Posted in Uncategorized on August 23, 2011 |
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Whether it’s at home or at work, the #1 complaint most of my clients have is paper clutter. So, how do you set up a functional home office space and what systems can you put in place to help keep it all in control?
First of all, you need an easily accessible and user-friendly place to store your necessary papers. Whether you have a busy family or a home-based business, chances are you have a mountain of paper to deal with – magazines, newspapers, school notices, community newsletters, bills, and on and on! So, basically you will need a file cabinet and a work surface. The ideal layout for a workspace is in the shape of an L or a U. If you can get a desk with file drawers built into the desk this is a great way to save space. If not, I prefer a 2-drawer lateral file cabinet as they give you an extra work surface. In addition, a storage cabinet with shelving and doors to hide it all away is a perfect place to store office supplies, magazines and other items.
Now for the systems – where do you put incoming paperwork, where do you put action items, where do you put paperwork that needs filing, where do you put outgoing items? Remember the key to staying organized is to have a place for everything. Therefore, you need to set up the following:
- An ‘IN’ tray or wall pocket for anything you haven’t touched yet.
- Hanging file folders or a literature sorter for ‘IN PROCESS’. Label folders or slots according to they type of action you need to take. For example: ‘Call’, ‘Read’, ‘Pay’, etc.
- Items that are complete and need to be filed should be put away in the appropriate file immediately to avoid the tendency to say, “I’ll file it later” and then ending up with a huge pile of filing that becomes a tedious job. If you do it as you go you will never have a ‘To File’ pile. So, an easy-to-use filing system is essential.
- An ‘OUT’ tray or wall pocket for complete items that need to be mailed our passed along to someone else.
Many people struggle with the initial set up, as this is not a skill we are taught in school. Hiring a professional organizer to help you set up the space and the systems can be extremely beneficial in your long-term success. And remember, statistics show that we normally refer to 20% of the information we keep 80% of the time!
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Posted in Uncategorized on August 8, 2011 |
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Now that I have recovered from the U2 concert in Moncton, I’ve got some interesting observations about what some of us consider fun. It seems that I am one of those people who thinks that following all the steps required to attend a rock concert with 74,999 of my closest friends is fun. Here’s the ‘To Do’ list:
- Round up 2 or 3 girlfriends (my better half hates crowds)
- Buy tickets
- Get in the car and drive 3 hours in a torrential downpour
- Stop at the Big Stop restaurant for a big meal (no food until later)
- Arrive somewhere in the vicinity of Magnetic Hill concert site
- Find a place to park (only $30 a steal!)
- Walk 30 mins. or so uphill to get to the concert site
- Stand in a lineup for 15 mins. to get to the gates
- Hike through the mud (oh boy, now the fun really begins)
- Take a deep breath and head down the hill to see how close we can get to the stage (more mud)
- Stand in the mud for an hour waiting for U2 to take the stage
- Jump up and down in the mud for over 2 hours – what a show!
- Hike up the hill in the mud (made worse by the 74,999 other people)
- Wait for 30 mins. in a lineup to get out the gates (yikes, that’s a lot of people)
- Walk another 30 mins. to get back to the car
- Take off mud soaked clothing in the dark in the parking lot and put on clean clothes (good idea girls!)
- Take the back road to avoid all the traffic snaffoo’s (is that a word?)
- Drive 3 hours back to Halifax
- Arrive home at 5:15 am
- Fall into bed
Only 20 steps required – now that’s my idea of a good time! Every single sore muscle I had for the next 2 days was so worth it. I’d do it again on a moment’s notice, I think - anybody care to join me?
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Posted in Uncategorized on August 5, 2011 |
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You guessed it, my struggle during this time of year is what to do about vacation. Somehow, in the old days, when I worked for someone else it was so much easier – I had no choice. However, now that I own my own business I do have a choice. One would think that the freedom of being able to take time off whenever you want would be an amazing thing.
However, as many of you small business owners out there know, taking vacation is filled with feelings of guilt instead. I notice that some of my associates who have children are really good at just taking the entire summer off, again partially because they have no choice but partially because being with your children all summer definitely does not leave you riddled with guilt. It seems to be a very acceptable and well-founded decision.
