think could help another one of your contacts.

business cards

3) Set up time in your schedule within the next few days to focus on each group.

So what is there to do now, now that you have gone through them? How do you go about storing them? Well, that depends on your personal preference. Consider the following options:

If you and your smart phone are attached at the hip, then consider one of the business card scanning apps out there. There are so many, so it’s best to check out the ones available to your phone, read the reviews, and decide which one is best for you. After you scan all of the cards, you can toss them in the recycling bin if you so choose!

If you would like to keep the cards (some of them are really great looking!), then consider filling any binder with plastic business card pages designed to hold business cards. You should be able to find these in any office supply store. Or, go old school and get a Rolodex! Keep either in order alphabetically or by occupation.

However you decide to handle your business cards, remember that the main point of collecting them is keeping in contact with new people who can help you. Oh and don’t forget to dust your desk once in a while!

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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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Recipe for Receipts

By Monica Friel

receipt

Of course there are many different ways to deal with the deluge of receipts that continually fill up your wallet and pockets, but what is the best way to organize them? That answer really is individual. When we work with a client who has “receipt clutter” we offer several suggestions, here are a few:

File them. The good old fashioned way of storing receipts is to file them away. However, it’s not necessary to save every receipt. Keep what you think you may need for returns, personal records, and of course for tax purposes_the rest can go.

Stash them. You can also create a convenient space inside a drawer to keep all of your current receipts. This way, when you empty your pockets/purse, there’s a quick and easy place to put them. Be careful to make sure you clean out this spot frequently or it will be another source of clutter and chaos.

Scan them. Scanning is a great way to keep any receipt you may need, without the clutter. Be careful not to randomly scan them on to your desktop, but to place them into carefully marked file folders so that you won’t be sifting through them again in the future!

Photograph them. Use the camera on your smartphone to take a photo of your receipt and save it. Lemon is an app that helps to organize and back-up everything that’s in your wallet.

Toss them. When in doubt, throw it out. We don’t need every receipt for every purchase. Depending on how well you itemize and budget your spending, you can keep either very detailed records, or none at all. Toss what you don’t need, because if you keep too much, you can’t find what’s really important.

Receipts can be a nuisance, so spend a few minutes thinking about what the best system is for you so that you can stay on top of all those random receipts.

Thanks Monica for the great advice. If you liked this article, give it a cheer and/or like it on Facebook.

Monica Friel

 

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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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Minutes Matter: Use Them Wisely

clock (3)By Patty Gardner

Have you ever had a few extra minutes before the next thing but didn’t think it was enough time to do anything or didn’t know what to do so instead you surfed the net or played a game on your phone or just did nothing? That’s not to say it isn’t okay to sometimes do mindless activities or do nothing at all, but if you’re short on time and need to be as efficient as possible, the very best strategy you can possibly employ is to take advantage of those small bits of time.

When I get up in the morning and head to the kitchen, there are usually a few dishes from the night before and my husband’s breakfast dishes. For some reason, I always think it’s going to take a long time to get the kitchen back in order. In reality, it usually takes less than five minutes! But instead of taking five minutes and cleaning up the mess, I decide to wait until I have more time! Dumb! The kitchen is usually the messiest part of my house so if I take those five minutes right away and clean up the dishes, the house usually looks great and that makes me feel great.

Folding and putting away laundry is another task that doesn’t take as long as you might think. Just the other day I was in between things, had only a few minutes and headed to the computer to kill time. Then I remembered the laundry and decided to go ahead and do it. Less than five minutes and it was done.

So here’s a fun exercise for you to try – when you’re starting a task, set the timer and see how long it actually takes. I’ve done that for lots of things, including my weekly chore list. I’m always surprised about how much less time things take than I think. And there have been a few tasks that took longer than I expected. That’s also good to know.

It’s also helpful, if you’re anything like me, to have a list of those small things already made. Then when you have those extra minutes, you don’t have to figure out what to do. You just look at the list and pick one. Here are a few examples from my personal list:

1. Put trash can liner in garage trash can;

2. Scoop kitty litter;

3. Refill pet water;

4. Shred papers;

5. Put license stickers on Jeep;

6. Clean cat door;

7. Put new insurance cards in truck;

8. Shake entry rug;

9. Schedule dad’s birthday dinner;

10. Activate new debit cards.

If you keep your list handy and mark things off as you do them and add things as you think of them, you’ll be surprised at how much you get done. And I don’t know about you, but getting things done makes me feel GREAT!

 

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10 Tips for Stress-Free Entertaining

By Patty Gardner

Having guests for dinner?  Sometimes having guests is more stressful than fun but it doesn’t have to be that way.  Here are 10 ways you can entertain and have fun at the same time.

1. Choose a simple menu.  When you’re having guests is NOT the time to try new recipes and new techniques.  It only increases your stress level.  Simple menus don’t have to be boring or unimpressive.  There are plenty of simple dishes that will wow your guests.

2. When you’re planning your menu, try to have a variety of foods to choose from in case your guests don’t like something you serve.

3. Don’t clean your house before guests come.  Really.  Don’t do it.  Most people go on a cleaning marathon before they have company and then they’re too exhausted to enjoy their guests.  Tidy the house, sweep the floors, do the dishes, and clean the bathroom.  Let the rest go.

4. Don’t destroy your budget trying to provide a fancy, expensive meal.  I had a friend who always went all out for guests and then she and her husband had to skimp the rest of the week.  Don’t do that.  It’s not necessary.

5. If you’re not experienced at cooking for others, try to plan your dinner party for a time when you have plenty of time to prepare.

6. Do as much ahead as you possibly can.  One of my favorite meals to serve to guests is tacos.  Tacos provide so many options.  A person can eat healthy or not healthy.  If they don’t like something, there are plenty of other choices.  And tacos are really easy to do ahead of time.

7. If your guests ask if they can bring something, and it fits with your menu, let them!  It helps your budget, saves you time and effort and lets them contribute to the meal.

8. And if they want to help you clean up after dinner, let them!
dishes

9. When you invite your guests, you might want to ask them if there’s anything they don’t like or are allergic to.  People are usually more than willing to let you know.

10. And finally, remember that it’s not about the food but the fellowship.  You’re having people over to spend time with them not to dazzle them with your cooking skills.  So don’t stress if everything doesn’t turn out perfect.  Just have fun!

 

What do you do to keep yourself from getting stressed out when company’s coming?

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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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Lessons From Mr. Efficient

By Patty Gardner

My husband is the most efficient person I know.  I, on the other hand, have to work at it.  I’m somewhere between a messy and a born organized with ADHD thrown into the mix.

But during the last 30 years of being married to Mr. Efficient, I’m observed some interesting things he does to make life a little bit easier.

1. He cleans as he goes.  When he’s making his breakfast, he throws trash away instead of leaving it on the Lessons From Mr. Efficient for Franklincounter.  While he’s waiting for his oatmeal to cook, he unloads the dishwasher or dumps the trash.   He washes dishes as he finishes with them.  If he runs out of time and can’t wash his dishes, he puts them in the sink instead of on the counter.  When he’s getting things out of the refrigerator, he tosses old stuff that he notices (I do it all in one fell swoop when the refrigerator gets too full).  When he gets home, he immediately empties the trash and dirty dishes out of his lunch box and puts his ice block in the freezer (I do it later when I clean up the kitchen).  He does things NOW instead of LATER.

 

2.  He sticks to a schedule.  He’s a self-employed remodeling contractor and has been for the last 26 years.  Pretty much that whole times he’s kept the same schedule of getting up about 6:30, leaving at 7:30 and getting to work at 8:00.  The only exception is if he needs materials in which case he leaves earlier, picks them up on the way and still gets to work at 8:00.  I think that’s impressive.  If it were me, I’d probably (no, definitely) have a pretty erratic schedule.

 

3. He takes advantage of minutes instead of waiting for big blocks of time.  Since we’ve been married, we’ve purchased several fixer-upper homes and remodeled them.  Most people wait until they have a big block of time to work on a remodeling project – but not him.  When we were working on a project, he worked on it a little bit each day.  You might think it’s a waste of time to get out the paint, paint a little bit, and then have to clean it up and put it away.  But if he had waited for big blocks of time, our projects would have taken forever.  Since he took advantage of those smaller blocks of time, he always got projects wrapped up in record time.

 

4.  He tries to prevent making messes.  During those remodeling projects, he was always really good about doing anything he could to minimize the mess.  It might have meant putting down drop cloths or hanging plastic in a doorway.  Whatever he could do, he did it.  He also cleaned as he went.

 

5.  He doesn’t run unnecessary errands.  He plans his errands so they dovetail with his route.  I’ve run to Wal-mart before for one thing that could have waited until I was out.  He rarely wastes time that way.

 

You might think that living with Mr. Efficient could be stressful for someone like me but it hasn’t been.  He knows I’m not like him and doesn’t expect me to be.  But I have learned some things from watching him and I like to think I’m a little more efficient than I used to be.

 

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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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Organize your Kitchen and Start Cooking this Fall

By Monica Friel 

The fall is a great time for cooking and eating, creating new recipes and bringing back old ones. Having a well organized kitchen is crucial for good meal planning and preparation. Making optimal use of the space in your kitchen is more important when you’re spending extra time asdsdcreating new recipes and making some of fall’s favorite comfort foods. Of course, every kitchen is different. Some are sprawling with plenty of open cabinet space to fit every appliance and gadget on the market. Others are tiny and tight without an inch to spare. However, many of the same rules apply when it comes to organization. Here are a few tips to keep your kitchen in tip top shape.

