Blog

Author: Darla PompilioBack To School Education Family General Goal Setting healthy living Home Home Office Organizing Room Transformation Time Management Tips

The ABC’s of Back to School

As parents face the annual back to school routine this year, perhaps we need to revise the standard preparation for the first day of school.  Rather than discuss how to organize your physical “stuff” for school, we are going to discuss the ABC’s for organizing a plan to address stress during this challenging time. 

ASSESS

Many parents experienced the challenge of online learning (aka – distance learning or at-home learning) with their children this spring.  As school openings fast approach, it is a good time to stop and assess how that online learning experience went for your family.  What worked well?  What did not work well?  And most importantly, why didn’t it work?  The best way to find a solution to a problem is to understand the root cause of the problem.  If your child was too distracted or had difficulty paying attention to online sessions, think about why he or she was distracted and do your best to address that distraction.  Was their sibling doing their lesson in the same room? Were toys in the room that caught their attention?  Was background noise a disturbance?  Perhaps switching the room for their online learning or putting away some toys may lessen the distraction. Wearing ear buds might reduce the background noise.  There is no one size fits all answer to this issue or any other issue you may have encountered.  The key is to figure out why the situation did not work so you can identify a solution that will work for your family.  And, for those who have not been through online learning as of yet, reach out to family and friends who have experienced it and get their input on what worked for them to see if it can work for your family.

BALANCE

Dealing with our children can be challenging in general.  So, having to deal with online learning or blended learning, in addition to normal daily stresses, can be overwhelming for some.  Many parents are also trying to work from home which compounds that stress. Finding balance amidst the chaos may be beneficial. Take time before school begins to identify ways to balance the hectic environment that may exist during the school day.  A quick 5 to 10-minute stress-reducing activity should provide relief. The list below is in no way all inclusive. 

  • Take a few deep breaths
  • Step outside for a breath of fresh air
  • Take a walk around the block (if your kids are old enough to be alone)
  • Do a short meditation, yoga or prayer session 
  • Turn on music you enjoy and listen, sing along or dance
  • Write down your feelings
  • Reflexology – press the pressure points in the hand and foot to relieve tension
  • Squeeze a stress ball
  • Brew a cup of tea
  • Chew gum
  • Guided imagery – picture yourself in your “happy place”
  • A hug from your child (my personal favorite)

Also, our children are not immune to the stress that online learning may create.  They may find some of the items above useful when they encounter a feeling of anxiety.  Here are a few additional suggestions:

  • Hold a stuffed animal or toy that brings them comfort
  • Let them run a couple laps around the house to release some pent-up energy
  • Draw their feelings on a piece of paper (especially for younger kids who may not have the words to express what they are feeling)
  • Play with the family pet

Figure out what works best for you and for each of your family members. 

COMMUNICATE

Creating a productive environment for both you and your kids is a goal for many parents.  Open communication can contribute to that goal. Does your spouse know you have a 10am conference call and he or she needs to handle any issues that may pop up during that call?  Does your son have a test tomorrow and needs quiet time to study? Is your daughter struggling with a lesson and needs additional tutoring?  Having open discussions about the needs of each family member can go a long way to reducing stress during the day.  The discussions don’t need to be formal.  While clearing the dinner table ask a question like “Do you need anything from me to prepare for tomorrow?” or “Are you stressing about anything and, if so, how can I help?”  Speaking to someone about their needs can help ease their tension.  And don’t forget to let your family know of your needs as well.  If they don’t ask you what you need, you can bring it up to them.  Let them know that you have that conference call at 10am and ask that you not be disturbed for that hour.  Remind them that the dog needs to be walked at lunchtime and ask who can help with that task. Communicating effectively will let each family member know you are all there to support each other.

Using the ABC’s above may not eliminate all the stressors you will face this school year.  However, utilizing Assess and Communicate as proactive steps to help prevent stress, and incorporating Balance when stressful situations arise, may help you get back on track and allow you to have a productive day.

