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Summer Travel Productivity TipsThat’s right, it’s time for the June 5-Minute Organizing Challenge! In every challenge you get five options to tackle five things you can do for just five minutes at a time to get more organized.

Summer travel means more people are taking off on the road and in the air. This is your lucky day if you have summer trips planned! Here are five mini-challenges that will help you maximize productivity during your summer travels.

5 Ways to Maximize Productivity During Summer Travels

 
1. Spend time preparing for your trip. Start out by spending five minutes drafting a list of topics you need to research. After you complete the list, devote a few minutes each day to investigate forecasts, the place your staying in, tourist attractions, etc.

If you didn’t have enough time to adequately research before you leave, no need to fret. You can use downtime while you travel there to do some of this preparation.

2. Plan healthy food and exercise choices. Eating healthy and getting exercise can be challenging if your don’t plan ahead of time. Look at your scheduled activities and spend a few minutes plotting ideas for places you can find healthier eating options and ways to get exercise in.

Some ideas to help you get started include:

  • Do stretches at the airport and in the plane
  • Locate restaurants and cafes that are en route to your destination
  • Investigate gyms or outdoor activities at the place you’re traveling to
  • Schedule time for brisk walks or jogs — you can do this according to your current eating habits and activity levels

3. Plan how to stay connected with your loved ones. Sometimes when you travel, it can be stressful to coordinate times to stay connected with your loved ones at home. Consider pre-scheduling calls and video chat sessions to avoid the hassle of constantly trying to connect with them during the trip. If you spend five minutes coordinating with the people involved, you can add those time to your your calendar and you’ll be set while you’re away.

4. Make the most of your downtime. There sometimes tends to be significant periods of downtime when you travel. Take a few minutes to record tasks you’d like to complete (digitally and in paper form) during your journey. From transportation to the airport, hours spent inside the vehicle or on the flight, and other waiting periods, you can prepare to make the most of this potentially productive time.

Don’t forget to include ways you can replenish yourself with fun activities like leisure reading or playing games on your smartphone.

5. Reflect and think ahead. When you are traveling home, use a few minutes to reflect on how prepared you were for your trip. Record things that worked well so you can replicate them in the future, and consider things you can do more efficiently on future trips (be sure to document those as well). If you set aside a chunk of time for reflection, you can boost your productivity even more in subsequent travels!

 

Click Here to Learn More Ways to Get Organized in Five Minutes!

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Fact Friday: Drowsy Driving is Like Drunk Driving

On June 13, 2014, in Fact Friday, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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“The more sleep deprived we are, the more our judgement is impaired. And when our judgement is impaired, the less likely we are going to be able to recognize signs that we are sleepy … drowsy driving is a serious problem … there are more than 100,000 car accidents and more than 1,500 deaths annually that are attributed to drowsy driving …

Read More:

Driving sleep deprived can have same effects as drunk driving, expert says | WTOP.com | 6.10.2014

 

 

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Save Money by Recycling and Repurposing

On June 11, 2014, in Recycling, by Stephanie Shalofsky
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RecycleIt seems that most of us have simply too much stuff and the fact is we keep acquiring more. Shopping has become a major pastime (did you know that the Mall of America gets more than 40 million visitors annually?) and we are continually adding to our collection of goods.

Take a minute and imagine the amount of money that you could save by shopping less frequently and recycling and repurposing what you already have.

Our closets are filled, garages are overflowing, and even the rented storage units are pretty much filled up.  And, if indeed you haven’t reached these extreme levels of mass consumption, you probably still have more than you need!

Take pocketbooks for instance. Most of them are made so well these days that they pretty much never get worn out. And shoes — how many are in your closet that have been worn just once because you realized that they were uncomfortable? Books – how many are crammed on your shelves and haven’t been looked at in 20 years?

You get the idea. We all have too much stuff.

We keep buying the new improved version of what we have (the manufacturers and stores depend upon it) and there is simply no way that we can keep it all. It’s time to take action! There are two things you can do to take care of your stuff … recycling and repurposing … and by doing so you will most probably feel a newfound sense of relief.

Recycling: Making Something New

The definition of recycling is to make something new from something that has been used before (like these suitcases, er, chairs). In recent years, recycling has become part of our vocabulary. In most households we recycle paper, plastics, and glass to reduce pollution and waste  — and it’s not unusual to see multiple waste receptacles in homes, stores, and even on the city streets.

