September is Self Improvement Month, so the 5-Minute Organizing Challenge is focused on brief activities that will help you develop yourself. The mini-challenges will help you get organized and they will each take just five minutes to complete.
- Organize a “junk drawer.” Usually transforming any “junky” area of your home will make you feel better, and it can build your confidence to tackle larger areas. Try starting with the most cluttered drawers in your home. Put like things together and find a way to separate items into categories. If you have drawer dividers or expandable sliders, use them to help you separate your categories.
- Make your bed & put your clothes away. If your room is more a sanctuary than a war zone, you will feel calmer and more relaxed overall. Take time to make sure the room you wake up and go to sleep in is well kept. You can start by getting stray clothes off the floor and putting them away.
- Identify places and/or individuals to receive things you give away. Spend five minutes creating a list of intended beneficiaries. It’s often easier to get rid of excess things if you can visualize other people getting good use from them. There is often no shortage of people in need and non-profit charity organizations can be worthy causes you can donate to.
- Start removing things you don’t use. Be cautious about letting yourself accumulate too many things because you’ll need to always find a permanent place to store them. And, sometimes storing things means you don’t plan on using them often. Spend time purging a small area like a closet, scanning for & removing things will not be used in the next six months. If it’s not something you need on a seasonal basis, consider parting with it.
- Do an “evening clean up” before bedtime. Spend five minutes tidying up areas like your desk, living room, or bedroom. Take dishes to the kitchen sink, stack paperwork neatly, and put things where they belong. If you make this a daily habit, you’ll feel much more organized and prepared for the next day.
What other challenges can you complete in five minutes or less to feel more organized and fulfilled?
Fridays are usually reserved for the regular Organize to Revitalize! Fact Friday post (more on that in a minute). This is a bit of a station break to announce how EXCITED I am that OTR is celebrating its 6-year blogiversary!
I didn’t know what to expect when I started blogging and, in some ways, I still don’t know what will come my way. But, what I do know is that I’m grateful for anyone who reads and supports this blog. THANK YOU for sticking around with us.
Of course, a HUGE thank you goes out to all the regular blog writers (did you notice that a few more bloggers have joined the team since last year?) …
… and guest bloggers who have put fingers to keyboard to create some meaty pieces of content.
Ok, so now back to our regular programming! But, instead of just sharing one organizing or productivity statistic, today I present you with a round up of 10 Fact Friday posts for your reading pleasure.
Btw, here’s the very first Fact Friday post that was published on March 13, 2009 — Fact Friday: Productivity and Multitasking. Don’t you just love the graphic? =)
Ugh. I can’t find anything in here!
Oh no, where’s that file on ________?
There’s no place for me to put the new printer.
I’m in a rush. Let me look for the folder later.
Folders here, folders there, stacked up on the desk, credenza and the floor as well. Piles of paperwork perched on pretty much every surface, knickknacks scattered here and there, endless post-it notes stuck to the walls, computer monitor and pretty much anywhere else on which they can stick.
Get the picture? Sure, you do.
Your cluttered office is a situation out of control and bound to cause lost time, increased stress (well, how would you feel if you couldn’t lay your hands on that important file), and perhaps even resulting in lost clients.
Not good? I agree and I apologize for the militaristic analogy, but it is time to wage war on the clutter that is encroaching on your office.
This is also a BIG topic. Since I have lots of tips to share, I’ve divided up the information into two separate posts. For this first one, read below about specific steps you can take to reclaim the space in your cluttered office NOW.
6 Steps to Organize Your Office
1. Pick a start date. The first order of business is to identify a day or time when you are going to be able to start work on this issue. It’s impossible to have the mental bandwidth to work on your de-cluttering project if you are in the middle of a big deadline or are over your head with projects that must be executed.
Sure, your workload is probably adding to the clutter, but cut yourself a break. You can’t attend to this if you have clients waiting for their materials. But, make no mistake about it, you have to do it sometime and so the very best thing to do is to schedule a date for the cleanup. Be sure that you don’t come up with any excuses for not getting it done. It’s perfectly okay to clear the clutter in stages, but you must do enough to feel that you have made some progress.
