Keeping Extra Organized and Productive throughout the Holiday Season

 


 

Holidays add extra to our lives.  Whether it’s extra fun, extra work, or extra time,  there’s much more to think about and do.  When you are running on extra everything, keeping extra organized and productive this holiday season are critical.

 

Extra rest

We don’t think of extra rest at this time of year.  How can you add extra rest with an earlier bedtime?  Perhaps it’s an extra nap that is needed?  Think first of how to add extra rejuvenation to your week.

 

Extra help

It’s as simple as buying the cookie tray rather than making a dozen cookies.  Get extra help this season in any way you can, from food prep, home cleaning and extra hugs.   You will appreciate having this bonus.

 

Extra planning time

Schedules get criss-crossed this time of year.  There are multiple simultaneous events.  Be sure you double and triple check your plans and planner.  You will be happy to know what is planned by capturing it on your device or on paper.

 

Extra spiritual time

Holidays are about a greater meaning.  Keep the joy of the season in more than sprit by devoting time to devotion.   That can be reading, prayer, or meditation time for you as you seek the meaning of this time of year.

 

Extra work scheduling

The end of the year may be a big wrap up time for projects.  Schedule extra time to do a solid wrap up of what you have worked on this year.  Take extra time to let go of extra drafts and extra paper.

 

Wishing you EXTRA joy this holiday season!

More Elves Please!

 

More elves please build a team

 

 

It’s the holidays that remind us of how much we need to have more help!  Just like Santa’s elves, and Mrs. Claus, there’s more to do than we have time to accomplish.  Look at what needs to be done and perhaps it’s time to build a team for the holidays.  Here’s some ideas on where to find elves not just at this time of year. It’s a prelude to building a bigger team all year long.

 

There’s some resistance to building a bigger team. If you are not sure what to start with, start with something super small.  You can delegate with supervision this way.  Or you can start with something you know you are not getting to.  If progress is made, that’s the bonus.

 

Retail elves

Services such as Shipt, Click, Target cartwheel and Amazon subscription are a start.   You can connect online to order and your goods come directly to your home.  Subscription automates this process for goods that you rely on regularly.  Not only does this save time, it saves money!

 

Tech elves

Every day new technology is being created to help us.  Amazon Alexa and Google Home have tons of tech tricks to help you day in and day out. Not only can Alexa play holiday music, she can also read “The Night Before Christmas”.   She can organize your holiday lists and remind you before your holiday cookies get too crispy.  Holiday cards are a special connection during the holiday season.  Send out beautiful invitations and holiday cards using PaperlessPost.  Holiday tech can help you delegate and automate.  

 

Community elves

Around us are people who have retired and want to do more, teens looking to earn money and freelancers.  A colleague posted an advertisement on Next Door and got 50 potential elves.  A retired tech guy talked to a friend of a friend and became a driver for a special needs family.  Mention to the universe the help you need and it’s going to show up.

 

Professional elves

That’s people like me! As your certifed professional organizer, I help people in many different ways depending on your needs, skills and goals.  Professional elves, like coaches, therapists, trainers and more help you achieve goals throughout the year.

 

Once you have your team in place, it’s important to keep communicating frequently. A weekly meeting, a text stream and a google doc can keep everyone up to date and on the same page.  Build a team for the holidays and going into the new year to help you accomplish more, feel more in control and keep all your plates spinning.

 

More ideas for team building and managing your team here!

Automated Tools for Home, Work and Life

Automated tools for home work and life

 

Without a doubt, technology has changed our home, work and life. The smart tools in our home include security, light bulbs, coffee makers and fans. In the last year, even more so has life changed with the popularity of Amazon Echo (Alexa) and Google Home. It’s easy to automate and delegate some of the little things that can make life and work even easier. Here’s a list of the tools and tasks that can delight you as automated toolsfor home, work and life.

 

Tools to use

Both the Amazon Echo and Google Home are easy to use and cost about the same amount depending on which product you purchase.  Here’s the differences that you should look for.  Amazon Echo has more commands (Skills) while Google Home can best answer diverse questions.   Amazon Echo has more smart home commands to control such as smart light bulbs or security.

 

Commands to use

These devices can play music, tell you the time, give you this week’s weather and give you the traffice report.  There’s more though! Keep up your productivity with these commands.

