weekly organizing Tips

Brought to you by Beautifully Organized

Streamline Your Morning Routine

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Think about your typical weekday morning – how did that make you feel? Are you relaxed, excited about the possibility of a new day, a blank slate to fill up with new ideas and successes? Or is it a total meltdown of rushing around, yelling at the kid’s to get things done, getting distracted by email or texts, laying in bed too long, hitting the snooze button too many times? If you’re feeling more of the latter read on…

The first step to figuring out WHY your morning digresses into a state of chaos is to figure out what you are doing in the morning. Get out a pad of paper and a pencil or your smart phone. Write down everything you do in your morning routine for the next two weeks. Everything-  if you hit the snooze 4 times, write it down, took 15 minutes to pick out an outfit write it down.

After two weeks look at your list. Sort the items into two categories: 1. essential items (brushing teeth, breakfast, travel time etc.) 2. Non-essential items (picking out clothes, packing lunches etc.)

With this list you can analyze your routine and take out the parts that are holding you back and causing you to be late. I talk about specific examples and ideas for families to get organized in this blog about Back to School Routines. But what you really want to think about is preparing as much as possible the night before.

I still lay my clothes out like I did in school. I have my day planned the night before and I go to bed on time, meaning built in time to read and relax before turning out the lights.

If you have a problem preparing for the night before set a timer for yourself. Give yourself time to plan for the next day. Pick out your outfit, make your lunch, pack your purse or brief case, make sure your keys are where they need to be etc. When the timer goes off you know it’s time to prepare.

One little trick I read recently that was interesting is, if sleep is an issue for you, eat foods that promote sleep at night. Food like turkey, almonds, bananas, honey or potatoes. Click Here for a few more ideas.  Another thought is to switch your largest meal to the middle of the day with a lighter option at night. Food for thought 🙂

Don’t forget to breath in the morning. It sets the tone for the rest of the day so make it happy and positive.

Happy organizing!

**photo credit: freedigitalphotos.net

Get it Done with Actionable To Do’s

To Do folder

I thought this might be an appropriate follow-up to Monday’s blog about Setting Goals for the Soul.  Goal setting is fabulous, but once that goal is set we have to break it down into actionable steps to accomplish that goal, little by little over a set amount of time.

Your first step in this is to create concrete goals. Concrete goals include milestones and measurables so you stay on track and know when the goal has been accomplished. I found that creating goals attached to emotions help me form concrete and meaningful goals. However, you might find mind mapping helpful or simply dumping ideas onto paper and creating goals from there. Whatever your method, make sure the goals are concrete with a system of measuring included.

Once the milestones are set you can write them into your calendar. Once the large milestones are set into your calendar and you’ve picked dates for their completion you can create actionable to do’s around the milestone.

Let’s discuss what constitutes an actionable to do for a moment. You want to take all thinking out of your to do list. Write it as if you were going to hand it some one else to complete. If you need to contact some one write out: “phone so and so and include their number”. Same with email, write: “email so and so and include their email address” Don’t put things on your to do list that you are not ready to complete. Only the next logical steps to any project/milestone should be included on your list. Be bold though, don’t leave things off simply for the sake of avoidance, but be careful not to put so many “hard” task on that you avoid it and feel guilty.

A quick note here. Projects are not to do’s. Projects are a collection of to do’s and should be broken down accordingly. A to do should include one item only. So for example, “clean the basement” should never be on your to do list. What does that even mean? Here is a better way to approach that project with simple tasks: 1. Go into basement 2. create three distinct piles for donation, keep, give to kid’s 3. Clear five basement storage shelves sorting items into the tree categories 4. repeat step 3 as necessary 5. Take boxes to donation 6. pack up kid’s boxes 7. deliver boxes to kid’s house… Get it? There are a lot of steps in “clean the basement” and if you don’t properly think through those steps you are setting yourself up for failure. The success is in the planning, seriously!