So, what does recycling mean for you besides separating your trash?

  • Well, you might take all of those extra ties that your husband has acquired over the years and sew them together to make them into a beautiful skirt (Instructables: How to Make a Tie Skirt).
  • Or, you can take a rubber mat and cut out shapes for your toddler to learn and play with.

See what I mean? You’ve used the items before, but now you can use them in an entirely different way; by recycling them you are making something new.

Repurposing: Using Something in a New Way

The definition of repurposing is to change something so that it can be used for a different purpose (like this shoe organizer inside a pantry). So, how can you repurpose some of your common, everyday things?

  • pitcher

    Source: Houzz.com

    You might take some of your worn out clothes, barely worn shoes, or out of style handbags and give them to your children to use for costumes when they are playing.

  • The pitcher that no longer fits the décor of your renovated kitchen can be repurposed into a vase that looks just perfect when placed on a shelf or table in your living room.
  • An extra mug you have (but you probably don’t use because you have so many) can be used to hold your favorite pens.
  • Foam bath mats parents kneel on when bathing their young children can be used as bulletin boards (hat tip to Geralin Thomas for that idea) when they are no longer needed for bath time.

We have so much stuff that it is very likely that we now possess items that can be used for something else entirely, thereby eliminating the need for us to go out and yes, buy more stuff. Why not be creative instead? Think of new uses for that bag of bargains from your latest shopping expedition or donate them to a local charity.

Of course, recycling and repurposing are great for the environment and they are great for your wallet as well (less stuff being purchased, right?!). Regardless of which path you follow, you’re sure to feel better for doing so.

 

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Create Infographics For Your Website With PicMonkey

On June 9, 2014, in Technology, by Nealey Stapleton
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Do you know what an information graphic or an infographic is? It is a visual representation of information that often makes it easy to read and understand complicated information. Infographics are all over Pinterest and because of Pinterest’s popularity, they are now all over the web.

Many infographics are filled with data and statistics, and others, like the one below, don’t don’t contain numbers at all:

Business-Tools-Infographic-Small

They are a huge traffic source for websites, which is why I recently embarked upon a quest to add an infographic to all of my website’s pages. So, now I create infographics on the regular now – for both new web pages I create, to spiff up old pages, to promote a product, and the list goes on.

Here’s the kicker – I do all of this graphic creation for FREE! Huh? It’s true.

Back in the day I used Adobe Illustrator, but keeping up with that expensive program and all of its versions didn’t seem worth it. I needed something much easier and less expensive. I currently use the PicCollage app for making photo collages and fun infographics on my smart phone, but I needed something a little more robust.

Hence, I present to you PicMonkey!

Create Infographics with PicMonkey

Original Image Credit: PicMonkey.com

 

This platform is freakin’ incredible, and all of these exclamation points are very necessary! I’m that enthusiastic about this technology and I use it every week.

Check out these cool features:

  • Simple To Use. I mean really simple. You can drag and drop and create images  — like your Facebook cover photo – at the click of a button (or two).
  • Very comprehensive. Just because it’s simple to use doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of stuff you can do. There are lots of options like tons of fonts, a variety of overlays, many cool graphics, and several photo editing options. And, that is just the tip of the iceberg.
  • It’s free. I’ve been using the free version, so you can definitely do all these cool things without denting your wallet. However, if you want access to even more fonts, more graphics, and even more options, the paid version is as low as $33 for the year. Crazy!
  • No need to download software. You use the software online, so you can access it anywhere (as long as you have an internet connection) and you don’t have to use up any space on your computer.

Want more details? How about a demonstration? Ali Rittenhouse has a really helpful tutorial on how to use it (that’s how I found about it this awesomeness), so check it out.

Ready to try it? Why not give PicMonkey.com a test drive? Then come back here, and let me know what you think. If you’ve already used it, what’s your opinion? I’d love to know! Leave me a comment below.

Happy info-graphic-ing!

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A dry erase board can help you get organizedThere’s a lot to love about dry erase boards! They can be so much fun, especially when you use colored markers. They also come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but my favorite one is the small, portable 5″ x 7″ board (affiliate link).

What’s even better is that this simple, helpful tool can be used in several ways to help get your family organized.