2. Get the right supplies. Make certain that you have the right supplies to aid in the project. A small wastepaper basket that you have by your desk is not going to cut it. Bring in some large garbage bags and small cartons and label each one:
- To do
3. Be ready mentally. Get yourself mentally set for the task at hand. You have to be prepared to throw out those things that you no longer need and aren’t useful for your business. Knickknacks and photos are fine, but we have all gone into offices that bear a strong resemblance to ye ole curio shoppe or a portrait gallery. It’s certainly fine to have a few treasured items around the office, but too many, well, is just too many.
4. Ask questions as you sort. As you go through your work papers and files, ask yourself these important questions:
- When was the last time I looked at or used this item?
- Is it easy for me to get a duplicate (should I ever need it)?
- Is this information readily available on the Internet?
5. Clear your space. As you complete each round of decluttering, remove all that is being discarded. Then continue to sort the to do pile.
- File the information that must be kept
- Add tasks to your to-do list
- Schedule time immediately for tasks that are high priorities
6. Create a system. Create an organizing system for managing those papers that will be kept. It should be customized for your personality, work situation, and personal preferences. There isn’t a one size fits all solution … don’t be afraid to be creative!
Remember, this is Part One. I hope that I have given you enough ammunition to get started and make some headway in your office. In Part Two, I’ll be sharing some additional steps you can take that will make your office space truly clutter-free, and give you back the time that you’ve had to spend searching for missing files and paperwork.
Do these scenarios sound familiar?
The day of your big presentation, your child is sick.
You plan on being home for dinner with your family, but Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday turn out to be crisis days at the office.
You have to leave work early to pick up your child from school.
While on vacation with your family, you get an unexpected and urgent call from your boss.
Work-life balance can be a struggle, especially for families. Statistics show that “among the 89 percent of Americans who say work-life balance is a problem, 54 percent called it a ‘significant’ problem.” Do you need some ideas on how to create a better balance? Below are four tips to consider incorporating into your life.
4 Work-Life Balance Tips
1. Set a Work Schedule
- Start your work day earlier than your colleagues. Arriving early gives you time to create a plan for your day. It’s an undistracted time to get your priorities accomplished.
- Set a designated work late night. Working late every night is a problem for families. Designating one night a week gives you quiet time to work at the office. Working late one night a week offers a “catch up” time or a time to be proactive.
2. Take Care of Yourself
- Keep high protein snacks at work. Add nuts, energy bars, and healthy beverages to your grocery list to keep you going strong throughout the day.
- Set responsible bedtimes for you and your family. Everyone will be happier, be able to work more productively, and feel prepared.
3. Set Technology Boundaries
- Define your family technology boundaries at your next family meeting. The first place to set boundaries is during meal times. No email, text, phone, etc. at the dinner table for everyone. Establish a family charging area where all technology recharges overnight in a common area. Remember, everyone will likely get a great night’s rest this way.
- Texting and driving can be as big a problem for parents as it is for teens. You are role model for your kids, so be sure discuss — and stick — to specific rules when driving. Safety first!
4. Establish Priorities
- It’s helpful to know what goals are most important to you personally and professionally. Think about creating a vision board or even writing your priorities in a journal, and share these with your family. Making your priorities real empowers you to uphold them.
- Under commit and over deliver. There are a myriad a ways to say no politely. Find balance in where you spend your time, energy, and finances. By being selective, you will find more joy and have more time to focus on the things that bring the most value to your life.
No amount of planning, prioritizing, and organizing can solve the work-life balance struggle. But, adding a little structure and organization for you and your family can help ease stress and keep overwhelm at bay.
Former newspaper reporter, ground-breaking reporter, Nellie Bly is one of my heroes.
For those who don’t know the story, Nellie went undercover in an insane asylum by posing as a patient, and the article she wrote after her 10-day stay changed the way New York City treated people with mental illness.
Back then, you didn’t walk into the mental asylum. Nellie checked into a woman’s shelter under an assumed name and began her act. It didn’t take long before she was hauled off by police. Once inside, Nellie realized a quick trick:
“From the moment I entered the insane ward on the island I made no attempt to keep up the assumed role of insanity. I talked and acted just as I do in ordinary life. Yet strange to say, the more sanely I talked and acted the crazier I was thought to be by all except one physician, whose kindness and gentle ways I shall not soon forget.”
