I am a Certified Professional Organizer

Certified Professional Organizer

 

Are credentials important to you?  My “initials” in instagram represent a credential that’s valued beyond measure to me.  My industry offers a gold standard for working with clients.  It’s called Certified Professional Organizer®, which I have been since the program began in 2007.  I am so proud of my CPO that I always share this credential in articles, speaking and blogging.

 

Credentials are earned by passing a test to show a base line level of knowledge.   The test includes questions about my job, called a job task analysis, to be sure what is being tested applies to the work I do. To sit for the test, there are a required number of hours with clients.

 

What is required for certification?

You might say it’s surprising that there is a certification for this work.  Most clients inquire about how long I have been in business rather than the education or testing done.  Certification includes earning over 1250 hours in working with clients and passing a test over a body of knowledge for working in this field.  This credential is offered by the Board of Certification for Professional Organizers®.  There are a little over 350 CPOs globally. It’s an elite group!

 

Here’s more facts about my certification.

It’s more than passing a test! It’s about maintaining your education  with continuing education.

  • Every three years I recertify by earning 45 or more continuing education units.  I just recertified with 127 CEUs. I take classes to make a difference with you as my client and stay on top of industry and professional trends. We recertify every three years.  This is the year of my recertification.
  • I am bound by an enforceable Code of Ethics.
  • Certificates are not the same as certification. I also hold certificates of study in ADHD and chronic disorganization, as well as specialist certificates in life transitions and workplace productivity.
  • The CPO is the only certification endorsed by the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO).

 

Why certification matters

Certified Professional Organizers are committed to experience, education and ethics.  That’s who I want to work with when I am choosing a professional too!

 

 

9 Tips on How to Conquer Email

9 tips to organize email

 

Email has become one of the most demanding, stressful and overwhelming parts of our day.  There’s email streaming in at all times and a torrent like a flood.  Add to that, there’s many important tasks and documents imbedded in the stream. Email has moved from a way to share information to a heavy chore to dread.  Here’s 9 tips on how to conquer email and feel good at the end of the day.

 

Folder Organization

We have had email overload for a while.  It’s time to take charge of how it is organized.

To file or not to file?  That’s a great question!  While our technology gives us the opportunity to never file, do we file what we what to find most easily?  The search tools work for anyone who does not want to file at all.  However, if you want to file, here’s the easiest way to set up your folders.  Think big categories! For home these categories are Financial, People, and Home. For work these are the different categories of work you do. Most likely it is Clients, Vendors, Marketing and more. The reason to think big is that you can gather information into these general files and not spend too much time on filing.  It also gives you a specific home for specific information.  Write out your categories before you begin to be sure you have a category for all the topics in your email.

 

Email subject lines

Universally the first line we see in email is the subject line. Make it a good one!  Be specific and short. Email is intended to inform, not discuss.  The best subject lines are short and sweet and to the point.  If you recieve one that is not, reply with a more appropriate line to keep your email on target.  If you decide you want to file this email, you can email yourself with a new subject line too to keep it relevant.

 

Signature lines

Signature lines share your contact information.  There’s a lot to keeping in touch with your contacts and also sharing who you are and what you do.  There’s great ways to write these to help your contacts and you stay in touch. That’s also where you should begin in keeping connected.  Add the information from the signature line to your contacts. It will cross over to all your devices to use when you want to email or call.

 

Detach documents

Documents are intended to be detached from email and kept in your Documents folders.  This is the way to make work happen.  If you are working together on a document, google docs is the way to go!

 

Tasks on your task list

The big reason we keep reviewing our email and keep our inboxes full is that there are many tasks in our email.  Those tasks range from a one minute acknowledgement we received something to multi-step projects to important responses to a client.   Can you apply the 3 minute rule to an email? If it takes 3 minute or less, just do it during your email work time. If it takes more, add it to your task list for completion later.  Just this simple rule will clear out your tasks and your email.

