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Author: Geri Chark FrankelDigital Apps Document Management Electronic Organizing Home Office Lists Organizing Productivity Project Management Receipts Tips

Quick and Easy Ways to Let Tech Help You

Photo by Oleg Magni on Unsplash

First, let me confess:  I am NOT what you might call an “Early Adopter” when it comes to technology. 

I need to know that an app/program has been around a long time, is secure and is fast and easy to learn and use.

Here are 5 tech tools that meet those requirements. Use them daily to free up mental clutter, to run on time with appointments and projects, and to help you access information quickly.

  1. Alarms on your smartphone: In the morning, as you review your plan/to do list for the day, set an alarm to ring at the point you need to gather yourself in order to leave on time NOT for an appointment time itself. You can add an additional alarm for when you need to be heading out your door.
  2. Calendar app on your smartphone: As you enter an appointment, meeting, occasion, etc., in your calendar, remember to use both alert options as reminders and set them at appropriate intervals.  For example, if the event is a party or birthday, you may want to set the first alert a week before, to allow yourself time to purchase a card and/or gift. The second alert can be for the morning of the event. 
  3. Evernote: Use it to do a brain dump of your things to do; record receipt; store your vital documents, medications list and other medical records, prepare for tax time, file client/business information, tame recipes, organize your clippings from magazines, and journal.  The possibilities are endless. You can keep photos, video, and audio files in it. This program synchs beautifully across your devices so you have this information at your fingertips.
  4. CamScanner (or Scannable): Snap photos of documents, receipts, clippings and other paperwork/labels et. al.  that you can then save as PDF files. You can send these directly into Google Docs, Dropbox, Evernote, a text message and/or an email etc. 
  5. Contacts:  The minute you get a new person’s details, take a moment and set up a contact!  Add key descriptions to help you locate that newbie at a later date. For example, if a friend tells you about the BEST landscaper in the area, after you enter the person’s name and company,  and mobile number and email address, add “Landscaper Recommended by (friend’s name) in the area where you recorded the company’s name. That way you will still be able to get that information should you forget the company’s actual name.  Use Contacts to enter usernames and passwords for accounts. (NOTE: make sure you have a 6-digit lock on your phone, as 4-digit locks are not secure enough.)

You will enjoy the benefits of a calmer daily routine and the ability to access information speedily if you take a little effort to use one or more of these tech tools!

Author: Tiffany BregoviDocument Management Electronic Organizing General Home Office Tax Prep

You Too Can Stay Organized for Tax Season!

It’s that time of year, friends, when one of the only two certain things in life looms large: taxes.

As a kid, April 15 was a holiday in our house. It was the day my accountant mother could breathe again after over 3 long months of helping her clients. I may have learned a thing or two along the way, so I’m happy to share some tips on how to get organized before heading to your accountant’s office, or, if you’re one of those brave souls who tackles the task on your own, before you sit down at the kitchen table amid a sea of paperwork. In either case, the key is starting early… as in January 1 early.

How to Prep to File your Income Taxes

Taxes can get pretty complicated depending on what kind of return you have to file. Do you have a business? Dependents? Itemized deductions? There are already a lot of great sources of information out there about which documents and information you need to gather. Instead, let’s focus on how to move through this year proactively so that when April 2020 rolls around, you won’t be scrambling to find all this documentation.

Start a System

The first thing you should do is have a dedicated folder where you can file any paperwork that you may need come next April.

  • Create folders for:
    • Tax Documents
    • Personal Receipts
  • If you are self-employed, you should create additional folders for:
    • Business Documents
    • Business Receipts

Execute the System

Know which documents you need to keep in each folder and make lists. If you need help with this, your tax preparer should be able to help you create a customized list based on how you file and the specifics of your financial architecture. Otherwise, here’s a great general resource: https://www.rgbrenner.com/resources/what-do-i-bring-to-my-tax-appointment/

Attach these lists to the front of each folder. Cross off items as they go into the folder.
Documents come in all year, so this is a great way to keep yourself informed at a glance. A few notes:

  • Things like property taxes may show up early in the year.
  • Income statements start arriving in the mail or your inbox in January.
  • Some personal receipts worth saving are:
    • Records of cash donations to religious institutions, schools & other charities
    • Records on non-cash charitable donations
    • Unreimbursed job-related expenses (e.g., travel, tools, cell phone charges, uniform cost/cleaning, luggage, services fees, trade journals, meals & entertainment)
    • Job search/moving expenses¹
  • For your business, you’ll want to save receipts for EVERYTHING, such as:
    • Advertising
    • Equipment & supplies
    • Meals & travel
    • Continuing education & professional development
    • Books & research materials
    • Dues & memberships
    • Subscriptions

Maintain the System

Now that you’re filing, try to stay ahead of the record-keeping by doing it monthly. This effort will help both you and your accountant simplify the process come March or April, so you don’t have to scramble to collect all the information and dollar amounts in a last-minute rush.

