How to Simplify Back to School Transition

 

Back to school transition

 

Back. to. school. It’s time when we reset, organize, plan and set new routines.  It’s a transition from lots of free time to structure and deadlines.  Maybe transition is more difficult for you and your family?  We can simplify this transition with these tips.

 

Simple calendars and planners

Families + school time = dates and deadlines. Make it easy for you and your family and a calendar everyone can access. Google calendar is available on all devices to connect families to what’s due when, what needs to be purchased, and when will the parents be available.  Encourage your family to all populate the calendar during your family meeting.

 

Simple labels

Stuff gets lost and families don’t know where stuff goes. Make it easy with a label.  Label school binders, devices, lunch boxes and clothes. Label your pantry where lunch fixings are found.

 

Simple bedtime routines

The age old question of preparation for a shift in bedtimes. Parent ask, “do we start a week out with earlier bedtime or just have the kids crash the first week of school from exhaustion?” Only you know the kiddos in your home best. Take care of yourself with your own earlier bedtime the week before school starts. If you are well rested, everything will be better!

 

Simple laundry

Whittle down the loads this year with fewer clothes for everyone. Laundry and closet organizing work best with less.  How many items for each of you?  Start with just 7 sets of clothes that coordinate through a capsule wardrobe. It will save money and time!

 

Simple mornings

  • Family has been getting up later and later all summer. This transition is one of the biggest!  Getting up on time for school starts with everyone having an alarm clock.  Be sure these are set correctly the first few weeks of school, then practice getting up just a smidge earlier than you think.  Make morning simple by getting lunch and what you are wearing together the night before.
  • Place analog clocks in transition spots throughout your home. An analog clock helps you see time elapsing and helps you be on time.  Clocks are best in bathrooms, bedrooms, and by the exit and entry doors.
  • Use music to keep everyone energized and positive.  A morning playlist can be played at a low volume.

 

All transitions take time.  Celebrate the first day of school success!   Give yourself the opportunity to create a positive transition by scheduling less on the first weekends school is open. This extra time translates to more rest and more time like summer with less structure.  Keep spirits and energy high with family fun bike rides, ice cream sundae parties or family game night. Expect a few tears and set aside time to acknowledge the toughness of the first few weeks of school because of this transition.

 

More ideas on ADHD here in my newsletter.

Professional Organizers’ Favorite Planners

professional organizers' favorite planners

 

My clients and my colleagues are often searching for the perfect planner.  There’s a range of options for all of us, from digital to paper.   I polled my colleagues to help you determine what planners are most popular and why!

 

Planner requirements

What helps you determine the planner you choose?

  • Ability to quickly assess and add appointments
  • Agility in adding information to your planner
  • Size and portability
  • Attractive cover and interior pages

 

Here’s the responses

MaryJo: I’m a 100% digital calendar. I can color code and set reminders. I don’t leave home without my phone so I always have my calendar.

 

Melony: I’m old school. Franklin Covey Classic, ring bound 5.5×8.5, leather zip planner with lots of pockets.

 

Michelle: I have Erin Condren, Life Planner vertical layout this year. I like the format but it is so bulky.

 

Judy: The planner I love is the discbound planner with inserts (happy planner). I use the Louis Vuitton Monogram cover to hold everything together. I love this style of planner because you can customize it to your liking.

 

Me: I love the planner pad and love Outlook reminders. I have a hybrid system that works for me. I am visual so a paper planner lets me see it all and easily write in appointments. I have a few pockets for papers and use a binder clip to keep a pad of paper in the front.

 

Whatever your system, remember to have a weekly planning time with your planner and task list. It’s time to schedule your tasks and check on appointments.

 

More on planners and time management here!

9 Ways to Simplify Back to School

 



It’s a combination of happy and sad when back to school comes around. We are reluctant to get back to routines and there’s a big to do list to prepare for the upcoming school year. We tend to think of back to school as a long series of complicated, expensive, and arduous tasks that go on and on!  Use this list of 9 ways to simplify your back to school preparations to be ready to start the school year.