Maximize every inch of cabinet space. Somehow we always find a way to fill up every inch of cabinet space no matter how big or small our kitchen is. Make use of containers, and organizational items inside your cabinets to make the best possible use of space. Lazy Susan’s, helper shelves and drawer dividers will not only help to keep things organized, they will also help you fit much more.

Shop Wisely. If you have a tiny galley kitchen, you shouldn’t be shopping at Costco. When you live in a smaller space, you have to make frequent trips to the grocery store. Don’t purchase in bulk unless you have somewhere to keep the excess. Often the deal is not worth compromising your space over. If you do purchase extras, consider storing them separately so you don’t have three boxes of the same cereal circulating.

Make use of vertical space. If you have available wall space in your kitchen, add a fruit basket on the wall (see image) or free standing shelving. Also remember to keep frequently used recipes and notes on the inside of cabinet doors.

Consider a Hanging Pot Rack. If you don’t have great space for keeping pots and pans in cabinets or drawers, make use of a hanging pot rack. It makes them easy to access and frees up cabinet space.

Refresh your Fridge. Every time to shop, your fridge should get a once over. A simple weed out of stale food and a wipe down of shelves will make incoming items accessible and more appealing too.

Keep your Freezer Functional. Your freezer is great for storage of items that can be used for meal preparation rather than heading out to the market. Don’t forget to label, date and properly package items in the freezer so you know what you have and when it expires.

Keeping an organized kitchen will help make meal preparation more efficient. It will save you money on purchasing groceries and will help to ensure you enjoy mealtime with your family.

 Monica Friel

 

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Beachy Keen!

By Naomi Cook

Ah…summertime is officially upon us…the warmer weather, the longer days and… the prep for a day at the beach! Do you struggle keeping your beach bag organized? You don’t need to sheepishly hold up your hand. It’s not that hard for it to become a bottomless pit! Most beach bags like mine have some pockets on the outside, but only a few on the inside, leaving most of your belongings in a jumbled state. Read along for some tips on how to organize your beach bag so that you’ll be able to quickly find that money when the ice cream man walks by!

Let’s start by thinking of all of the things you might keep in your beach bag.

You’ll have:

•Your towel.
•Your beach tag.
•Your sunscreen.
•Your drinks and snacks.
•Your book or magazines.
•Your keys and some money.
•Your electronics like your phone or e-reader.
•Your change of clothes for the end of the day.

Now you have a couple of options to organize those items. Go the inexpensive route or invest in some organizers that will help you for years in the future.

For an inexpensive way of organizing, get a variety of sizes of Ziploc bags from small to large. You may have them in your kitchen already. Another option is to use Ziploc containers. Start by putting your beach tag directly onto your beach bag. Fill up smaller bags/containers with your keys, money and phone. Fill up larger size bags/containers with your book or e-reader. Use a Ziploc Big Bag to hold your change of clothes for the end of the day. It can be used to hold your wet bathing suit and towel after you change.

Or you can spend a little more money and buy organizational products that will last you for years. Instead of Ziploc bags, there are waterproof pouches that house your phone, your money and your e-reader. Next, look to travel packing cubes to hold your bigger items like your books and change of clothes. These are designed to help you stay organized while packing your suitcase, so why not your beach bag too!

For magazines, I’ll usually wrap them up in my towel when I go to the beach. By the time the day is over, they may be in rough shape because of the combination of sunscreen, water, and sand, so you can just toss them!

Finally for snacks, consider a soft sided cooler that you can carry like a bag. Think about putting your sunscreen in a Ziploc bag in the cooler so that it will keep you protected and offer some cooling relief at the same time!

Enjoy your day at the beach and have an ice cream sandwich for me!

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How to Keep a Big Project From Stressing You Out!

By Patty Gardner

Have you ever had a big project you needed to do but you were completely overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start?  The solution to that problem is simple – break the project down into smaller steps.   Here are a couple of examples from my life.

 

I have two quilt projects going right now.  I was feeling overwhelmed so I made a couple of charts for my planner that broke each quilt project down into manageable steps.

 

The first chart is just a bunch of boxes.  Each box represents a square of the quilt.  For some reason, I’m more motivated to quilt if I get to check off a box each time I finish a square.  Plus I can see at all times where I am in the project.

Quilt 1

The second chart is a little more detailed since I was in the beginning stages of the project when I made the chart.  The chart lists the steps required to sew the top together, boxes representing each square, and then a few steps at the end for finishing.  I felt a lot better about this project once I made the chart.  And each time I mark off a step, I feel like I’m making progress and the project doesn’t seem so overwhelming.

 Quilt 2

So it’s your turn.  Take a look at your to do list and see what projects could be broken down into smaller sized pieces.  Then make a list of all the steps required and get started!  You’ll be surprised at how much less overwhelming it feels.

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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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Car Cleanout!

By Naomi Cook

When was the last time that you took everything out of the trunk and off of the floor of your car and really explored what is hanging out in there?  Maybe you have some store returns to make that happen to be intermixed with escaped french fries, crushed soda cans, and smelly gym shoes…ick, it sounds like a scenario for those Febreze Car Fresheners!

On the next nice day that you can dedicate a few hours to, head out to your car and follow these steps…

1)  Remove EVERYTHING – Yes, I said everything!  Get the bigger items from the floor first and then go through your glove compartment, center console, door pockets and trunk.  Don’t forget to look in all those other nifty hidden compartments in your car as well!  For now, keep these items in neat (or as neat as possible) piles in your garage or patio.

2)  Clean – Clean your interior windows, including the front windshield and the rear window and your gauges.  Next, dust and clean your dash and finally vacuum the floors and seats.  If you haven’t done this process in a while, you may just prefer to head to the car wash and let them take care of it for you.  A good car wash may be something worthwhile as well, to get rid of that pesky pollen!

3)  Trash/Recycle – Get a trash bag and recycling bin handy.  Toss any items that are immediately recognized as trash, i.e. those fries!  Recycle any maps or papers that aren’t in need or are out of date and any soda cans and water bottles.

4)  Sort – Go through the other items that are left and make the decision of where they need to go.

5)  Organize – Keep some of those handled fabric storage bins in your trunk and backseat.  They are inexpensive and can surprisingly hold a lot!  Five bins should do it; you don’t want to fill up your entire car with them.

In the trunk:

* Use one to stash snacks like granola bars and crackers for that on-the-go hunger.

* Use one to hold car cleaning supplies and a first aid kit.

* Use one to hold those miscellaneous items that accumulate daily all over the car!  Bring this bin in once a week and put the items where they belong.

In the backseat:

* Use one lined with a plastic grocery bag as a mini trash bin.

* Use one lined with a plastic grocery bag as a mini recycling bin.

Also consider those seat back car organizers if you have kids.  This will allow them to keep their belongings together, like magazines, books and headphones.

6)  Maintain – Whenever you stop for gas, pop the trash bag out and toss it.  Save the recycling items for home if you don’t see a recycling bin.  Keep some additional plastic grocery bags folded flat at the bottom of each bin once one is used up.

7)  Rejoice! – Look inside your newly cleaned car and get ready for those road trips.  Then, if it still stinks, quickly proceed to the nearest store and buy yourself an air freshener!

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5 Ways to use your Smartphone to Get Organized

By Monica Friel 

If you have a Smartphone, get to know it well so you can make use the
terrific functions it can perform. Here are a few ways you can use Siri (or
Android voice command) to get organized:

With Siri, hold down the home key and talk. Here are some things you can
say:

1. “Set timer for 15 minutes”. As soon as you say it, the timer is set—use
that time to clear your desk or dig into an organizing project.

2. “Locate the nearest office supply store” Do you need labels for your
organizing project? Ask Siri where the nearest store is, and it will give turn
by turn directions from your current location.

3. “When I’m at The Container Store remind me to pick up Acrylic
Drawer Organizers” You can tell Siri to remind you to get exactly what you
need when your at a particular location.

4. “Play Song xxx” Ask Siri to play any song on your device and turn up the
tunes while you organize!

5. “Schedule an appointment with Chaos To Order next Wednesday at
10am” Create any appointment instantly by speaking into your phone.

Getting to know the technology you own will help you to be more efficient
and organized in many ways.

Monica Friel

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5 Ways to Keep From Losing Your Car in a Parking Lot

By Patty Gardner

There’s nothing worse than standing in a parking lot filled with cars and having no clue where your car is parked.  I’ve had that happen a couple of times and it was so awful that I’ve tried very hard never to let it happen again.  So if you hate that feeling, too, here are 5 ways to prevent it:

1. Park in the same spot every time.  I tend to shop at the same places all the time and I try to always park in the same section.  For example, my Target store has an entrance near the grocery section and an entrance near the dollar section.  I almost always park near the dollar section.  Once in a while I see a great space I can’t pass up in the grocery section and I park there.  And I always regret it because when I leave, I come out the dollar section which is a long ways away.  So now, even if I see a great space in the grocery section, I pass it up!  It’s not worth the panic I feel when I come out of the store and can’t remember where I parked.

2. Take a photo.  If you’re in a really large parking lot, like at a stadium or convention center, use your camera phone to take a picture of the parking lot section number.  I always think I’ll remember the number but I never do.  You can also take a picture of the building you’re going into from where your car is parked.  That will give you perspective.  And if you have to park in an auxiliary lot, you can take a picture of the street sign, the lot name or whatever else will help you find your way back.

3. Park away from other cars.  We tend to look for the closest space we can get, and that’s valid, especially if we’re hauling small kids.  But if it’s just you and you feel like getting some exercise, park way back at the back all by yourself.  When you walk out of the store, you’ll have no trouble seeing your car.  It’ll stick out like a sore thumb.