Pick your poison to start an electronic or written file for keeping records of expenses. I’m a lover of Excel, but some folks prefer Word or even handwritten lists. If you’re in the latter camp, I recommend buying a dedicated ledger book to record line items. Keep separate files for personal and business. Once a month, go through your saved receipts and enter them into your record. Remember to categorize the type of expense for each receipt.

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As you can see, it’s all about establishing a system that you can easily maintain throughout the year with minimal effort. It’s so easy to get behind with all the personal and professional obligations we balance. If we can stay aligned with the system and find an hour a month to maintain it, then when that April 15 holiday inevitably rolls around again, we can face it head-on with confidence and careful preparation.

¹ https://www.rgbrenner.com/resources/what-do-i-bring-to-my-tax-appointment/

Author: Geri Chark FrankelClothing Electronic Organizing Estates Organizing Wardrobe Management

From Both Sides Now: I Became The Client

Over the past 3 years, I’ve called three different NAPO colleagues to help me with my own organizing projects.  Each time it was a fantastic experience.  Not only did I get stuff done, I really got an appreciation for what it feels like to be the client AND as a result, I am a better Productivity and Organizing Consultant!  

I hired professional organizers (or PO’s) to help me:

  1. clear out my deceased mother’s apartment in Florida (I live in South Jersey)
  2. with technical issues on my computer
  3. purge my clothing and create new outfits

Here are some key takeaways from these sessions:

  • the PO who helped me in FL was from the area; she knew which charities would come and get all that “brown furniture” and the location of other key resources.  HUGE TIME SAVER! She had also gone through cleaning out after the death of a loved one; her compassion helped me through many emotionally-difficult moments.
  • All three organizers that I hired were supportive and upbeat; it reminded me of this critical element of being a great PO.
  • I needed to talk a bit before plunging into a session; I toe the line between letting a client talk, but needing to gently guide them back to the organizing task at hand. All three organizers understood and implemented this.
  • It is OK that clients want to offer you a refreshment; when I was the client I wanted to feed my PO’s.  I was thrilled when they said yes!  Although I like to decline such offers when I am the PO, I now understand that it is a nice thing to say yes, as long as the session does not turn into an unproductive (as defined by the client) gab session.
  • Things really DO take longer to organize than one might think.   I had unrealistic expectations of what I could get done in one session!  Even as a veteran organizer!
  • I DID tidy up my computer desktop and my closet before each of the PO’s dealing with them arrived, even though I ask my clients to leave things “as is” so I can get a sense of the natural state of affairs before any organizing systems are developed.

tech-organizing

  • During the tech-organizing session, the PO and I discussed my overall business goals.  She encouraged me to join a …join one of NAPO’s Special Interest Groups (SIGs), which I did.  INVALUABLE!
  • I did need that extra “push” from the wardrobe PO.  Example: I knew deep down that many of my clothes did not fit, but SO did not want to deal with that. The PO gently guided me to that conclusion and, one trip to the GAP later, I purchased 3 pairs of pants that fit like a glove. I now have presentable outfits!  She also had me TRY ON new outfits we created, AND I was able to give away items that I knew I needed to but previously had trouble parting with.  Having someone else encouraging these actions was the dealmaker!  We also established some rules for going forward, e.g.  that I must only buy PETITE-sized clothing!

I was thrilled by what I got done:  cleaned out an overwhelming amount of stuff so I could close down my mother’s apartment, became very tech-comfortable, and am feeling stylish and well-dressed like never before.  The gratitude I feel towards these organizers is immense.

I close by urging all PO’s who have never hired another Professional Organizer to do so.  Everyone can improve their productivity and up their level of being organized.  And you’ll have much greater understanding and empathy for your clients!

