Author: Sherry CastaldiBack To School Challenging Disorganization Productivity Time Management

How to Create Your Own Time Management Schedule

appointment-calendar Do you struggle trying to accomplish everything you want to get done in a week? Are you always asking yourself “where does the time go?” Are you always running late for appointments? Instead of trying to keep it all organized in your head, start a time management system for yourself by using a calendar (digital or paper, whatever your preference), a Day-Timer, or even an excel spreadsheet will work.

Remember school schedules? The week is scheduled by the day, classes with start and end times are filled in first and the remaining time is what you have left for the week.  Start with your non-flexible commitments, such as; work, and then plan the other activities or tasks by the days and times available in the space you have left. Block out the amount of time each commitment, task, or activity will take and include travel time if necessary. This will visually put your time available to accomplish your tasks for the week “at a glance” and into perspective. This is imperative for getting a handle on your time management schedule. If there are overlapping commitments and a shortage of time available to get everything accomplished, you know it’s time to reorganize your week.

Keep in mind, you do need to sleep, so only schedule your time during your realistic waking hours. Each day follow your day’s schedule of events to know where you have to be and when. Then when emergencies crop up and they will, you will have a much better handle on where to reschedule the lessor priorities.

Don’t overbook yourself. Be realistic, allow for travel time and most importantly don’t forget to allow for “down-time”!


Author: Yasmin GoodmanChallenging Disorganization General Goal Setting Home Organizing Procrastination Productivity Project Management Time Management

Curious George Isn’t Just for Kids!

Yasmin and Curious George

Kids May Have Curious George, But Adults Now Have Curious Accountability!

Like Curious George, who stimulates children’s natural curiosity about the world around them, Curious Accountability offers adults a new perspective for tasks associated with getting organized; one where they embark on an exciting journey of self discovery and realized goals. This methodology turns the act of getting organized into a skill building activity. Personal ‘aha’ moments promote longer lasting effects for those who want to get organized and remain organized over time.

At the National Association of Professional Organizers conference in New Orleans last month, Casey Moore and Cameron Gott introduced the concept of Curious Accountability. They defined this concept as “a positive evaluation process based on respect and trust that focuses solely on learning from actions (or inaction). The learning in turn, raises the awareness necessary for developing new skills and tools and achieving goals. Applied consistently over time, Curious Accountability increases self-knowledge and resilience and fosters effective behavior change”.

The word accountability, for many, has a negative connotation — answering to another or a feeling of being punished. In this Curious Accountability model, the focus is on learning and self discovery. Whether the task was accomplished or not, isn’t important. What is important is what the person learns from the process of doing or not doing the task.

Curious Accountability requires a contextual shift in one’s thinking to bring unwanted habits that promote disorganization into the lime light without the usual cloak of shame and blame. If we apply the same kind of curiosity, inquiry, and learning a scientist brings to their fieldwork — or Curious George brings to his daily adventures — we can free ourselves of the ever present good, bad, right or wrong rating systems we apply to our actions and efforts. We can, instead, view our actions, results, and even the “no results” through the filter of learning and exploration. Over time, we are left better problem solvers, in action, and moving towards our goals with more joy, confidence, and ease.

In this learning-focused approach, one might ask themselves at the end of a task or project (accomplished or not):

What did I learn?
What is the value of this learning to the task or overall goal?
What hurdles or “obstacles to overcome” did I discover?

Questions like these are good for illuminating what is important to us moving forward in our organizing endeavors. Should you “get stuck” in this new model, the role of the professional organizer, practiced in this technique, is to be an/a:

Active Listener – listening for the client’s goals and aspirations — long and short term
Cheerleader — keeping the person on track
Mirror – reflecting (not judging) how effective their actions are
Reminder for Self Awareness – let client’s experience inform their next actions
Involved Learner – redefine success

A professional organizer can summarize the learning as it relates to your over all goal or project leaving you ready, prepared, and empowered for your next week of Curious Accountability.

Kids may have Curious George to reveal the magic of curiosity, but adults now have Curious Accountability to propel them forward toward their goals with greater ease.

Author: Barb BermanClutter Document Management Filing General Home Office Paper Productivity Project Management Tax Prep Time Management

Tax Season is Over – Now, What Should I Do With All My Papers?

filing-systemFor most of us, tax season is over, and we can now breathe a sigh of relief for another year. If you plan to shred or recycle large quantities of paper, now is the perfect time to do so.

