Happy New Year and Happy National Get Organized Month! I always set a few goals for myself and my business each New Year and organizing certainly plays a key role in accomplishing those goals. Over the years clients have asked for my assistance for many different reasons including New Year’s resolutions.
On the other hand, those resolutions are often derailed because “life happens.” Whether you are ready or not, you could lose your job, suffer through an illness, or deal with a divorce. You can’t always be prepared for the ups and downs of life, but being organized can help. Here are my ten organization basics to help you handle the uncertainties of life and achieve those pesky resolutions you are so adamant in keeping. Let’s break it down:
If it takes less than 60 seconds, do it! Whether it’s putting bills away, making a quick phone call, adding a number to your phone, sending a quick email, do it! Take seconds now or hours later.
A home for everything. Finding a home means you know where to put it when it gets misplaced and when you need it — it’s there!
Choose a time management tool. Use a day planner or smartphone to keep track of appointments, tasks lists, self-appointments, and vacation plans.
Keep lists. Use your time management tool for all lists: clothing, household items, food, gifts, etc. Keep sizes and dimensions on the list. Lists save time and money and no more buying things twice (you aren’t the only one).
Consolidate contact information. Gather mailing addresses, emails, and phone numbers and place them in your time management tool. No more little pieces of paper and sticky notes all over the place.
Convenience is the key. No digging and no searching. Place things where you use them; keep most-used items front and center — no pushing other things aside to get to what you need.
Focus! Small and large task completion requires focus. Break down any large task into smaller, manageable pieces and stay focused: one bite at a time.
Know what to eliminate. Surround yourself with tasks, events, and people who support your goals. Eliminate the rest and learn to say “no” (I have a handout on my website).
Consult the experts. Don’t reinvent the wheel; ask friends for recommendations and referrals; consult the Internet (but don’t believe everything you read); and then trust your judgment.
Maintenance! Things will get out of order (even in my home), so do a little each evening or once a week in order to keep it that way. Have respect for yourself, your time, and your home. Every time you put something away, it’s a gift to yourself.
Whether you are making resolutions are just trying to smooth out life’s bumps in the road, get organized! You’ll be glad you did.
Clutter Quote: “God takes care of the breath of your life; it is your responsibility to take care of the depth of your life.” Unknown
September is National Preparedness Month. While most people think of natural disasters, I think you’ll agree that losing your device would qualify as a disaster! You may not be able to prevent losing your device but you can protect your data. Did you know that your personal login information could easily be found in your computer?
See for yourself:
• Open your browser (I use Mozilla’s Firefox so adapt the instructions for other browsers),
• Click on Preferences, then Security.
— If Remember Passwords is checked, click on Saved Passwords next to it.
A list of Web sites you’ve visited along with your username appears.
• Click on Show Passwords and your complete login info is listed!
In Google’s Chrome:
• Click on Preferences, Settings, Show Advanced Settings, and Passwords and Forms.
— If Offer To Save Passwords is checked, click on Manage Passwords and there they are.
In Apple’s Safari it’s even easier!
• Click on Preferences, then Passwords.
— A list of the Web sites you’ve visited, along with your username, comes up.
• Click on Show Passwords on the bottom and your complete login appears. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is better at security with some default settings that protect your data.
• In the Tools menu, see InPrivate Browsing and Internet Options settings.
Are you shocked to learn this? I sure was! But before you panic, I have some tips to help protect your data. (I use a Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone and MacBook Pro computer so tweak as necessary.)
For your computer:
• Password-protect it at startup by disabling Automatic Login (System Preferences, Security and Privacy, General) Password-protect it when awakening from sleep and screensaver modes (System Preferences, Security and Privacy, General, and check Require Password For Sleep & Screen Saver).
• Back up your data to the cloud using iCloud (Mac or PC, iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch—and it also can find your missing device), Dropbox, Carbonite or Mozy.
For your smartphone:
• Enable Screen Lock secured with a PIN (Settings, Personal, Lock Screen) so your phone can be used only after entering your PIN.
• Enable Lock Automatically (same as above) to lock the screen after turning it off.
• Enable Lock Instantly With Power Key (same as above).
• Enable SIM Card Lock with a PIN (Settings, Personal, Security).
• Enable Owner Information (Settings, Personal, Lock Screen) to add your name and phone number (other than your cell number) so someone can call you if your device is found.
• Enable Location Services (Settings, Personal).
• Disable Make Passwords Visible so people nearby can’t see what you’re typing (Settings, Personal, Security).
• Enable or install Find My Mobile (Samsung) or Find My iPhone (Apple) to locate your missing device and, if necessary, remotely lock and/or erase it.
For your browser, be sure Remember Passwords For Sites is unchecked (Preferences, Security) and delete any saved passwords.
• Use a cloud-based password manager such as 1Password, LastPass or SplashID rather than storing passwords in your device. You will need to remember just one login password. Password-protect individual documents with extra-sensitive data. Password-protect external drives too.
Decide what, if any, security changes are right for you. If you’re unsure, seek technical help. To use your devices, you will need to do a bit more manually but the tradeoff is increased security and peace of mind. I think that’s worth a little extra effort!