 

The same applies to dates and calendaring as well.  Dates that come in email should be added to your calendar and your online calendar as a reminder as needed.  Email is not the place to leave your calendar dates to search.

 

Separate shopping with it’s own email address

What’s cluttering our inboxes the most? It’s our shopping offers! We are reluctant to let go of these offers since we might use them.  Set up a separate shopping email to keep these offers together and segregated.  It’s going to save a lot of deleting and time.

 

Work your email and routines that make email disappear

Email is just like snail mail. Would you run up and down to the mailbox every hour to get your mail? Keep your email routines sharp.  Check email 3 times a day.  That way you always keep it in check and keep up to date on your work.  Set aside a work time for those detached documents.  That is a power hour when you do important work without distraction.

 

Email etiquette

Our email gets so overwhelming, we leave it for long periods of time.  Email gets lost as we open it on a device and then it’s buried in already read email. Determine your own email etiquette to keep communication flowing. Perhaps you consider your “turn around time” 48 hours and letting other’s know this is good.  Know who to respond to rather than respond to all.  Email etiquette shows your own professionalism. Your email is a reflection of you.

 

Consider the information, consider the communication

If you are receiving 10 emails about the same topic, it’s time to pick up the phone.  Email is not the tool to use instead of a meeting or if you have a crucial conversation to hold. There are times that a one on one phone conversation is required.  Know when it’s time to pick up the phone instead of use email for communication.

 

Email can be conquered with organization.  Get started with organizing, then add these tips to your email routine.  There’s hope for email organization as you take small steps to conquer this.

 

Bonus tip: Organize your email with tech tools.

With unroll.me, your subscriptions are organized into a list for you to read but not interfere with your work. Using Mailstrom you can group related mail and act on it as a group.  If you use gmail, there’s Boomerang to help you respond to email.  Check out one of these tech tools to get through your email overload.

 

 

 

 

 

 

19 Ways to be More Organized in 15 minutes

19  ways to be more organized  in 15 minutes or less

 

Busy schedules required small time increments to make a difference in your life.  We just don’t have a lot of time to get organized because of all we do each day.  Here’s some baby step, 15 minutes steps you can take to have a more organized home, work and life.

Start with yourself and getting your stuff together.

  1. Gather your favorite clothes and hang them at the front of your closet.
  2. Use ziploks or small zipper bags to gather like items together in your purse or man bag.
  3. Group your exercise clothes together and place one set in a gym bag in  your car.
  4. Use an online app to purchase your groceries. Set up a reminder to do this every Saturday morning for delivery later that afternoon.
  5. Purchase online a small alarm clock for your bedroom to get a great night’s rest.

 

Move on to your family and home.

6. Place a donation bag for easy access to drop items in as they are ready to go to Goodwill.

7. Every time you go into a drawer in your kitchen, assess what’s not used and add it to the donation bag.

8. Grab a pile of paper and recycle or shred for 15 minutes.

9. Head to your bookshelf and add books to your donation bag you have not read or will not read again.

10. Walk around your home and gather school and office supplies together to know what you have.

 

Add in tech organizing

11. Spend 15 minutes in your email folders organizing by category. Think big and think about the ways to group your email rather than by alphabetical single folders. Organize only what you need rather than every email.

12. Delete photos you don’t need from your phone. Move photos to a consolidated cloud based access tool.

13. In email detach documents and save these in your documents folder. Rename these with an easy, consistent naming process.

14. In 15 minute slots, delete what you don’t need from email. Rearrange by subject and sender to make it easier to decide what to delete.

 

Finish up with routines

15. Take 15 minutes each evening to “reset” and get life back together.

16. Take 15 minutes each evening to prep for tomorrow with your clothes, nutrition and stuff.

17. On Sunday evening, add a weekly 15 minutes to review your calendar for the next week ahead.

18. Write up a weekly meal plan for you and your family. Post it or capture it digitally to repeat in 3 weeks.

19. Spend 15 minutes sitting, relaxing, rejuvenating, reading a magazine or taking time to reflect on all you are grateful for each day.