Karen Kabara

Your Tasks – Our Time, Inc

Author: Rie BroscoGeneral Goal Setting healthy living Home Time Management Tips

Channeling Stress Through Creativity

Some have taken to baking bread or cooking. Others have unleashed the crafter within themselves. Finding a common item and brainstorming the various unconventional ways that the item can be used is fun and challenging.
Between the ups and downs of the COVID-19 pandemic and the political tension, the past several months have been especially stressful. There are many ways that people handle stress. Some make To-Do lists. 
For instance, what does one do with old (clean) socks? You know the ones… the dryer has eaten the mate or the elastic has lost its stretch. Below are some ideas of what you can do with socks. Not only can you enjoy some of these projects, beautify your home and/or enlist the aid of any children you may have lounging around the house feeling bored, these projects are a good way to reuse old socks. Thank you to Megan Willett and Business Insider for the post on 61 Things You Can Do With Your Old Mismatched Socks. Two that I found particularly interesting were the No-Sew Sock Puppy and the No-Sew Sock Face Mask.
No-Sew Sock Puppy. I love sock toys, but hate to sew. Inspired by the website Danielle’s Place, which is filled with no-sew sock animal and plushie tutorials, this is a picture of Fritz, the sock. He is made with a sock, rubber bands and fiberfill stuffing. Add whatever you want to give him character.   No-Sew Sock Face Mask. There are many DIY face mask tutorials on YouTube. The one I found most helpful requires no sewing and no rubber bands. You can make these in under five minutes if you are in a pinch.
We live in trying times. Even though businesses and restaurants are slowly opening, many people feel quite alone and isolated from the world. Find a phone buddy. Make yourself a To-Do list and share it with your phone buddy. Did you check off at least one thing on the list? Fabulous! Share it with your phone buddy. If that person is not available, tell your cat or your dog or look in the mirror and tell yourself. Celebrate your accomplishments. 
When you have taken time to decompress and replenish your spirit, learn about the multiple ways that we can all work for social justice and change in our world. But, most importantly, be gentle with yourself.   Stay well, stay safe and stay home if you are able… and, if you are one of the many who must go to work to or who chooses to volunteer to keep us safe, healthy, fed, informed or otherwise (relatively) sane, thank you.
Author: Ellen TozziClothing Clutter Consignment Donating Education Efficiency General Goal Setting healthy living Home Organizing Procrastination Productivity Seasonal Time Management Tips Virtual Organizing

Wishful Thinking and Your Clutter

Wishing is a good thing! It creates a vision of what we’d like for the future. Often the vision motivates us into action to make it come true.  But the tricky part about a wish, compared to a goal, is sometimes we want our wish to magically happen without our taking action. Can you relate?

Here are some examples of Wishful Thinking that might be contributing to the clutter in your home:

The clothes you wish you could get into two or three sizes down.

  • You really, really want to lose weight but so far haven’t been too successful. Ask yourself: If I were to lose that weight, would I want to wear clothes from the 1990’s? 
  • Save clothes one size down and a couple of absolute favorites from the lower sizes. And if you do lose the weight – treat yourself to new clothes!

The workout equipment you wish you would use.

  • You purchased some pretty expensive workout equipment and swear you’re going to start using it. But even through the pandemic, when you had time, you didn’t get to it.
  • Let go of the equipment if you aren’t going to use it. There are others who can’t get to the gym who will buy it or take it off your hands. If necessary, pay a junk hauler to take it away. You really will feel better without the reminder of your dreams (ahem … self-discipline) not coming true.

The craft projects you wish you’d have to time to work on.

  • Well, we’ve had time with the Covid-19 quarantine, so I ask, how many projects did you work on?  (Of course, if you were home-schooling or working from home, it probably wasn’t too many.)
  • Decide on two or three crafts that make your heart sing and let go of the ones that you like but don’t love.  Schools and nursing homes might enjoy your cast-offs.

The second home you wish you could buy.

  • Many of us have dreamed of a second home and saved household items and furniture to that end.  Ask yourself if it is realistic to think you’ll be buying another property?
  • If the answer is no, free the space by letting go.

Charitable shops have been closed for some time due to the pandemic, and now that they’re opened, they are inundated with goods. Some people are reluctant to donate to charities for fear their items will be thrown in the trash. I’ve been told by Goodwill workers that they are storing items in trailers, however that statement is unverified. Another option for items you wish to sell or give away for free are websites like Freecycle.org and CraigsList.com, or local pages on Facebook Marketplace. Since summer is here, you can find ways exchange items with social distancing.