Calendar

  • OK, Google, tell me about my day”
  • OK, Google, good morning.” (This includes a personalized greeting, info on weather, traffic, reminders, calendar entries, flight status and curated news stories.)
  • OK, Google, add my 9 am appointment to my calendar.
  • Ok, Google, remind me to purchase my airline tickets.

To-do lists

  • Alexa, create a to-do list
  • Alexa, I need to make a doctor appointment
  • Alexa, buy bathroom tissue
  • Alexa, reorder pens
  • Alexa, track my order

Reminders and timers

  • Alexa, set a repeating alarm for weekdays at 7 a.m.
  • Set a timer: “Alexa, timer” or “Alexa, set a timer for 15 minutes.”
  • Create a named timer: “Alexa, set a pizza timer for 20 minutes.”
  • Set multiple timers: “Alexa, set a second timer for 5 minute

Self care

  • Alexa, ask Random Workout to pick a workout.
  • Alexa, ask Random Workout to pick an exercise.
  • Alexa open Sleep Sounds.
  • Alexa ask Sleep Sounds to play Thunderstorm.

What’s my most surprising task for Alexa? It’s remember things! We all want a fail safe spot to remember stuff.  Alexa can do that too!

You don’t have to be a big techie to enjoy the advantages of this small addition to your tech collection.  Adding these small devices can make a big difference for you as we add automated tools for home, work and life to our everyday spaces.

4 Simple Productivity Concepts to Organize Your Work and Life

4 simple productivity tips

 

Take a big step back to think about your productivity.  Are there foundations that you can build on to organize your work and life to be more productive? There are! Think about concepts that can be overarching your work and life. Here are 4 simple productivity tips that can be the base of your producitivity strategies. These are to pause, to consolidate, to chunk, and to create a process. In addition, here are ways to use these strategies in your home and office.

Pause

a temporary stop in action or speech.
“she dropped me outside during a brief pause in the rain”
synonyms: stopcessationbreakhaltinterruptionchecklullrespitebreathing space, discontinuation, hiatusgapinterludeMore

 

It’s so easy to jump right  in and start organizing and getting stuff done. The power of a pause can make your work more efficient and focused. Inserting a pause gives you time to plan and prepare for the outcome. You can look at what you are working on and prepare sequentially for the outcome you want.  With a pause, you can define what is your end goal before you leap ahead.  Giving yourself a pause is a way to ensure your work is your best effort leading to the outcome you have in mind.

  • Use mindfulness throughout the day to stay in the moment as you work.
  • Include meditation or yoga as the first routine in your day.
  • If you are feeling aggitated or anxious, take a few deep breaths or take a walk.

 

Consolidate

combine (a number of things) into a single more effective or coherent whole.
“all manufacturing activities have been consolidated in new premises”
synonyms: combineunitemergeintegrateamalgamatefusesynthesize, bring together, unify

“consolidate the results into an action plan”

 

When you consolidate, you are getting all the items, tasks or thoughts in one place.  If things are too spread, you are not sure what you have, your thoughts are jumbled and your tasks might be in listed in many different spots.  The Power of One is when you only have one place to look, one list to review or one thought that summarizes your results.

  • Write all your ideas and tasks in a single notebook.
  • Gather all your supplies and store these at a single point of use.
  • Add all your contacts to a single database, CRM or contact list.

 

Chunk

divide (something) into chunks.
“chunk four pounds of pears”
method of presenting information which splits concepts into small pieces or “chunks” of information to make reading and understanding faster and easier. 

 

To chunk, or chunking, is a strategy to break a big project into smaller, do-able units.  When you are feeling overwhelmed by a project, create a plan that breaks it into smaller chunks that are manageable. Chunking also creates a unit for context.  By grouping together information into ideally sized pieces, these can be used effectively to produce the outcome you want.  Time chunking, according to Productivityist Mike Vardy, allows for purposeful use of your days.

  • Use a project management tool like Trello to establish chunks.
  • Set up your day with a chunk of time set aside for a daily routine.
  • Create your task list with just the one next step, the one next chunk.

 

Create a process

a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.
“military operations could jeopardize the peace process”
synonyms: procedureoperationactionactivityexerciseaffairbusinessjobtaskundertaking

One of my biggest pet peeves is “re-creating the wheel”, that being when I am doing the same things over and over.  There might be a better way to do something, however first I want to establish one way to do that thing with the outcome that I want.  Yes, it is highly linear and specific in that it is step by step. At times we need to know what to do to achieve the end result we want repeatedly. That’s where a process makes all the difference.  Your process should be a tried and true method.  Here’s what basic processes come into play.

