Each Wednesday for the next 10 weeks are going to share with you our 10 Organizing Rules:
One of the best things I did when I decided to simplify my life was to simplify my workday. I eliminated the non-essentials, and can now focus on what I truly love: creating.
Not everyone can make such drastic steps toward simplicity, but you can do a few small things that will greatly simplify things for you at work.
- Start early. Going into work early is one of my favorite tricks. Before the phones start ringing and meetings start, I can get a lot of work done in the peace of a quiet office. By the time everyone else is getting started, I’ve gotten two or three big tasks checked off.
- Limit your hours. This may seem counter-intuitive, because so many people work long hours and think they’re getting more done and being more productive. But they’re throwing brute hours at the problem. Instead, cut back on your hours and set a limit — say 6 or 7 hours a day — and get your most essential work done within that limit. If you know you’re only working 6 hours today, you’ll be sure to get the important tasks done first and waste less time. Limits force you to be effective.
- Make a short list. Make a list of all the tasks you need to do and then make a short list of 1-3 things you really want to get done. Some of the most successful executives report that they only put 2-3 things on their to-do list each day. Complete your short list before checking email or other daily tasks.
- Batch distractions. What are your common distractions? Perhaps things like email, reading blogs, Twitter or another social network? Set a very specific time for these, preferably later in the day: don’t do the distracting tasks before then. Another approach might be to do them for 10 minutes at the end of each hour — but stick to that 10-minute limit!
- Write shorter emails. The simple change of limiting yourself to 3-4 sentences per email will make a big difference. It will not only drastically shorten the time it takes for you to write and respond to emails, but will most likely shorten the responses you receive. Therefore decreasing your overall time spent tackling your inbox.
- Limit meetings. The fewer meetings the better. Some top Google executives just do 5 minute meetings. Everyone who attends these meetings is expected to be prepared and concise. Even better, if you can find an alternative way to communicate, rather than meetings, it could save you hours per week.
- Automate. The fewer repetitive and routine tasks you have to do, the more time you’ll free up for important work. Automate wherever possible. Have people fill things out electronically, or get information from your website instead of emailing or calling you, or use a service that automatically processes payments or ships your product, and so on.
- Eliminate paperwork. I used to deal with a lot of paperwork, and even then I knew it was a waste of my time. If businesses and organizations could have paperwork filled out electronically, it would save a lot of paper, copying, filing, and duplicate effort. Whenever possible, eliminate paperwork in favor of digital. (This might be more of a long-term move.)
- Clear your desk. Clear everything off the top of your desk. Only put back the essential items. Everything else should be: filed, given to the appropriate person, given a permanent spot in a drawer, or trashed/recycled. Make quick decisions and then get back to work.
- Take breathing breaks. Every 15-20 minutes, get up from your desk, and take a breathing break. It could simply be walking around the office, or even better, getting outside to get some fresh air. Walk around, get your blood circulating, perhaps massage your neck and shoulders if you feel tension. Do some pushups if you want to get fit. When you get back to work, remind yourself what you want to be working on, and clear away all distractions.
- Practice a focus ritual. Every hour or two, do a refocus ritual. This only takes a minute or two. You might start it by closing down your browser and other open applications. Return to your list of Most Important Tasks and figure out what you need to accomplish next. Before you check email again or go back online, work on that important task for as long as you can. Repeat this ritual throughout the day, to bring yourself back into focus.
- Schedule big blocks of creative time. Not everyone can do this, but when possible, put a big block of 3-4 hours in your schedule for doing important, creative work. Do not allow meetings or other things to be scheduled during this time. Be ruthless about clearing distractions and doing the work you love during these blocks, taking breathing breaks as necessary. Rejoice in your creativity.
By Susan Wade www.sunflowerstrategies.com
‘Tis the season to test your time management skills and to-do lists. Try to at least get the top 3 holiday tasks done as early as you can: shopping, holiday card/newsletter and wrapping. The following checklist will help you remember some of the little tasks that may fall through the cracks during this busy time of year.