 

1. Start with a list of all that is needed before the school year begins. No need to recreate the wheel here! There’s the Good Housekeeping supply list for school supplies.  There’s countdown lists for appointments on Finder.com.  Now compare and create what works for you with a timeline on your family calendar. Your family calendar is your personal guide and helps you create a team with your partner to accomplish and check off requirements.  Pace yourself or consolidate tasks with a power day.  Think of it as project management.

 

2. Kids and parents need to remember to hydrate all day. Purchase water bottles for everyone including yourself to be sure you are keeping water by your side.

 

3.  Still have last year’s papers to review?  Make it fun with one on one kiddo time together. Spend 30 – 60 minutes reviewing last year’s papers, keeping what you both think are precious.

 

4. Set up this year’s command center for incoming papers.  You will be ready for all the incoming information.

 

5. Prep for all types of communication styles with a capture tool that works for you.

  • Think about what paper or digital tool works best for you.  For me it’s my planner pad. Options include an app, a spiral notebook or post it notes.  Make it this year’s goal to use one capture tool effectively and efficiently.
  • For email, create a single sub-folder to store incoming info from your kids schools.  A single sub-folder to move emails keeps your inbox cleaner and gives you one place to look for information.  Name this subfolder by kid, by school or just a single sub-folder names Schools.
  • For text, move information to email by copying and then email yourself so you can track information to a single source.
  • For the rare voice mail message, capture that information with an email, make a note in Evernote, or write this on your paper task list.

 

6.  Set up your school supplies in a school supply center.  Grab all your existing supplies and review what you have.  Purchase what is needed and set up a center for easy access for your kiddos.

 

7. Making lunches is can be a highlight of the week for everyone.  Set up a lunch making section of your refrigerator and pantry.   Leave one shelf in each area specifically for lunch box friendly fare that is ready to place in the box.   Create a shopping list with your family to be sure items are delivered to your home that make lunch making healthy and easy.

 

8. Set up a family meeting time to talk about this year’s successes.  Your family meeting is key to collaboration and communication.  Hosting this weekly will keep your family organized and keep you productive.

 

9. Most important about back to school is getting the rest you all need as a family.  Everyone in your family needs time to relax and time to rest.  That translates to getting to bed earlier the week or weekend before and having some time at home to prepare for the transitions ahead. When there’s less sleep, everything seems harder!

 

Don’t get overwhelmed with year with back to school. Keep it simple, pace yourself and know what your priorities are.  Choose one thing to accomplish each day to feel like you are making progress.

 

 

 

How to Craft Your Hybrid Productivity Strategy

How to craft your hybrid productivity strategy

 

If you google productivity, millions of pages appear. Listed are strategies that give you systems and processes for your productivity based on that author’s experiences. What stands out to me is that while I appreciate each of these approaches and systems, it’s really about reviewing what has worked for me and the hybrid system I created to fit my personal approach.

 

To improve productivity, start reviewing your work processes.

We are surveyed all the time, when we purchase online and when we go to the doctor. What about  a review of your work processes? What do you give high marks and what needs improvement?

Here’s questions to ask yourself?

  • What time of day do I work best?
  • What’s the best tool I use to capture information?
  • What’s my best modality (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, intuitive, cognitive) to capture and create information?
  • When do I organize my week?
  • What do I use to organize my week?

Asking yourself these questions helps you refine your system and ensures that your tools work for you.

 

To improve your work processes, think big.

There are tons of productivity methods available. A productivity process give you agility in capturing, managing and executing commitments, communications, and information at a specific time. Here’s a round up of options.

Getting Things Done (GTD): GTD is a method for organizing your to-dos, priorities, and your schedule in a way that makes them all manageable.

The SMART Method: Setting SMART Goals to help you prioritize. 

Timeboxing: Converting from a to-do list (daily work plan) to a calendar system

Personal Kanban: Simple system for creating products based on continuous deliveries.

Pomodoro Technique: An alternating series of 25-minute “Pomodoro habit” sessions can help you quickly complete tasks and get things done in a streamlined fashion

Free to Focus: A system to achieve more by doing less

Does one of these mesh with your existing system? Would one of these add to your system or simplify your system? Is there one small step you can change for your system? It’s likely that either simplifying or adding one small step is all the changes you will need or want to make immediately. That’s why I refer to our systems as hybrids, in that we take what works already that we created an add in a mix of other strategies.