4. Mark your car.  Some people have a flower on their antenna.  Some have a cool spare tire cover.  If you can, something like that will help your car stand out.

5. Get a car finder device.  It can be an actual electronic device or an app for your smart phone.  I don’t have one of these but it could come in very handy!

So if you want to avoid losing your car, try one of these strategies.  They work!

How do you remember where you parked?  Have you ever lost your car?

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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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Tips to Balance Work and Kids During the Summer

By Monica Friel 

Summer will soon be upon us. If you have school-aged children, you know the havoc that can wreak on working from home or getting projects done around the house. Here are some suggestions to help you navigate between working and enjoying quality time with your kids at home.

 
Get work done early in the morning. Make a plan in the morning for the work that needs to get done and regularly stick to the block of time that you set aside. Work efficiently and let your kids know when your working hours will be.

 
Keep kids busy with age-appropriate chores. If they have a place they want to go, give them a list to complete before departure. A little perk to get the house straightened up while they’re motivated. They may not do it like you, but it’s a great way to teach them.
Share the load. Talk with other parents and see if you can coordinate a regular babysitting co-op. This way, kids will have friends to play with and the parents will share the babysitting load.

 
Stick to a routine. Your kids will get used to the routine if you make sure there’s something fun in it for them at some point in the day. If they can be patient and quiet while you’re on the phone with a client, you can take them to the pool in the afternoon.

 
Forward your calls. Smart phones, tablets and laptops make taking the kids on an adventure without “leaving” the office possible. If you have to talk with clients, allow your child to bring a friend so they can have fun even if you can’t always engage.

 
Of course it all depends on what age your kids are and how independent they can be. Work is important, and so is making fun summer memories for your children.

Monica Friel

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Where Are My Keys???

By Patty Gardner

Have you ever locked your keys in your car?  Or locked yourself out of the house?  That’s a mistake that can be a nuisance and an expense.  I was at the gas station the other day and parked behind a lady in a van who was just finishing up with the locksmith.  You can guess what happened to her!

But there are ways to prevent unnecessary hassle and expense when you lock your keys where they shouldn’t be.   Here are a few ideas:

1. Hide a key somewhere on your automobile.  My husband has a little hide-a-key box on his truck (I won’t tell you where!).  He’s used it several times!

2. Hide a key somewhere outside your house.  But you definitely need to be creative about where you hide it.  Under the mat or in a flower pot on the front porch is probably not a good place.  Think outside the box on this one!

3. Give a house key to a trusted neighbor or nearby family member.  Then if you get locked out you can retrieve the spare or see if they can bring it to you.

4. It’s a good idea to have a spare key for all your cars and doors in a central location.  We have a cabinet where we keep our spare keys.  Those keys have come in handy MANY times!  In fact, just today my daughter was visiting and locked her keys in her car.  Lucky for her I still had her spare key hanging in the cabinet.

Another time I was home alone and a bit jumpy so I locked the door between the kitchen and the garage.  I remember telling myself to unlock that door before I went anywhere.  Unfortunately I forgot and when I returned from the store later that day, I was locked out!!!  Fortunately I eventually remembered there was a key in the cabinet.

5. If you’re unlucky enough to have a car with an expensive key, a spare key for the cabinet might not be practical.  But there are still options.  Sometimes you can have a spare key made that will only open the door but won’t start the engine.  And most of the time all you need that spare key for is to get inside the car where the keys are!

6. Some people keep a spare key in their wallet.  If you happen to lock your keys in the car but not your wallet or purse, you can retrieve the key from your wallet and you’re on your way.

7. If you have a lot of keys and it’s not obvious what they’re for, it might be a good idea to label them.  You can attach a tag, use a sharpie to write directly on the key, use a special key chain, etc.

So don’t get caught without your keys!  Try one or more of these ideas to prevent future hassle and expense from misplaced keys!

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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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Holding On To Stuff And Letting Go, Where Do You Draw The Line?

The process of getting rid of things can be a difficult one. There are many reasons why we hold on to objects. Here is a list of some of the types of objects people hang on to, and some helpful advice on how to encourage the purge.

Items of Value This is the struggle we see most often. We don’t want to eliminate something from our possession because it has value. The problem is there are many things that have value and they end up invading our space! Think about your home, real estate is expensive and you want your home to be a place where you can relax and feel comfortable. If that space is filled with items you don’t want there, you’re not enjoying it fully. Set a deadline to get it out. Make arrangements to sell online or give them to a friend or family member.

Memorabilia We hang on to memorabilia and mementos that remind us of our past. Think about why you are holding on to certain memories. Does the benefit of having it outweigh the cost of the space it’s taking up? It’s also important to remember that if you keep too much, you can’t find what’s truly important. It’s good to keep some mementos, but set boundaries on what you hold on to. Determine what you realistically have the space for, and how much space you want to designate to those items.

Family Heirlooms Has a family member passed away and left you with their antique living room set? Does it not fit into your ultra modern space? What do you do with items passed down from generations? Do you think your kids will want it in the future—probably not. Make arrangements to get it into the hands of someone who will appreciate it, it’s the best way to honor the memory of your loved one. A digital photo is a good way to always hold on to the memory without sacrificing the living room.

Might need it some day So much is saved for a rainy day. There’s a difference between needing something and possibly needing something. If you haven’t used it in the past year and space is at a premium, let it go!

Adult Children’s Items Have your kids grown up and moved on? Are their childhood items still hanging around in your basement or attic? If you have the space and you don’t mind, that’s one thing. If the stuff is taking up space and causing any resentment, get it out. Once the kids are adults, it becomes their problem.

Haven’t taken the time to toss it  Ok, this last one is more common than you may think. We have stuff around that needs to go, we just don’t take the time to get it out. Maybe a regular walk-around with a garbage bag or donation box will do the trick. Maybe an appointment with your organizer is in order. Get the stuff (that you know needs to go) out ASAP.

Monica Friel

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Organizing By Grouping

By Patty Gardner

If I had to name one organizing strategy as being more important than others, I would probably choose “grouping”.  Grouping similar items in a specific location is a major time saver.  For example – batteries.  I have a dresser in my family room and each drawer has a specific purpose.  One of the drawers is for batteries.  All batteries go in that drawer and nowhere else.  So when I need a battery, that’s where I go.  If I need to put a battery away, that’s where it goes.  Batteries live in the bottom right drawer of the dresser and that’s that.

In the second right drawer of that same dresser are light bulbs.  You guessed it – all light bulbs live in that drawer.  When I need one, I know right where they are.

Other things that could be grouped include:

  • Supplies needed for morning routine
  • Kitchen utensils
  • Cutting boards
  • Veggies for salad (Rather than put vegetables in the refrigerator drawers, put them in a plastic container.  When you make a salad, pull out the container and everything you need is there.)

Take a look through your house and see if there are any that would benefit from being “grouped”.

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Spring Cleaning Your Office

By Joshua Zerkel

Clutter, both physical and digital, is not only annoying – it can get in the way of you being productive and getting your important work done. With the change of season, now’s a great time to take stock of what you have, jettison what you don’t, and make a plan for keeping your office clutter at bay. Here’s how:

Physical clutter. If you’re tripping over things scattered around your desk or have to go on an archeological dig when it’s time to find an important document, it’s time to start clearing through any physical clutter in your workspace. Set a timer for an hour and see how much clutter you can clear. Take a quick tour of the things around your desk and your office, and if you haven’t used it in more than six months or a year, donate or discard it. If you haven’t cleared your clutter in an hour, set aside an hour a day until you’ve discarded all the things you no longer need.
Go paperless. If part of your clutter challenge is dealing with too much paper, maybe it’s time to consider setting up a paperless document management system. Scan important documents into a tool like Evernote Business (evernote.com/business), shred the files you no longer need, and recycle the junk you never wanted in the first place. Get a scanner for your desk so you can deal with new paper right away without waiting for it to pile up.
Tidy the tech. Over the past year, have you signed up for a laundry-list of online services, downloaded dozens of apps, and bought gizmos that have gone unused? Take a few minutes to review what’s on your computer and mobile device, and see if you’re really using all the tools that you’ve bought or registered for. Contact your local hazardous waste facility to properly dispose of tech trash, and delete accounts from online services you no longer use (or never did in the first place).
Find a level. Adopt the “one in, one out” rule to keep office clutter at bay over the course of the next year. Essentially, as you buy something new – a book, a desk accessory, a piece of furniture, or art for your wall – let something else go. This will maintain a constant level of “stuff” in your space and prevent it from getting overcrowded with things you no longer need or use.
Josh
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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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7 Steps To Spring Cleaning Success

By Monica Friel 

After a long, harsh winter, your home may be in serious need for spring cleaning. The brutal winter has caused us to put off projects that might have otherwise been dealt with during winter months. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the chaos, it only makes it worse if you continue to put it off. Here are some tips to help you determine how to really make progress on a spring cleaning project this year:

Make a list. Before you start emptying closets and finding yourself with an even bigger mess, sit with a pen and paper and make a list of spring cleaning aspirations. Listing them all will help you gather your thoughts and determine priorities.

Create a plan. As with any project, your always more effective when working with a plan of attack. Once you’ve created a comprehensive list of projects to complete, arrange them in order of priority, determine how much time you will need to allow and set some reasonable deadlines.