  • Set up a process for getting laundry complete and dinner on the table at home
  • What is the process for when you have a new client?
  • Use a bill paying process that includes setting up online bill paying.
  • Create a paper process for your home or work.

 

This is big picture stuff! One of these is most likely already a part of your productivity toolbox. Think about how one of these as a single concept can make a difference in your work and responsibilities. All 4 concepts help you use your time productively as well as efficiently.  Assess which tip is already working for you and that could be enhanced, as well as which tip you would like to try out.  If you are already working hard, it’s time to assess and work smarter.

 

More tips and tricks on productivity here! Join my newsletter!

Life Changing Apps for 2018

Life changing apps 2018

 

My clients and I are researchers. We are researching ways to make life easier, more productive and more organized.  New apps come and go.  There are life changing apps; those being apps that make chaos become order, empower you to make change happen and help you live your best life.   I am excited to share some of the life changing apps they have shared with me.

 

MapMyWalk

We all know we “should” exercise.  Why not make it a game with Map MyWalk?  Not only can you track your progress and create a competition with yourself, you can connect with friends for real competition.  It’s real motivation to get moving

 

Shipt

It’s breakfast time and you are out of cereal, eggs and even bread. No worries! Shipt will bring these to your door quickly.  You can choose between grocery stores and Target too.  This can also save you money since you are not browsing the store aisles.

 

EveryDollar

Worried about your money?  Trouble with a budget and month goals?  EveryDollar helps you create and monitor where you are spending money so you can achieve your goals.  EveryDollar sets up systems for you to track what you are spending.  It’s an easy way to check your funds.

 

Your Bank App

Working together with your bank, it’s easy to stay on track and know what you have in your account.  Your bank app permits deposits which means less time at the ATM. Install this on your ipad and you are ready to pay bills anyway at any time.

 

White Noise Lite

Trouble getting to sleep? Here’s an amazing sleep aid – this app!  You can start the app to get to sleep and it shuts off automatically. There’s an alarm clock built in too.

 

Headspace

Meditation is an important start to your day. By meditating you set the tone of the day.  Headspace helps you do this.

 

I love adding to my list of what apps are working for me.  When you add apps to your devices, it’s a great testing time.  Remember to keep only the apps you use, deleting what you tried and didn’t work for you.  [layerslider id=”2″]

Hugs and Happy Organizing: Study and Office

Hugs and happy organizing

 

There’s a space in all homes where it becomes the drop zone. It’s where all the items that have no home go, just so these are not in your living room or bedroom. This space has potential for many different uses and it’s up to us to create a functional areas here.   This is a Hugs and Happy Organizing story about a space designated for a study.

This client’s space had become a drop zone, that being unused space for for quite a while.  It’s been where papers and photos that had no home go, just to sit.  Piles were piling up, books were sitting on the floor, and crafts were sitting unsused.  In just 3 hours, we were able to reclaim the space for a study for her husband. Here’s what we did.

 

  • First, the client decided exactly what this space is to be used for, that being a study.  It’s where her husband will work on accelerated virtual learning. That let us know what would be needed in this space to accomplish this task.
  • Starting with the floor, we went through the piles.  The piles were an assortment of different papers.
  • Some of the piles were her kiddo’s art work from school from the last few years. We decided what to keep, what to photograph and what to let go.  This precious artwork will be stored in a portfolio in her daughter’s room.
  • There was an accumulation of mail that needed to be shredded.
  • Books were replaced on an amazing lawyer’s bookshelf.
  • We edited, shredded, and sent items on their way.
  • We consolidated office supplies into drawers for easy access.

The result is an amazing space that is ready for study!  It all came down to getting started, working efficiently and knowing what the end results should be for the desired use.

 

If you have a space that has gotten away from you, it’s collecting paper instead of being used, now is the time to get started.

 

More Hugs and Happy Organizing stories here!

 

Secrets to Managing Multiple Projects

Managing multiple projects

 

Wouldn’t work and life be easier if we could have just one project to do at at time?  It’s when we have to do more than one project at at time that we get overwhelmed.  The opportunity to focus on one single project is not typically possible.  At home we have laundry, dinner and paperwork. At work we have multiple areas we are responsible for and multiple projects within those areas.   It’s hard to keep all these moving forward simultaneously.