5 Ways to to Organize Your Family Using a Dry Erase Board

 
1. Create Reminders

Families have a lot to remember all the time. Why not use a dry erase board to help everyone stay on top of things?

  • Use a dry erase board in your bedroom to remind you about what’s coming up and jot down tasks as you get ready in the morning.
  • Attach a dry erase board near the main entry/exit door to remind you what to bring to school or work.
  • Add a dry erase board to your command center. Attach markers with velcro or magnet to have a handy tool to jot down ideas and notes.

2. Post Pantry, Freezer, or Dinner Lists

You can avoid making duplicate purchases if you keep a running list of your current inventory. And, you can also let everyone know the meal plan for the week.

  • Make a list of what’s in the freezer. Use a magnetic dry erase board (affiliate link) attached to the size of your refrigerator or freezer to record your list.
  • Make a list that includes what’s for dinner each night. Categorize your lists by vegetables, main dish, and snacks (or the categories most used by your family).
  • Make a list of what’s running low in the pantry. Take a picture of your list  (or save your regular list to Evernote) so that you have it handy the next time you run to the grocery store.

Writing lists on a dry erase board can help keep these areas more organized and also keep everyone in the loop.

3. Help with Homework Time

Children can have their own personal dry erase board to keep up with their studies. When paired with colorful markers, (affiliate link) they can help make learning fun.

  • Students can prioritize their homework each evening by writing an action list of things they must get completed on a dry erase board.
  • White boards are also a great tool for reviewing information for an upcoming test.
  • Elementary students can use dry erase boards to memorize and write out math problems.

4. Record Family Responsibilities

Tired of reminding your family member to do their chores? No more nagging! Create a list on the white board instead.

  • Use a dry erase board to list jobs for everyone as well as the days they need to complete those tasks.
  • Check off everyone’s responsibilities during the week as they are completed.

5. Keep Track of Upcoming Events

You can use a large dry erase calendars (affiliate link) in your kitchen or in another well-trafficked area. Then, simply add events and deadlines daily. That way, everyone will know what’s coming up!

There are oodles of ways you can use dry erase boards!  How do you use yours?

 

 

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Fact Friday: Handwritten Notes More Easily Remembered Than Typed Notes

On May 30, 2014, in Fact Friday, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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A new study—conducted by Mueller and Oppenheimer—finds that people remember lectures better when they’ve taken handwritten notes, rather than typed ones. 

What’s more, knowing how and why typed notes can be bad doesn’t seem to improve their quality. Even if you warn laptop-notetakers ahead of time, it doesn’t make a difference. For some tasks, it seems, handwriting’s just better.”

Read More:

To Remember a Lecture Better, Take Notes by Hand | TheAtlantic.com | 5.1.2014

 

 

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Organizing is Like a Box of Chocolate

On May 27, 2014, in Productivity, by Janice Simon
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organizing is like a box of chocolatesForrest Gump, one of America’s early life coaches, taught us all many years ago life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you will find.

Sometimes organizing (and prioritizing) is like a box of chocolates, too.

After receiving a box of chocolate as a gift from a department I gave a presentation to, I stumbled across this stunning metaphor. What can I say? Chocolate makes me a genius.

When dealing with a box of chocolate, I eat the dark chocolate first, dark chocolate with fruit second, milk chocolate third, and milk chocolate with fruit last. If there’s white chocolate, it’s the very, very last. I love chocolate, but I have my priorities – which is my point.

We face boxes of chocolate each day, and we make choices on how we spend our time and what tasks we complete. It’s easier to choose chocolate over anything lurking on your to-do list. No matter how much I love dark chocolate, there are times when I have to deal with white chocolate, i.e. the stuff I don’t really want to deal with but I have to because I’m a grown-up with responsibilities.

You may not always feel motivated to work on your priorities. But, the good news is that there are things you can do to make it easier to focus on the right things at the right time.