Another thing to consider is a concept I read about called “micro movements” these are tasks that take 5 minutes or less to complete and they create micro movement in accomplishing your goals. Think phone calls, emails, ordering a gift for your mom’s birthday, setting up your credit card on auto pay so you stop paying late fees etc. There are endless micro movements we could take advantage of in our daily life that would bring a huge sense of accomplishment – in five minutes or less. Think of three you could do today!

Ok, so now it’s time to put your list together. Gather your goals with clear milestones and lay out your next week of to do’s. Try to keep your list under 20 items with a goal of 3-5 to do’s a day. When you scratch off those 3-5 add another 3-5 and now you have a running to do list with current and meaningful actionable items to complete to help you accomplish your goals.

Remember this is a living, ever changing list, you can’t just write it and forget it. Set aside 20 minutes every Friday or Monday to review your to do’s. Further break down any items or take some time to purge items no longer relevant or maybe put onto the list too early and have been hanging out for a long time.

This is a process and it might take time to adapt. Be kind to yourself as you begin to see your to do list in a new more effective way.

Happy Organizing!

 

**photo credit: freedigitalphotos.net

Setting Goals for the Soul

puzzle pieces

With January comes a new year. With a new year comes a slew of new goals for me. Every year I will sit down and write things like: grow my business by 20%, pay off my student loan, Visit one new place this year. These are good, but they don’t get me very excited. They become these words that hang over my head for the next 6 – 12 months and then I usually feel like I didn’t shoot high enough or I disappointed myself by not fully achieving this goal I wrote on paper months earlier.

I searched out a new method this year. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but when I found it I knew. I found a video on Lifehacker.com that talked about creating goals around the way I want to feel. I watched the video and thought about this concept for a few weeks. I couldn’t stop thinking this video. Creating goals around the way I want to feel, brilliant!

So how does this work? Well, the idea comes from Danielle Laporte. You can find more info about her and her book, The Desire Map, at daniellelaporte.com She started it all by writing an emotion on a post it note, sticking it in her day timer and keeping it there for years to remind her as she moved through her day, week and year… years… how she wanted to feel. She would arrange her goals and to do’s around that feeling.

When she started to arrange her day around the way she wanted to feel she discovered she was happier, calmer, more successful and fulfilled. She calls these emotions: Core Desired Feelings.

There were three areas she suggested you focus on your core desired feelings:

1. Lifestyle/Livelihood

2. Body/Wellness

3. Relationship & Society

To get started write down every feeling word you associate with these three areas. Danielle suggests staying away from BIG words with stigmas around them like, success or confidence. Narrow those words down, look up their meanings in the dictionary and find words that give you a little buzz when you look at them. Don’t allow outside influences to form your reality – meaning, don’t let the Jones’ determine your goals, set your goals based on what sets your fire.

Now narrow that list down to 3-7 feelings – these are your Core Desired Feelings. Once you have those feelings written down and you are buzzing from the excitement of making those feelings a reality or strengthening their presence in your life, ask yourself, “What can I do to make sure I feel those core desired feelings every day?” and “What do I need to do, have or experience to create my core desired feelings?” From those questions, with a focus on your core desired feelings, you will create goals that are meaningful with emotion associated with them.

Don’t clutter your goals, give them room to breath and grown. Set 1 – 3 goals for the year. Set big goals that get you excited. Don’t be afraid of failure, Danielle reminds us, we learn through contrast and some of our greatest accomplishments rise from the ashes of failure.

I went through this exercise and my four Core Desired Feelings are: Sturdy (powerful), Love, Grace (balance), Resilience. With those Core Desired Feelings I have created meaningful goals for 2014 and I know this will be my best year yet.

I encourage you to think about goal setting in a new way. Remove the mental clutter that blocks you from creating meaningful change in your life and go do big things!

Happy 2014 and Happy Organizing!

Beginners Guide to Life Hacking

One of my all time favorite sites is Lifehacker.com If you’ve never checked it out, I highly recommend it. I find tips and tricks on there all the time from organizing to technical to parenting it covers everything! So, I thought it would be fun to share my latest life hack!