 

Author: Naomi CookClutter Electronic Organizing General Organizing Productivity

The Pitfalls and the Power of Pinterest

namos-picture2

There are a lot of social networking sites out there. There’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; but what about Pinterest, “The World’s Catalog of Ideas”

Pinterest members can create an unlimited number of themed virtual pinboards of products and ideas that they are interested in such as organization for example! In turn, these virtual boards can be followed by others and “pins” can be “repinned” onto their own boards. As social networking sites are pretty much all interlinked, your ideas can be shared with a wider audience that just those who are users of Pinterest.

As with almost everything, there are positives and negatives. No worries though, the positives far outweigh the negatives! Those negatives seem to vanish after the learning curve.

Let’s get those pitfalls out of the way first. I’ve been a Pinterest user for several years now and quickly learned the following things:

  • It can become a “time suck”! On the first evening that I joined Pinterest and started scrolling through pins, I found myself warmly inundated with tons of “pins” featuring all of the things that I loved! I bonded with strangers who shared my interests and set off to create my own boards. I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning!
  • Leading to procrastination! I found myself wanting to scroll and pin and scroll and pin all day and night. I found myself putting off a small task here or there and that’s when I knew I was stuck on Pinterest. Get it…stuck, as in pinned, on Pinterest?!
  • And then to frustration! After I had been following boards for a while, including those of friends, colleagues and acquaintances, I learned that it takes a long time to scroll to the bottom of the main feed. However, I am a persistent person and always tried to get there, even if it was 1 am!

Now for the good stuff, otherwise known as the power of Pinterest!

  • It can keep you organized! Pinterest allows you to virtually store your ideas. This is much better than clipping pages from catalogs and articles from magazines that you would then have to figure out where to store them. Who needs all that paper clutter!

For example, create a board for your pantry which could use an overhaul! Give it a fun Name like Giddy Up, Tidy Up My Pantry!

After creating the board, use the Description area as a place to keep measurements of the heights between shelves as well as the length and depth of the shelves. Add in any products that you think you’ll want, that are on the top of your head, so that you won’t forget to look for them later. Having this quick reference guide will come in handy as you are doing your shopping!

Then decide if you want to keep the board a Secret! Maybe you’ll want the big reveal to show off on your other social media! You can share your secret with anyone you want though, these are your Collaborators.

  • The search bar can take you anywhere you can imagine! If you’re having a bad day and nothing beats looking at cute baby animals, then type in cute baby animals and voila! Create a new board and save your favorites. They will be there for your viewing pleasure anytime.
  • You can shop! Eek! Yes, one stop shopping! After you do a search, say for organizing products, you’ll see another menu of choices directly below. Click on buyable pins and they are all organizing products that you can buy DIRECTLY from companies, like Wayfair for example. Click on Add to Bag and it will show up in your shopping bag at the top of the page just like any other online retailer. How cool is that? Obviously the more specific you get with a search, the closer the products will be to the type you are looking for such as organizing products for pantry. No more shopping retailer sites one at a time!

However you decide to use Pinterest just have fun with it. Search for me at Open Doors Organizing Services…and keep an eye on that clock!

Author: Annette ReymanDigital Apps Document Management Electronic Organizing General Organizing Products Productivity Shopping

Afraid of the “Web?” Don’t Be!

Spiderweb

Trying to know everything about the Internet is as impossible as reading every book ever written. Like the spooky spider webs (real and synthetic) that accent our autumn décor, the fingers of the world-wide-web stretch and reach into sometimes unexpected corners of our lives. Schools, grocery stores, medical offices, places of employment and social groups – it is hard to find areas of life that are not touched. Yet, while technology races to manage our world, how well are we managing technology?

No matter where you find yourself in this digital age — ahead of the curve, just keeping up, or lagging behind — step away from the shivers you feel about getting caught in the web. Here are suggestions of some free tools and applications that I, myself, have found useful. They have helped me create order and ease in different areas of my daily life.

When You Shop: If you keep your cell phone with you, use it to store your shopping lists. Simply take a picture of your refrigerator grocery list before leaving the house or have a family member text you a picture of it when you’re at the grocery store. Create your list in an “app” such as Remember The Milk. And toss all those plastic loyalty and club cards. Use an app called Key Ring and they will always be with you when you need them.