Schedule it. You may be motivated that first day and tackle many of the projects on your list. But if you still have projects hanging out there and want to make time to accomplish them, there’s no better way than to carve out time on the calendar. When you have a busy schedule, the only way you find time is to go to your calendar and make it. It may require eliminating another less important activity, but you will always find the time if you really want to get it done.

Don’t be fooled.  There’s no magic wand when it comes to organizing. Hiding a mess behind a closed door will only exacerbate the problem. It can be a tedious process of going through things, making decisions and creating storage solutions. A professional organizer can certainly speed up the progress, make it fun and encourage quicker decision-making, but all steps need to happen in order to bring the chaos to order.

Start small. Once you have decided on a place to begin, get even more specific. For example, if you want to organize a closet, start with a hanging section, a shelf or drawer. Go through it entirely, eliminate what you can and neatly organize the rest. Don’t move on until that specific area is complete. Organization boils down to fully finishing the details of every project. When you break a large project down into sections, finish each section before you move on to the next.

Don’t give up. It’s easy to walk away when you’re distracted, but you’ll regret it later. If you’re working alone and want to stay on task, set a timer. Work in 30-45 minute increments and stick with it until the timer goes off. Once you’ve finished a section, take 5 and set the timer again until you finish.

Reward yourself. Set a goal to complete a spring cleaning project that’s been on your list. Give yourself a reward when you get it done. It can range from treating yourself to a nice meal, to purchasing great containers to keep the contents of your organized space.

Monica Friel

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Why Bother Planning?

By Patty Gardner

Do you ever feel like planning is a waste of time?  As soon as you get your list made, everything changes!  Or you start out strong but then it all falls apart.  And when you finally sit down at night and evaluate your day, you did little or nothing of what was on your list.  It’s discouraging and sometimes it makes me feel like planning is a waste of time.

planner planner page edit

But it’s not.  Even though it might seem like it, planning is still one of the best things you can do.  And here’s why:

1. You can’t have Plan B without Plan A.  If you start out with a plan but then things change, as they always do, you can look at Plan A and make decisions and adjustments.  And chances are, you’ll still end up having a productive day because you started with a plan.

2. Without a plan, you spend your day reacting to whatever comes up.  You might get some things done but they may not be the things you needed to do.  You spent your day putting out fires and that’s no way to live!

3. You get more done with a plan than without a plan.  This is absolutely true for me!  Without a list, I tend to piddle.  I end up spending time cleaning out a closet or re-doing my recipes when I should have been cleaning the bathroom, making dinner and paying the bills.  Having a list is like having goals.  Not having a list is like wandering aimlessly through the desert.

4. Even if you can’t get everything on your list done, a list shows you what needs done.  Maybe you’re one of those people who can keep a list in their head and always knows what to do next (like Mr. Organized, my husband).  I’m not like that.  If I don’t see it, it doesn’t exist.  I need a list so I know what to do.  Even if I don’t get it all done, the list is there to remind me.

5. A list provides a written record of what needs done and what you did.  I frequently look back to see when or if I did something.  And I don’t have to worry that a task will be forgotten because I have it written down.  If it’s written down, it’s safe.  If it’s swimming around in my head…oh, boy, that’s never good!!!

Even if it seems like making a list or having a plan is a waste of time, it isn’t.  And unless you’re like Mr. Organized, a list is probably going make the difference between a productive day and a day spent putting out fires.

So whip out your planner and get your list ready for tomorrow.

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Easy Organizing Challenge: Consolidate

By Carmen Coker

Click here to download and print off your motivational poster.

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

Click here to download and print off your motivational poster.

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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6 Paper Clutter Cures

By Monica Friel 

Paper is the number one culprit of clutter in most any home or office. Staying on top of the constant flow of mail and miscellaneous papers that accumulate is a big job that never really ends. Here are a few tips to help keep the paper pile-up under control:

  • Process Mail Promptly: Keep a trash/recycle bin handy and toss junk mail immediately. Have good systems in place to file, process papers and pay bills quickly.
  • Make Filing Easy: If your file drawers are stuffed, you won’t take that extra time to put papers where they belong. Keep only current files at your desk—toss, box and archive the rest.
  • Weed Out Regularly:  Use the “One In One Out Rule”: Every time you put something in, take something out. Files should be cleared through 1-2 times per year. When was the last time you gave your file system a purge?
  • Don’t Over Organize: When organizing you can get distracted and end up spending too much time on the details. Focus on the big picture, not on how perfect the labels are.
  • Digitize: Less space is wasted when you store items digitally. Get a good scanner and save items on your computer rather than in files.
  • Don’t Hoard Office Supplies: Supplies can waste precious desk space. Keep only what you need right at your desk. Store extra office supplies in a box or closet elsewhere.
  • Know What to Keep: Knowing what you should save can be confusing. Speak to your accountant or lawyer regarding your specific needs. You can also check out our Retention Document for some general guidelines.

Remember, if you keep too much, you can’t find what’s really important. Keeping too many papers can make it more difficult to find what you need when you need it. Streamline, organize and enjoy the benefits.

Monica Friel

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Organize Your Digital Life

By Monica Friel 

What is the state of the files on your computer? Is everything filed where you  can reference and retrieve it quickly? Rather than wasting time logo_brownin a state of chaos, invest time in organizing a system for digital files on your computer. Here are some tips to get you digitally disciplined:

  • Categorize: Think about the types of files you have and group them into a handful of main categories. Do you have a functioning paper filing system? Look at your paper files and create a similar digital system.
  • Detox your Inbox: If your email is out of control, it’s wasting precious time each day. Don’t just delete email you don’t want to receive, make sure you scroll to the bottom and unsubscribe. Keep your inbox clear by saving items as documents and removing what you can. Email is a constant process, so designate time each day to keep your inbox to a minimum. It will actually save you time in the long run.
  • Photo overload: Many people feel the need to hang on to every single photo ever taken–whether digital or paper–for an eternity! Remember, if you keep too much, you can’t find what’s really important. Saving photos is a significant part of your history, and it’s great to have a digital timeline of events. However, it can get out of control if you don’t have a system. Organize your photos chronologically and remove what’s duplicate/unnecessary every time you import.
  • Gain control of your computer desktop: Does your desktop turn into a dumping ground for files you don’t want to waste time filing? This is a good place to store items temporarily, but only temporarily. Take a look at your desktop and regularly file anything left on it. Just like your actual desktop, it’s a work surface not a storage area.

If you find that you always need more cloud storage and must always buy the devices with the most storage available, maybe you’re hanging on to too much. By taking these important steps to minimize your digital life, you’ll lighten the load and feel better for it. Digital clutter is similar to household clutter. You’re more in control when you know where things are and have a simplified system. Take the time today to get your computer files in order and see how eliminating what’s not needed and finding good, efficient places to store things will lead to better organization overall.

Monica Friel

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No Time to Spring Clean? Don’t!

By Patty Gardner

It’s that time of year when homeowner’s everywhere start thinking about spring cleaning.  But not me!  I’ve never been a fan of spring cleaning and I don’t plan to start now.

Spring Cleaning

I have a different strategy – a strategy that works better for my energy level and my schedule.

I pace myself.

Rather than having a cleaning marathon in the spring and fall, I schedule projects throughout the year.  Each month has its own focus.

For example:

  • January – organize & put away Christmas decorations & clean up the mess
  • February – wash all bedding (comforters, mattress pads)
  • & turn mattresses (sheets are washed weekly)
  • March – Thoroughly vacuum furniture
  • April – clean carpets & rugs
  • May – wash curtains & blinds
  • June – organize and clean out closets
  • July – clean oven and refrigerator; defrost deep freeze
  • August – wash all bedding (comforters, mattress pads)
  • & turn mattresses (sheets are washed weekly)
  • September – clean under furniture, clean woodwork & walls
  • October – Thoroughly vacuum furniture
  • November – Decorate for Christmas
  • December – Shop, wrap and cook for Christmas *

*This is not a real schedule.  It’s similar to one I might use but I just moved to a new house – a fixer upper – and haven’t developed a schedule for this house yet.  And anyway, each person has to make their own schedule based on their home, their cleaning routine and their needs.

Smaller projects done more frequently make it easier to fit them in my schedule and match them to my energy level.  I’m not saying it’s the only way or even the right way, but it works for me.

So if spring cleaning is your thing, go for it.  But as for me, I’ll just tackle the next thing on my list.

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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 “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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9 Steps to a Tidy Coat Closet!

By Naomi Cook

Yes, winter is here, and it seems like it is here to stay!  We learned from Punxsutawney Phil (a groundhog in Pennsylvania, who makes predictions on the length of winter) on February 2nd (Groundhog Day) that we are due for another 6 weeks of winter!  I’ve just come in from clearing snow off of my car…again.  If we can’t control the weather outside, at least we control how things look when we go inside.  This leads to the question, how is your coat closet looking?  Is it jammed full of coats for all seasons?  Do things fall from the top shelf when you open the door?  Are there items inside that shouldn’t be in there?  If you answered a resounding “YES!”,  to any of these questions, then you are in need of a closet cleanout!  Follow these simple steps and you’ll be there in no time!

Step 1 – Remove everything from your closet, even from the floor, and give it a little dusting/mopping from possible mud-caked boots that have been hiding down there in the back corner.

Step 2 – Sort coats into several piles.  One pile for winter coats and another pile for spring/fall coats, for each member of the family.

Step 3 – Pair up gloves by tucking the wrist material together, just like you might with socks.  If you have single gloves without a match, then just toss them, unless you like that quirky mismatched look!

Step 4 – Gather together scarves, hats and umbrellas.  Check for any tears in the scarves and hats and also check your umbrellas to make sure the spokes aren’t broken.

Step 5 – If you don’t already have the following storage items, then consider getting them:

1)  Wooden Hangers for heavy wool winter coats.  Take a count of how many you will need.  Add a few more to that total to accommodate guest’s coats.

2)  Velvety Hangers for lightweight coats.  Again take a count of how many you will need and add a few more to that total to accommodate guest’s coats.

3)  Expandable Closet Rod Doubler to gain an instant extra level of hanging space, if you have mostly short coats.  No tools necessary, just hang it on your existing rod!  Even if you have one or two long coats, you can still use this if the rod doubler to condense down to just a portion of the existing rod.  Important tip!  Make sure you measure the width of your closet rod before you go shopping.

4)  Expandable Shelf/Shelves to organize and maximize your storage capabilities on and above the top shelf.  You can find these in the kitchen and/or closet sections of your favorite big box retailer.  For these, you will also need the width measurement of your closet.

5)  Bins with Handles for the top shelves. Look for lower height bins, as the space left underneath the expandable shelf/shelves will only be about 5″.  Look for standard height bins for above the expandable shelves, assuming you have enough height in your closet.

6)  Boot Tray for the floor of the closet to keep boots and shoes contained and the floor dry.

7)  Over-the-Door Shoe Pocket Holder in clear to hang on the inside of the closet door, assuming you have a swing out door and not a folding one.

Step 6 – Place the expandable shelf/shelves onto the top shelf of the closet.  Neatly fold Spring/Fall coats into the upper bins and stash them up top.  Then pair flip flops or sneakers in the lower height bins and put them up on the top shelf below the expandable shelf/shelves.

Step 7 – Hang winter coats onto wooden or velvety hangers, and then onto the closet rod doubler or existing rod. Hang thicker scarves or ones that coordinate with a certain coat on that hanger as well.

Step 8 – Put down the boot tray on the floor of the closet, wipe down all the boots, and place them on top.

Step 9 – Hang the over-the-door shoe holder over the door and stash your mated gloves, hats, thinner scarves and small umbrellas in the pockets.

….And you’re done!  How simple was that?  Even better, you’ll easily be able to change things around when springtime finally makes its appearance!  Move the winter coats up to the bins and bring the spring ones down. Also move the gloves, hats and scarves up and move the flip flops and sneakers down into the shoe holder.

Until next time, stay safe and warm!

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How To Get Paper Under Control

By Joshua Zerkel

Dealing with paper is nobody’s idea of fun (well, unless you’re a professional organizer, perhaps!). Seeing stacks and piles of paper sitting around can be incredibly frustrating for many of us, and you may waste time rifling through your piles trying to find the one piece of paper you actually DO need. To help you better manage your paper, it’s key to get control over both the new paper coming in the door as well as the paper you already have sitting around. Here’s how:

Go digital. One easy way to get your new paper under control is to start receiving key documents digitally. The usual suspects here include utility bills (power, cable tv, internet, cell phone and landline), financial statements (credit card bills, bank statements, brokerage and investments), and the like. Beyond that, most documents that are sent through the mail, including health insurance statements, mortgage bills, and more, let you opt-in to receive them electronically instead of through snail mail. Go through your new mail, and for each document, see if there’s an option to receive it electronically instead, and sign up right away. To help keep things organized, you can use a service like FileThis Fetch (www.filethis.com) to automatically download new statements for you.

Say “no” to the new. It’s largely up to you to stem the tide of new paper, and the less new paper you have to deal with, the better. Rather than blindly accepting paper coming your way, be strategic. If you’re at meetings and someone hands you a document, ask if you can get an electronic copy instead. The next time your reach to pick up a brochure, menu, or flyer, check a company’s website for the information you’re looking for. Instead of taking someone’s business card, take a photo with your phone using Evernote or a business card scanning app. Think about all the miscellaneous bits of paper you find yourself dealing with, and consider alternate ways to get that information.

Toss the junk. Go on a “seek and destroy” mission through the piles on your desk, the stacks on the floor, and your file drawers, looking for the documents that belong in the recycle bin or the shredder. Look for paper that’s blatantly outdated, documents you’ve never read (and never intend to), and things you never wanted in the first place, and get rid of them. Try to get eliminate as much as you can. This is meant to be a quick exercise – don’t waste time agonizing over whether to keep a particular document. Better to just keep it and move on, rather than spend tons of time on each individual piece of paper.

What are your strategies for eliminating paper from your life?

Josh

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Five Get-Organized Power Tips

By Carmen Coker

Click here to download and print off your motivational poster.

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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Resolution 2014: Why Can’t I Get Organized?

By Monica Friel 

Did you make a New Year Resolution for 2014? Getting organized is the #2 resolution this year according to statisticbrain.com. It always seems to be one of the top resolutions, so what are we doing wrong that it shows up again year after year? Maybe there needs to be a change in how we try to attain the status of the all elusive organized life. This year, try some of these ideas to make the goal of getting organized more attainable.

  • Be More Specific: Deciding to get organized is a very broad idea. There are many different ways you can get organized, so write down your thoughts and get as specific as you can. For example, maybe your goal is to be more organized at work. Write down the steps that will get you there. Clearing off your desk, going through old files, staying on top of email, etc… write down all the things that make you feel chaotic and then write down what would help fix it. Once you’ve zeroed in on what to do, schedule time to get the specific tasks done. Once the tasks are done, set time aside for maintenance throughout the year. Hopefully by the end of the year you can get the habit to stick and you will start to see yourself as more organized.
  • Get Accountable: there’s nothing better than having another person check in on you and keep you on track. Find a friend or co-worker who has similar goals and work together to stay accountable to each other.
  • Take it off the List: Instead of creating a New Year “To Do”, try creating a list of what “Not To Do”. We all have tasks that are important, yet they keep getting postponed. Decide what not to do, eliminate what you can, delegate where you can and create time to focus on what matters most.
  • Don’t Wait, Live Organized Now: People always set a goal to get organized, but they forget that they can live organized now. Rather than focusing on the pile of clutter that needs to be dealt with, focus on finishing every task as you do them. That means making those little decisions about what to do with each and every item. You see, they add up and become the clutter that haunts you.

If you follow these steps and set your mind on an attainable, concrete goal of maintaining organization in a particular area, it will grow and spill over into other areas of your life and you will be proud to have realized your resolution.

Monica Friel

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6 Things to Say Goodbye to in the New Year

By Naomi Cook

There are many things to say hello to this New Year, like fun new calendars and planners (which you can find plenty of here at Franklin Covey)!  However, there are also some things in your home that you should say goodbye to.  Check out this list of 6 cluttering culprits that may be in your home!

1)     Coupons – Are grocery and holiday store coupons lingering on your countertops?  Don’t spend more time than a quick skim, because chances are many of them expired at the end of December.  Then toss them all into the recycling bin.  *How can you organize them in the New Year?  Pick up a coupon organizer for your grocery coupons, and larger poly zip envelopes for larger store coupons, like my favorites from Bed Bath & Beyond!  Both items should be found at your favorite office supply store.

2)     Magazines – Are stacks of unread magazines sitting on your bedside table, some with the plastic covers still on?  Just keep the last several issues and recycle the rest.  Don’t feel like you’re missing something, because most magazines will cover similar timely topics in the next year.  *How can you organize them in the New Year?  Consider dropping some subscriptions or switching to online subscriptions, if your favorite publications offer them.

3)     Catalogs – Are piles of catalogs taking over your coffee table?   They can be enjoyable, but getting one a month…every month…from many companies, can really add up!  *How can you organize them in the New Year?  Did you know that it is so simple to stop them from coming to your home?  Opt out of ones that you really don’t care to receive anymore at www.catalogchoice.org.  Remember that you can always check things out on their websites.  It’s ok to keep a few of your favorites coming; I always hang onto my Container Store catalogs!

4)     Broken Electronics – Are bags of old and non working electronics, like your old hairdryer or blender, hanging out in your basement because you didn’t want to throw them in the trash, but you didn’t know what to do with them?   *How can you organize them in the New Year?  No need to organize these, get them out of the house!  Head to your local township’s website to look for any upcoming e-recycling events, where collections of anything with a plug are taken.  Or sign up for community pages on Facebook, like the Patch, where they may be listed.

5)     Change – Are your coins accumulating quickly, leaving little room for more in the jar?  *How can you organize them in the New Year?  First, dig out the quarters for the parking meters and put them in your car!  Then check to see if your bank has a coin to cash machine, or look for a local Coinstar machine (www.coinstar.com) near you and get some crisp new bills or gift cards to your favorite stores!

6)     Product Boxes – Are big boxes from items like your TV or microwave still fully intact, and taking up precious space?  *How can you organize them in the New Year?  Break them down, and recycle them, especially if the warranty is up.  All you really need to keep are the manuals, but you may not even need to keep the paper copies!  Check the website for the manufacturer to see if there is a downloadable version there for your product, and you can just save it onto your computer!

Have a wonderful January and a Clutter Free New Year!

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How to Get Organized in 2014

By Joshua Zerkel

If one of your goals for 2014 is to get more organized, you’re in good company. Most polls show that getting organized is a perennial favorite among folks who set resolutions for the new year. Of course, the challenge isn’t in setting the resolution – it’s in keeping it. Here are a few ideas to help you get organized in 2014:

Be super-specific. “Getting organized” is not a goal – it’s a concept, and you can’t achieve a concept. Additionally, there is no endpoint to organization – it’s something that you’ll continue to work on as time moves forward. “Organize my desk,” on the other hand, is a very specific goal. You probably have an idea of what you’d like your desk to look and function like when you’ve finished organizing it. Instead of choosing a general goal, decide which parts of your space or your systems are driving you the most crazy, and write down some specific goals for each. Keep your list somewhere handy – like your FranklinCovey planner or in an electronic form such as Evernote. You can refer back to this list as you make progress to make sure you’re on track.

Do it daily. Once you have your organizing goals written down, then it’s time to start taking action. After working with clients for many years, I can share one universal truth – you can’t get organized in one fell swoop. Think about it – it probably took quite some time for your office, your desk, or your closet to get in the current state it’s in – it likely didn’t happen overnight. You can’t expect to make a lasting change in a day or a weekend. Instead, look at your list of specific goals, and set aside time each day to make small (but measurable and noticeable) progress. Making little bits of headway regularly can help you build the habits that you’ll need to keep your organizing systems and spaces in shape over the long haul.

Get help. Successful goal achievers have a secret – they ask for help. Rather than struggling through on your own, get into the mindset of asking for help when you get stuck. Of course, some parts of getting organized will probably be easy for you to do on your own. Others, however, may stump you. When that happens, call on a friend or coworker for additional motivation, or enlist the help of a professional organizer or productivity consultant. Time and again I’ve seen people get stuck in the weeds when they’re trying to make progress. Simply by asking for help they could have saved themselves time and agony.

What are your goals for 2014, and how do you plan on achieving them?

Josh

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Tired of Failed New Year’s Resolutions? Try It This Way Instead

By Patty Gardner

It’s that time of year when most people start thinking about goals and resolutions for the new year.  You know what I’m talking about  – those things we think we should do but we don’t really want to do.  Somehow, though, with the start of a new year, we have fresh motivation and think this time we’ll be able to do it.

New Years Resolutions 4

Unfortunately, most people don’t have much luck keeping those New Year’s resolutions, at least not more than a month or two.  And there are several good reasons for that:

1. A year is a LONG time to commit to something, especially something that’s most likely difficult.

2. Motivation is strong at the beginning of the year but gets less and less.

3. Often the resolution is something BIG – like lose 30 pounds or exercise an hour a day.  It can be overwhelming.

While it’s a good thing to set goals and make changes in our lives, there’s a better way than the traditional New Year’s Resolutions.

The better way is to set smaller goals every month.  For example, if your New Year’s resolution would have been to exercise an hour a day and lose 30 pounds, setting monthly goals would look more like this:

January:

Exercise 15 minutes, 3x a week

Keep a food journal

Drink 2 glasses of water a day

At the end of January, sit down and evaluate how you did.

Exercise 15 minutes, 3x a week – SUCCESS

Keep a food journal – NO

Drink 2 glasses of water a day – SUCCESS

If you didn’t succeed on any one of your goals, figure out why.  Perhaps you tried to keep an on-line food journal and you prefer paper.  Repeat this goal – unless you decide it was a bad goal – but solve the problem that caused the failure.

February:

Exercise 15 minutes, 5x a week

Keep a paper food journal

Drink 4 glasses of water a day

You can see the goals are the same except the first and third were increased and the second was modified.

Repeat the process each month, and by the end of the year, you’ll have accomplished your goals or at least be a lot closer.

Now, the next really important part of this process is tracking.  If you don’t track, your chances of success go way, way down.  Take a look at these 3 ideas for tracking in your Franklin Planner:

1.  Color coding dots on your monthly pages.  My 2 page per day original comes with two Monthly Indexes.  I use the extra to record my goals.  Then if you have room on your monthly calendar, you can use the color coding dots to track your goals.

 New Years Resolutions 1

2. Highlighters on the extra Monthly Index page.   If you don’t have room on your monthly pages, make a calendar grid right on the page where you list your goals and use highlighters or a multi-color pen to track your progress.

 New Years Resolutions 2

3.  Checkmarks on the Business Expenses page at the back of 2 pages per day sets.  I never use this page for business expenses but I love it for tracking.  If your planner set doesn’t have one of these, you can easily make your own.

 New Years Resolutions 3

There are lots of way to track your – just be sure that you do! Tracking increases your chances for success and helps you see how you’re doing.

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How I Plan My Week

 By Patty Gardner

852

 A weekly planning session makes all the difference in whether my week is smooth or rocky.  Starting the week with a plan in place allows me to make changes as needed (and believe me, there are always plenty) and get things done.  Here’s what I do:

My weekly planning session takes place on Sunday evening.  I sit on the couch with my planner and start plugging things in.

First I check my monthly calendar to see if I have any appointments scheduled.  I plug them into the Appointment Schedule on my daily pages.

Monthly Calendar

 Then I add things I know I’ll be doing, like babysitting the grand kids, going to the grocery store, church, etc.  These also go on the Appointment Schedule.  (I don’t remove the pages from my planner when I plan – this was to make it was easier to see the big picture.)

 appointments

 Next I plug in tasks I need to do on certain days.  These go in the Prioritized Daily Task List section.  For example, I usually go to the grocery store on Wednesday, so I need to make my grocery list on Tuesday.  I pay bills on Saturday.  On the 1st of the month I do monthly checks (smoke alarms, furnace filters, snack stash) and give my dog her heartworm pill.  If someone has a birthday, I write “email happy birthday”, “prep card”, “mail card” on the appropriate days.

 to do pages

 I record other tasks that need to be done sometime during the week on the page finder.  The page finder has a slot for a weekly list.  The front of the list has 8 boxes which I’ve been using those to record high priority tasks.  On the back of the page I record all the other things that come to mind.  Pull out the list to add new items or mark things off that you’ve done.

 page finder front

 

 Page finder back

Then I do a review to be sure there aren’t any issues, like too many appointments or a scheduling conflict.  If all is well, weekly planning is done!

Sometimes, though, I have SO much going on that I feel overwhelmed and this planning method isn’t enough.  When that happens, I print out a weekly schedule form and do my initial planning on it.  Seeing the whole week at one time helps me see whether I can get it all done or whether changes have to be made.  Once I get it all worked out, I transfer it to my daily pages.

This method takes about 15 minutes unless I have to do the weekly sheet first.  Then it probably takes 20 or so.  This system works really well and I start my week feeling like I know what I’m doing.  And feeling in control is half the battle!
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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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Easy Steps to Starting Your Organizing Journey

By Joshua Zerkel

As a business owner, you’ve probably already been faced with one of the biggest challenges – staying organized and productive.

Realizing that you need to make time to get yourself organized is one of the biggest steps to getting organized.  It isn’t enough to simply say, “I’ll file that stuff later.”  Later never comes.  When was the last time you had a bunch of free time to get organized?  Yeah, me neither.

The first step you can take to getting organized is to schedule some time once a week to work on your office.  Make it a small amount of time, like 30 minutes or an hour.  Keep it manageable, with an end time in mind.  Don’t take a whole day off of work to get organized – it will seem too overwhelming and it won’t get done. By focusing on a little at a time, you will get more done and have a sense of accomplishment.

So how do you get started?

Start with the number one thing that bothers you every day.  For example, I get a ton of email and before I know it, my inbox is over 200.  So one of my organizing goals is going through my email inbox and going through each email and deciding what to do with it.  Some of the emails will be deleted, others will be filed, and some I need to reply to.  What is it that bothers you most each day? Start working on getting that organized and under control, and then move on to the other parts of your business life that could be better organized.

Action Steps for this Week

  1. Schedule some time on your calendar to get organized – make an appointment with yourself!
  2. Make a list of your top 3 organizational challenges
  3. Start with your #1 organizational challenge and make a plan to work on it.  For example, if you want to clean out your email inbox, your goal should be to reduce it by 25% each time you work on it until it gets to xx (this number is the number of emails you feel are manageable).  Everyone’s goal is different — some people want zero emails in their inbox, some feel comfortable with 50.  Make a goal that’s right for you!

Josh

© 2009 Joshua Zerkel and Custom Living Solutions. All Rights Reserved.

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Gifting Organizational Twofers

By Naomi Cook

Never heard of a Twofer?

It is defined by Merriam-Webster as “something that satisfies two criteria or needs simultaneously.”  Um…what’s better than that!  This holiday season consider gifting a twofer with organization in mind.  Bath salts and soap gift baskets are nice, but how many have you received that have gone unused and sit in the back of your linen closet, just taking up space?  Here are some practical and reusable gift ideas for some of the people in your life that they are sure to love:

For the Bookworm:

  • Give a stair basket filled with things to keep warm in the winter – like cozy winter socks and a bestselling book.  Afterwards it can be used to help bring items from upstairs to downstairs and back up again!

For the Fashionista:

  • Find a nice jewelry display or holder for necklaces, bracelets or earrings and surprise them with a piece already on it or tucked inside!

For the Foodie:

  • Make homemade presents like filling a jar with cookie ingredients.  The jar can be used afterwards to hold the extra buttons that come with your clothing, or in the laundry room for items pulled out of pockets before washing!  Remember that whoever does the laundry gets to keep the money!
  • Head to a pottery painting store and work your magic on a serving bowl, adding some nice seasonal fruits onto it.

For the Gaming Enthusiast:

  • Find an inexpensive storage ottoman and fill it with a couple of the hottest new games.  They can keep all their gear and games inside and then have an extra seat!

For the Hobbyist:

  • Give a gift certificate to a store where they can buy items to pursue a passion.  Put that and a few small supplies in a multi-drawer plastic bin for the crafter on your list.  Or for the fix it guy or gal, put a gift card and a few tools in a tool box.

If all else fails and you are not sure what to get someone, give a gift card to a restaurant.  The twofer here can be the leftovers in a box, which you can reuse for leftovers at home!

Happy Holidays!

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Set Up Email Filters or Rules to Organize Your Inbox

By Joshua Zerkel

Boost your productivity by letting your email program sort your messages.

Not every email you receive requires the same kinds of actions—or any action at all. If you’ve got an avalanche of messages in your inbox, the first step to making sense of it all is to create subfolders for each of the different kinds of messages you receive—project-related messages, newsletters, etc. Once those folders have been created, you can use a tool called filters or rules to automatically sort your incoming email. This can be a huge productivity booster!

Filters or rules are found in the settings for virtually any email program. By creating filters or rules, you can automatically file any messages coming in from a particular sender to a designated folder, bypassing your inbox entirely. This way you don’t have to see it or read it until you have time to deal with it. As new messages come in you can skip past those messages you know will not require your immediate attention. They will be in a special folder waiting for you. You’ll know that there are messages waiting for you in that folder because your email program will alert you.

You might use this feature for specific clients, vendors, co-workers, or resources. When it’s time to read through your email, you can go into the individual folders and take the corresponding actions then. Everything is already pre-sorted for you, so it should be easier and less time-consuming for you to go through your inbox.

160 character description:

Sort your email by using filters or rules to automatically send designated messages to special folders, allowing you to deal with them on your own schedule.

Tags:

Email, filters, rules, digital organizing

Categories:

Digital Organizing, Productivity, Technology & Applications

Tweets:

Set up filters or rules in your email to automatically send messages to subfolders, where you can deal w/ them on your own pace.

Not all emails require immediate attention! Learn how to automatically filter out non-urgent messages from your inbox: [link]

Deal with emails when YOU want to. Use filters or rules to automatically move certain messages out of the top of your inbox: [link]

Facebook:

Not all emails require immediate attention! Learn how to automatically filter out non-urgent messages from your inbox, so you can deal with them when YOU want to. [link]

If you create subfolders for specific kinds of email messages, you can create automatic filters or rules that move less-urgent messages into those folders, rather than clamoring for attention at the top of your inbox. [link]

 

Josh

© 2009 Joshua Zerkel and Custom Living Solutions. All Rights Reserved.

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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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4 Tips for Eco-Friendly Organizing

By Joshua Zerkel

Simplify your life while being environmentally responsible!

Getting organized can be a fantastic way to simplify and streamline your busy life. The process of getting organized can involve weeding through (and discarding) some of the belongings that have been keeping you from living how you want to live, and finding other products that can help you live in more comfortable, effective way. Tossing some things out while also potentially getting new things may seem to be at odds with eco-friendly living, but there ARE ways to be eco-friendly while getting organized. Here are four things to keep in mind:

1. Repurpose what you have. Before getting rid of your stuff, see if you can use what you have in new and different ways. Turn things on their sides, take them to different rooms, and match things up in unusual ways. For instance, an extra bowl from the kitchen can make a great “key-catcher” by the front door. Checkbook boxes transform into drawer dividers, and plastic trays that fancy chocolate comes in are great for organizing earrings. Another example: I have a client who is a scrapbook artist. We used transparent plastic bins to store her supplies, which were functional but not very attractive. Instead of buying new bins, we used some of her extra decorative paper to line the bins and hide the contents. Look around your space – what can use differently?

2. Buy eco-friendly products. You may need to buy specialized organizing products, such as desk accessories, drawer dividers, and other things that will help you get and stay organized. Stores such as Good Girl Goods (goodgirlgoods.com) and the Container Store (containerstore.com) carry many products that are made from recycled or natural materials. Consider products that will make it easier for you to recycle, such as sorters that can help you separate glass, paper, compost, etc.

3. Store the right way. Store your items in a way that will best preserve them. First, make sure you have the right containers. If you’re storing photos or documents, choose acid-free boxes, not plastic bins. Keep clothes in a sealed container, not in a suitcase. Second, be conscious of the location where things are stored. Keep issues such as moisture, light, and temperature fluctuations in mind. A damp garage isn’t the right spot for paper, and a bookshelf in direct sunlight will quickly fade your precious photos.

4. Discard responsibly. After weeding through your stuff, you’ll probably be left with lots of things that need to find new homes and some that can be recycled. When working with clients, I usually recommend that they get rid of things in this order: sell, donate, and recycle. Items of value can be sold on eBay (ebay.com), Craigslist (craigslist.org), at a garage sale, or in your local paper. Call your favorite charities and see what items they are accepting – frequently charities will come and pick up your donations for you, saving you time. Items that are left over after selling or donating can often be given away via Freecycle (freecycle.org). Finally, the items that have no value to you or others can be responsibly recycled.

Simplifying and organizing your life while being environmentally responsible is possible! When embarking on your next organizing project, keep these four tips in mind. You’ll be able to feel good about taking steps toward living the life you want in an eco-friendly way.

 

Joshua Zerkel, CPO® is a the founder of Custom Living Solutions, a San Francisco-based productivity and organizing consulting firm, specializing in helping busy people save time, space and money by getting organized at home and at work. For more FREE organizing ideas, visit www.customlivingsolutions.com or call 415-830-6345.

Josh© 2009 Joshua Zerkel and Custom Living Solutions. All Rights Reserved.

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Stressed Spelled Backwards is Desserts!

By Naomi Cook

Ok, so we haven’t reached the holidays yet, but have you looked at the calendar lately!  We are only about 2 weeks from Thanksgiving and then the madness starts!  Let’s take a crack at some of these things now, so that you have time to enjoy your holidays – imagine that!  Here are some ways to relieve some of the stress before it starts!

For now prepare for…

Feeding Time!

If you are hosting…

* Find your favorite supermarket’s circular (either paper or online), and do your holiday homework!  Online circulars are great in that you can create a printable shopping list of the sale items that are offered!

* See if they offer a free turkey (or alternative) when you spend a certain amount there before Thanksgiving.

* Look on your last store receipt to see how far away you are from that amount.

* If you still have a ways to go, then get all of the ingredients for the fixings now, because you don’t want to have to run out at the last minute and risk finding the shelves bare!

* You’ll find that a lot of those ingredients are on sale anyway and with store coupons and manufacturer coupons your savings can add up!

 

If you are a guest…

* Remind your host about any dietary restrictions you have.  Offer to bring something for yourself, like I do with my Tofurky!  Ok, don’t say ewww…it is actually quite delicious!

* Offer to bring a side dish or dessert and it can become a potluck affair!

 

Shopping Time!

* If you don’t normally buy the local Sunday paper, buy it for the next few months.

You’ll find ads for your favorite local stores with items on sale and can also

get thoughts on presents for friends and family.

* The Sunday paper is also where you will also get your manufacturer’s coupons for

your holiday ingredients!

* Flip through the magazines you subscribe too, sometimes they have valuable store

coupons on perforated cards.

* Check the covers of catalogs that come in the mail for Free Shipping deals.  Also

check around the order form to find out when you can expect delivery.

* Check your e-mail inbox for deals from your favorite catalogs and stores (that

you are subscribed to) as well.

* On a notepad jot those offers and dates down (of the catalogs you are interested

in) so they will be in one place.

* If you must, go shopping on Black Friday (although that can cause even more stress!)

or better yet partake in Cyber Monday.

* When you have found everything for everyone, consider opting out of receiving

paper catalogs (as well as other junk mail) and instead get their e-mail alerts.

Head to Catalog Choice (www.catalogchoice.org) for what to do!

* If you are concerned with receiving too many store e-mails, designate another

e-mail address just for them or just opt out.  Sometimes at that opt out point they

will ask you if you want less frequent e-mails.

 

Crisis Time!

* The inevitable may happen, and If your package has not arrived in time and you

are freaking out, get in touch with the company.

* If you get the voicemail run-around, log onto Get Human (www.gethuman.com) for how

to actually reach a human being!

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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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Travel Smart: 3 Tips for Organized Gadget Travel

By Joshua Zerkel

I travel quite a bit for both business and for fun, and I can’t think of the last time I went somewhere without some tech in tow, whether a digital camera, my mobile phone, iPad, laptop or netbook, or some other gizmo. These devices are so much a part of our lives that it’s hard for us to go anywhere without them. But how can we take them with us in a way that makes sense, keeps them accessible and organized, and doesn’t leave us with a huge and heavy carry-on bag?

Consolidate. This may seem like strange advice coming from a huge gadget fan, but when traveling, my general philosophy is “the fewer devices, the better.” The less you bring with you, the fewer devices you have to worry about losing, the fewer chargers you need to bring, and less you have to carry. One way to bring less tech with you is to leverage something you probably already use all the time – your mobile phone. Your cell phone can do so much for you – and can save you tons of bulk during a trip by consolidating the functions of many other devices into one. Especially if you have a current smartphone, you can often leave your digital camera, mp3 player, portable video game, camcorder, and GPS unit behind. Granted, you may not get every single feature that you’d have with each and every individual device, but the benefit of leaving them at home is far less bulk, and less to lose. One note: if you’re traveling abroad, make sure to review your data service plan or turn off your data (just leave your phone in flight mode) to avoid exorbitant roaming charges.

Charge smart. It used to be that every device needed its own charger, which can add lots of bulk to your travel case. I remember the days when I’d bring a charger for my laptop, my camera, my cell phone, my mp3 player, and my portable video game – and I’d try to shoehorn it all into one small bag. By the time I was done, my carry-on would be filled with chargers and cords! Luckily, that’s no longer the case. Many current devices can be charged via the USB port on your computer, or via a wall charger with a USB port. Instead of carrying around a wall adapter for each device, instead carry one USB-equipped wall adapter, and use a USB charging cable for your device (most devices, including cell phones, mp3 players, and many digital cameras, already come with such a cable). If you’re bringing your laptop with you, you may not even need to bring the wall adapter at all!