I constantly struggle with cords in my house. Between the iPhone, iPad, laptops, iPods, hard drives, camera cords….. our cord basket looked like this…

Messy cords

Wow! I know, how did I ever find anything in there? It usually came with frustration and a few choice words. Then with a little luck I untangled whatever I was looking for and them threw it back in the bin.

Well not anymore…

Organized cords

With a few empty TP rolls or paper towel rolls cut in half, I now have an organized, functional cord bin. I can find and put anything away, quick! It took me about two weeks to collect the rolls and all of 15 minutes to untangle the cords and put them back in the bin.

This was a fun simple project. And probably one of the best hacks I’ve done so far.

Here’s an article to get you started on a life hack or two of your own, it’s where I got the TP roll cord holder idea! Share your hacks in the comment section, I’d love to see them!

Happy organizing!

Step-By-Step Garland Making

Garland

I’m getting crafty today with a step-by-step video to make garland for your home this holiday. I moved into a new home last year with a fabulous fireplace and mantle that was begging to be draped in a luscious green garland for the holiday season. I put together this video for you to follow along and make your own garland for you home. Garland can be used anywhere, not just on the fireplace. Think about garland as a table center, on a ledge or over a door. It smells amazing and gives any home an instant holiday update.

Click Here to watch the video!

I would love to see pictures of your garland in the comments below.  Happy Holidays!

Happy Organizing!

Functional Filing Cabinet

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As I promised last week I am going to offer tips and tricks for your filing system. This is how I process my files, however, with that said, I am trying to go as paperless as possible so I’ve trimmed my needs way down. I’m working on a post for that and will offer tips and tricks to get your home or office paperless as well – it’s coming, I promise.

First things first, as with every organizing project, you must sort through existing files and paperwork determining what you have and purging what you no longer need. Consider your needs and what is available online. There is no need to keep a paper with information you can find online – utility bills, phone bills, payments made through online banking, just to name a few. Once you have your files whittled down and other papers that might be lying around the house without a home together you’re ready to create your system.

I have my filing cabinet set up in two organizational strategies, color and categories. The colors help me quickly identify the category and the label on the folder helps me identify exactly what it is. For my personal files I have four general categories: Shared, Sage, Jeff, my husband and Jackson, my step-son. Any purple file is mine, which helps me quickly identify my personal files. Within the shared personal files, all yellow folders, I have items like: Insurance, Warranties, Travel, Household, Pending, Bills, Harry (our dog) and Car. Two things I would like to point out in my shared files: Pending and Bills. Pending means it is actively being worked on and is not complete. This is not a file to stuff things in and forget about them. This is an active file that needs a thorough review once a month on minimum. It can be an effective organizing tool if used properly. Notice I just have a file for bills not individual files for bills. For the paper bills I receive, which are only a few, I only keep the previous month’s bill. When I receive the next month’s I review the information to make sure everything is correct and I either shred the old one or file it with taxes if I can write it off.

My personal files include: bank accounts, canadian residency, personal documents and taxes. The only thing to point out for this is the taxes file is the current year of taxes. I keep information in this file to pass along to my accountant at the end of the year. Once it is filed I keep all previous tax filings in a separate archived folder. I keep my personal files simple and streamlined only keeping the most necessary paperwork.

For my business files I have marketing in green, administration in blue, clients yellow and banking in purple. I am just as lean with my business files as I am with my personal. If I don’t have to keep it on paper I recycle it. I keep my files general as most of the paperwork is used for end of the year taxes. In marketing I have strategy, ideas and reports. In administration I have labeled one file with the current year and any administration paperwork would go into that folder. I also have a POC folder for the trade organization I belong to. My client folders have shrunk over the years as I have started keeping electronic files of client appointments and interactions. In the purple banking folders, again I have them labeled by year and any banking receipts or statements go into this folder. I also keep an accordion folder with receipts for tax purposes sorted by month. I don’t think the sorting by month is necessary, but it makes me feel better.

