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Author: Geri FrankelClutter Document Management General Paper Productivity Tips

What TO DO with old TO DO lists

While working with clients on managing their paperwork and filing systems, and/or time management/productivity we often come across very old (meaning over a year) TO DO lists.To Do lists and what to do with them.

Are YOU haunted by these? Know they are out there lurking to challenge and shame you? I AM!!!

Here are some thoughts to guide you as you contemplate your next move against these demons.

Option #1: Look at them

Pros:

  • They can serve as a reminder about some still very important priorities that may have fallen off your daily and weekly planners. Scheduling the tasks back in your life can get you on track to achieve your goals.
  • They can give you a sense of accomplishment when you note what DID get done.
  • They can give you a GOOD LAUGH at the things you thought were urgent.
  • You can see that the world did not end because you were not able to get to a certain project.

Cons:

  • Viewing what did NOT get done can make you feel frustrated or ashamed or angry.
  • You are using time that might be better spent on doing your top 3 high priority tasks as you know them TODAY.

Option #2 Throw them out

Pros:

  • You avoid any negative emotions that might arise
  • You are able to move on from the past and be in the NOW

Cons:

  • You might miss out on a learning opportunity. Insights you might gain include:
    • That there are simply not enough hours in a day/week/month/year to do what we all yearn to do.
    • Accepting the concept of limits can be liberating.
    • Our to do lists are sometimes not in alignment with our core values and/or abilities.
    • We might be trying to prove something to ourselves and/or others and that might not be a good thing.
    • Perhaps we are avoiding confronting something that could stir up uncomfortable thoughts and feeling.

My recommendation:
Take an hour or two off and, armed with a legal pad or journal, bring those lists to a coffee shop/library or other secret hideaway. Review them in a loving, self-accepting way. Jot down any thoughts that arise.
Then, like you would with the old tub of cream cheese that is festering in the back of the frig, growing green and black molds, TOSS the old to do lists out.
Onward to what calls to you NOW!

Author: Ellen TozziOrganizing Paper Seasonal

How Does Your Garden Grow? How Does Your Paper Flow?

Do you love to see things grow and blossom? Your kids? Your puppy? Your Christmas amaryllis? Your spring flowers? Your summer veggies? Your piles of paper? Say what? What was that last one – paper? No!

If you’re like many of the people I work with, paper is not your thing. You didn’t ask for so much mail, you don’t know what to keep vs. what to discard and you don’t enjoy processing it. I’m going to help you reframe the way you look at paper by comparing paper management to gardening. Stay with me here! It might be more motivational than you think.

So, what are some of the components of both gardening and paper management?

PLANNING
 When planning a flower garden, consider color schemes, the timing of the blooms, the height of the plants, etc.
 Create a plan for where to place paper, i.e. unopened mail, papers to be acted on, papers to be filed, papers going out of the house, etc.

PREVENTION
 Perhaps you use Round Up to prevent weeds (an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure).
 To prevent unwanted and junk mail, sign up using an online service, such as dmachoice.org (an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of MAIL).

MAINTENANCE
 When gardening, you periodically fertilize, weed, dead-head the flowers, and of course cut the flowers for indoor appreciation.
 Establish daily, weekly and monthly routines to open the mail, address action items, pay bills, file, read, etc.

STORAGE
 You’ve dedicated a place where you store your pots, tools, soil, etc. for easy access.
 Use file cabinets or file boxes to store reference papers and keep papers you need to act upon on your desk.

END OF SEASON CLEAN UP
 Gardens get ‘put to bed’ in the autumn by cutting back plants, etc.
 Purge your files annually. The best time is when you’re gathering papers for income tax. Shred paid invoices you don’t need for taxes and make room for a new year.

I wish you much success in your garden and office. KEEP UP in order to thrive and blossom!

Author: Denise MacMurtrieDocument Management General Holidays Meal planning Organizing Paper Productivity Seasonal Time Management

Making a List, Checking it Twice—Not just for Santa

The holidays are upon us! There’s so much to keep track of and so many things to do! How can this wonderfully busy time of year feel less stressful? Make a list! Or several!

I love lists! Just the act of writing a list helps me to feel like I have a clearer direction. A checklist is a concrete tool to help you empty your brain of all the things you need to remember…and then to prioritize them.

There are even more things to do and to remember than usual. I use different lists for each facet of the holidays.

If you like writing lists out on paper, keep one folder or notebook as a central location to record your plans. If you prefer going paperless, keeping documents stored on a computer or in a note-keeping system like Evernote is a convenient way to keep an ongoing record over the years.