Wishful Thinking can be shifted to Realistic Thinking. If you have trouble getting started, consider the help of a professional organizer. Many are doing virtual organizing and can help you shift your thinking so letting go is easier. YOUR WISH FOR A CLUTTER-FREE HOME CAN COME TRUE!

Author: Amanda JeffersonGoal Setting Productivity Spiritual and Holistic Time Management Uncategorized

Fun & Easy

Is it Fun & Easy? The surprising little question that can bring more clarity and joy to our businesses and our lives.

About a year ago, I started asking myself a question that gave me dramatically more clarity (and joy!) in my work and life.

The question was:

Is it fun and easy?

Why did I start asking this question?

Because I was overwhelmed by the “shoulds.”

I have ALWAYS have been overwhelmed by those blasted shoulds, but I felt particularly overwhelmed as a new entrepreneur. Suddenly, I, alone, had to dictate how I would spend my precious time.

Being an entrepreneur can be incredibly freeing. But, there’s also no road map. No clear strategy. No “right” answers.

Breaking free

After a year of trying to do all of the “shoulds,” I signed up for an online course called 31 Days to Flow. I had learned about “flow” previously in my career, and I was intrigued about how I could apply it in this new phase.

Essentially,  “flow” is a state where you feel totally in the zone. You don’t notice the time passing. You feel energized. You feel like you’re excelling at what you are doing or you’re seriously enjoying the process.

(Doesn’t that sound better than “should”??)

The course instructor asked us to spend almost two weeks identifying our core values. I was somewhat dismayed at this request since I had spent countless hours (days!) in my previous corporate and non-profit life identifying values. What?! Values?! But I signed up for flow!!

Alas, I really liked the course instructor, and I had paid for the darn class already, so I obliged.

The results ended up being one of the most game-changing exercises I have ever done.

Discovering my values

After much soul-searching, ranking, debating and word-smithing, I came up with a list of 5 (soon to be 6) values that would become my new compass for EVERYTHING that I do –  not just in work, but in life.

My values are (in order of importance):

  • Honesty
  • Courage
  • Depth
  • Quiet
  • Laughter
  • Beauty

These six simple words unlocked new wisdom about what I seek in life – in others, in my work, in my parenting, and so much more.

I could bore you for hours on the significance of each of these. So let me save you from that and instead offer a few examples. “Depth” alone explained why certain friendships filled me up, while others depleted me. “Quiet” explained why I turn into a crazed person from those hysterical Snickers commercials if I don’t have some quiet time in my day. “Beauty” came later, as an antidote to a world that often feels out-of-control.

Our instructor promised us that if we began to follow those things that aligned with our values, we would find more flow. More fun. More ease.

And so it was.

Putting “fun & easy” into action

The question “Is it fun and easy?” became a shortcut to test if something “checked off my value boxes.”

I made some significant changes as a result.

  • Speaking to groups is SUPER fun and easy for me, so I do that a lot more. What’s NOT fun and easy is hosting events, so I don’t do that.
  • Writing is fun and easy for me, but all the legwork of editing, posting, and scheduling it is NOT, so I hired a virtual assistant for that.
  • Instagram is fun & easy for me, so I invest time in posting there 2-3 times a week and connecting with others. Facebook is NOT. So I don’t spend much time there at all.
  • Working one-on-one with clients is fun and easy. Scheduling and invoicing is NOT. So I use an online scheduler for that.

By following the path of “fun and easy,” I have found more flow, ease, and joy. I’ve accepted the radical notion that I can follow what energizes me.

Life-hacking the NOT so “fun & easy”

I know what you’re thinking. Not EVERYTHING can be fun and easy. So true, my friend. So true.

Luckily, for those things that aren’t fun and easy, we can often eliminate them, delegate them, or find creative ways to make them just a bit more joyful.

Starting today, how can YOU find more “fun & easy” in your work and life?

Author: Kelly GalfandEmergencies Family General Goal Setting healthy living Home Organizing Procrastination Productivity Project Management Time Management Tips

Stressed Spelled Backwards is Desserts!

While sheltering-in-place we’ve been spending a lot more time baking. And wouldn’t you know: Stressed Spelled Backwards is: Desserts!