When I think about what makes me most productive I think about technology. When you use technology well it really does make things better. Below I introduce you to my favorite tech-tools. Consider how using these tools can make things easier for you:
AN ELEPHANT NEVER FORGETS… AND NEITHER DOES EVERNOTE
Imagine 1000 sticky notes that are organized and available at the click of a mouse. Meet Evernote. Evernote is a cloud based application that can be accessed from just about anywhere – your PC, your Mac, your iPhone, your iPad and/or your Android phone. And it’s FREE! Go to www.evernote.com and download it. Play with it. Basically, all you need to know to get started is that you make a note – give it a title and Evernote saves it. Then when you want to find it you can search on any word in the note and it will pull it up for you. Later, when you get more comfortable with it, you can take pictures into your notes, cut and paste links and photos into your notes, and even do voice to text input. Here are some ideas about how I use mine:
WHY I LOVE GOOGLE CALENDAR
A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS
In the olden days of computing there was a quick little function key to capture what was on the screen – whatever you saw on your computer you could print or copy. In the last few years someone realized how helpful that was and gave us a new way to capture what we see on the screen as a picture. There are a few programs that do this. For the PC, Microsoft offers the Snipping Tool, for Mac you can snip by selecting Command + Shift + 4. Many other Screenshot Software Programs exist, and with a quick Google search you can find one to match your computer. But how does it save you time? Here is how I use my Snipping Tool:
A screen capture tool is one of those things that you wouldn’t miss if you didn’t use, but once you have it you wouldn’t want to ever live without.
IS GETTING IT ALL DONE A CHALLENGE?
Have you ever considered an electronic task list? I use Toodledo, though there are many other products “out-there” that my colleagues really like too. Here is why I like Toodledo:
Now, I know you are thinking it sounds complex, but I’ll let you in on a little secret – I only use its most basic features and it works really well for me. Also – I don’t use this exclusively – I still keep a manual to-do list. But, for the reasons listed above I find it to be a tremendous help in ensuring my most important work gets done – and just like you – getting it all done is a challenge.
WARNING: DON’T TRY THESE ALL AT ONCE! Pick one and try it on. See if it fits. Once you’ve integrated it into your life, try another.
In my work organizing finances and paper for aging adults and people with chronic illnesses and disabilities, certain problems tend to recur. Among them are:
Here are five different web sites I have found useful in addressing these issues:
Better World Books (http://www.betterworldbooks.com/)
Several years ago, I helped close out an estate that included nearly one thousand books. They were heavily concentrated in engineering subjects, and varied in age from 15 to 100 years old. The owner was emphatic that they not simply be recycled or buried in a landfill, and that they should benefit people in need if at all possible. Better World Books provided the way to grant these wishes. This organization is a huge on-line used book store. They accept any size donations of books, and try first to sell them through the web site. Proceeds are used to fund literacy programs around the world, but, even more important to my client, books not sold through the web site are actually shipped to third-world countries that can use them. Only when these two alternatives are exhausted are the books recycled—and never sent to a landfill. Better World’s staff was extremely helpful, and taught me how to inventory and package the books. Better still, they sent a tractor trailer to the site to pick the books up and transport them to the Better World facility, all at no charge to my client or me.
Care Calendar (http://carecalendar.org/)
In the site owners’ own words, “Care Calendar is a web based system to organize meals and other help for families during a time of illness or life changing event, such as the birth of a baby or death of a family member. “ It allows a family, group of friends, or organization to coordinate care for an individual in need by posting and responding to assignments such as meals, visits, rides and errands. Currently, I am using Care Calendar to coordinate care for a frail elderly woman living in her working daughter’s home. I posted the mother’s needs on the web site, and friends and family members have responded to fill every assignment. Care Calendar greatly reduces the need for phone calls and follow-ups, as the site forwards me and the care recipient a list of upcoming assignments and volunteers on a daily basis. The service is offered free of charge, and donations are invited.
Get Human (http://gethuman.com/)
Did you know you can talk to a live human being at Amazon or Ebay? Get Human enabled me to do just that. The site provides free direct-dial contact numbers for over 8,000 businesses, along with other direct contact avenues such as call-backs, live chat and email.
It’s Deductible (http://turbotax.intuit.com/personal-taxes/itsdeductible/)
How do you know how much to deduct as a charitable contribution on your taxes when you give away a mountain of things? It’s Deductible, a free online service from the makers of TurboTax software, combs the internet for actual selling prices of commonly-sold items. The site allows the user to create lists of items donated, by charity, by date, and then provides the fair market value for the item. Where prices aren’t available, guidelines on establishing the FMV are provided. At tax time, the lists can be printed out or imported into TurboTax. I have been using this service for myself and for my clients for nearly ten years, and have yet to be challenged by the IRS.
Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare (http://www.medicare.gov/default.aspx, then select Resource Locator/Nursing Home Compare)
Three years ago, this free service quickly allowed me to find nearby nursing homes and compare them on a host of relevant features when my father suddenly became too ill for me to care for him in my home. I found a wealth of excellent advice that enabled me to make a rapid decision with confidence. A similar comparison feature is available for Home Health Care in the same Resource Locator menu.
Did I mention that all of the above sites do what they do for free? If you or someone you care for is facing worsening illness, down-sizing or simple frustration contacting businesses, give one of these sites a try. I’m confident they’ll help you as they’ve helped me and my clients.