The Aging Brain: 4 Ways to Stay Focused As You Get Older

On November 15, 2010, in Time Management, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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Have you had a senior moment recently?  I have. Last week, in fact.

I was sent a recording of call I hosted and I wanted to pass it on to the other people that were on the call.  When I was ready to e-mail the recording, I went searching for the e-mail I had gotten originally. The link to download the recording expired so I asked to have it re-sent. When I got it and saved it to my hard drive, I discovered that I had already downloaded and saved it when I first got it.

So, what should have taken me just a few minutes, took a bit longer. It wasn’t a massive amount of time, but it was still a waste of it. I don’t like senior moments, especially when I have them. It’s no secret that our brains age as we do, but I don’t have to like it.

Researchers who study brain scans find that as humans age, their processing speed may be a bit slower, and they might miss a beat while first trying to focus on something.” [NPR | 4.15.10]

Since we get more distracted with each birthday, this can mean that our efficiency and productivity can decline as well. Doesn’t sound so great, does it? The good news is while we can’t turn back the clock, there are are few things we can do keep distractions at bay as we get older.

1. Be Aware of What You’re Paying Attention to. Be more aware of where your mind takes you. This will probably take a bit of practice, but try to pay attention to your thoughts and how connected – or disconnected – they are from what you need to be working on.

Have you figured out the types of thoughts/ideas that distract you? Make note of the ones that soak up your attention and put them in their proper place. Write them down in your notebook or add them to your smart phone. Then, go back to them later. The more you are aware, the more control you have.

2. Do One Thing at a Time. The thing about distractions is that they can be sneaky and fun. They creep up on us and make us do things that we want to, especially when we’re really supposed to be doing something else.

Other times, they can be really major pains. We might remember an important thing while we’re doing another important thing, and then we try to do both at the same time…and then we add a third important thing. And, so it goes on.

Sound confusing? Well, stop it. Don’t try to multitask – just do one thing and save your brain cells while you’re at it.  Set your timer. Start working. When your time’s up, move on to the next task.


“Focus very, very hard at the beginning of things so that you can sort of get past that moment where sometimes we are more distracted.” [NPR]

3. Turn Everything Off. Not sure what to turn off so that you don’t get sucked away from what you’re really supposed to be doing? Here’s a quick list to get you started…

  • Turn off the radio, Judge Judy, your cell phone, etc.
  • Put your friends, co-workers, and your dog on pause.
  • Put away your favorite magazines and books…and the other important (but less urgent) project, too.
  • Step away from the dirty dishes and unfolded laundry (especially if you work from home).

Remember: you can take care of everything you put on hold when your timer goes off! …just not at the same time (see #2).

4. Use Technology to Control Web Surfing. Fight fire with fire. If Facebook, Twitter, Snapfish, or other websites are huge distractions for you, use technology to curb your tech habit.

Browsers like Google Chrome and Firefox offer extensions that will block you from visiting your favorite sites for a specific time frame. They can’t reverse the aging process but they’ll give you a fighting chance at staying on task.

Have you noticed that you have a harder time focusing as you’ve gotten older? What do you do to keep from getting distracted?

Fact Friday: Make Time to Get Organized

On November 12, 2010, in Fact Friday, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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“Nobody is ever going to find the time to become more organized,” says Laura Leist, president of NAPO. “You need to make the time, just as you would make an appointment with a client.”

Read More:

The Real Consequences of Office Clutter | | 1.29.10

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Do You Even Need a Watch Anymore?

On November 10, 2010, in Time Management, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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Someone somewhere is probably racing off to meeting at this very moment. That person may have an alarm clock or an app on their smart phone that got them up to be wherever they need be on time. That person probably is not wearing a watch, at least, not for telling time.

What’s the point of wearing a watch these days? Perhaps it’s a nice fashion statement, but I can’t tell the last time I saw someone check their watch to (1) figure out the time or (2) keep them on track for that important thing at X o’clock. Did you know that we never used to tell people that we’d meet them at a specific time? I just learned that on NPR a couple days ago.