With a little bit of planning, you can get your paperwork in order without too much angst.

Here are 4 tips to help you:

1.  Make room for new materials by going through your filing cabinets (or wherever you keep your files).  Shred taxes and the back-up documentation older than 7 years, old bills, old insurance policies, old bank statements, or anything old that has personal identifiable information on it.  Recycle old newspaper and magazine articles, defunct travel brochures, etc.

2.  Review your filing system to determine if the way you have your files set up works well for you.  If not, for example, change the names of the files, or change the placement of the files.

3.  Set up new files for the New Year if you have not done so yet, labeling them with meaningful names, so they are easily retrievable.

4.  Check to see if your township is holding a free shred event.  Many towns do so right after tax season to help their residents dispose of their paperwork that has personal identifiable information on it.

Since organizing is an ongoing process, files will have to be tweaked and paperwork will have to be shredded or recycled periodically.  Remember, you can also get a lot of information on-line.  However, if you follow these few steps, your system will be in order for the rest of 2013, and paperwork that has to be filed will have a home.

 Now is the time to Go from Bedlam to Brilliance!

Author: Sue FrostChallenging Disorganization Goal Setting Productivity Project Management Time Management

Measure Once, Cut Twice

Strive-for-Progress-Not-PerfectionAs a lighthearted reminder that done is better than perfect, I sometimes intentionally reverse this adage with clients as we hang a shelf or assemble a bookcase.  Unless you’re performing brain surgery or submitting a résumé, perfect isn’t always necessary.

An ounce of perfectionism as we strive for advancement in life can serve us well.  It works in a corporate setting.  You work hard; you get ahead.  It’s the way the world works.  However, we can cross a line, and real perfectionism can actually get in our way, exhaust us, and reduce our productivity.

I see perfectionism often in my work, and clients are relieved that someone recognizes their efforts and attention to detail.  You may wonder why a perfectionist needs a Professional Organizer.  The answer is simple.  Perfectionism bogs you down in detail, and can make a task more laborious than it needs to be.  It can also lead to procrastination.

See if you relate to any of the following statements:

– If I don’t have time to organize the whole closet today, I’ll wait until I do.  There’s no sense doing a little at a time.

– I get anxious about starting a project because I don’t know how to do it the right way? Therefore, I’ll devote an inordinate amount of time to planning.

– Once started, my projects take longer than needed because I re-think them or re-work them constantly.

– I often miss deadlines because I am unable to submit a project and be satisfied with the end result.

– I don’t like asking for help and/or showing weakness.

To get moving, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does your effort match the importance of the task?  If not, try dialing it back a notch.
  • Can I break this project down into smaller tasks?  If so, can I be satisfied doing those small tasks well (not perfect)?
  • Is  one of the reasons I haven’t started indecisiveness?  What do I need to know in order to get started?
  • This project or task will take as long as I allow it.  How much time does it deserve?

In closing, I offer you the following new mantras:

– Done is better than perfect.

– I did my best.

– My friends are coming to visit me, not my house.

– My boss is more likely to notice adherence to deadlines than be impressed by how much time I put into a project.

I won’t lie to you.  Change involves stretching your comfort zone, but it comes with rich rewards.

If perfectionism still stands between you and organization, consider hiring a Professional Organizer.  We’re trained to help you clear clutter and teach you systems to help maintain order.

P.S. I always measure twice, but that’s our secret.

Measuring tape


Author: Ellen FayeChallenging Disorganization General Goal Setting Productivity Time Management

Time Control

Time Management TipsEndless Tasks….Overwhelming Pressure….Desire for Results….Knowing there has to be a better way…

Escaping to Waldon Pond or traveling the country via RV are definitely options – but for most of us not viable ones.  Minor adjustments that cumulate for noticeable change are much more desirable.  A few time control techniques I’ve come to count on include:

Minimize Thrashing – Thrashing is the computer science term for when a system spends more time switching from task to task then actually working on the task.  When we spend our time thinking about what we have to do, remembering where we were in the project, and then building up momentum to get results we are thrashing. Nothing is more frustrating than getting to the meat of a project and then having to stop.  I have found the best way to minimize thrashing is to plan substantial chunks of time for a project.  I’ll arrange my schedule to be able to commit 2 or 3 CONTINUOUS hours to the task. While it may be hard to find those uninterruptable hours it sure is worth it when the projects done!

