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My Organizing Obsession: Timers

organizing obsession timer

 

 

It may not surprise you about my obsession with timers.  A timer is a vital tool for time management. It’s a monitoring device as well as an accountability tool.  There are so many uses for a picket timer.  A slim, digital, easy to set timer can help you in a myriad of ways. Timers comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Keep it simple with an easy to use timer that fits in a pocket.

 

timer

At home

  • Reminder to check the washer or dryer.  You may be in another part of the house and need an auditory reminder to move your clothes to the next step.
  • Reminder to turn off the the sprinkler.  You’re inside and the sprinkler is outside.  A timer helps you water the whole lawn.
  • Reminder to get ready for bed. You may need a reminder so you are in bed on time.
  • Set your timer for 10 minutes of daily distribution of items to put away with your family. Together you pick up the house and everything is back in order.
  • Set your timer for 10 minutes of paper management. Everyone can do 10 minutes of paper sorting.

 

At work

  • Reminder to make a phone call at a certain time. You won’t want to miss an important call to a client.
  • Count down to a meeting. You get busy and distracted and need a reminder of when to stop to in order to be on time for a meeting.
  • Pomodoro method working in 20 – 45 minute increments. You work for a specific amount of time on an important project and take a 5 minute break.  Do this for 3 sessions and see how much you have accomplished.
  • Stay focused for your power hour.
  • Schedule cage for a task.  A timer gives you boundaries to start and finish a task. These boundaries are just like a physical boundary, or cage, to help you stay on task.

 

For your student

  • Reminder to start homework.  Once your student is at home, set a timer to count down until homework time starts.
  • Beat the clock to finish homework.  Does homework drag on?  Help your student focus and work hard with a set time to finish.  A timer can also help your student break big homework assignments into manageable pieces.
  • Reminder to pick up and place the backpack by the landing strip.  Get everything ready for the next day with a timer.  Just 5 minutes and everything is ready to go.

 

I’d love to learn what you use your timer for!  What uses have you found for a timer?

 

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Fall Fresh Start

fall fresh start more people organize in the fall than the new year

 

Fall has started and we are ready for a fresh start too.  With the routines of back to school, vacations complete and holidays approaching, we look forward to a fresh start.  It just feels right to get back into routines. According to Scientific American, Fall is a “temporal landmark” or date that sets our fresh start feelings into motion.   More of us get organized in the Fall than the New Year.  Take off with that Fall Fresh Start feeling with these tips for freshening up spaces at home and at work.

 

Fall Fresh Start for your Closet

Still looking in your closet and seeing nothing to wear? It’s time for a Fall Fresh Start.  Take a good look at what has not been worn in the last year and be brutal.  Let go of clothes that you would not wear today. If you would not wear it today, despite the weather, you’re probably not going to wear it at all.   Not sure if you can be brutal alone?  Invite a friend or family member in there with you and get their honest opinion of what to keep.

 

Fall Fresh Start for your Kitchen

You’re back in the lunch cycle and dinners at home need to be easy.  Holidays are coming and that requires more time cooking. Get a Fall Fresh Start in your kitchen by clearing out the pantry. Take items out, check expiration dates and organize this area like a grocery store.  You will see what you have extra items, know what’s ready to go for lunch and dinner, and be ready for holiday preparations.

Fall Fresh Start for Your Papers

Take 15 minutes at a time to review papers at home and at work.  There are papers you have set aside and now are ready to shred or recycle.  Each fall more papers have come in as activities gear  up from our own special interests and our kids’ back to school.  Your Fall Fresh Start for papers includes eliminating paper, making fresh categories, and getting back into good routines for administrative work.

 

At home, set aside an hour to create files, eliminate files and do a little tax preparation.  It’s a good time to really dig deep into your files and be sure you are only keeping what you need. It’s time to actually do some filing!

 

At work, check on not only your files but also your command center. It’s the spot where your projects and resources are easily accessible.  If its become stagnant and filled with completed projects, renovate it with what’s current.

 

Fall Fresh Start for your Desk

If your desk has become cluttered with everything including the kitchen sink, a Fall Fresh Start is what you need to boost your productivity.   Clear the surface of paper and stuff.  Keep out on your desk top only the tools you need and return items to where they belong.  Remember to use a list rather than an item as a reminder. Gather up your sticky notes and place them in a resource notebook rather than posted on your computer screen.