 

Congrats! You have made organizing simple, fast and easy! You are more organized in 15 minutes. Now repeat again next week, and again the following week.

3 Strategies for Effective Team Leadership Communication

 

Team leadeship communication

 

Keeping your team up to date is a critical communication strategy. There’s always more information, more to say and more to update than we can communicate easily.  As team leaders, we want to be transparent, efficient and effective in communication.  To be transparent, we strive to update all our team members simultanously on the current  initiatives, tactics and operations. It’s all about what’s the most efficient way to do this, rather than a blanket email.  Being effective encompasses both of these values as well as doing our work as a thought, vision and strategic leader.  Here are 3 team strategies that I use routinely for effective communication.

Strategic routine phone calls

It all started because there are so many details and so many emails in my work as NAPO President.  Rather than email daily with an unconsolidated list,  early on my Executive Directors and I determined that two calls a week could cover what we needed to cover with strategies and tactics.  These calls have an agenda that we complete as we gather information. The agenda has a spot for actions that we can refer to and complete.  Our Executive Directors value this since our conversations are high level, strategic and succint.  We allow 45 minutes for the calls, talk at the beginning of the week and end of the week.  It’s brought us and our work together.

 

Strategic use of tools

Google docs has become our most strategic tool for communication.  Google docs are an array of possible documents including spreadsheets.  This is a free option and we can access on all devices.  We have several google docs that are used for different agendas.  The President and Executive Director doc includes topics that are most important to discuss, FYI (not discussion, just for your information), and the list of Requests for Action (RFA) for our next meeting. The Executive Committee google doc is an open agenda.  As a leader of your team, determine what is required for weekly discussion.  This tech  tool is one of many different tools I recommend for leadership for many different actions.

 

Strategic long term communication

There are several factors important to communication. It’s what you are sharing, how frequently you share it and who you share it with.   A monthly update, posted to a community internal board, keeps everyone apprised of strategic work.  The update can be an excel spreadsheet chart with a column for completion or a narrative update.  Posting these with a year then month gives your team the option to see several months and review progress.  This all starts with your annual strategic planning, leading to initiative throughout the year.  Posting this monthly offers the opportunity for updated projections, updated tactics and assessing success.

 

Start your communication with a discussion about options.   Set a routine time to meet that offers everyone a time to do their most important work first and then update at a least productive time.  Be sure everyone updates their planner at the start of your collaboration.  Be open to flexibility when needed and be on target enough to keep the boundaries of your work together.  Fortune favors the prepared leader!

 

More leadeship ideas here!

How to set up an Organized home: Your Tech Spots

technology in your home

An organized home has 4 important components for living an easy, organized life.  These areas are zones that help you accomplish the basics: being on time, feeling in control by knowing where things are and working together as a family team. These components will make life better! The second step is having your technology organized.

 

Technology can rule and ruin the day in your home.  There’s so many devices, so much connectivity and so much that needs organizing.  Get your tech organized with a plan.

 

Common charging spot

Common charging spots make life better.  A good night’s sleep comes from no blue light before bed or distractions during the night.  Create a common charging spot for all of your family.  That’s where you and your family all plug in at night, overnight, to be sure that every sleeps undisturbed. All your devices are ready to go and in one place to take off for the day. Use alarm clocks for wake up for all of you.  It’s an inexpensive option as a replacement for your phone.

 

Labeling

Our devices have lots of pieces, cords and accessories.  Break out your labelmaker to know what cords are needed for what devices.  Have sufficient cords for yourself and your family. If you are a frequent traveller, have a duplicate set of cords to travel with in a small zipper case or grid it case.

 

Smart home stuff

Thank you to our friends Alexa and Siri for helping us each day! Smart home features are on our devices to make life easier. There are small ways to get started and most sites state that the most bang for your buck decision is your therostat.  Choose a strong password for your smart home stuff to avoid being hacked.