“Making your appointments on time wasn’t the idea behind the first mechanical clocks in the 1300s. Back then you’d just agree to meet someone by mid-morning. Time was considered a general idea.” ( | 11.8.10)

Some of us might wish for those days again. Yes, we’re a lot more particular about making it to work on time or calling the client exactly when we said we would in today’s world. Even so, I still don’t see the need for tying a piece of time-telling jewelry to my wrist anymore. I have a clock on my iPhone, in my car, on the microwave, and on the coffee maker. I’m surprised my electric toothbrush doesn’t have a built-in clock.

You might even find clothing that can tell time, like this skirt. Not really, but it’s a nice look, no? =)

Well, it turns out that some people think that watches are making a comeback because of new features, like a built-in GPS. I still don’t get it.

Why would anyone need a watch? Do you still wear one and why?

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Quick Tip: Use Just One List or Notebook

On November 9, 2010, in Paper, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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You know what it’s like when you get important tip, need to take down a message, or write down your to do’s…and you grab whatever you can find…napkin, post-it, back of an envelope, your palm. Some people, like me, prefer notebooks, but if you have more than one, it can be confusing and you may forget which notebook you wrote in.

Soooo, be exclusive and use just one. Keep your notebook or list with you always so that you can jott down whatever you need to no matter where you are (but not in the car, please). You may want to consider a compact version that can fit in your purse, bag, or briefcase.

Or, you can use a Circa notebook. These notebooks offer a level of flexibility that traditional notebooks don’t: you can move transfer pages from one Circa to another. Check them out and let me know what you think.

Of course, if you’re a gadget person, use your smart phone to record your list, messages, or to do’s.  You’ll probably always have it with you.

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Small Business Owners: Increase Your Productivity With AT&T Mobile Apps

On November 8, 2010, in Business, Technology, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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Last Friday, I attended the the GrowSmartBiz Conference sponsored by the Washington Business Journal & Network Solutions.  It was a great day jam packed with superb content and many networking opportunities.

I really liked that the conference organizers structured the sessions according to four specific tracks.  This made it easy to either choose all sessions in particular track or go a la carte.

Track 1: Marketing & Innovation

Track 2: Government, Small Business Finance and Non-profit

Track 3: Technology as a Tool for Your Business

Track 4: Entrepreneur Boot Camp

Care to guess which track I focused on? Technology is my friend, so how could I pass up the chance to learn more?  I heard from many presenters that mobility and how small businesses make use of mobile apps has a big impact on their productivity and efficiency.

The session that I picked up a few new nuggets was the AT&T presentation on small business mobile apps. This is not intended to be an AT&T commercial, so if you’re not one of their customers, find out if your service provider has similar apps.


“Mobile apps are a speedy way to manage sales.” ~@MobileAppGuy

Mobile apps that will make you look like a rock star

  • AprivaPay. On the road a lot visiting clients? Take payments anywhere. Use AprivaPay to conduct credit card transactions via your mobile phone. This app works both in and out of wireless areas. Optional items: card reader and printer.
  • ProntoForms. Eliminate paper in the field & data entry while at the office. This app allows you to create and push any form to mobile device.  This app works both in and out of wireless coverage area.
  • Voicemail to Text. Did you know that 70% of calls go to voicemail? We can all probably agree that this is not great customer service. With voicemail to text, you can read messages as soon as they are delivered.
  • Nice Office. Use this app to track client interactions, i.e., every phone call, e-mail, text, or visit via smart phone. You’ll have the advantage of better reporting along with remote storage and online back up of your data.
  • Code Scanner. This is a free mobile app that lets you easily scan 2D (QR and datamatrix codes) and 1D (UPC and EAN) barcodes found in magazines, stores, and online.  Use it to deliver digital coupons to your clients.