 

To improve your work processes, make your routines solid then find the best tools to enhance.

We’re often to quick to think, there’s an app for that! And there may be an app or other product that will help us be more productive. It’s in spending time with completely syncing your process that’s the most important step before finding the tool.

 

Here’s what works for me. I have the master list written by category. I add to my master list all the time, from work spreadsheets, work appointments, family activities, email, and text.  The paper list is at the top of my planner pad.  Weekly I check the lists and add tasks to days of the week. Throughout the year I have added important milestones and appointments. All these appointments work together, including delegating, automating and setting time aside for family.  In my process I have combined GTD, Timeboxing and Free to Focus.  See what works for you now and how to improve on your system.

 

More productivity posts here!

In praise of vacation days

Take a vacation

 

Travel, a staycation, Sunday Funday are all well known ways to improve your well being. That’s the fun of summer, whether to stay at home and vacation or whether to journey out to create memories with family and friends.  There’s research galore that establishes better productivity and creativity as a result of time away. Here’s a round up of ways to incorporate time well spent on vacation days.

 

Choose your best vacation

Adam Grant talks about the way we vacation. “To have a relaxing vacation, detach from work. To have an energizing vacation, seek out a mastery experience. We find flow through embracing new challenges and building new skills.”  Does one of these types of vacation appeal to you and spur you on to make a plan?

 

For our family, each summer we take a family vacation with our grand kids. It’s been near and far, from beaches to cities. It’s a memory that is priceless for all of us.  We talk about the travel and fun there. What’s most precious is the time together just having fun together!

 

Being budget friendly with staycations

Staying within your budget is always an important consideration.  There’s ways to make travel easier and cheaper by traveling by car or staying at home and sight seeing your city.

When I visit friends, often it’s an opportunity for us to get to know our own city as a tourist does.  Giving ourselves the time to see the local sights, we appreciate our location even more!

Did you know about these tourist destinations in Houston?

  • Port of Houston boat tours
  • Summer concerts at Discovery Green
  • Waterwall picnic area

Learn more about your city and summer cheap thrills.

 

Make Sunday your day to relax and make the day about your self care

We need regular rejuvenation and reset. Have at least once a week to do what we love, whether it’s sit, exercise, cook, crochet or other fun activities.  Sundays can be your day or another day of the week that fits your schedule. Whatever day you choose, make it your day by doing less, scheduling less and relaxing more.

 

This summer I made time for each of these ways to reset! We took a family vacation and we stayed home for the July 4th holiday.  Each of these resets helped me to do my best work with clients and enjoy precious memories with family.  Choose ways to make your vacation be a reset for you.

 

More on organizing and productivity here!

How to make Time work for You

Be on time and be productive

 

Staying aware of time is one of the foundations of time management. It may be that you have a bit of “time blindness,” where you don’t see or feel time passing. Without this time awareness, you may be losing time and being less productive. Let’s admit it, when time passes we feel less effective and caught off guard.

 

Here are timely tips to help you track time and use it as you plan. You can rely on clocks, routines, and work flow to help you be your most productive.

 

  • Place a clock in all the important spots in your home or office. Time awareness begins with an analog clock.
  • Have a work flow, not necessarily a set schedule. Rather than a packed time table, set up work times that naturally flow in the context and content of your work.
  • Routines are the automation of time management. Establish routines that build success and structure for you. These routines begin and end your work day, and begin and end your daily life.
  • Use the Maximum and Minimum strategy to help you know how long a task or project can take. Assess what is the most and least amount of time for these and schedule your work accordingly.
  • Check out apps that can help you with time management. These include RescueTime, Toggl, and StayOnTask.
  • Use multiple alarms to keep you on track. These include one day out, one hour out, and 15 minutes out from a deadline.
  • Bedtime is the remedy for all time management challenges. Getting a great night’s rest solves many time management issues.
  • Schedule in free time, fun time and family time. Intentional time to disconnect and reconnect makes you more productive.

Choose a simple start for yourself with just one tip from this list to make you more aware of time and more effective in how you use your minutes and hours.