•Make holiday reservations, be sure to remember the pets
•While present shopping, remember the boxes, tissue paper, wrapping paper, parcel paper, tape and
lots of batteries
•Reserve tickets for special holiday events
•If traveling by car, plan for oil change and car check
•Make hair cut appointments
•If traveling, get enough prescription medications to last through January 2nd
•Make childcare arrangements for December 31st
•Plan menu and shopping list for big holiday meals (remember champagne for the New Year).
•Order turkey or ham, if needed
•Iron tablecloths and napkins
•Mark your calendar with any special events for school, church or community
•Save a night on your calendar for viewing lights with cocoa and friends
•Mark your calendar with a date to visit Santa
•Avoid Sunday since it is the busiest day
•Shopping Monday – Thursday in the daytime is best as evenings are often busiest
•If you travel a lot, use the flying time to shop mail-order catalogs or via the planes Wi-Fi
•Internet shopping at lunchtime can be a real time saver
Emergency Preparedness Made Easy
By Amanda Kuzak
It doesn’t matter where you live; you are susceptible to an earthquake, hurricane, snow storm, power outage, flood, or some other disaster. Any of these events could leave you and your family stranded at home for a few days without power or electricity. Since September was National Preparedness Month I wanted to help you get your emergency kits ready for whatever may come your way this winter.
Before I talk about the emergency kit you need to have in your home, I want to talk about the emergency kit you should have in your car. An emergency could happen while you are driving, so it is smart to have a small container in your trunk with a few emergency essentials.
This is what my emergency kit for my car looks like, it has a blanket, an extra pair of sneakers and socks (just in case I am wearing heels or sandals and need to vacate my car and walk), a flashlight, a power flare, and water. Of course, you would duplicate items for your family and keep them in the same container or create their own.
Next, let’s talk about emergency kits for your pet. This is my emergency kit for my pooch Harper, it contains a towel, food, water, an extra food dish, a leash, a toy, and her medicine. I keep her kit stored next to my emergency home kit, it is stored in a small bin so I could carry it with us if we had to evacuate.
Living in California, I thought more people would have an emergency kit in their homes, but I rarely see one. When I ask my clients why they don’t keep emergency items on hand, they say that they don’t worry about emergencies, or don’t know how to create one, or they have been meaning to set one up, but they just keep forgetting. How many of you have an extra supply of food, water, and emergency items in your homes?
This is what my kit looks like. It is recommended you have supplies stored in air-tight tubs or on shelves in your garage or basement. Mine are stored in a cabinet in our garage. I also keep a duffel bag on top just in case I need to leave my house during an emergency.
Here are the items that should be in your kit; this list comes directly from FEMA.
- Three-day supply of non-perishable food
- Three-day supply of water – one gallon of water per person, per day
- Portable, battery-powered radio or television and extra batteries
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- First aid kit and manual
- Sanitation and hygiene items (moist towelettes and toilet paper)
- Matches and waterproof container
- Extra clothing
- Kitchen accessories and cooking utensils, including a can opener
- Photocopies of credit and identification cards
- Cash and coins
- Special needs items, such as prescription medications, eye glasses, contact lens solutions, and hearing aid batteries
- Items for infants, such as formula, diapers, bottles, and pacifiers
- Other items to meet your unique family needs
Depending on your climate, these items might come in handy too…
- Jacket or coat
- Long pants
- Long sleeve shirt
- Sturdy shoes
- Hat, mittens, and scarf
- Sleeping bag or warm blanket (per person)
I stock my kit with non-perishable food from Costco because it comes in bulk. I chose items that we would eat normally like tuna, protein bars, peanut butter, fruit cups, canned chili, canned beans, and pasta.
There is also an extra pair of shoes, towels and blankets, moist wipes, and at least 3 days worth of water. If you have a pool or live next to someone who has a pool think about investing in a high quality water filter.
Whenever I buy new blankets, I add the old ones to my emergency kit.