As a general rule when considering categories and file names keep it simple. Go for broad categories that are easy to remember and only keep the most necessary information. If it can be found online get rid of it.

I found a few sites with good info about what paperwork you need to keep and what can go. Check these out for general guidelines, but check with your accountant for your specific needs before starting. Purge Paper ClutterManaging Household Records and How Long to Keep Documents

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Ok, now that you have your guidelines on what to keep and what can go it’s time to start purging those files! Be ruthless. Paper is a monster and quickly multiplies so don’t hold back.

Once you have your paperwork purged and your categories selected you’re ready to set up the filing cabinet. The supplies you need are hanging folders, filing folders in different colors and file labels. Use one hanging folder per file. Even if you think there is room for more than one file. It will prevent files from sticking together and give you room to grow without reorganizing the whole cabinet. Give each general category a different color folder. If you have to reuse colors try to keep them out of the same drawer to ease confusion.

Once your system is set up test it. Live with it for a few weeks and see how it functions. The most important thing is that you use it. You actually open it up and file things. I keep a weeks worth of filing in a basket. I add to it as mail comes in, receipts are generated or general paperwork needs to be filed. Every Thursday evening I pull the basket out and file everything away. The filing system will only work if you work with it. Now, last step, open up your calendar and schedule an appointment with yourself in six months to purge your files again. The good news is it will be a quick process because you just did all of the hard work. Also don’t be afraid to add folders as you need them. Tame that crazy paper monster that creeps into your house and get a good filing system working for you!

I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions. Leave your file success stories or questions in the comments below.

Happy Organizing!

Increase Workspace Function in 15 Minutes

Desk before and after

Today I have a quickie, but a goodie! Sometimes the simplest solutions have the largest impact.

Whether you work from home or in an office this tip is for you.

At the end of the day give yourself 10-15 minutes to clear off your desk preparing it for the next day. When your desk is cluttered your mind is cluttered and when that happens you can kiss productivity good bye.

Above is a before and after of my desk at the end of the day. I keep piles there to remind me what I need to do/file/note etc. once that activity is complete I dispose of the paper or file it. Paper is the biggest villain in an office and if you can come up with solutions to tame it daily you will be in control of it in no time. Cleaning up your workspace every day is a great place to start. You will see the difference 15 minutes a day can make.

Try it for a week and see how you feel. Need help setting up a filing system? Check out my tip next week for step by step instructions to set up a simple functional system.

Small changes everyday can help you tame clutter and get your desk back under your control. Notice the difference it makes in your day and your productivity level.

Happy organizing!

Shorten your to do list and get more done

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It been a while since I gave an organizing tip, what can I say? It’s been a busy few months. Between client work, an event I’m planning for the Spring and household duties, my to do list is overflowing. Some days I feel like burying my head in my pillow and forgetting the ever growing list. However, like most things in our lives, if we don’t take care of them they don’t go away they grow and create even more stress and anxiety.

My problem can be that sometimes I overbook myself and I become so overwhelmed that I don’t get half of my list done and then I feel bad. Stop feeling bad and cut your list back. Don’t overbook yourself – that’s a recipe for failure before you even start your day.

I was discussing this with my husband a few weeks ago and he had a brilliant solution. He takes his top three priorities every day, writes them down where he could see them and focused on completing those tasks everyday. Brilliant!

This is a solution everyone can try. If you focus on the top three things that need to happen everyday then you will always move projects and to dos along. It might feel like a slow process somedays, but try it for a week and see what you accomplish.

I would love to know if you try this system and if it works for you.

Happy organizing!

Sell Online Items Faster with Standout Photos

Camera2One of the most effective ways to remove items you no longer need, use or love from your home is to sell it online. This could mean online through Craigslist, Kijiji, Ebay, Etsy or any of the other numerous sites. A good picture will make it much more likely that your item will sell.