5  Ways to Focus on Your Priorities

  1. Work on your MIT (Most Important Thing) First. One item on your to-do list has to be a higher priority than the others. If everything is important, then nothing is important. So, start with your MIT first.
  2. Take a bite. Whenever possible, spend time on your MIT before opening e-mail and getting sucked into the craziness of the day. Even if it’s just 15 to 20 minutes, it will make a difference to how you feel and how productive you are. Take a bite of your MIT and bask in that sense of accomplishment you will generate for the rest of the day.
  3. Limit multitasking. Turn off e-mail, the Internet, and other distractions while you’re trying to focus. Multitasking reduces our productivity by up to 40 percent which is why driving and texting can make you more dangerous than a drunk driver. To help you practice focusing, use the Time Timer app and set it for 15 minutes when you begin working on your project.
  4. Set yourself up for success. It’s easy to say something is our priority, but the execution is really what counts. You have to set yourself up for success by making it easy. Let’s say you want fitness to be your priority. How do you make that happen? If you want to exercise in the morning, lay your workout clothes by your bed (before you go to bed). If you want to save money by bringing your lunch to work, pack it the night before so it’s all ready to go. When you make decisions in advance, it’s easier for you to follow the priorities you want to follow.
  5. Use a map. Unlike Forrest Gump, I actually use the little map that shows what each chocolate is. Boxes of chocolate aren’t really mysterious, and you don’t have to pinch the corner or take a bite to figure out what you have. Since we humans don’t come with our own maps or guidebook, create your own
  • Schedule your priorities on your calendar to block off time to work on them
  • If you have a mantra or a goal, have it hanging up where you can see it
  • Keep track of  strategies that work well for you and incorporate them in your daily routines to help you manage your day

Knowing what your priorities are and making them the star of your day eliminates those chocolate surprises Forrest likes.

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Memorial Day 2014

On May 26, 2014, in General, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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MEMORIAL DAYToday’s Memorial Day, a holiday in the United States, and the OTR authors have the day off. We hope you’re having a happy and enjoyable day no matter where you are.

If you’d like to catch up on some of our posts, please have a look at:

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Fact Friday: Women Are Happier, Less Stressed at Work

On May 23, 2014, in Fact Friday, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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” … a newly released study in the Journal of Science and Medicine [found] that women were much happier at work than at home. And men were only moderately happier at home than at work. Both men and women were a lot less stressed out on the weekend – when they were home – than on the weekdays.

Read More:

Are you more stressed at home than at work? | WashingtonPost.com | 5.22.2014

 

 

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Creating an Outdoor Oasis

On May 21, 2014, in Home Organizing, by Naomi Cook
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Can you believe that Memorial Day is less than a week away? I am so relieved that the warm weather has finally arrived, as I’m sure you are too! Now is the time to expand your living quarters to the outside, whether you have a tiny patio or a big backyard, so that you have a place to relax as well as entertain friends and family.

Now, let’s do an exercise!

Close your eyes and using all of your senses, think about what your backyard oasis would entail. Open your eyes and while you remember what you saw, sketch it with colored pencils or markers. Then, write down what you smelled, tasted, felt, and heard.

Now, unless Oprah swings by your house with a check (how lovely would that be!), you’ll probably need to forego the swimming pool and grotto, and stick to the more basic and inexpensive ideas like planting flowers and getting comfy cushions for your chairs. But that can be just as great!

outdoor oasis

Look at your drawing and focus on the following areas to make your dream backyard oasis an economical, yet beautiful place to be.

  1. What did you see? Pick up on the colors that you used. Is there a predominant one that is visible? Work on incorporating that color into your backyard with flowers, as well as with pillows for your outdoor furniture. Also, pick up on any lighting that was in the picture. If you dreamed of your backyard at night, think about getting Tiki torches or a variety of solar lights.
  2. What did you smell? Pick up on any smells that come to mind. Did you smell the clothes drying outside on the line, or a beach-y scent like coconut? Or, maybe you are smelling flowers like Jasmine. Find an area to plant some near a place you’ll be able to appreciate it.
  3. What did you taste? Pick up on the foods that you enjoy eating in the summertime. Maybe that’s a juicy watermelon, corn on the cob, or a burger on the grill. Make sure you stock up on these favorites in the fridge and freezer.
  4. What did you feel? Pick up on any textures that feel great in the summertime. Think of your bare feet on a lush lawn. Make sure to take great care of your lawn, filling in any bald patches. Hopefully you didn’t feel any mosquito bites!
  5. What did you hear? Pick up on sounds like birds chirping, or a stereo, playing mellow songs for you to relax to.

I hope you were able to hone in on everything that created your ideal picture of your summertime backyard. Once all of your sensory elements are in place, sit down and enjoy it, and do a “here’s to summer” cheers with someone with a glass of iced tea!

What’s in your outdoor oasis? Share in the comments!

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