When you’re surrounded by insanity and chaos, be calm.
But what does this have to do with productivity? Everything.
First, it’s easy to get sucked into the frenetic minutia of a day. The phone is ringing, e-mails are flying into your inbox, meetings lurk all over your calendar, and your boss and co-workers are frenzied about something.
Secondly, practice and training help maintain your focus. Look at doctors and nurses in an ER who are trained to help you on your worst day. Captain Sullenberger who landed a plane in the Hudson River always said he didn’t feel panic because he and the co-pilot relied on their training.
How do you get your work done with all of the chaos swirling around you? How can you practice focus?
- Give yourself 15 minutes. Set a timer on your phone and focus on one task. You will be surprised by what you can accomplish in 15 minute increments (or even just five minutes).
- Meditate. Mindfulness is getting more and more press these days since it helps build resilience and decrease stress. When I do this myself, I feel the benefits a lot more than the times I don’t do it. It has to become a regular habit. One Minute Meditation and Insight Timer are great apps to use for meditation.
- Know your priorities. So many things can suck up your time, leaving you feeling exhausted but not accomplished. Start each day knowing what two or three tasks you need to get done that day. Doing this will help you stay focused on what you really want to accomplish and put off the less important stuff.
- Learn to say no. This is easier to say than do at times. It’s important to speak up and say no to taking on another project. We all need to have boundaries. Practice it on the small stuff if this is hard for you.
Armed with these tools, you can be the calm beacon of productivity and steadfast focus in a world gone mad.
It can be a tough transition from summer into fall, and not just for kids. With shorter work weeks and half days, not to mention the beautiful, warm and sunny weather, it can be hard to see summer come to an end. However, there are things to look forward to in the fall, like breaking out cozy sweaters, breathing in the crisp air, and watching the leaves change colors.
This transition from summer to fall time is actually ideal for getting organized. With an abundance of inexpensive, space saving solutions for dorm living, you are sure to find items that will help you in the areas you need most help with getting organized (especially for your smaller spaces). Often found in bright hues, choose the products you need in a single color or color family. This will unify any organizational system that you put together.
However, you should pay attention to buying only what you need. For instance, you may already have several containers at home so you wouldn’t have to get more. If you don’t like how they look, you can spruce them up a bit. Here’s an example: if you have a bunch of storage tubs, say in gray, you can add your favorite color to them by trimming them with the ever trendy Washi Tape (affiliate link) or Duct Tape, which come in a variety of colors and patterns.
Now that you have a system in place for the fall, start easing your way into it over the next few weeks by doing small organizational projects, one at a time. Below are some examples of things you can do in the three main areas of your home.
Your Master Closet
- Summer Clothing. Go through your summer wardrobe and note what you did not wear once this season. Pull those pieces out and arrange to consign them or donate them.
- Clothing to be Repaired. Toss out any clothing that has rips or tears, unless you think you will have time to get them mended.
- Transitional Clothing. With the extra hangers remaining, add in transitional pieces like lightweight sweaters for the cooler nights.
Your Master Bathroom
- Beauty Products. Go through beauty products and check for expiration dates. A good tip is to mark the bottles and tubes (and other containers) with the date that you opened them. Most makeup has a little icon to show you when you should toss it, usually after three to six months.
- Medications. Do the same for any medication. If it is prescription medicine, you can toss it in with the kitty litter or ask your pharmacy or township about disposing of it.
- Textiles. Go through towels. If any are threadbare, consider purchasing some new ones, in your favorite color of course! Bring the worn ones to your local animal shelter to keep the animals warm and cozy.
- Expired Items. Go through your fridge and pantry for expired food items. Recycle any jars, bottles, and packaging that you can, according to your township. If there are items that are still within the expiration date, that you don’t like, contact your local food pantry to see if they can use them.
- Unnecessary Packaging. Remove packaging from products before storing them. By separating items that are bulk-packaged, like water bottles and paper towels, you can fit them into smaller spaces more easily.