So, why is it that when I, with no children, decide it’s summer and I really want to take a couple of weeks off I just can’t seem to do it? The knot in my stomach begins to form, the really annoying little voice in my head starts chattering and I cave and delete those days I had marked in my calendar as ‘Vacation’. How dare I think I can take two weeks off? Who’s going to pay the bills? What if I miss an opportunity to work with a client? What if a new client calls during that time? What if the sky falls in? And so on and so on . . .
And then there’s the neverending ‘To Do’ list that could get done while I’m ‘on vacation’. The idea here is that I tell my clients I’m taking a week off and then I hide in my office and work on all those projects that are listed on the big white board (actually it’s silver, kinda cool, huh?). It tells me I have some website revisions to do, I have a new workshop series to pull together for the fall, I have a trip to Newfoundland in September, and so on and so on . . .
But wait, it’s summer. Summer in Nova Scotia only lasts a few weeks. I need to take advantage of it or just like last year it will be over and I will not have taken any time off. OK, here goes. I’m booking off the last week of July and making plans to do things with people so I’m committed. I’m also taking off a week in mid August and actually have already booked to go away for two days at the beginning of that week so surely that will force me to complete the week since my brain will already be on vacation.
I’m liking the sounds of this already. Let’s all be sure to take some vacation this summer. I’m convinced we’ll be thankful we did when it’s all said and done. The work will still be there when we return, won’t it? Apparently vacation is good for my health and wellbeing – imagine that.
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Posted in Uncategorized on July 22, 2011 |
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Summer is finally here and I'm getting really tired of working 7 days a week. It's so easy to get sucked into doing that especially when you run your own business. If I continue to do it summer will be over and I'll have missed it. So, I've made a commitment to try to stop working on the weekends at least until the fall.
Now, I have to figure out how to do that. I actually do know how to do that because I preach it to my clients all the time. It's based on the concept that if you think you have ample time to get things done, the things you have to do will expand to fill the time. Whereas, if you set yourself a limit like I have to get everything done between Monday morning and Friday afternoon, you will be amazed at how quickly you can accomplish tasks and projects.
Think about how much you get done before you go on vacation. If you're taking a week or two off you have a bunch of things that you 'have to' get done before then and you just do it. You might have to adopt the 'done is better than perfect' philosophy in order to accomplish this and you may have to decide to drop a few things altogether – yikes!
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It's been an interesting couple of weeks to say the least. I have helped two clients move in a two-week period and I have to say that I feel like I have been run over by a very large truck!
Moving, as we all know, is one of those major life events. Major life events are coupled with stress – lots of stress. I seem to have successfully absorbed at least 50 per cent of the stress of both of these moves on behalf of my clients. Whew! Remind me to never move. Ever!
Now that the moves are both complete, and I have the time to sit back, nurse a hundred sore muscles, and take a breath, I am increasingly fascinated by life and stuff and how they are connected. Moving, of course, either makes us feel that we should go through all of our stuff and minimize what we take to our next abode or simple ignore how much we have, pack every last possession and take it with us intending to go through it all 'someday'. One of my clients was so in the right place to go through every clsoet, drawer and box it was truly a pleasure to be a part of the process. When someone is ready to shed the past and move forward with no 'baggage', it is truly a transformational process. The new house feels light and airy and truly a happy place to be. Amazingly, every piece of furniture we chose to keep looks like it belongs in the new house – which it never really did in the old house.
The other move I helped organized didn't go nearly as smoothly as the first. I now attribute that to the fact that the client kept way too much stuff from the past and just couldn't go through everything, choosing instead to send piles of old furniture and dozens of boxes of 'stuff' to a large storage locker all the while telling me that it just wasn't the right time to truly let go of everything. I believe that a lot of what arrived in the new house carried with it the energy of the past and the new place just doesn't feel right.
At the end of the fourth day of this move, as we were unpacking in the new house, my client and I did have a discussion about the quantity of 'stuff' kept and how slowly and perhaps painfully going through a box at a time might enable a shift to a brighter future. I really believe that lightening the load and shedding the pounds of clutter does enable us to gradually emerge on the other side of the clutter and 'stuff' in a new place and ready for wahtever life brings. I am still amazed by our propensity to collect and collect and collect, filling our houses full of 'stuff' only to move and have to get rid of all the 'stuff' we worked so hard to collect.
