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

 

There’s nothing more motivating than, “company’s coming” when it comes to organzing.

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, 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 her home and said, “wow how did all this 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, your work, 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. A new show called Home Edit is in production. It’s leading to other media connections, like podcasts, blog posts, and social media. In Tidying Up the tv show, we see many like us who have struggled with clutter. The kind inspiration offered by Marie Kondo leads us to be grateful and let go of things that are unneeded.

 

There are 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. 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 very instrumental. There’s existing clutter support on Facebook to join if you want this resource.

 

Motivational Practices

Decluttering is overwhelming. Setting quick, small, practical and realistic routines into place make it easy to be motivated. These practices include placing 5 items in a bag once a week and dropping these off at a donation location, or decluttering for 10 minutes in one space daily. It’s about creating baby steps that moves you forward.

Schedule time for organizing. In our busy lives, while we are motivated, we have not assigned a time to do the work. That time must be designed into your schedule each.

 

Motivational Team Members

Your team is crucial to your motivation. It’s about feeling truly supported as you work. That support comes in questions that coach you, support that acknowledges feelings and praise for each step. There’s no limit to your possible team members including those available by cell and facetime or professionals to coach and teach skills to your kids and grand kids. Start by building your team to help you begin and continue to be motivated.

 

The most compelling motivation to me has always been something I keep very close in my thoughts. Every day it is those thoughts that help me make the choices that impact my life in a positive way. Thankfully it has been making priorities clear and simple. I encourage you to think about your priorities and how they impact your motivation. Jump right in and get started on your organizing today!

best time to start was yesterday next best time is now

 

11 Summer Routines

 

summer organizing routines

 

 

It’s summer and we love the lack of routines. There are some days we can stay in pajamas all day and play unlimited. The change of seasons is best when you create new routines that suit the season itself. Summer routines makes the season more fun! Check out these 11 routines that make life better.

 

1. Set a bedtime.

Even in the summer it’s best when everyone gets a great night’s rest. When everyone is in bed, parents can shut off their lights early too.

 

2. Start or end the day with a bike ride or a walk.

Get moving this summer with time for exercise. The days are longer so you can take advantage of the cooler summer dusk to get outside.

 

3. Set tech limits.

It’s easier to set limits at the beginning than nag all summer. Your limits can include using a timer so when the bell rings, it’s time to get started on something else.

 

 

4. Eat 3 fruits and veggies each day.

Summer brings lots of great vegetables in season. Try something new like a mango or kiwi. Pick your own blueberries or strawberries.

 

 

5. Brain boost with flash card, a workbook, or tech games.

It takes up to 2 weeks to review when school begins.  Keep your kids brains fresh all summer. Join the fun by learning too!

 

 

6. Read every day. It can be a book, a blog, or a magazine.

Read together as a family so you all spend time together. Talk about what you read to share information of all types.

 

 

7. Set aside weekly down time.

Summer is our time to unwind. Intentionally plan time to do nothing. You will be surprised how refreshed you feel and less stressed too. Mark off those days on your calendar to be sure they stay open.

 

 

8. Establish ways your family can help around the house.

Helping prep and cook dinner, taking out the trash, and laundry are ways kids can be more involved during the summer. There’s fewer school responsibilities so add in a few for your home.

 

9. Declutter a little at a time.

Just 15 minutes to declutter drawers, under the sink, and other small spots around the house. Have your kids declutter their own rooms. It’s a time your kids can assess what’s most important to them and share their blessings with others. This is especially helpful if there are summer birthdays in your home.

 

10. Play games and do puzzles.

Hopscotch, Monopoly, Bingo, Old Maid and many other games are great family fun. Our kids don’t always know there are other games besides technology.

 

11. Practice gratitude together.

Gather together each day to share what you are grateful for. It can be through a conversation at dinner or a gratitude journal. Knowing that we are blessed by our family and friends helps us all be more positive.

 

BONUS!

Keep hydrated with plenty of water. Have a camelback water thermos for each kid and yourself. Keep it refilled all day long and carry it with you. We all need lots of hydration during the summer.

 

 

Your summer routines add a little structure to busy days. When everyone shares the routines in their home, life runs more smoothly. What routines can you start this week at your family meeting for summer?

 

What summer routines are in place at your home?

 

Join me on Facebook for more summer fun!

 

How to Maximize Summer Organizing

Maximize summer organizing

 

Summer is often when our organizing intentions get momentum. There are fewer school responsibilities and daylight lasts longer.  Those organizing projects have been on our list for a while.  Here’s ways to tackle these projects, even before you start your organizing work.

 

List first

First you want to have a specific list of what you are planning to organize this summer. Capture your list as a dump first with brainstorming. All those ideas need a spot to prioritize. Your list will be the base of your project management.  The best project management assesses how much time, what resources are available, the budget and the team.  Now you are ready to determine what you will tackle.  It may not all get done this summer however you know what’s possible. If you are not sure what you want to organize, here’s ideas.

 

Timeline

Start your list before the end of May.  Your summer may be much busier than you originally had intended. With your list prepared, as well as your vacation schedule, you can realistically get moving on these projects.

 

Strategies

There are several ways to accomplish your summer organizing goals.

Chunking

Do you like to plan specific units to accomplish your goals?

  • You review your prioritized projects and allocate manageable units of time, the budget, or team members you have to work with to your organizing.
  • The value in this method is to know your plan and work steadily to accomplish your goal.

All day project

Do you have a large block of time and know this organizing is a priority for the fall?

  • Allocate a large amount of time to accomplish decluttering and setting up systems. Allocate resources for editing and removing items in order to proceed smoothly.
  • The value in this method is that before school resumes or the fall comes, your organizing will make a major impact on your life.

Team approach

Who can be your helper in organizing?  Create your team before you start on any project. The teams can work together or in a sequence.

  • Your team might be members of your support community or a paid professional.
  • A team can work in segments, either in sequence or simultaneously.

 

If you need Plan B, C or D

If your summer is business than you originally thought, or your budget is less than required, or you have no team to help you, there’s options!

  • Be sure you have trash and recycling out of the way.  That’s often clogging up your system.
  • Prioritize the one most important organizing task and accomplish that. A single success builds you up!
  • Host a one hour organizing party where your team either does the 27 fling boogie (edits 27 things, places in a bag, and places in a car.
  • Keep it real with a 15 minute Reset (where for 4 time slots your team moves items back to the spaces where they are stored.)
  • If your team doesn’t exist, pick up a new team with high school or college age kids who want to earn money this summer.

No matter your list or strategy, you will be thrilled you allocated energy and time to organizing this summer!