Fall Fresh Start for your Digital Documents

Digital documents can be harder to find than paper documents. Our digital disorder takes time and creates frustration.  A Fall Fresh Start is what’s needed to easily access data and add productivity.  Look at your files and check out what you need.  Add general, broad files to house documents.  Remove or archive documents for completed projects. Move items from your desktop or from emails to your digital files.   It’s a bit tedious but makes finding documents and spreadsheets much easier.

 

How to get started on your Fall Fresh Start?  It’s adding dates for your work to your calendar and working in a team.  Your date is your commitment to work.  Your team will make the work easier and more fun.  I hope  you will share your Fall Fresh Start work here too!

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Project Management Tools for Home and Work

project management

 

So many projects, so little time! A project is an “individual or collaborative effort that is planned with a specific aim.” Project management is the “discipline of planning and executing the work of a team to complete a goal.”

 

As Walt Disney said, “Of all the things I’ve done, the most vital is coordinating the talents of those who work for us and pointing them towards a certain goal.”

 

At home and work projects are everywhere. It all depends on your view of a project.  At home it can be an organizing project like garage organizing, a holiday project like Christmas or Hanukah, or a family event like a family reunion.  At work a project can be starting an email newsletter, marketing your product or service or doing your taxes.  If your end result takes more than 3 steps to accomplish, it’s a project.  While there are many free tools to use, these easy to use tools make it easy for you to work on and track your project.

 

Post it notes

We all love post it notes. It’s a great way to keep track of individual tasks for a project. Write each step on a separate note.  Post the notes in a time line with dates for daily or weekly accomplishments.  It’s fun to crumple them as you complete a task.

 

Trello

Trello is the digital equivalent of index cards. Set up your tasks and your timeline to accomplish your project. Capture ideas, track your progress and assign tasks to maximize your success.

Dropbox

Dropbox is a cloud based document system. You install Dropbox on you and your collaborators devices and you can share.   What’s best about Dropbox is accessibility and portability. Whether it’s a document, spreadsheet or presentation, you can work together or alone and share your work.

 

Google apps

Many of us use gmail for our connections. Google offers a host of products to work together. Use Google calendar to drive dates for your project. Use Google docs for your collaborative documents and spreadsheets.  Work on the same document at the same time and see changes in real-time together.

 

Accessible tools make it easy to track and complete your project.  Take a few minutes to set up your tools to maximize their effectiveness and then get to work.

 

Check out this tech list for other tools for home and work.

 

 

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3 Essential Filing Tips for Home and Work

3 essential filing tips for home and work

 

According to the Economist the average American uses the paper equivalent of almost six 40-foot (12-metre) trees a year.  That’s a lot of paper!  While we would ideally have less paper in our home and office, frankly we need to find great strategies to create filing solutions and more efficient strategies to find what we need.  Check out these basic filing techniques and tips.

 

#1  Know what to keep and how long to keep it

In the tsunami of paper that comes in your space, knowing what to keep is the crucial first step.  It’s easy to be overwhelmed so look to a resource to help you.  Every situation is a little different so start with your lawyer and accountant. They know your home and business details.

 

A detailed list of what to keep and how long is critical.  My favorite resource is Oprah.com ABCs of Important Papers.  Julie Morgenstern has a list that includes details about your home and work. For finances, I rely on Real Simple 5 Steps to Simpler Record Keeping.  This document focuses on your financial documents.  Between these two resources I find that your record retention is up to date.

 

While much of this information can be found online, it’s up to you to decide if you want a paper statement too.  In some circumstances you can save a PDF of the online document to your personal Dropbox account or on your computer. Be sure you are always backing up if you decide to keep your documents electronically.

#2 Separate your documents by how long you will keep them

Divide your filing into two categories: reference and archive.  Reference refers to document with information you refer to regularly.  These are documents that are up to a year old.  Archive refers to documents you must keep for the duration.  By categorizing your files, it’s much easier to keep up to date and much simpler to know what information is kept in what area.

 

Set an annual file organizing time.  It’s when you move files from reference to archive. This keeps your files updated and uncluttered.  There’s nothing worse than a paper cut from overcrowded files! It also reminds you what you have in your files.