Appointment Management: Phone calendars are wonderful for helping keep track of appointments and deadlines. They even offer the ability to set alarms. Go a step further and set up a shared calendar for your family in Google so you can know who needs to be where and when.

Travel Help: Have you ever been traveling and needed to find a gas station, restaurant or restroom? Don’t want to end up in a less than desirable location? Use the Yelp app to find something local and reviewed by others. Want to catch a movie on the fly? Try the Flixster app to find what’s playing now in your current location.

Files at Your Fingertips: Whether used for business or not, this can be more handy than you might think. Try creating a medical file in Evernote or Dropbox with snapshots of test results, medications and procedures. Bring an iPad or tablet to your doctor appointments and pull them up so your doctors can scroll through them easily. Similarly agendas, contact lists, and meeting notes for your association or social club meetings can be saved online. Even if you prefer bringing printed copies, storing them in Google Drive is a great backup plan. If you get into a bind and are caught without the printouts, you can log in to your Google account and access the notes on your phone or tablet without having to stop home.

I challenge you to choose one new techno-solution this month and see if it can help you streamline an aspect of your life. Don’t wriggle helplessly in a web constructed by someone else. Use technology to create your own web of control and order. Replace your fear of the Internet by spinning a web of your own design.

Author: Darla PompilioElectronic Organizing Home Office Productivity Time Management

Seven Steps to Organizing Your Electronic Files

clutter-clipart-6431197_f260Believe it or not, it only takes a few steps to get your online files organized. Below are seven steps to help you save countless hours and avoid those embarrassing situations that come from searching for lost files. Let’s get started!

1. Start at the Root
Determine where you want your file system to live on your computer. Having all your files and documents under one ‘root’ folder on your computer will make it easy to locate your files. Many single Windows users have all their folders, files, and documents stored haphazardly in the ‘Documents’ or ‘My Documents’ folder on their PC. If this sounds like your system, then you might want to consider starting from scratch. The easiest way to do this is to save all your current folders, files, and documents to a new folder and name it something like Archive_2015 or any appropriate name that’s easy to remember. Now you can start to create a new file structure with broad categories without losing any of your current information. After your new filing system is created, you can move previously created files and documents to the newly created system on an as needed basis.

2. Create a File Structure
File structure is the backbone of your filing system and it begins with using folders for general categories. Think big when creating filing categories and limit the number of folders to a critical few. Describe the contents of the folders with short commonly used, meaningful terms. Start broad and get more specific as you add files and documents to those broad category folders.

Examples for business folder names:
        Administration
        Clients
        Financial
        Insurance
        Legal
        Marketing
        Organizations
        Sales
        Vendors
        Projects

Examples for personal folder names:
        Financial
        Medical
        Health & Wellness
        Housing
        Insurance
       Taxes

3. Use Sub-Categories
After you have created your folders using broad categories, you will want to create files with sub-categories. Sub-categories are used to organized those files and documents within your folders. You may have a folder called ‘Projects’ and within that folder are several files or sub-categories called Project-A, Project-B and Project–C.

4. Determine a Naming Convention
It’s important to name your folders and files consistently and logically. Storing multiple drafts of the same document can get confusing, and a naming convention is one way to avoid that confusion. Also, adding a date at the end of the file name is a great way to keep track of multiple documents, and the addition of initials at the end of the file name will add clarity if more than one person is working on the same document.

Naming convention examples:
      Jane_Doe
      Jane_Doe_1/1/15
      Jane_Doe_1/1/15_JD

5. ‘Save As’ You Go
File your documents in the proper location by using the ‘Save As’ feature. ‘Save As’ allows you to save and file your documents as you go, so they will be placed in the correct file or folder from the start.

6. Clean Up Your Desk Top
Evaluate what you really use and delete those icons or shortcuts that are outdated or infrequently used.  Note: deleting a shortcut is not the same as deleting a file, folder or program from your computer. Deleting the shortcut will simply remove it from your desktop.  A program like Fences is a great way to automatically sort out all those remaining icons into organized, easy to see boxes and categories. The program can sort the categories for you or you can create your own categories.

7. Backup Your Files
Have a regiment in place to regularly back up your files. If your hard drive fails or is damaged and your only source of backup is your computer, then you risk losing all of your business transactions and correspondence. The rule of thumb for data protection is “if you need it to run your business, then back it up.” Having all your files saved to a ‘root’ will make that process easy.