As important as it is to have an emergency kit, here are some things to do in order to maintain your kit…
- Keep canned foods in a dry place where the temperature is cool
- Store boxed food in tightly closed plastic or metal containers to protect from pests and to extend its shelf life
- Throw out any canned good that becomes swollen, dented, or corroded
- Use foods before they go bad, and replace them with fresh supplies
- Place new items at the back of the storage area and older ones in the front
- Change stored food and water supplies every six months. Be sure to write the date you store it on all containers
- Re-think your needs every year and update your kit as your family needs change
- Keep items in airtight plastic bags and put your entire disaster supplies kit in one or two easy-to-carry containers, such as an unused trashcan, camping backpack, or duffel bag
Note: If this all seems too daunting to do on your own, you can purchase a pre-made kit from many different online retailers including the American Red Cross www.redcrossstore.org
By Debbie Rosemont
Summer is upon us, and for many, graduation was a much celebrated event. Graduations, from elementary school to graduate school are the start of a new chapter in life. As a new phase begins, it’s time to say goodbye to the old. Before embarking on the next journey, find some time to go through the stuff and the memories from the last chapter. Among all of the other celebrations and parties during this time, throw yourself a “pitch-it party” and get rid of the old to make room for the new. The same can be applied if you’re changing jobs, packing up one office to get ready for your next opportunity- a “job graduation”.
By the end of the school year, or time on a particular job, our homes and offices can become inundated with projects, papers, books and partially used supplies. Here are a few ideas for your “pitch-it party.” Before you dive in, make sure to put on some tunes and line up some treats. A party isn’t complete without music and food. If it helps, invite a guest or two to party with you – more hands make for lighter work!
1. Old textbooks. Are you really going to need that introduction to forestry book ever again? Probably not, so pitch- it! The same goes for many of the text books you purchased throughout the year. Consider selling them back to the bookstore during the textbook-buy-back time. You can also sell your text books online, or possibly donate them to a library. These ideas can be applied to books specific to your job as well.
2. Notebooks. Those scribbled in, messy notes probably only made sense at the time you wrote them. Recycle or shred the contents of your notebooks, if you have a few important pages in the middle, scan them for safe keeping instead of keeping the entire notebook. Take class notes, meeting notes, study notes, hand-written drafts, lists, conference materials, etc and pitch them.
3. Artwork or other large projects. You may be really proud after getting an A on that huge end of the semester science project, but that doesn’t mean you have to find storage for it. Instead, capture the memory, and all the hard work, in a photo to proudly display. The same can be said for projects you worked on for your job.
4. Supplies specific to a particular class, project or job that you just can’t see using again or are tattered to be useful any longer. Toss pencils that now only resemble stubs, spiral notebooks with only 2 unwritten pages left, dried up glue sticks, or things you purchased specifically for a class or project that you are now done with. Pitch them to make room for supplies needed in your next chapter.
5. Find homes for the things you will actually use in the next chapter of your life, or that you want as a keepsake. Did you graduate with a degree in psychology and plan to go into practice? Perhaps there are some books you will reference again during your career. Put those on your bookshelf. Can’t seem to let go of the project that brought you and a beau together, resulting in a marriage proposal? Put it into a keepsake box to pull out again on your Golden wedding anniversary.
Remember graduation, whether from school or work, is a time to celebrate your achievement and look forward to your future. Make sure the items you take along for the journey will help propel you to success rather than drag you to disappointment.
By Mayna Sgaramella-McVey
The hardest part about cleaning and organizing your closet is figuring out what to keep and what to toss. We all have our ‘someday’ jeans we would like to fit into and clothes we are keeping for our weight loss or gain. But do you really know what looks good on you and actually fits? We asked wardrobe consultant and personal stylist Mayna Sgaramella for her expert advice.
Start with good posture, in a well lit room, in front of a full length mirror. When trying items on ask yourself these questions:
- Where does the neckline start? Narrow or wide openings will balance out the face and body differently, so experiment.
- Is your shoulder seam in line with your arm and shoulder? If it falls too far past the inside of your shoulder line, you will look wider than you are.