Organize and contain. Even if you have whittled down your devices to just one or two and have consolidated your cables to the bare minimum, you’re still going to have to deal with what can often be a tangled mess. What you don’t want is to open your bag and have to untie a big knot of cables – that’s no way to get a trip started on the right foot! Instead, make sure you’re using the right tools to help organize your cables and keep your devices safe. You’ll want to make sure you have a space for each of your devices, along with any chargers, adapters, extra memory cards, and the like.

When I travel, I like to use the Grid-It (http://www.cocooninnovations.com/grid.php) system to help keep all my chargers and cables organized. What’s great about this particular system is that it’s flexible and adaptable to whatever combination of gizmos and cables you happen to have with you, and it holds your stuff securely. I also like the Kangaroom Personal Media Pouch (http://bit.ly/pmOMoU) which can hold your devices and cables and then can slip into your larger laptop bag or briefcase.

These days, we all travel with something that has a button or a battery. What do you do to keep your tech organized when you travel?

Josh

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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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Psst —What’s the Password?

By Joshua Zerkel

Follow these tips for managing your many logins and passwords.

In the age of living your life online—banking, bills, video rentals, social media, work, email, and so on—keeping track of all your passwords is essential. Many people simply put their passwords on a sticky note stuck right on their monitors—something I definitely don’t recommend. Nor would I suggest using a little booklet specifically for passwords, like the ones they sell in the Container Store. Although these methods keep your passwords centralized, they are not at all secure. (If you are keeping your passwords written down on paper somewhere, make sure they are kept in a locked drawer or cabinet.)

Far better than writing your passwords down is to keep them in a locked file or database on your computer. You could make an excel spreadsheet that is password protected, so that only you can open it (of course, you’ll need to memorize the password to get into your password document!).

You could also purchase a password management tool, which is what I use and recommend.

There are two great programs I recommend: KeePass or RoboForm. KeePass is free, but RoboForm as a few more additional features that might be worthwhile to you. In essence however they work the same. Once you install the program on your computer, you unlock the database with your master password and then you input the websites, user names, passwords, and any notes for the accounts you are keeping track of. All the data that is stored in those databases is encrypted, so if someone tried to hack into it, it would require a lot of effort, so long as they don’t have your master password.

A similar option to KeePass and RoboForm is an online password management tool called LastPass, which essentially works the same way, but it stores your password data online via a secure server, rather than on your home computer. There are pros and cons to doing it this way. The pros are that you have access to your passwords no matter where you are, and you don’t lose all your passwords if your computer bites the dust. The con, however, is that your passwords are stored on someone else’s server, so in theory they could get hacked. If you are considering using something online like LastPass, be sure to look at the company’s security and privacy policies so that you can feel confident about storing your data with them.

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Gussy Up Your Guest Room

By Naomi Cook

You may have seen or read about Kmart’s latest commercial for the holidays…no, not for Halloween, but for Christmas!  Airing in Mid-September, it touts that now is the best time to start buying those holiday gifts through their layaway program.

Taking their cue, let’s talk about getting your home ready for those overnight guests that will most likely be starting to arrive around Thanksgiving.  You have the time now to get that guest room ready and not be rushing around.  Perhaps your guest room performs multiple duties as an office, an extra closet and general catch-all area for things that you don’t know what to do with at the time!  Take a bit of time each week to get things cleared out and organized and you’re guest room will be sitting pretty, just waiting for that first guest to arrive.

Don’t worry about perfection; just consider the needs of your guests and follow the 4 easy steps below:

Clear the surfaces – If you have a dresser in the guest room, take off all of the tchotchkes and either store them temporarily away in one of the drawers, or consider if any of them can be donated.  Go through the drawers as well; keeping a drawer or two empty for your guests, keeping their pajamas and socks in mind.  If you have a desk in the guest room, gather up your papers and file them or if they are no longer needed, shred them.

Clear the closet – As this may be a space for storing clothes overflowing from your main closet, take a close look at these items and figure out if you really wear them anymore.  By parting with some pieces, you will automatically have left some inches on the closet rod for your guests to hang their dressier items.

Clear the bed – Of course your guests will need a place to sleep, so take everything off of the bed.  If there are items like boxes from small appliances that were just tossed in the room, break them down and put them in the recycling bin.  For everything else, take the items to the room that they belong in.  Of course you will want to wash the sheets and blankets too!

Clear the floor – Pick up anything that has landed on the floor like grocery bags or paper clips and give it a good sweeping or run with the vacuum.

Now that wasn’t too hard was it?  Finish the room off with a nice basket including sets of rolled up towels, travel size toiletries like shampoo, conditioner and toothpaste and leave a mint on the pillow!   Offering turn down service is up to you!

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The Number One Organizing Mistake

By Joshua Zerkel

“I am an office supply junkie!

I love to go to the office supply stores and get all the matching organizers like pencil cups, paper trays, folders, covered memo boards…you get the picture.

It all looks so nice and neat in the store, and I can just imagine my stuff in them.  I know that once I buy all this stuff, I will finally be organized and I can get on with my day.”

Sound familiar? This is one of the most common mistakes we make – we confuse buying “stuff” to get organized with actually organizing our things.  We waste tons of money on things that really won’t help us get organized.  Ask yourself this question, “Do you struggle with how to make that new organizing ‘thingy’ work with your stuff?”  If the answer is yes, you purchased the wrong item. You can’t buy yourself organized.

Truth of the matter is, most of us don’t need to spend much money, if any at all, on organizational tools.  The first thing you need to do when organizing your space is determine what you need BEFORE you go to the store.  That way you will have a plan of what you will do with your new purchases and won’t be swayed by great displays or helpful sales people.

For example, if you have a ton of paper on your desk that needs to get organized, what do you really need?  Maybe just a box with hanging folders will do.  Or maybe you have tons of receipts; maybe you just need an accordion file to organize those receipts for tax time.  Whatever your organizational challenge is, take the time to analyze what you need first, then decide if you need to buy something to help you get organized.

If you already have too much organizational stuff, and it’s just getting in the way, consider getting rid of it.  You can either sell it at a garage sale, or invite some of your friends over for an office supply swap.  That’s a great way to recycle your unused items and get together with friends!

So, before you buy another organizational tool, follow these action steps:

  1. Determine what particular challenge area you’re going to work on.
  2. Evaluate your challenge to find out what supplies you’ll need to get organized.
  3. Look at everything you have to see if you can use it to organize your stuff before you buy anything new.
  4. If you have to buy something to get organized, make a list before you go shopping. To reduce impulse organizing buys, go online and shop for the one item you need and only purchase that item.

 

Joshua Zerkel

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End-of-Year Productivity Boosters

By Joshua Zerkel

As the end of the year rapidly approaches, you’re probably preoccupied with finishing up the details that come with closing out the year – final quarter reports, wrapping up projects, and of course, holiday parties! It’s an odd time in that for many of us, it can be both busy and slow at the same time – busy with busywork, slow in that it may not feel like a purposeful time.

If that’s true for you, there are few key things you can do with the remainder of the year to be poised for a goal-oriented, streamlined, and more productive 2013. Start with these:

Map out your goals. What do you want to happen in 2013, both on a large scale and on a smaller level? I’m not talking about resolutions like losing weight or getting organized – these are vague goals that typically don’t last past the first week in January. Rather, think about how you’d like to end 2013 – what will be different for you? What do you want to have happen during the year? Spend some time thinking about these results, then working backwards, break them down into their components and start mapping out on the calendar when you’d like to target some time for working on the components. This is much more powerful – and actionable – than simply saying “my goal is to XYZ.”

Choose your planning tool(s). The end of a year and the beginning of a new one is an ideal time to revisit your organizing and planning tools, determine what’s working, what could be better, and make appropriate changes. For instance, if you haven’t been crazy about the planner you’ve been using, this is an opportunity to check out what’s new in the FranklinCovey store. Maybe you’d been curious about using your smartphone as a calendar instead of paper – set aside a few minutes to explore the calendar function and see how well you like it. Spend time experimenting with planning tools now, rather than in the midst of the new year when you are getting busy with your commitments.

End the email deluge. Email can be a double-edged sword – it’s both is useful for communication, and can be a huge distraction and time-suck. To reduce the amount of time wasted on email, spend a few minutes in your inbox and ruthlessly unsubscribe from any newsletters or email lists that you don’t read regularly. Don’t worry – you can always re-subscribe to any newsletters that you feel like you’re missing out on (I’m positive they’ll be happy to welcome you back as a subscriber!). You can also use a service like Unroll.me to consolidate your newsletters and other subscriptions and make this process of organizing and unsubscribing a bit faster and easier.

Review your subscriptions and services. Speaking of services, open your credit card statement and review any recurring charges. Are you being billed for a service you don’t really use anymore – like a web-based music subscription service that you don’t listen to anymore, or a professional subscription that’s no longer relevant? These things have a way of just collecting, and although each one may not be a lot of money on its own, together these services and subscriptions can add up to a big chunk of change either monthly or annually. Take a few minutes to look over what you’re using – and what you’re not – and eliminate the waste.

Doing the things I just mentioned won’t take you much time up front – maybe an hour or two all told – but they can save you a lot of time, and make you more purposeful, productive, and effective.

Excellent advice Josh, thanks for sharing! 

Joshua Zerkel

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