#3 Keep your filing simple

The simpler your filing the more you file.  There are a few options for filing systems, depending on your style.

  • The 1 box method takes only a little time and effort.  Have a box in your space to drop in papers throughout the year.  Label the box 20XX and you are all set. You can go through the box as needed to find papers.
  • Notebooks make paper storage more accessible and visual.  You can assign one category of files per notebook.  It’s also an attractive way to store paper.
  • File drawers with hanging files are the traditional organizing method. Use your label maker to create tabs for the files. You can see what the titles are and drop in  your papers.
  • File bins can used for archive documents and can be stored in the top of a closet or attic.
  • Keep a basket for “to be filed” papers.

 

General, consistent categories make it easier and simpler to file.

  • Traditional Home Categories: Financial, personal, home and auto
  • Traditional Business categories: Financial, clients, vendors, administrative
  • Traditional set up for file cabinet is a hanging files for category and an inner file folder for more specific details.  (Financial drawer or notebook -> Hanging files Banking -> Bank of America and Compass Bank file folders)

 

Your file system is ready to go! Now it’s time to establish a weekly administrative time.  Each week go through papers and place those that needed to be filed in your “to be filed” basket.  Once a month or every other month do your filing. Make filing “fun” with a music set or while watching your favorite show.  Filing is like laundry, there’s always some to do!

 

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An ADHD Parent’s Guide to Paper

 

adhd parent paper

Have you wondered how you can manage all the paper that comes into your home or office?  It’s coming in at a rate faster than you can process.  Parents have often said, “why do the teachers send so much home!” As an ADHD parent, it’s especially hard to pare down all the school work, information and extra-curricular paper work that comes in. Here’s some ways you can manage paper.

Keep less, trash more

Give yourself permission to trash, shred or recycle as much paper as possible.  Keeping as little paper as possible gives you more options to find information on the school website or online.  Find the information you need and bookmark these sites.  If possible, use the “add to calendar” feature to automatically add dates and information.  In addition, drag emails onto dates in the calendar feature of Outlook.  Create folders in Dropbox and Evernote and access these online tools instead of keeping paper.

 

Create a collection point

Create one spot for a collection point for all the papers. It may seem overwhelming when you see these all together, but this keeps paper from being in every room.  It also keeps important information from getting lost.  A good start is a simple basket.  Cull through this weekly to know which papers are in the basket and which you can toss.

 

For kids’ school art and special work, keep one basket per child.  Drop items in every day and set aside a time weekly to go over what’s in the basket. There are lots of ways to treasure what’s precious and eliminate the rest.

 

Automate other papers

You may already be paying bills online. But there are more options to automate.  You can add a utilities only credit card and pay a lump sum of utilities once a month. You can auto debit your utilities. You can have an online account for your medical explanation of benefits.  The more you automate any paper, the better.  It’s good to remember that most any paper that comes in your house by mail, will come again in 2 weeks!

 

Paper, just like laundry and your kid’s messy lunchbox, will be rough going all the time.  It’s a matter of being as decisive and routine as possible, both of which are not an ADHD parent strong suit.  However with practice, just like all other routines, paper management improves.

 

Join me on the quest to eliminate paper!  Join my newsletter here!

 

 

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Are you ready for change?

ready for change adhd

 

Deciding on any lifestyle change is a commitment. That change may include what you eat, what habits you have or what you organize. Others around you are offering lots of advice on how to change. What does it mean when you are ready for change?  How do you know you are ready for change?

How you know you are NOT ready for change.

  • You are not ready to change when others are coercing you.  You are being pushed in a direction to make change.  You’re using the word should or ought to to describe the change.
  • You know in your mind that change is good, but you are procrastinating on getting started.  You have underlying fears, a lack of skills or have not truly created buy in on your part.
  • You don’t have a great reason why to change.

 

 

You are ready for change when

  • More than just acknowledging that life is not going smoothly, you are sick and tired of being sick and tired.  You remember the definition of insanity, “doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome,”  and know what that means.  Despite how difficult it might be, you are ready to do something different.
  • You are researching how to get help to make the change and hone in on who can help.  It may take time to know who is the best to help and you are ready to talk to that person, start that program or attend a group meeting.
  • You are energized to create something or be something new. You have time, energy and focus to break out of what’s holding you back and start on a new path.
  • You have a compelling reason to create a new habit.