Batching – Grouping small relatable tasks together to create an economy of scale yields tangible results as well.  Large operations do it all the time – think of production lines, or accounts payable departments.  I liken this to stopping for gas when the tank is 3/4 full.  It’s just unnecessary.  Waiting until you have an 1/8 of a tank or even when the empty light comes on (gasp) is more efficient.  Batching work related tasks is more efficient too.  Here are tasks I like to batch:

  • Paying Bills – I pay them on the 1st and 15th of the month.  I don’t think about it at any other time.  I started by putting reminders on my calendar, but now it’s automatic and I just do it.
  • Laundry – 2 big loads twice a week and it’s done.  We have enough cloths that we don’t run out.  I love not thinking about laundry the other days of the week.
  • Phone Calls – not time essential ones, but the annoying ones when you know you’ll have to wait on hold.  Mine get done once a week, and I plan other simple tasks I can do while holding.

Be Ruthless – Saying NO to things that aren’t critical opens up space for the most important things.  Sometimes getting frustrated is the best thing I can do for myself. I look at the mail and just throw all the stuff I didn’t ask for right into the big recycling can.  I look at my email and delete things that just don’t matter. I go through my inbox and pull out the work that has to be done and ditch the rest.  I find people are truly most effective when they remove what isn’t so important – and sometimes the only way to make a big enough impact is to be ruthless. Where can you be ruthless this week?

Try these techniques and see if things are just a bit easier.  I bet you’ll say YES!


Author: Sue FrostDocument Management Filing General Goal Setting Procrastination Productivity Time Management

Do you plan your your time or let life happen? : 7 Questions to help you get back on track

Have you ever made it through the week with the same To Do list you started with?
If the answer is yes, and you’d like to change that, the time has come to ask yourself some honest questions.
Emergencies happen.  People get sick.  The unexpected occurs, but not every week.  If your week ends this way more often than not, you may need a new approach.
Try asking yourself the following questions:
1) Do you keep a running list of “To Do” items?
The number one reason things don’t get done, is that people forget to do them.  Well, maybe that’s just my house.  However, I promise this will help you too.  Notice I say one list, not many lists.
If you’re tech savvy, great.  There are more application than I can shake a stick at.  I love my iPhone Reminder List.
If that’s not for you, a good old binder will do the trick.  From that list, move weekly and daily tasks to your calendar.
2) Are your goals broken down into easily understood tasks that can carried out a few at a time?
This will ensure things get done.  Often we just stall out when we don’t know what to do next.
3) Is saying yes to everything your Kryptonite?
Remember the emergency airplane evacuation analogy.  In order to be of use to others, you must first save yourself.  Depending on propriety, learn to say, “No,” “Not right now,” or “I’m trying to meet a deadline.  Can this wait?”
4) Are you a procrastinator?
Most of us are, some are just better than others. There’s a fun book on the subject called Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy.  The book includes lots of suggestions to get moving.  As the title suggests, sometimes it’s best to get those icky tasks done first.  It makes the rest of the day so much brighter.
5) How much time do you spend reading and responding to phone calls and e-mail?
Try limiting e-mail to two times per day.  Turn the audible alert off too.  Limit calls to what you feel is realistic without impacting your business.  If you’re in the middle of reading or analyzing a project that requires critical thinking and you stop to respond to something else, it takes eight to twelve minutes to achieve critical thought again.  It’s more efficient for you to finish what you started.  Then, return the call when you are able to focus on the caller’s needs.  This also minimizes mistakes.
6) Do you spend a lot of time looking for things?
An inefficient filing system (whether electronic or paper) can be a productivity killer.  Investing just a few hours of time in a simple system will pay you back may times over.  You should be able to put your hands on information in minutes.
7) Have you ever been called a perfectionist?  (I have and I was quite pleased until realizing it wasn’t a compliment.)
It has pros and cons.  Here are some examples of it backfiring:  Wanting things perfect can cause a backlog of filing. A perfectionist may only file when he or she has time for the whole project.  A perfectionist can cause projects to stall out while they gather all the information to make the best decision.  Perfectionism can also cause missed deadlines due to overworking details.  At a certain point efficiency is lost.  My motto for the true perfectionist is, done is better than perfect.
I’ve heard it said that no one gets to the end of their life and wishes they worked more.  So, use your time wisely and mindfully.  Save it for friends and family.  If anything gets in your way, consider hiring a Professional Organizer.