The following are types of lists to help you stay better ordered as the activities and tasks fill your schedule:

Menus: Write out a list of the entire meal from appetizers through desserts, including those items being provided by other guests. That way, you have a comprehensive overview of the full meal and can fill in the gaps if there are any. Don’t forget to include drinks, paper products, flowers and table centerpieces.

Shopping list: Go through all the recipes you will be preparing and write out every ingredient into a grocery list. The key here is to write the food items according to sections in the grocery store. It helps dramatically when your list is ordered so you don’t have to revisit different sections of the crowded store.

Tasks: Write out all individual tasks required to prepare for the holidays so you can clearly see the extra demands on your time such as: cleaning the house, decorating, shopping for gifts, wrapping, and mailing gifts (by a designated date).

Holiday cards: Keep a master address list that you can update each year. Many people keep it in a format on their computer to print address labels. I like to sort names according to groups:  family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc.

Gifts: Keep a list of all gifts you plan to purchase according to each person. In the margin, record the store or online vendor and price. You can plan your shopping route according to the stores listed.

Accessory shopping: While shopping for gifts, there are often other details easily overlooked. Designate a master list for details. For example, as you decorate your house or plan your holiday party, keep one list for all those particulars such as a replacement string of lights, a new set of holiday placemats, etc.

A Final Step
Your Calendar: Look through your lists regularly and write tasks into dates on your calendar in order to keep track of what is being accomplished. Write in your planner in pencil to make easy alterations or use an online calendar to easily move tasks around.

Remember:  this is a busy time of year. Everything takes longer than expected. In the end, we may need to let go of a few tasks.

The ultimate goal is not to feel harried by the time the actual day arrives so you can enjoy the celebration with those you love!

Author: Janet BernsteinClutter Document Management Filing General Home Office Medical Move Management Organizing Paper Productivity Project Management Receipts Shopping Tax Prep

How Evernote Changed My Life (And How It Can Change Yours)

My Evernote conversion occurred about five years ago. Stuffed in the back of my junk drawer (yes, I also have one) for several years, lay a handwritten recipe for the best maple balsamic salad dressing obtained from a restaurant in Vermont. Frustrated with my lack of organization for something so valuable, I downloaded Evernote and my life was forever changed.

I created a notebook in the Evernote app and titled it “Recipes,” took a photo of the recipe within the Evernote app et voila! Wherever I am, on my phone, tablet or laptop I have a screenshot of the recipe. I quickly saw how transformational this would be in both my personal and professional life. When a friend recommends a great restaurant, it goes into the notebook I created titled “Recommended Restaurants”. I also do this for movies, books, wine, travel destinations, decorating ideas. All those great details we scribble on the back of napkins never to find again.

If I’m surfing the web, I can use Evernote webclipper to clip an article or page and put it into the notebook of my choice. I can also dictate notes into Evernote and draw using the Skitch app.

I also have a notebook for each of my kids. I have a screenshot of their health insurance cards, health records, photos of their artwork from Kindergarten so I could get rid of those large poster-size monstrosities, er, I mean works of art. The list goes on.

For my business, I’m able to share notebooks with my team and with our clients. We often take notes during an organizing session and share these with our clients. Evernote also eliminates the need to email documents back and forth. Instead, the whole team can collaborate and has access whether they are working remotely or in the office to notes, documents, photos, etc.

I’m barely scratching the surface of Evernote’s endless possibilities. For more information and to create your free online account check out www.evernote.com

Author: Elizabeth BoydDocument Management Home Office Organizing Paper

TAME THE PAPER TIGER – WHAT TO DO WITH DOCUMENTS

Purging is an often recommended and common sense first step to organizing. When we’re dealing with documents, most of us aren’t always sure what to toss, what to keep and for how long. Here are some guidelines to get you started on handling common types of documents. Your situation may be more complex, if, for instance, you have chronic health problems, or have a business. When in doubt, ask an accountant, attorney, daily money manager, or other trusted professional. When it comes to those documents that you should keep, consider that most of the documents can be scanned and the hard copies discarded.

 

TOSS

  • Bank withdrawal and deposit slips, ATM slips
  • Expired warranties and instruction for items you no longer own
  • Statements for closed accounts

KEEP SHORT TERM

  • Receipts for minor purchases, keep until you’ve used the items
  • Credit card receipts, discard after you’ve verified against the credit card statement
  • Pay stubs, keep until you receive annual Form W-2
  • Utility and cable bills, either toss once next one arrives or keep up to a year (longer if needed for tax purposes)
  • Credit Card statements, discard after one year unless needed for tax purposes
  • Quarterly brokerage, IRA, mutual fund statements, keep until you receive the annual statement
  • Bank statements, keep 1 year
  • Car registration and insurance, keep until updated
  • Medical Explanations of Benefits, keep 1 year, but if you qualify for medical tax deductions, 7 years.