How do I know when I am ready for change?

I think about a compelling reason for the change.  Some of my biggest changes have come from what I think are really outstanding reasons to make a change.  From there I break that into a baby step of baby steps.   I am ready for change because I find a small way to get started on a big thing.  I encourage you to write your own list of ways you know you are ready to change.

 

 

when you have the why you can create the how

The path to change is not easy. It can be moved forward with inspiration and tenacity.  What’s your way of knowing you are ready for change?

 

Minimalism, Essentialism and Simplicity

 

minimalism, essentialism and simplicity

 

Have you heard the buzz about minimalism?  The concept started just after World War II and has exploded in the 21st century.  Minimalism is paring down to a minimum and living with less. It’s no surprise that according to a 2011 study, 90% of Americans admit that unorganized clutter at home or at work has a negative impact on their life. There are major benefits to living with less.  However, there is more to this concept.  Maybe you are not about living with the least you can, but about living with what’s essential or living simply.   While you are creating a new awareness of how much you really need, you can align with decluttering and organizing cultural concepts. There are several ways to create a less encumbered lifestyle and these choices might be minimalism, essentialism or simplicity.

 

Minimalism

Do you embrace a life where experiences are key and stuff bogs you down?  Are you a person who owns less for the sake of owning less?  When there is too much around you, do you feel anxious?  You may be a minimalist at heart.

Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus , well known as The Minimalists, are bloggers who focus on the minimalist lifestyle.  Their personal experiences about owning too much shape their writing.  Their writing includes information about stuff, finances, debt and more.

 

Essentialism

Do you embrace a life where your essential needs are met and the stuff you own is only what is essential?  Perhaps you purchase and keep only the essential items required for your daily living. You might keep only your essential items on the kitchen counter to use daily. You may be part of the essentialism movement.

 

Greg Mckeon, author of Essentialism shares his perspective about time and space.  It’s the pursuit of ‘the right thing, in the right way, at the right time’.   In applying criteria and prioritizing, we can choose what we want and what we want to do with regard to our core values.

 

Simplicity

Do you want to make life simpler?  Are you okay with a few basic items out but keep what’s used less frequently in the cabinet? Are you feeling overwhelmed by too many meaningless activities that you used to love? You may just want to simplify your space and time.

 

My core belief and what we share at  Professional-Organizer.com is to “keep it simple sweetie.”  Our lives are enhanced by making decisions with simple choices.  We are often drawn to complexity in our work and home so by stepping back and choosing simplicity, we can find happiness and balance.

 

It’s small distinctions that set apart minimalism, essentialism and simplicity.  This granular evaluation of living the life you want can help you keep away from clutter and over-commitment.   Your commitment to the lifestyle of your choice depends on where you are on the minimalism continuum.

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How taking a vacation makes you more productive

productivity

 

Look around at kids in your home or neighborhood on vacation!  The joy of longer days to swim, the fun of time off, and time to do whatever they want spontaneously keeps their spirits and energy high.  We can have that too! We can be healthier, happier and more productive with a vacation and time off.  Although it seems counter intuitive, there’s lots of reasons what taking a vacation helps improve productive.

 

 A vacation energizes you

Working to declutter and organize requires energy.  In our day to day busy lives, we are giving a lot of energy to what is required. We seldom have energy to get done what is required of us in a day.  After a vacation, being refreshed, you are ready to take on decluttering and organizing. You are ready to make decisions and let go of what you don’t need.

 

Take a vacation and do your organizing

Some times we take a vacation and do the tasks we seldom get to during our typical time at home.  Some of us enjoy organizing but seldom have the time to get organized.  It may be that your vacation is a gift to yourself to get your organizing done.  It makes sense to take a vacation and get your organizing done in order to create balance and serenity.

 

Open ended time helps you improve productively

When you are away from work, you are more open to fresh ideas.  Your brain refreshes just like when you sleep.  Your time away is taking care of you. It’s a wellness break that is required for you to be your best. “Getting away from a familiar environment help gain clarity on life,” says Adam Galinsky, professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

 

This year my family will be taking a vacation that helps us all get away. Not only will it improve productivity, it will increase our connectivity.  Share where you will be heading off to on vacation this summer!