What would like be like if we just stopped the collecting? – Jane Veldhoven, Professional Organizer
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Posted in Goal Setting, Home Office Organizing, Home Organizing, Learning, Office Organizing, Planning, Procrastination, Small Business, Time Management, Training, Uncategorized, Wellbeing, tagged balance, Change, Clutter Free, Control, Home Office, Organizing, Paper, Piles, Planning, Procrastination, productivity, Small Business, Time Management, Training on June 26, 2011 |
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I am fascinated by how the concept of ‘good enough’ relates to being organized and our many attempts to be what we perceive as ‘well organized’. What does being organized mean to you? Most likely not the same as it does to your spouse, your best friend or your children.
What if, instead of constantly striving to be more organized, better organized or even, heaven forbid, perfectly organized we strove for ‘good enough’. According to Sarah Hampson the author of an article entitled, The Secret to happiness? Live a ‘good enough’ life, “. . . when you don’t expect much, when you manage the ideas of what you think your life should be, you can be pleasantly surprised – and grateful – for the good fortune that comes your way.”
Somehow this sounds like lowering expectations, reducing the standards of what is acceptable and seems to me like settling for mediocrity. Not acceptable to someone like me who is a recovering perfectionist and still battling with doing my ‘best’ instead of striving for ‘perfect’. So, the concept of good enough doesn’t sit well with me but I know for many of you it might be just what you need.
If your kitchen drawers are organized so that you can find what you need but you don’t have those fancy dividers that you saw in a friends kitchen that might just be good enough? If your clothes are all hanging up but not on matching hangers is that good enough? If your papers are all off the floor and in tidy piles on your desk where you can put your fingers on what you need that might just be good enough. If your email inbox is down to 50 messages, instead of 500, maybe that is good enough?
I like the idea of good enough as opposed to perfectly organized as it does allow us to lower our expectations of what organized means and move towards a level of organization that is achievable. I think this concept is especially important for those who don’t like to spend their time organizing or find it difficult to know when to stop organizing.
What we see in magazines and on television is often not realistic and perhaps that is where some of our expectations of perfectly organized come from? Have you ever noticed the desk in the corner of the living room on a makeover show with a computer on it but not a single cord in sight nor a stitch of paper – no matter how organized we are our space will never look like that so perhaps lowering our expectations is exactly what the doctor ordered!
Everything in life seems to come back to deciding what matters most. As long as your home and office are organized ‘enough’ so that you can function effectively and enjoy your space, forget about what others may think and go with what works for you. I think the summer is the perfect time to try some ‘good enough’ thinking – at least for you my dear readers even if not for me!
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Most time management experts agree that many of us get to the end of a week and wonder where it’s gone and why we haven’t accomplished anything significant. Each and every time I work with a client to teach them the planning process, I realize I could do a better job of it myself.
Why is it that we put off planning even though we know that the most successful businesses and individuals dedicate time to planning weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually without fail?
In my experience working with dozens of clients on becoming more effective and figuring out how to get the ‘right’ things done we discover that no planning takes place each week therefore the important activities slip through the cracks in favour of the urgent activities or the priorities thrust upon us by others.
So, here’s what you might want to do to start to ensure that important activities and projects are on your radar and that you delegate more effectively:
- Block 1 to 2 hours with yourself in your calendar every Friday afternoon
- Start the weekly planning process by going back over the current week and looking for any promises you made to others. Note them on your ‘To Do’ list or in your calendar
- Look forward to the coming week and do the same
- Go through each item on your ‘To Do’ list and decide which ones you will do this week and which ones someone else could do for you
- Go over all of the other major projects on your plate and block time with yourself to move them forward
Do this faithfully every single week and you will become more productive.
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Once again this year it was my privilege to support our local Dress for Success here in Halifax, Nova Scotia by attending the annual Tea Party. The goal of this year’s event was to raise nearly $50,000 to support disadvantaged women, many of them single parents.
A fun afternoon of inspiring speeches, fabulous hats, psychic readings, a shopping party and the latest fashions from talented designer Lisa Drader Murphy of Turbine and all in the company of 400 other women, it’s an event not to be missed. Each year I round up a group of girlfriends, clients and business associates to help me fill a table as part of my yearly committment to supporting this worthy cause.
According to their website, “The mission of Dress for Success is to promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support, and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life. Since 2001, Dress for Success Halifax has assisted more than 900 women in making a tailored transition into the workforce.”