 

With your Amazon or Google assistant, place this in a well supervised area of your home. Just like any other device connected to the internet, there’s possibilities for your kiddos you may or may not have imagined.

 

Tech during homework or work time

All of us get easily distracted on devices.  There’s ways to help you stay focused with apps.  If you want to track your use, check out RescueTime. If you want to block segments of the internet, use StayFocd.  Keeping on task means staying organized and productive.

 

Tech graveyard

There comes a time when your tech dies. It’s reaching epic proportions in homes with computers, laptops and devices.  There’s ways to sell and recycle tech without much work. Sites like Gazelle and Decluttr to buy back your tech. There’s kiosks in your mall or your cellphone provider will buy back new-ish devices.  Don’t create a tech graveyard and take action when you get a new piece of equipment.

 

What’s best about your organized tech spots? It is using your tech for what’s best in your life!

 

How to set up an Organized Home: Your Landing Strip

how to set up an organized home

 

An organized home has 4 important components for living an easy, organized life.  These areas are zones that help you accomplish the basics: being on time, feeling in control by knowing where things are and working together as a family team. These components will make life better! The first step is having an organized landing strip where you leave and arrive home.

 

Coming and going, if it’s only you or you and your family, happens every day all day.  Why not make it easy to get in your home and get out?  Take the stress out of daily life by organizing this area that can be congested and chaotic.  Here’s the parts you need for an organized landing strip.

  • Set up by the entry
  • Drop spot for backpacks
  • Key holder
  • Shoe organizer
  • Hooks for your and your kids bags

 

Set up your landing strip by the location you come and go most frequently. It’s can be the hallway right inside the garage door, by the front door or by an area adjacent to your entry.  This follows the concept of placing items at point of use.

 

Drop spot for bags and backpacks

Life includes bags of all types. Your kids have school backpacks and bags for sports, dance or other activities. Hooks or slots fo all these bags give each of these an organized, specific spot for each.  Keeping these off the floor creates better traffic flow.  This is also the spot for your purse or manbag.  That way you always know where it is and where your credit cards and wallet are.

 

Key holder

A key holder is a happy place to keep your keys.  There’s nothing more frustrating and emotional than losing the expensive keys to your vehicle. A key holder is the organized spot for these.  What’s even more fun is choosing a key holder you love that makes you smile as you see it.  Here’s what else is on this organizer: neighbor’s keys and mailbox keys. Place this key holder near the door again for best access.

 

Shoe organizer

Many of us come into our home and remove our shoes. Our shoes carry lots of dirt and bacteria so it’s what we want to do to keep our homes clean.  A shoe drop area is perfect to keep your shoes organized.  It’s especially important for families for shoe organization.  The shoe drop area can be a basket, vertical grid with openings, a drawer or any product.  Your shoe organizer can be just organized enough or highly organized.  Shoe organizing requires maintenance too!  Once a month review what’s here and what needs to make it back to the closet.

shoe organizer grid

 

Hooks

Because the landing strip is often in a hallway, decorative hooks make organizing happen.  The hooks should be sturdy enough to hold the weight of the bags or your purse.

 

Pull your landing strip together with color and design.  Choose coordinating items that work together for an attractive combination.

Help the kids get ready for school with a bag packing and unpacking station.

Photo courtesy of IKEA

 

More ideas on landing strips and home organizing here on my blog!

How to Prioritize the Most Important Task

Prioritizing

 

Prioritizing. It’s one of the hardest aspects of time management.  You set aside time to get important work done, and now what to do?  Here are 5 ways of determining what to do first when you are ready to get to work.

 

One thing

If you could choose just one thing that makes the biggest difference in your day at home or work, what would that be? That’s the essence of prioritizing and knowing the one thing that you can do each day. On the opposite hand, what is the one thing that if you did NOT do it, that your day would go awry?  Either perspective helps you prioritize what to choose that is the most important part of your work.

 

Getting Things Done (GTD) lists

GTD starts with a mind sweep and writing everything down. You divide the list into current projects and someday/maybe projects.  Then your list is grouped by the places you work will be accomplished. That can be at the computer, at a meeting, anywhere and errands.  Finally you add the single next step to each of these actions.  GTD helps you prioritize by knowing where you do your work and knowing the one next step to accomplish that task or project.

 

Mindmapping

For non-linear thinkers, here’s a way to find your priority.  There’s not always a start or end, it’s a context within the work itself.  A mind map helps you write down ideas, link tasks that support that goal and then prioritize. By creating a context of what work needs to be accomplished and knowing the many different directions that are possible, you can focus on where you are in the task and project.

 

The Painted Picture

Getting things done is not the same as getting the right things done. To do this, Brian Scudamore  uses his “Painted Picture” strategy.  Keep the big picture in mind with the top third of your capture tool, then below add quadrants for quarterly, monthly and weekly.  Select just 3 tactics that align with this goal and your projects are outlined for completion.

 

Choose the one thing you never get started

Intuitively you know what to do and you never get to it. That’s the priority for you.  It’s when you have procrastinated and let tasks lapse, you know it’s time to get started.

 

How to accomplish prioritizing also depends on setting up your weekly routines to follow through.   Set up a weekly planning time to establish a big picture view that allows you to establish priorities.  That weekly planning time also gives you the opportunity to match your weekly tactics with your calendar.

 

More tips here for productivity! Join my newsletter!

Marie Kondo, Tidying up, Decluttering and Organizing

 

marie kondo and tidying up

Before the Netflix hit, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, there was Clean Sweep and Mission Organization.  Television has been showing the process, emotions and benefits of organizing since 2003. It’s not surprising that we have a fascination with getting organized.

  • 67% of people say they would save 30 minutes a day if they were organized
  • When people organized, they feel accomplished, in control, confident and relaxed.
  • The top 2 reasons people don’t organize is that they feel overwhelmed and don’t have the time.

What is most fascinating about th buzz created by this new series.

  • Donations have skyrocked, up to 60% more donations to Goodwill stores.
  • From the Washington Post: Millennials texted friends photos of their newly neat sock drawers and makeup trays, and posted them on Instagram. Furloughed government workers spent their time off sifting through closets and lugging shopping bags of clothes to consignment shops. Auction houses got calls from consumers desperate to get unwanted furniture out of their living rooms; consignment shops filled up appointment slots weeks into the future.
  • Couples are watching together and decluttering their homes together. That’s a powerful moment for connections and family goals.

 

It’s what we call what we do “tidying up”

It’s not decluttering, editing, or purging. It’s called tidying up.  That gentle description of what we do when we let go brings meaning to our work.  Our national buzz about tidying empowers us with a positive, approachable, strategy.  Rather than being overwhelmed, we have hope to make positive, joyful changes in our environments. There is not shame or judgement with this zen approach.  Marie Kondo’s “spark joy” approach gives us a big reason to make changes in our nests.

 

Inspiration, motivation, and actionable decluttering are the best reasons and benefits.

The series has been a cheerleader for many people in many ways.  It is bringing together groups who serve as encouragers for each other to spur on decluttering using social media group texts, instagram and hashtags. Families have conversations and support each other’s efforts in letting go of stuff in their home.  There is a gentle encouragement, outward support and strong conviction in getting started, dropping off and organizing stuff that remains.

 

Thank you Marie Kondo for making tidying up a great start to the new year! Let’s hope the series continues to inspire us to make positive changes in our homes and lives all year long.

Decluttering and tidying is a journey. It’s a routine that we incorporate. How do we keep our inspiration and motivation going?  Be sure you have time each week to do the work. Be sure you keep inspired with the benefits of your new lifestyle. And be sure you bring into your home and keep only what brings you joy.

 

 

How to Create More Work Life Integration

 

Work life integration

 

It’s often said no one wished they had worked more.  Living the life you imagine is about working smarter, playing harder and being with those who are most important.   As we assess just how to accomplish this, we seek solutions to creating more work life integration on a consistent basis.

 

Dig deep: prioritize what is a part of work and life

To start with, you have to cull priorities.  Everything just can’t be equally important. We can have times where priorities alternate, what I call “seasons”.  For each part of the year these priorities can change.  Most likely fall is about getting back to work and routines. Spring is about lightening up your work schedule. Summer is about having fun.  As we seek out priorities for our lives, keep these to your top 3.  That sounds small and insignificant, however it’s what can be accomplished.

 

Engage in weekly planning time

That endless list running in your head? It’s time to capture it and calendar it. Your list and your calendar are your best friends for truly engaging productively.  Meet with yourself on Sunday afternoon to Integrate all the work and life activities for the week.  It’s a well spent hour to assign realistically what you can accomplish.

Set boundaries into motion

Wow, it’s hard to set boundaries and keep them! These intentional boundaries include non-negotiable times that keep your work life in balance.  It’s getting to the gym routinely, setting times to gather with your family, and getting a good night’s rest regularly.

Here’s where interference plays a roll.  Set up boundaries for technology. That’s no tech in the bedroom, after 10 pm or at the dinner table. That rule applies to us all including parents.

 

Set aside time for fun

Fun is not going to happen accidentally in our busy lives.  Setting aside time for fun, game night with your kids, a Sunday bike ride, or knitting a scarf, are all what we can use weekly.  Laughing brings out some of our best qualities and feelings.

Repeat

Work life integration is far from a one and done activity. It’s a daily pursuit.  Give yourself the opportunity to feel good and do well at keeping important personal priorities aligned. It’s always a work in progress. That’s when you know that you are achieving work life integration.

How to Create and Maintain Small Business Routines

 

Small business routines

 

No matter how small your small business, routines are what are your best return on investment.  Routines permeate your small business, whether it is how you track clients, take payments, or thank your clients. Its worth an investment in your time to be sure your small business routines are working well.

 

Client routines

Client intake is your first steps in business success.  You have done your marketing and your clients are contacting you.  Clients call, send text, email and meet you at an event. I have seen client contacts on back of paper plates too.

When there are so many ways to connect, it’s up to us as a small business to streamline how to track incoming clients. I am a big fan of consolidating this incoming information. Consolidating can come in the form of adding this information to a single sheet of paper or adding this information digitally right away.  Give yourself a time each day and each week to consolidate this information from all the incoming spots, create a paper or digital folder, and take next steps with the client information. Is your next step an appointment with your client?  If so, be ready with your paper planner, Outlook or Google calendar or your online scheduler.

How to reinforce this routine for yourself?  You can start with a checklist to remind you of the steps.  Your client checklist can be online or on the front of the client folder.

 

Financial routines

Taking payments and paying bills are important routines for all businesses.  Have an established date for both of these. For payments, determine the frequency of deposits. Again, funds come from many sources such as paypal, square, checks and venmo.

 

Good financial routines include more than bill paying. It includes setting aside and paying taxes at the set dates, reviewing budget and expenses, and looking at your best return on investment is for marketing.   Calendar the dues dates of taxes to be sure you pay timely.  Review your budget and expenses monthly with a monthly money date.  Your marketing budget is one of your most important expenses. Know where you are getting your clients from in order to budget accordingly.  Each of these dates gives you a heads up on your success and also details to know what to keep doing and what to change.

 

Thanking your clients

One last note about an important routine I practice.  My goal is to keep my clients for the duration.  We are in a lifelong journey with organizing and productivity.   As such I send a thank you note at the end or at a break when we work.   I also send an annual thank you for the holidays.   Keeping this list updated is a final step of my routines with clients.  It’s one small way to keep connected.

 

There are so many ways to start and maintain routines.  There’s no time like now to review these. Think about the steps you have put into place, build on these and reward yourself for your successes!  Your business  will be all the better for this work.

 

More tips here on routines.  Join my newsletter!