 

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5 Tips to be Highly Organized for Back to School

highly organized back to school home

 

The beginning of school reminds us all of back to school. Whether we are the parent or the child, we are called to be more organized.  Maybe this summer you slacked off a little.  It’s time to get highly organized for back to school.  Take one of these tips and get to work.

 

Highly organized school supplies

We are already bombarded with school supply and back to school sales.  For this reason, shop your own stock first.  If your supplies have been stored all through the house, gather all the school supplies together and assess your organizing.  If you have too many, it’s a great time to donate to school supply drives.  Set aside supplies for your kids’ backpacks, the homework center and school supply stock.  Create a school and office supply area in an easy access closet or rolling cart.

 

Highly organized mornings  and evenings

There’s no need for mornings and evenings to be chaotic. Set up routines that make for smooth transitions at home.  Start the night before for the best tomorrow.   Leave you and your kids stuff at your landing strip ready to go.  Charge everyone’s devices on the charging station over night.  Make breakfast easy and portable where kids can take it on the run with them.  Write out a check list for each person for mornings and evenings and post these where everyone sees them regularly.

Highly organized closets

Getting ready in the morning and getting laundry done are easy when you declutter your closet.  Take an hour to go through each of your kids’ closets and keep only what fits right now.  If the closet or drawers are stuffed, cull out more so that’s it is easy to put away clothes.  Head into your closet and keep only what makes you feel fabulous!  When you can wear all the clothes in  your closet, it’s quick and easy.

 

Highly organized paperwork and digital documents

Family command centers make for a great way to consolidate information.  More schools are going to online access, so two times a week check online just to be sure you are getting all the information  you need.  Process papers in your purse and kids’ backpacks daily to eliminate, sort and categorize and then shred what you don’t need. Capture important dates in email and text each the evening..  What’s most important is to use a family calendar and command center which are the drop spots for this information.

Highly organized team work

The best family team work starts with family communication.  A family meeting is the time to share information and gather ideas.  Family responsibilities can be done together to be sure everyone pitches in. Whether it is a family cleaning time, family dinner prep together or family laundry party, the family that works together gets more done.  It’s how kids learn new skills and parents share lifelong skills.  Get your team organized with consistent team work.

 

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Insider’s Guide to Selling Clutter Online

insider guide to selling clutter online

There’s a value for everything.  When we decide that it’s time to eliminate and declutter, we want to find a monetary value as an incentive to let go.  We see that others are selling stuff and want to cash in on our clutter.  However, although it looks like everyone is making bank for their old items, not everything will sell for what we think is its value. There’s lots of sites to use too. Here’s the insider guide to selling clutter.

Do your research

What does your item sell for when it’s purchased new? What have others sold it for?  Do your research online to find out what’s the real value. Researching on Ebay, you can find out the price others have sold the item for or if it has sold.  Once you know the amount, you are ready to set your own price.  Quick sales occur by creating a great deal.  Set the price at 25% of the original cost.

 

Setting up your sale

Make the most of your sale by using many photos and many sites.  Your area has many different sites that sell. Taking multiple photos helps purchasers learn more about your item.  It’s a visual way to enhance your sale.  Write a lengthy description of your item including all the bonus aspects of your item. Include the size of your item as well as many other descriptions about it.  More is better here.

Use many sites to sell your item

Take the time to list it on 2 sites to maximize your sales possibilities.  People have their favorite sites they look at regularly.  Take advantage of this option.  These would include Craigslist as well as other sites.

 

Check for sales regularly

Being responsive to inquiries is important. Check the sites or enable the email function to have questions sent to you. You may need to answer questions about your item by email and text to hone in on a sale.

 

Safety first

When you are selling online, be aware of the many different possible scams. Do not send any money to a prospective purchaser.  You can create a selling gmail account, such as ellensells@gmail.com, to keep your email clean.  Use your intuition about where to meet, who is with you when the purchaser arrives and take cash only.  Provide your address only once you are ready to make the sale and all your questions have been answered.

 

Good luck with your sales !