- Is your arm opening fitted leaving room for movement? If you find bunching fabric at your armpit by the bust, you need a size down or try petites.
- Does your jacket or blouse have structure to highlight, create, or minimize curves? Use different shaped jackets to hide or highlight features. For example a 3-button jacket will minimize a larger bust.
- Does your sleeve length hit a flattering point on your arm? Long sleeves should end at or just past the wrist break. Elbow length sleeves will highlight your waist.
- Does your shirt or jacket hit close to the top of your hip bone? The hem should be within 3 inches of the top of your hip bone to lengthen the legs. You could layer a shirt longer than the jacket to get the same effect.
- Is your pant hem too long or short? Your hem should fall ¼ – ½ inches above the floor with shoes on. Straight or skinny leg pants can fall a bit higher. The wider the leg opening, the more it should hover the floor.
- Does your skirt hem end at a flattering point? Skirts should hit at or just below the knee (or where the leg naturally curves in at the knee). If you are petite, your hem should fall just above the knee, lengthening your legs.
That Will Derail Your Success
By Stephanie LH Calahan
“When I have time, I’ll get to it.”
If you are struggling to find time, then you have an even bigger need to get organized!
Did you know that the average person wastes 150 hours a year just looking for stuff? To make it worse, the average executive wastes six weeks a year just looking for information and other items.
Imagine what you could do with that extra time. Pick 10-15 minutes a day and get started now.
“If it can’t be perfect, why do it?”
Wanting to do a good job on your projects is admirable. However, the drive for perfection has ruined
the success of many projects. Perfectionism paralyzes even the smartest people. Consider the consequences of not doing the project at all versus the need for perfection, then see what you can do to
eliminate that procrastination technique.
“I can change! I know I can. This system worked for ______ and I know I can make it work for me.”
We are all different, right down to our fingerprints. Assuming that the system is right and you are
broken is not the right way to go. Instead, find a system that works for the way you naturally think and learn. You will experience a much better outcome.
“I do what the books tell me, I have similar items together, but nothing ever gets put away.”
Like items with like items works in some circumstances, but there is another rule to consider. Store items closest to where you will use them. For example, if you have a container that holds all of your scissors, you will likely never find them in that container! Why? We get the scissors out and take them to the space where we use them. To walk back to a centralized storage location just does not happen very often. Items that you use on a daily basis should be within your arm’s reach.
“I know I have not used it in years, but I will!”
If you work or live in a space that has loads of extra room, then this comment can be okay. However, most people I talk to tell me that they don’t have enough space. If you have to search through stuff that you don’t use to find the things you do use, you are wasting time. Be honest with yourself and let go of unused items. It will free up your space and time for more important things.
“I have a fantastic 48-step plan.”
Any system that has too many steps is likely to fail. Put the KISS (Keep It Simple, Silly) process into play. If it takes a long time or the task seems out of reach, it is likely you won’t do it.
“Planning, smanning— organizing is easy. You just get in there and do it…right?”
A little planning up front can save you lots of time, now and in the future. Decide what the purpose for each space will be. Then, as you have new items come into that space, you will be able to ask yourself if the item fits the purpose. Let’s say you work out of your home and you have identified a room that is dedicated solely to your business. If you happen to find crayons or clothes in that room, it is obvious they don’t belong and should be moved out.
“I found the cutest container yesterday! I love the little drawers. Now I just need to figure out how to use it.”
If you purchase organizing containers and tools without knowing how you are going to use them, it is likely that the containers will become the very thing you are trying to cure, clutter! Instead, sort and purge first. Then identify specific containers and tools that are needed to complete a project and purchase those.
“No one can help me with this stuff. I have to do this alone.”
Sometimes when we create a mess, we feel like we need to clean it up on our own, but that is untrue. Some of us are better than others at figuring out systems to get organized. Consider finding a co-worker or friend that is organized and ask if they will help. Or, you can hire a coach to help you figure it out. Seeking help when you need it is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness.