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Author: Geri Chark 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: Kelly GalfandClothing General Organizing Productivity Time Management Tips

Avoid “Laundry Overwhelm” with Time-Saving Folding Tips

As a residential professional organizer, I visit lots of homes. One household system that is quick to fall apart and overwhelm a person is LAUNDRY.

I have strong opinions on laundry:
• dark and light clothing should be separated (my children do not all agree)
• “laundry” is not done until it is all put away

You don’t have to share those views, but I see on a weekly basis how the “putting away” is where the system breaks down. Most of us are pretty good starting the laundry process. There is an obvious and inevitable external motivation to wash clothes when one runs out of clean socks or underwear. Many people are also decent at shifting the wet clothes over to the dryer. The widespread access to timers on our phones has made this step particularly easy for even the “follow-through-challenged.”

I see “laundry overwhelm” during the next 2 points in the system:
1) clean but not yet folded clothes that remain clean…until they get mixed with dirty clothes or buried under other stuff
2) folded clothes in baskets — when not returned to dresser drawers or closets they clog bedrooms and hallways and hold laundry baskets hostage creating a problem for dirty clothes who remain “homeless”

If we focus on these 2 connected steps along the process: 1) folding and 2) putting away and employ task batching, the process goes smoother.

Task batching is a way to manage time and perform tasks in sets where the same mental effort and physical energy is used to maximize productivity and streamline a process.

Even if laundry is not the most stressful task, any project you can simplify will free up your mind for the heavy lifting of life. If you’re a procrastinator, my suggestion to task batch your folding and put away steps is good news! It decreases the distance between start and finish and builds in lots of manageable size “loads.” More, but smaller tasks to quickly complete, offer the satisfaction of a job well done!

Task Batching will decrease laundry time and increase productivity!

Take this example of table linens – out of the dryer and onto a folding surface.

Task Batched Folding Steps would look like this:

• Sort clean laundry into categories: if you mix loads from a whole household, your first sort job will be by person, then by category of clothing (socks, underwear, shirts that fold, shirts that hang, bottoms, work out clothing, pajamas…etc).

Time-Saving Laundry Tips - Step 1: Sort

Step 1: sort into categories: this load broke down into hand towels, dish towels and cloth napkins.

• Prep each category so it’s ready to be folded (right any clothes that are inside out or button collars).

• Fold each category separately – meaning one category at a time – preferably on a clean and flat surface.

Fold laundry by category.

• Do all of your folding at once.

  • When you sort by category you are also sorting by location and your folded piles are easy to put where they belong.
  • Put each category away in its right “home”.
Task Batching to streamline your laundry process.

Step 2: fold each mini pile as its own category.
Our cloth napkins need to be ironed so they’ll stay on the ironing board.
The other 2 folded piles will go into their appropriate drawers in the kitchen.

Will task batching your folding process solve all of your laundry dilemma’s? No — but folding by category allows you to delegate small pieces of the project to even the youngest helpers and lets others take pride in the smooth running of the household if you’re lucky enough to live with people who will “volunteer” or as in our household, be volunteered to help 🙂

Author: Suzanne KuhnChallenging Disorganization Procrastination Productivity

Don’t Put Off Handling Procrastination!

When it comes to dealing with clutter, are you like Scarlett O’Hara in the film classic, Gone with the Wind, always putting off disagreeable tasks until “tomorrow?”

End ProcrastinationHere are some strategies that can help. The example we’ll use applies them to paper clutter, but they can help you get moving on any clutter-busting project.

First of all, know when you’re not procrastinating, as these first three strategies address:

  • Start by asking yourself “Do I know what I should be doing?” If the answer is “No,” you’re not procrastinating — you’re becoming aware that you need more information. For example, do you need to ask your insurance agent what receipts should be saved in case of a catastrophic loss? Go get that information, and action will come easier.
  • Now ask yourself, “Is this a priority right now?” Important as staying on top of your paper is, if your elderly father is in danger of tripping over the clutter in the family room, you’re not procrastinating – you’re clarifying your priorities. Decide what the most important thing to do is right now, and action will follow.
  • Finally, ask yourself, “Do I have all the tools I need for the job?” In dealing with paper, these might include a file storage unit, hanging or manila folders, a good marker, and a bag for recycling. Make task #1 assembling the tools you need,

If you know deep down that you are procrastinating, these techniques can help get you unstuck:

  • Write down just a few specific steps for part of the project you’re putting off, for example:
    1. Throw away obvious junk mail.
    2. Assemble all unpaid bills.
    3. Set up a folder for tax documents

Often, seeing something concrete will get you moving, especially if you’re a visual person.

  • Talk to people about what you’re planning to do. “This is the year I get rid of my paper piles for good.” This will have three benefits:
    • Listening to yourself will help you get moving, especially if you’re an auditory person.
    • Those people will probably give you good ideas and/or encouragement.
    • Accountability will help you move into action, if only to avoid embarrassment.
  • Pick a step on your action list that involves physical movement or use of your hands. Ripping up outdated paperwork is good for this.If you are what education experts call a tactile-kinesthetic person, this will engage you, and further action is sure to follow.
  • Pick any task that will take no more than five to ten minutes, no matter how trivial it may seem:labeling file folders; shredding old bills. Promise yourself that you can stop when time is up.Chances are, you won’t want to stop, because momentum will start to build.
  • Take advantage of your current mood. If you feel like talking, make that phone call to your insurance agent. If you feel like writing, make your to-do list. If you feel like moving, drive to the office supplies store.
  • Reward yourself for doing a task you hate to do by combining it with something fun. Listen to your favorite music while you purge old files.Or give yourself the reward when the unpleasant task is done: “As soon as I’m finished going through these old medical records, I’ll invite my friend to meet for coffee.”

Don’t put off handling procrastination another minute! Pick the one strategy above that speaks loudest to you, and do it before you go to bed today.

Author: Martha SpittalClothing Clutter General Home Organizing Productivity Wardrobe Management

80/20 Your 2018

Have you ever gotten to the end of your day wondering what (if anything) of value you actually accomplished? If so, it may be time to pull out the 80/20 Rule!

Professional organizers often apply the 80/20 Rule (a.k.a., the Pareto Principle or the Law of the Vital Few) to decluttering. For example, in a closet, determine the 20% of clothes you wear 80% of the time, purge the 80% of clothes you seldom or never use, and – voila! – you have space for clothes more like your favorite few.

The principle also applies to time. Most of us accomplish 80% of our best work in just 20% of our time, and fritter away 80% of our time doing…what? The key to really accomplishing our goals, to really making an impact, is to focus on the 20% of things we are really good at.

Determining our best 20% when it comes to clothes is pretty straightforward: pull everything out of the closet and start sorting: things I love (or not), things that fit (or not), things that make me look great (or not), etc.

But how do we determine our best 20% when it comes to work? Claire Diaz-Ortiz, in the book Design Your Day, suggests this similar pull-out-and-sort activity to find out:

First, get two pieces of paper. At the top of one write “Big Wins” and on the other write “Activities.”

On the “Big Wins” paper, list things that you’ve done in the past few years, personally or professionally, that have brought you the greatest joy, that have made you feel most alive, that have made you feel like you were in the sweetest of sweet spots. These could be things that happened just once, or continuing things.

On the “Activities” paper, list absolutely everything you do on a regular basis – fun or not fun, significant or not significant, necessary or unnecessary, whatever. Then sort these items into three categories: Things Only I Can Do, Things Someone Else Can Do, and Things I Should Stop Doing. (It might help to rewrite your activities on a fresh piece of paper with three columns headed with these categories.)

Next, cross-check. Things that appear on both your “Big Wins” list and your “Things Only I Can Do” list are your best 20%!

Now, set priorities:

  1. First Priority = Big Wins + Things Only You Can Do
  • These key activities are what you should focus on, but you could also think about if there are ways you could do them in even less time.
  1. Second Priority = Big Wins + Things Someone Else Can Do
  • These are things that need doing, but that could be delegated. You can better do your best work if you’re not trying to do everything!
  1. Third Priority = Things Only You Can Do
  • These items need to be evaluated carefully, because they are not on your list of Big Wins.
  • This category will have important necessities (sleep, doctor’s appointments) and other things that are just time-drains.
  1. Not a Priority = Things You Should Stop Doing
  • Cut it out! (But, don’t be afraid to leave some fun, non-productive activities that rejuvenate you or bring you rest.)

As Diaz-Ortiz says, “ultimately, this activity is a mind-opening way to see where your time and work is really moving the needle and where you’re just running on the hamster wheel to stay busy.”

Let 2018 be the year where you focus on the few vital tasks that best get you to where you want to be.

80/20 your 2018!

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: Yasmin GoodmanGeneral Organizing Productivity

Calming the Chaos: 8 Easy Suggestions

Eight IdeasAs a Productivity and Organizing Professional, I am preoccupied with effective ways to calm the chaos in people’s lives. When I saw this short 3 minute video, I thought it was a great demonstration of how disorganization and chaos unfold without notice while everything falls into disarray and nothing gets done. If you can relate, then here are 8 easy suggestions to help calm the chaos in your life.

  1. Stay Connected

In the video, the chaos began when the actor put her keys down on the table to pick up the mail. In that moment, she lost her connection to her keys and shifted her attention to the mail. She no longer had a cognitive or tactile association with the keys. Her connection transferred to the mail instead. That loss of connection was played out over and over in the video as the chaos unfolded. She lost her awareness of her checkbook, the remote, her glasses and, ultimately, her ability to complete a task with ease.
If you must pick up the mail before putting your keys in their designated spot (create one if you don’t already have one), hold onto the keys. That is, stay connected to the keys while you are sorting the mail. Then, when your attention turns away from the mail, your keys will be in your hand as a tactile reminder that the task of putting your keys away is not complete.

  1. Complete a Task

If the actor had held onto her keys while she sorted the mail, or her checkbook while she walked to her desk and then to the kitchen with her warm Coke, both her keys and checkbook would have signaled to her that the task wasn’t done, and ultimately reduced the number of incomplete tasks left in her wake.

  1. Count to 8 Slowly

The video shows how random the actor moved from one task to another. What caught her attention became the next priority without thought or question. If this feels familiar, try counting to 8 slowly before you move from one task to another. This allows time to slow down and contemplate which task is more important and should be done first.

  1. Choose Which Task Should be Done First

If the actor took time to stop and count to 8 before shifting from one task to another, she could have made conscious choices to either stop what she was doing and move to another task or not. Having time to choose lends itself to better outcomes and less chaos.

  1. Be Consistent: Consistency Strengthens New Habits

Taking on and practicing one or more of these suggestions, over time, will strengthen your ability to calm the chaos and be more effective, efficient and productive.

  1. Get Creative: Have Fun and Play

In oftentimes challenging situations loaded with minefields and judgments, have fun trying different ways to “stay connected” to a task. So I can’t forget things while I’m working, I wear a “task pouch” around my waist with pockets like a carpenter’s tool belt. In it is everything I need at my fingertips: phone, markers, scissors, and a pad and a pen to capture tasks to do and things to remember. This is my way of keeping worry and brain chaos at bay.

  1. Have Compassion    

Be compassionate with yourself when taking on new practices. Misses and backsliding are common during any learning process.

  1. Call an Organizer

If you find you need support, new ideas, a coach or a cheerleader as you take on new practices, give one of us a call. We would love to assist you in calming the chaos in your life!

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