First – make sure the item is clean, in good condition and ready to have its closeup. Clean up the area around pieces if you can’t move them to a clear area. Nothing turns a buyer off like a bunch of clutter around the piece for sale.

Second – choose a neutral background. If the item is small enough, create an inexpensive DIY light box. From a cardboard box cut off one side. Then add white paper on the remaining sides – including the bottom. Clip a clamp light on top of the box so there are no shadows on the object you’re photographing. Here’s a great video tutorial.

With larger items hang a white curtain and clip on a clamp light  or two to shine lights from different angles to get the desired lighting effect.

With great lighting you are 99% of the way to great online photos. The last thing to consider is what to take a photo of.

For clothing: Tags – both on the clothing or store tags if the garment was never worn. Close-up of any detail. Don’t forget a full shot of the front AND back.

For Furniture: Any designer stamps, unique detailing, different angles, any imperfections.

Use this as a general guideline when shooting other objects. The basic idea is to give the buyer as much information as possible to help them make their decision.

Don’t forget to include important details in the post to compliment the picture. Size, condition and brand. Type of materials, measurements and quality details. Again, the more information the better.

Go for it! List a thing or two and see what happens!

Happy Organizing!

**photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Out Smart Procrastination

9-03 Procrastination

Ok, here’s a dirty secret – I was a HUGE procrastinator. I waited until the last minute to do things, leave the house, finish a project. I used to think of it as a challenge, a fun little personal task. When asked the dreaded, “What would you say is your weakest quality?” question in an interview, I would answer, “Procrastination.” but I would follow it up with, “I work great under pressure.” And I do. However, I have discovered that when you give yourself enough time – meaning more time than you think you need, it actually makes everything more relaxing and enjoyable.

As a human you are programmed to procrastinate. It’s our nature, we all do it. So, now that we no longer have to feel guilty about it what can you do about it?

I’ve tried a lot of things, including, blocking off my calendar so it looks like a rainbow fun pop of to do’s and obligations during the day. Here’s the thing, best intentions don’t always lead to improved actions so I am going to share a few tips that I used to outsmart procrastination.

Figure out your natural schedule. Decide when you like to do certain things and when you are most productive. For example. I have discovered that if I work out in the morning, check email and get ready, then start working I am a much happier and more productive person. I then find that if I do something active in the afternoon: a walk with my dog, yoga, working in the yard etc. then work after that I am also a happier, more productive person. So, I have scheduled my day and the priorities I have to finish around that schedule. If you are in an office decide the times you are most productive and take advantage of that time. Then allow yourself some slack time or time to do less taxing priorities in the areas around those natural energy bursts.

Next, block those websites that pull you into a black vortex where time stands still and you come out knowing a bit about your friend’s weekend, the latest youtube sensation or checking in on the latest news story… Set a temporary website block with programs like Temporary on Google Crome. It’s a free app for your computer that allows you to temporarily block websites so you can’t view them in the specified amount of time that you set. If you can’t see it you can’t view it so you have no choice but to work.

Also, turn off your email and anything that beeps, dings or chimes on your phone. We are like Pavlov’s Dog. We respond to those noises very well and we go searching for our treat. Cut it off and silence it.

This next option is a little less strict than Temporary. Time Warp, another Google Chrome app for your computer that will allow you to set three different “wormholes”

Option 1: Redirect: Takes you to the most productive site you specify

Option 2:  Quote: Shows your most motivative quote

Option 3: Timer: Displays the amount of time you spent on the site today

It’s an interesting options that I have just installed on my computer and plan to use soon. So clever over there at Google.

Last, is sheer will power. You have to focus on something larger and more important than the present moment to push you through whatever it is you have to get done.  Here are a few Time Saving ideas to get you started. Also, I always tell myself that whatever I’m dreading will not be as hard as I anticipant and the truth is it usually isn’t. And it feels so good to have it done!

Happy Organizing!

** photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net