I saw that catchy phrase after delivering my 5th batch of muffins in April. To avoid gaining the dreaded Covid-15 (think Freshman-15) I delivered Tupperwares to my neighbor, who appreciates my zero-sugar recipes.

With my last delivery of cranberry-sweetened pumpkin millet muffins, I wrote “sorry for dumping my stress-baked goodies on your doorstep.” She texted back “TY” with a link to  “Stress-baking is a real thing!”

My 3 favorite therapeutic benefits to baking:

  • On the surface, baking’s sweet “aroma-therapy” is a lift to the senses.
  • It’s a form of mindfulness forcing us to stay in the moment and be present.
  • Baking offers proof of progress; it lets us see a project through from beginning to end.

This “proof of progress” is where I want to focus. 

I don’t know about you, but I am:
•  losing a sense of what day it is
•  not as productive as I was before Covid-19
•  feeling less accomplished despite feeling almost as busy

So I reflected on the tools I used before Covid-19:

  1. Planning out my day the night before factoring in daily exercise
  2. Setting timers before ANY screen tasks and computer-related work
  3. Setting self-imposed deadlines
  4. Rewarding myself for meeting those deadlines 
  5. Taking breaks to free my mind and open myself up to creativity

Here’s why I’m returning to these habits:

  • Planning always makes me more efficient. When I predict how long something will take—I challenge myself to get it done before the time is up. 
  • Timers build in accountability for being “on” and give permission to be “off.”
  • Set self-imposed (and realistic!) deadlines: they offer us an amazing boost to our sense of self and inner confidence. They also give us a healthy look to the future and make us more aware of time.
  • Earned rewards are the essential “pat on the back” that we can gift ourselves. While all rewards should not be caloric, a little baking—no stress involved—can pay off.
  • Breaks are essential to productivity, healthy living, and…when else can we bake?

I can’t take credit for figuring out…stressed spelled backwards is desserts!

Author: Ellen FayeEfficiency Productivity Time Management Tips

How Productive Leaders Reduce Inefficiencies

When I think of reducing inefficiencies I think of when I was in college and learned about the time and motion studies of the 1950’s.  I envision Lucy and Ethel wrapping chocolate on the production line. And then I think that no one wants to live life with so much constraint that we are more machine than human.  However, so many of my clients tell me they want to be more efficient.

I am a big fan of putting rote tasks on autopilot so that our energy can be put towards creative process and enjoying life. I am embarrassed to tell you this (but will because perhaps it might help) but I’m always looking at how to do things in the fewest steps.

I will exemplify this with a task we all do – emptying the dishwasher. I’ve observed many people empty the dishwasher – I do it differently.  And I typically get it done in the time it takes to brew 2 or 3 cups of Keurig coffee.  

  1. I work from the bottom up so that if water spills out of something it’s not going to get anything below it wet.
  2. I unload in groups –the silverware into my hand and then direct to the silverware drawer
  3. I place things on the counter at the location it will be put into
  4. I unload completely, then I put away.  I’m only opening the drawer or cabinet once and I’m putting everything away at one time
  5. And I make it a game to see how fast I can do it. It’s fast and it’s done.

I waste not a moment on something as routine as unloading a dishwasher.

Now let’s apply that to our work. 

  • How can I process my email as efficiently as possible?
  • How can I keep my to-do list as streamlined as possible?
  • How can I make my meetings as effective as possible?

I’ve blogged about all of this and I’ve linked the above questions to those posts.  What I’m addressing here however is how to create systems and processes to be most efficient, streamlined, and effective.

Creating efficient systems

  1. Notice it – recognize the opportunity. Don’t assume you can be efficient without thinking about how to be more efficient
  2. Analyze the steps.   Is there a better, faster, more effective way to do something?  Can you eliminate, combine, or change the order of doing something.
  3. Do – Assess– Adjust. Try it out, practice, watch, question.  Shift, try something else. Keep modifying until you get it right.
  4. Practice and Repeat – use the system until it becomes routine and you don’t have to think about it. Watch your stopping and starting.  Stick with a task until it’s done, or at least until there is a logical stopping point. 

Sometimes having a productivity coach or organizing consultant helps. We work with our clients to help them develop the best ways to improve efficiency.