Identify the goal

Before you start a project, be sure you know what the final goal is. This requires for you to keep the end in mind.  When you identify the goal, remember to keep it simple, specific, budget friendly and deadline driven.  Having these parameters will keep you moving forward.

 

Schedule with a time line and time allocated

Time lines drive all projects. Every project should have a completion date. It keeps each project aligned with the goal and also keeps you moving forward.  If possible, keep your different project time lines synchronized so that the completion dates are staggered. It also gives you time to work well on each project.

 

Every project needs time allocated.  When you schedule project work time, that’s the time to keep distractions minimized.  Schedule by writing in your planner or entering time in your digital calendar.  By writing these items in, you are committing to the work.  This is the most powerful way to ensure you are working steadily on your projects.

Assess resources and communicate with your team

Evaluate what resources are available to you.  In addition to the budget, what do you need to successfully complete the project.  Who can help? Who is a valuable team member with a required skill set?  What technology resources could be worthwhile? Managing multiple projects also means you may need different resources for each.  Once you assess, put these resources into place and evaluate the effectiveness.

 

Your team is also a valuable resource. Who is partnering with you and taking on parts of the project?  Delegate wisely by strengths of team members and schedule interim checkpoints for the project.  Different teams may be required for managing multiple projects.

 

Assess risks and obstacles

Throughout the project, be sure you are aware of risks and obstacles. Address these quickly and directly to keep your project on task.

 

Tracking multiple projects

There’s a variety of tools to use to track your projects. This is not a time to keep information in your head.  There’s trello, asana, teamwork or a simple spreadsheet.  Update your tool at least weekly to be sure you are on track.

 

Here’s how this works for your home projects. You have laundry, dinner and paperwork to complete.  To complete these, schedule days and times for each.  You might cook Monday – Thursday and do one load of laundry each day. Or you can do laundry intermittent days and cook two of the other days.  Paperwork can be a 5 minute triage daily and a one hour weekly administrative time.

 

For work projects, set your goals for each project and assess all your resources. Schedule ahead all the meeting times and chunk your project into manageable pieces.  Set an uninteruppted power hour each day to work steadily on your project or a day a week to work solely on that project.  Using time blocking is the way to accomplish small pieces of projects that lead to completion.

 

The biggest secret to managing multiple projects is smart calendaring and setting specific times to accomplish pieces of each project.  Be brave and keep undistracted work times sacred to work on this deep work.

 

ADHD and Tracking Tasks

 

ADHD and tasks

Is your mind is swirling with ideas? Are there so many projects you would like to do, but they are all running together? Perhaps there are also lots of small but very important unrelated tasks, which never seem to be at the top of your list. You’re not sure what to do or where to keep your tasks and ideas.  You need a task list or tracking tool to capture this.

According to ADDitude Magazine, “personal productivity is not a matter of coming up with ideas for what to do. The problem lies with poor sense of time and inability to gauge how long it will take to complete a given task. Then there’s trouble with setting priorities, and tendency to get distracted and forget what we were trying to do.”  If you are ADHD and struggle with getting tasks done, you may need some strategies that help you prioritize and focus. Here is a list of some ideas that can help you get more done in your week.

 

Capture your tasks and ideas

  • Be sure to list all your tasks in one place. This can be on paper or in technology.  The list starts with just a brain dump, getting everything out of your head.  This step makes the biggest difference in clarity!
  • Paper options are a post it notes, simple notebook or TUL notebook.  Date the top of each page as a reference for yourself later.
  • There’s tech tools too! Favorites include Evernote and Trello. Not only can you capture your ideas and tasks, you can track your progress with each.
  • Choose just 3 Most Important Tasks (MITs) for you complete.  Prioritizing these 3 MITs can be difficult. However, any 3 completed are 3 less tasks to do.

Tips and tasks

  • Set a timer to get started on your tasks.  Initiation, that is just getting started, can be your biggest challenge.
  • Give yourself ample time to complete a task. If you think it will take 10 minutes, give yourself 30 minutes. It may take up to 3 times longer for completion.  Give yourself some “warm up” time too.  That is about 10 minutes to get oriented. Prioritize and get into the mindset of the work at hand.
  • Find someone to assist  you with verbal processing.  Verbal processing is talking the ideas that are swirling in your head.  “Talking”  through the work is a processing tools for you. It helps you be aware of what is most important and cull out the first action step.
  • Get started with a body double. Ths is a person who is with you, virtually or in person, to just be in the moment with you. The person is just there, not giving you advice or being an expert, just in the space with you.