To see more small business mobile apps that AT&T offers, visit

“Mobility is very important. Embrace mobile tech solutions.” ~@ramonray


Here’s to the 2011 GrowSmartBiz Conference

This was my first time attending the the GrowSmartBiz conference. I had loads of fun and learned a few new things. That’s always a nice combo, isn’t it? Many thanks to the Social Media Swami and OTR friend, Shashi Bellamkonda, for putting on such a fantastic event. If you’re a small biz owner, GrowSmartBiz 2011 must be on your calendar. You won’t want to miss it!

Lisa Byrne (@DCEventJunkie), Kenya Allmond (@koa), Deb Lee (@DAllisonLee), Shireen Mitchell (@DigitalSista), & Shashi Bellamkonda (@ShashiB) @ GrowSmartBiz 2010

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Fact Friday: Refrigerator Clutter & Waste in America

On November 5, 2010, in Fact Friday, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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“The Well blog’s From Farm to Fridge to Garbage Can tells of studies that show 93 percent of people buy food they never use. A major culprit…is refrigerator clutter. Fresh foods and leftovers languish on crowded shelves and eventually go bad.”


Read More:

How Much Food Does Your Family Waste? | ~ Education | 11.3.10


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Essential Elements of a Successful Facebook Business Page

On November 4, 2010, in Business, Guest Posts, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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OTR friend, Rajeev Edmonds is back with more tips for small business owners.  In his last post, he shared tips about blogging.   This time, he tackles Facebook.

Businesses across the world, be they small or big, are turning to Facebook to get more customers. Facebook pages are an effective medium to attract a large user-base of this most popular social media platform. They are easy to create and administer, provided you spice them up with the right ingredients to pull your customers convincingly. What makes a killer Facebook page and how it can help grow your business?

Basic Elements

Image – The very first thing that grabs the attention of a new visitor is the image used on your Facebook business page. Normally businesses use a logo or a combination of logo embedded in another photograph. The rule of the thumb is – “make it eye-catching and don’t hesitate in experimenting.” Here’s an excellent tutorial about facebook profile image hacks. You may consider changing this image every six months to give a fresh new look to your business page.

Description – Your business page description should clearly explain what the page is all about and what fans can get from it. You may include some lines about promotional stuff a fan may get after liking the page. This may include free ebooks, premium video tutorials and similar things. Whenever I visit any Facebook page, it’s the first thing I read before going ahead.

Essential tabs – Apart from default tabs, you must create a welcome tab for new visitors. Other important tabs may include discussion board, events, notes, photos, videos and reviews. Your Facebook business page may or may not require all of these tabs. For example, if you produce video content on regular basis and maintain a dedicated YouTube channel, you may want to create a separate ‘Videos’ tab on your business page.

Miscellaneous Tips For Managing Facebook Business Page

  • Create a “Freebies” tab visible only to fans. Give a sneak peak of this page on the default landing page for non-fans.
  • Keep a secondary administrator in case of an emergency. Pages with large fan-base usually have more than 2 administrators and in different time zones.
  • Fostering a community is an art. Keep your business page updated and regularly reward the most active fans.
  • Import your blog and various social media updates (Twitter, Linkedin) on a separate tab via Facebook applications.
  • Create privacy & spam policy and set appropriate permissions for fans adhering to that policy. If you experience too much spam, you may restrict posting to selective tabs.
  • If your budget allows, use facebook ads to drive targeted traffic to your business page. Take my word – It’s worth the money.
  • Tag liberally to let others know you care for them and you listen to them.

Whether you’re running a non-profit organization or own a small business, Facebook business pages have the potential to kick-start your conversions/sales. Don’t be left behind and create one today.

About the Author

Rajeev Edmonds is a Social Media Enthusiast who blogs about how to blog. A developer by profession, he started blogging in 2008. Rajeev is also a technical reviewer of books with subjects ranging from Web Developement, WordPress and Social Media.

Connect With Rajeev: TwitterWebsite

Simple Tech: 6 Benefits of Using an Online Calendar

On November 3, 2010, in Technology, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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Update as of 2012: I’m now using Google calendar (sorry, Yahoo!) and I still have access to all the features below and more.

increase productivity with an online calendar In yesterday’s post, one of the types of lists I suggested that we all need to get friendly with was a calendar.