- Inventory List. Put up a dry erase board (again in your favorite color!) near the fridge and pantry to write up your shopping list. Transfer it to paper when it’s time to go to the store, or take a picture of the marker board itself on your cell phone!
Get started now on these tasks, and before you know it, you’ll be organized when the temperatures start getting cooler. Most of all, have fun with this organizing process and I’ll “see” you in the fall!
It’s the end of summer, but now is the perfect time for the August 5-Minute Organizing Challenge! As usual, you can discover new ways you can get organized in just five minutes at a time.
The mini-challenges this month are for parents who are preparing their children for Back to School. If you plan ahead, you will be more organized for the upcoming school year and your kids will transition to school life much more smoothly.
1. Schedule shopping time in stores or online. Start out by creating a list of clothing, supplies, and snacks that the student will need. Next, block out times in your calendar to go shopping or to order items that will arrive before school starts. Make sure to allot enough time for each activity so you don’t have to rush.
2. Plan to buy snacks for lunches & stock up healthy foods. Write another list of snacks and food for the first few weeks of lunches. Think about the different food groups and purchase items from each of them. The more variety of foods, the better you can be sure they are eating a balanced diet.
3. Learn from last year’s issues. Spend five minutes thinking about previous years, and pinpoint what the biggest issues were. If punctuality was a problem, plan to leave 15 minutes earlier. If you or your child/children often forgot things, place the items in the car the night before so they won’t be left behind.
4. Label folders for new school files. Categories may include school projects, assignments, calendars, and signed forms. If you already have a filing system for school paperwork, this will only take a few minutes. Otherwise, it might take a little longer.
5. Get backpacks & school supplies ready. A few days before classes start, load backpacks with supplies like notebooks, lined paper, pencils and pens, and other items that are required for their learning. If you get their backpacks prepared days before school starts, children will be more motivated to start the new school session.
What other steps do you complete in five minutes or less to get your children prepared for Back to School?
The lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer can be a big challenge when it comes to procrastination. Routines are relaxed, schedules are altered, and distractions are everywhere. The expectation is probably that we will have abundant leisure time during the summer to get everything done, but that is frequently not the case, and important projects sometimes end up collecting dust until the end of the season.
The good news is that I have some easy and effective tips for procrastinators for staying on the ball with important tasks this summer, so that they don’t end up behind the eight ball come Labor Day.
3 Simple Tips to Stop Procrastinating
1. Set a drop dead date. The first step is to set a deadline for completing your project or projects, and schedule time in your calendar for each of the tasks.
- If the project is a large one, break it into smaller steps, or mini-tasks, and do them one at a time. This way you can make steady, meaningful progress without getting overwhelmed by the Big Picture.
- Breaking through procrastination with the first step is always the hardest part, so make sure that your first mini-task is a manageable one, so that upon completion, you will get the confidence to move on to the next step. This is probably one of my most important tips for procrastinators as getting started can pose the greatest challenge for many.
2. Start small. If you are having a hard time getting started on that day’s task, do something small that will get you going in the right direction, and then segue into the bigger task.
If you find yourself delaying a call to a key contact or prospect, try working your way up to that with “easier” calls:
- Call a vendor who’s also a friend
- Call someone to schedule a lunch meeting
If you start by making a few lower priority calls, then the big call will be just one of several that you make that day, and a lot easier to do.
3. Pick a reward. Provide yourself an incentive to complete your task commensurate with the amount of time invested. Choose a lovely bonus that you can give yourself when you’ve finished your project.
It can be anything, like a:
- Stop at Starbucks for your favorite beverage
- Game of golf on your favorite course
- Luxurious massage
- Movie you’ve been wanting to see
Keep in mind — Getting the work done is its own reward! … but it’s especially motivating when there’s an extra special treat waiting for you at the end of the journey. And, the best news is, you will have earned it!
Of course, summer isn’t the only time that procrastination puts sand in the gears of our work and lives. I recommend that you try the tips I’ve shared for halting procrastination in its tracks all year long as important projects are not seasonal and can be addressed throughout the year.
Consistently following these three very simple tips (please practice!) can help just about anyone overcome procrastination, and when combined, they comprise a smart strategy for accomplishing your goals at any time.