KEEP LONG TERM

  • Deed, keep as long as you own the house
  • Records showing what you spent on home improvements until you sell the house (proves value to potential buyers and could offset expenses of home value has increased significantly)
  • Car title or lease, keep as long as you own or lease the vehicle
  • Receipts for major purchases keep until the warranty expires
  • Receipts for big-ticket purchases, keep as long as you have the item, in case you need to make an insurance claim
  • Insurance policies, keep as long as effective
  • Documents for tax purposes, such as receipts you’ll itemize, (IRS recommends keeping 7 years after filing, in case you need to file an amended return or if questions arise)
  • Records showing how much was contributed to and withdrawn from IRAs and 401(k)s
  • Documentation of the cost basis for investments, whether purchased, inherited, or received as a gift, as long as held, then retained for 7 years after included in tax filing

KEEP PERMANENTLY

  • Marriage licenses
  • Divorce papers
  • Military records
  • Birth certificates
  • Wills, Power of Attorney, etc.
  • Death certificates
  • Proof of repayment of student loans, mortgages and other debts
  • Copies of all tax returns with W-2s, which could be useful to correct erroneous Social Security earnings mistakes
Author: Darla DeMorrowBack To School Clutter Family General Paper

Four-and-a-Half Piles of End-of-School-Year Papers

At the end of the school year, there are three things that are a given.

  1. It only takes a day or two to hear, “Mom, I’m bored.”
  2. Water play of any sort makes the long days more fun.
  3. There will be papers, papers, and more papers sent home from school.

A stack of school binders and papers.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Here’s help for all of those papers:

Just because your kid’s papers come home in one bag doesn’t mean there is just one single type of paper. There are a few different types of papers, and each one needs you to do something different to them. Let’s break it down.

  • Proof Your Kid Did Something, aka Homework. Chances are, this is just not that amazing. Most of it is probably worksheets. Review and recycle ASAP.
  • Official Looking Stuff Parents Need to Know. These flyers are usually printed on colored paper. They are not usually remotely important. Do a quick sort and purge to get down to just a handful of items that may truly need your attention. These might include school-issued passwords to online programs, which sometimes apply throughout the summer and into the next year. A three-ring binder for you, the parent, is a great place to keep the true, official notices and numbers handy.
  • Report Cards and Other Official Stuff. The truly official papers should be filed in a safe place, with your child’s permanent records. Most families put these in the same room or filing cabinet with the household files. If your child has an Educational Assistance Plan (EAP), you’ll keep assessment findings and other support documentation. When your child is young, if they are on track at school, their records probably aren’t critical, to be honest. But once they reach high school, every report card, activity they participate in, award they earn and reference letter they save could be part of their college application process. Help your kids learn to keep important papers safe in file folders or a file box.
  • Original creations. Your pint-sized Picasso will come home with finger paintings. Your budding engineer may create entire villages from Popsicle sticks. Your author-in-residence may have written a prize-winning poem. Your kid creates work that is uniquely theirs, that showcases their own talents, that they show pride in. Take the time to praise, display and digitize it. You can create a coffee table book or other tangible work of art that will last a whole lot longer than it will if it’s stuffed under a bed or crammed into a plastic box. Digitize their creations using a scanner or take pictures with your phone right away. Or find a personal photo organizer at the Association of Personal Photo Organizers (www.APPO.org) to digitize for you.

Can you think of any other types of paper that you need to keep?

Don’t bother keeping school papers to pass down to the next kid. When their time comes, their teachers will have their own way of presenting a learning concept.

I recommend keeping recent school directories with #2 above and older school directories in #3 as keepsake items or not at all.

The half-pile I mentioned? I also end up with summer workbooks or skills packets. These might be things you buy or things that the teachers send home. They might include summer reading lists and reading tracking charts. Do yourself the favor of telling your kiddos about them, setting goals, and letting them work through them at a regular pace during the summer. We’ve had a routine of doing a couple of workbook pages each day. This year, we’re giving our kids a weekly packet to complete at their own pace. Either way, I’m grateful for the unused learning resources that the teachers sent home.

How long does it take to get through all the school paperwork? Realistically, it can take less than an hour per kid to sort into these categories and purge. It might take up to another hour to select and digitize the artwork that you’ve saved all year. If it takes much more time, you might be overthinking it. Your child — even elementary school children — can help you with this task. They’ll love telling you about all the amazing stuff they do at school.

If you haven’t unpacked that backpack yet, now is the time to dive in, sort the papers into the categories above, and reclaim your kitchen counter from school papers that have built up all year long.

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