Dress for Success Halifax has more than 40 volunteers in HRM and could not operate without them. These volunteers include the Board of Directors, personal shoppers, fundraising, and Professional Womens Group (PWG).
Suiting for Confidence is their signature program where interview-appropriate attire and accessories are provided to women seeking employment who are unable to afford the clothing they need to make a great first impression. Women come from many referral agencies including domestic violence agencies, homeless shelters and job-training programs.
Not only can we help by donating our lightly used professional clothing to Dress for Success and by volunteering but we can also offer financial support as well as perhaps offering to lead a training session for the PWG. In addition, groups of women often get together and hold a fundraising event specifically for Dress for Success. A clothing swap with an admission fee or jewellry party is always a fun way to get together with the girls and help a great cause.
Thank you to everyone who helped me support Dress for Success again this year. Stay tuned for more information on the Kick It Up event this fall.
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It occurs to me this week that having a nasty cold brings home the necessity for having time ‘buffers’ built into your schedule because you never know what might throw your careful plans off the rails. Like getting sick, for example.
I often encourage my clients to start projects well in advance of their completion due date simply because there is no better feeling than having something finished a little bit early. And it gives you the opportunity for a few last minute ‘tweaks’. I hadn’t really thought of doing this in order to plan for the unexpected as well. We always allow ‘open’ time in the weekly plan for those things you don’t know about but are invariably going to drop into your world demanding to be done in a rush.
How much time should you allow as an additional ‘buffer’? I honestly don’t know the answer to that question. Out of a 5-day week should you build in an extra day? Seems reasonable enough. If, heaven forbid, you get everything you planned to do completed (never happens to me but I suppose it could) then you’ve likely got more ‘To Do’s’ on your list that you can get started on.
Once every couple of months I have the chance to actually get a little ahead on the ‘To Do’ list which automatically creates a bit of a ‘buffer’. Some items that were on my list for two weeks out may get done this week thereby clearing some space for the unexpected or that nasty bug!
And when I’m creating my schedule for the coming week I try to leave at least a 1/2 day with nothing planned. Every single time someone or something comes along and fills up that ‘open’ slot, never fails. So, if I didn’t have that what would I have done? Likely I would have jammed my schedule to overflowing and then stressed myself out because I took on too much. Sound familiar?
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Posted in Record Keeping, Time Management, Uncategorized, tagged Blackberry, Calendar, Change, Organizing, Paper, Paper-Based, Planner, Planning, productivity, Time Management on January 23, 2011 |
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I think I’m in ‘like’ with my new Blackberry Style but not yet in ‘love’ with it. Wow, do I have a whole new understanding for what many of my clients have gone through over the last few years as we switch from a paper planner to these wonderful electronic devices. I am suffering from ‘paper calendar withdrawal’ symptoms – who knew it would be so difficult.
I suppose I should lay blame with the Tony at Priority Management who taught me oh so well to be totally reliant on my paper system back in 1993 – eeks, that’s a long time ago, no wonder I’m having such a hard time. Now I understand why so many people have an electronic and a paper calendar system – it’s hard to teach yourself not to automatically go for the paper planner and open it up to glance at that big monthly calendar and the weekly To Do’s all nicely organized by day.
So, the first two weeks I had my Blackberry, you guessed it, I kept the paper planner too and spent an inordinate amount of time entering all my appointments and tasks in both places. Oh boy, that did not make me a happy girl. There is nothing I hate more than wasting time getting myself organized. I’m all about quick and simple when it comes to keeping track of where I have to be and what I have to do when. So I tried entering everything in my computer (which syncs beautifully with my BB by the way) and then printing out my calendar and tasks.
Suddenly I realized what I was doing – why on earth was I wasting trees printing all the information that was already in two places – my computer calendar and my Blackberry? It was difficult to explain the compulsion that drove me to keep looking for these things in my planner. I suppose it has been almost like an extension of my body for over 15 years. I never went anywhere without it, ever. Well, maybe on the weekends when I wasn’t working I left it in my office.
I am pleased to report that I am gradually weaning myself off my paper planner but I’m telling you it certainly isn’t easy. I still have to carry around client files and reference information during the week so my plan is to purchase a new binder to carry those items in so I can finally free myself once and for all from a paper-based organizing system. Fingers crossed that it all works more efficiently and effectively in the end.
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