 

time flies and you're the pilot

How to Tackle Organizing your Photos

Organizing photos

 

When asked about what we must take with us in an emergency, we all say our photos!  Our photos are our most precious stuff.  We have them on our smart phones, cameras, social media online and in print.  It’s easy to over snap and not come back.  It can be overwhelming after a birthday party or family event to gather them together. Our photos are our way of capturing the magic of the moment.  Organizing your photos means you will truly enjoy them.

 

The best solution for organizing photos follows a routine that works well with your routine.  Allow time once a month or immediately after a family event to work with your photos. We jump back into life and don’t get the opportunity to reflect and enjoy our photos. It helps to set a time to work with these.  Summer can be a great time to reminisce, review and organize your photos.

 

Start with a plan.

How will you group your photos? With paper or digital photos, we can group chronologically, by events like holidays, birthdays or trips, or by family member.  Keep in mind your family will be growing, like adding grandkids and partners.   Write out your plan and then create folders online to capture the photos as you consolidate them. If you are working with paper photos, you can use photo boxes.  Make a plan and test it with sorting.  Remember, you can delete photos as you work to keep only the best photos.

 

Begin consolidating.

Get all your digital photos together in one place. For me that’s on my computer.  I email them to myself from my smart phone, download from Facebook, and move them from my camera with a cord.  There are many services that automate consolidating to get all your phots in one place such as GooglePhotos, Dropbox and AmazonPhotos.  Keeping all your photos in one place makes it easy to know what you have.

 

Always backup your photos.

There are lots of ways to do this.  I use Carbonite to back up all the time. Highest recommendations are for for GooglePhotos, Dropbox, Smugmug and Shutterfly.  Each allows a certain amount of space with additional space for a fee. Scanning is the way to back up your paper photos. There are options for you to scan yourself or services to delegate.

 

Taking the next step is the fun part.

Decide what photos you want to print, create a digital photo album, or create a gift.   I keep framed pictures of grand kids throughout my home. I know the frame sizes so each season I print out an updated photo.

  • If you are just starting a photo grouping in a hallway or on a desk top, choose the frames first, then purchase the pictures.
  • My daughter in law does a birthday book for each child. The book consists of 5- 8 printed pictures from each birthday, placed in sequence in a photo album. The kids love looking through these each year.
  • Other options include digital scrapbooks from Shutterfly and even Walgreens.com.
  • For Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or birthdays, gifts like mouse pad, calendar or mug are wonderful ways to share photos.
  • Remember to give yourself plenty of time to choose the photos you want to share.

 

Keep your most precious items safe with backing up and organizing digital and paper photos.

A Peek Inside the Homes of Professional Organizers

Sneak peek into professional organizers’ homes

As NAPO National President, I have had the pleasure of visiting chapters throughout the country. On my visits, it’s a treat to stay with a friend who is in the area.  It’s fabulous to see the ways my colleagues organize their homes.  Truly it’s fun to see innovation, favorite products, and routines that serve us well.

 

Innovation

My colleagues find innovative ways to use their spaces. In big cities where space is small, they use lots of creative storage to keep organized.

  • Their closets include shelving installations that maximize the space.  By using vertical space, these professional organizers are taking advantage of what’s available.
  • Back of door organizers are also frequent storage additions.  It’s either a metal rack or a shoe organizer. As in all busy homes, what’s stored there is what is used most frequently as you head out the door.
  • Need storage in a certain spot?  Command hooks to the rescue!  Hooks can be used for inside closets, over sinks and any spot you need to access something.
  • Furniture serves double purposes.  It often is retrofitted for file storage, exercise equipment storage or multiple uses.

 

Favorite products

By far the most frequently used product is a shoe box size plastic bin.  Professional organizers use these for all sorts of categorizing, whether in a closet to keep mittens and scarves together to keeping pet leashes and pet accessories together.  In pantries shoe box size plastic bins hold floppy foods and spices, such as pastas or spice mixes.

 

For the kitchen, another favorite product is the lazy susan.  This small spinner keeps easy access in kitchens for spices and a large spinner keeps access to condiments.   It’s used in pantries, cabinets and in the refrigerator.

 

Professional organizers love their closets!  Shoe organizers and shoe boxes hold less frequently worn shoes. Slim line hangers have neatly arranged items by color.