Basically, it’s a list of all your appointments and open/closed time blocks. If you like using a paper calendar, definitely use it. If it’s not broken, there’s really no need to try to fix it.

That said, one of the drawbacks with paper is that you’ll have to have it with you to know when you’re booked and when you’re available.

With an on online calendar, you don’t need to do that and there are lots of other benefits, too.

6 Benefits of Using an Online Calendar


1. Free. It’s nice when you get something useful that’s on sale. It’s even nicer when that item is free and it works. While there are some online calendars that will cost you, both Google and Yahoo offer them to you free of charge. I have used both, but primarily rely on my Yahoo cal.

2. Convenient. You can access your online schedule from anywhere. All you need is computer, internet connection, and your log-in credentials. Forgot your laptop or iPad at home? No worries, call up your calendar on your smart phone.

This means you’ll have a lighter purse or briefcase (your shoulder and back will thank you) and you’ll know exactly how your time is scheduled. Another convenient feature: you can set recurring appointments. Less writing and more automation (your hand will thank you).

3. Get Reminders. With a paper calendar, you have to be on top of your game and self-motivated. You have to check your calendar to see where you’ll be on a given day. With an online version, you can create text or e-mail reminders for those very important meetings and doctor’s appointments.

Here’s a look at my calendar for this Friday, November 5th. I’ll be at the GrowSmartBiz Conference and Trade Show for much of the day. As you can see, I have several reminder options and I’ve filled my notes section with additional details. I’m not so fond of getting e-mail reminders because my inbox has too many messages as it is. Instead, I choose to receive text messages that I delete almost immediately.


My calendar for Friday, November 5th


4. Create More Than One Calendar. Did you notice on the upper right side of the event page that this particular calendar is called “Education, Training, and Networking?” You can have more than one calendar for various types of events and add a bit of color to help remind you what’s what.

I love that I can have multiple calendars within the same app (Yahoo calls them calendar layers), and I can choose to view one while hiding the others by simply adding/removing a check mark.

Create multiple calendar and color code them!

5. Share with Others. You can share your calendar and let others view or even make changes to it. Sharing is a great option, especially if someone in the family always forgets what’s coming down the pike. =) This is also perfect for the assistant who needs to update the CEO’s appointments. I’ve got the calendar. I just need the assistant. ;)

6. Sync With Outlook. You can sync with your Outlook calendar so that you don’t have to do double duty. Save a few minutes by not having to enter the same information twice, and get the benefits of using Outlook’s other features, like dragging and dropping e-mails directly to your calendar.

The bad news is that Yahoo is still working on that feature. The good news is that Google’s got it figured out. Check it out here.

*Update: You can now sync Yahoo calendar with Outlook. Click here to learn more.

Are you using an online calendar? Why does it work for you? Please share in the comments!

Quick Tip: Make Friends With Your List to be More Productive

On November 2, 2010, in Productivity, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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Whether you’re business owner or a busy mom, a list can save your life.

I bet that if the folks on the Titanic had a list, things would have turned out a little differently. Alright, so I was trying to be a little funny, but really, a list can prevent you from getting in hot water (horrible pun, I know).

lists improve productivity

What type of lists do you use?


List Type #1: To Do List – Use a Notebook

When you think of a list, you probably picture a piece of paper (or a napkin or a post-it) with things you have to do. That kind of list is important. It keeps your priorities (hopefully, ranked) in front of you. Of course, if you don’t write them down, you’ll be lost. Try for a notebook instead of that napkin from last night’s dinner and you’ll be golden.

List Type #2: Appointment List – Use a Digital Calendar

If you promised to be one of the parent chaperone’s at your pre-schoolers field trip – and you don’t show up – no one will be upset, right? If your assistant has the day off and you forget, your day will probably go off without a hitch. I’m sure of it! For these kinds of lists, get an online and/or paper calendar … and USE IT!

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