Set a great foundation

  • Know how important self care is and practice it. We all work much better with a good night’s sleep and good lean protein in our diet. Be sure you are at your best to get your best work done.
  • Track your tasks either each evening before you head out, each morning before you start off and weekly with a weekly planning time.

What’s most important is to choose a tool that will work for you!  If it’s paper or digital, choose what’s easier to use reguarly.

 

Need more task tips?  Join my newsletter here.

4 Ways to Celebrate Each Sunday

4 ways to celebrate Sunday

 

Sunday. Just the word brings to mind so many different ways to spend the day. There’s the spiritual side of Sunday, picnic in the park Sunday and get ready for the week Sunday.   Why not combine a bit of each type of day into your Sunday? Here’s 3 ways to celebrate each Sunday.

 

Spend time in spiritual thankfulness

The most rewarding lives are spent with gratitude.  Gratitude boosts the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin and the hormone oxytocin, all associated with wellbeing and having a positive outlook on life. Your gratitude could be personal prayer, a gratitude journal or time spend in nature.  Positivity and well being are by products of recognizing our blessings and being thankful.

 

Spend time with renewal

Each of us thinks of renewal differently. Perhaps it is sitting alone, spending time with family and friends, being creative with a craft, or simply doing what we love just because.  Renewal brings us joy! It’s what gives us energy  and renews our core.  For me renewal is time to read the Sunday paper and magazines and linger over recipes.  What’s your source of renewal?

 

Spend time in self care

When’s the last time you gave yourself “permission” to sleep in, cook for yourself or exercise?  Sunday’s a day you can do all of these.  A busy week often precludes our best care. Don’t set the alarm on Sunday to sleep until you wake up naturally.  Gather some goodies and create a meal you love.  Take time to bike, walk or run in the outdoors.  Time spent in self care gives you clarity and perspective.

 

Spend time preparing

Plan ahead with a weekly planning time.  Your time might include a family meeting, reviewing your personal and business calendars, creating a meal plan for the week and preparing your attire. By being proactive, there are no surprises and your weekly is more productive.  Just an hour in preparing and you are ready to conquer your week.

 

 

Check out this Sunday weekly checklist!

 

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Seize the moment! Summer Organizing and Productivity

summer organizing and productivity

 

You have waited all year for this! It’s Summer and perhaps you have just a bit more time.  Your lighter load makes it possible to do what you have put on the back burner this year.  It’s time to seize the moment for summer organizing and productivity!

 

Now’s the time to organize!

Kids’s stuff

Kids’ rooms are overflowing with papers, games and more. It’s time to make a major overhaul of what has built up over the school year.  Start with a trash bag and fill it to the brim. Then go through the space thinking about what is not being used, what could be donated and what should be returned to someone else.  Your kids can be a part of this project. However if you want to work solo, put the items in a black garbage bag in a low traffic area and see what is requested before donating.

 

Reading pile

That pile of books. magazines and catalogs that have been flowing in are ready for review.  You may be waiting to take these out to the pool or on a trip with you. Review your pile, make decisions and let go of what is not going to be read this summer.  It’s also a bonus for when you return to have less paper.

 

Your Closet

It’s been an unusually cool spring here in Houston and throughout the country. It’s time to switch over your clothes and let go of winter items that were not worn. (This year we had one of our coldest winters.)  Turn your hangers around as you wear clothes to learn what is not being worn.  Let go of shoes that are uncomfortable or too disheveled.

 

Now is the time to be more productive!

 

Learn new tech

Have you been waiting to learn Quickbooks, view Google analytics, or use Trello? It’s time to add that to your action list for the summer. You will have more time to practice and learn. You will be ahead of the curve when fall comes and you have to use this tool efficiently.

 

Construct a new routine

Productivity often looks like a more automated approach. Routines are the way we automate our time, with either a sequence of small tasks or assigning a day of the week for a specific project. What ways can you create an improved or easy routine for tasks you dislike either at home or work?  By fall you will be solidly using this new routine.

 

Create solid self care

What does self care have to do with productivity? Everything! A great night’s rest leads to improved brain power.  Start an exercise plan this summer because an exercise routine can make you happier, smarter, clear thinking and more energetic. When you think of the benefits of self care, the return on investment is huge!

 

Seize the moment now to take advantage of the bits of available time, resources and energy.  Get started this week on your organizing and productivity projects!