 

Command hooks rule! If there is a spot where access would help, add a command hook there to keep an item where you can find it.  In the kitchen it might be a potholder by the stove. In the entry closet it might be a purse near the door.

 

Routines

Professional organizers practice what they preach with routines. They have a donate bag in their closets to give away clothes routinely.  They have pared down their linens to just one or two sets so there is little to store.  My colleagues have just enough stock in their pantries for a week or so, and not too much.  It’s because they shop routinely weekly and use fresh produce.  Laundry baskets are there to keep a routine for washing and folding.

 

My colleagues use both paper and digital planners.  Tasks have dates and deadlines. It’s a pleasure to visit our national chapters because our members have made all the arrangements for this project.  Their tasks lists include paper lists, trello and asana.  Everyone knows where to be, how to be prepared and how to finish up after a project.  (Yes, they are all so very organized!)

 

Thank you dear friends for sharing your homes with me! It’s delightful to visit organized and welcoming homes!

Hugs and Happy Organizing: Whole House Organizing

organize your house

 

Whole house organizing is a big project!  We all want to have a place for everything and everything in it’s place. It’s essential for us to work  in baby steps to accomplish this goal.  Many times at the outset of our work together my clients ask how long it will take.  Remember that we are not only changing what your home looks like and how it works. We are also changing your (and those who live with you) habits.  It’s truly a case where every situation is different.

 

My client and I worked together weekly or every other week to create order in her kitchen, office, son’s room, master bedroom, master closet and master bath.   In these photos you can see the significant transformation that occurred each time we met.

 

home organizing before and after

 

To date, she and her family love the outcome! They have stayed organized because we worked together on her spaces to create systems and routines that work for them.

 

Her comment on her work is this, “best money and time I ever spent!”

 

Finding your Motivation

 

 

finding your motivation

To do or not to do, that is the question. There’s many motivations for making a change, getting organized and being more productive.  There’s also many obstacles that keep us from getting started.  One of those might be ADHD, where procrastination, lack of organizing skills and being overwhelmed keep you from getting started. Having inspiration, and accountability can motivate you and get your work started. Finding your motivation is key.

 

Motivational experiences

I recently met with a client who knew now is the time to get organized. She had experienced flooding, and health challenges, and was looking at new healthy choices.  She had recently rebuilt her home and was prepared to make her home the organized and productive spot she craved. Her life with ADHD had held her back before and now she had compelling reasons to begin.

 

I have also met with client who worked long hours, raised her family and one day looked at home her and said, wow how did this all stuff get here?  She had invested her time in good and important goals and now knew it was time to make a change in her surroundings. While focused on the important parts of making a living for her family, she had gotten overwhelmed with the inflow of stuff.

 

When you know it’s time to make a change to your life, your home and work and your energy, that’s the most compelling time to get organized.  What makes for a compelling reason to change? It’s truly an individual decision and a decision you can make at any time.

 

 

Motivational media

Motivation in the form of Marie Kondo’s Netflix show is sweeping the nation this year.  It’s leading to other media connections, like podcasts, blog posts, and social media. In Tidying Up, we see many like us who have struggled with clutter.  The kind inspiration offered by Marie Kondo leads up to be grateful and let go.

 

There’s social media posts that are keeping us motivated too.  Seeing other’s conquer their clutter on instagram or Facebook help us know that we can do this too. Forming a social media group that works together to reaffirm your motivation, keep you accountable by posting your successes, and support you as you move forward are instrumental.  There’s existing clutter support on Facebook to join if you want this resource.

 

 

Motivational team members

Your team plays is crucial to your motivation.  It’s about feeling truly supported as you work.  That support comes in questions that coach you, support the acknowledges feelings, and praise with each step.  There’s no limit to your possible team members including those available by cell and facetime, professionals to coach and teach skills, to any number of those around you.  Start by building your team to help you start and stay motivated.

 

The most compelling motivation to me has always been something I keep very close in my thoughts. It’s that thought that every day whatever choices I make have positive impact on my life.  Thankfully it has been making priorities clear and simple.  I encourage you to think about your priorities and how that impacts your motivation.

 

best time to start was yesterday next best time is now