Still Time to Organize Tax Paperwork!

On March 13, 2014, in Tax Preparation, by Stephanie Shalofsky
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I find personally, as well as with my clients, that having a definitive deadline for completing a task can be very motivating as it keeps the task top of mind. This is especially the case when the job needs to be done within three or four weeks’ time or less — like when you need to organize tax paperwork.

Organize Your Taxes

Original Image Credit: John Morgan via Flickr Creative Commons


A Tax Preparation Story

Over the past 3 months, I have been working with a client who has a home-based business. During this time, my client (who I’ll call Joan) and I have met periodically to organize tax paperwork for her accountant. While we have been making good progress, I believed that a deadline imposed by Joan’s accountant would be the best motivator to get this task completed.

When I asked Joan during today’s meeting if an appointment had been set with her accountant, she advised that she had yet to do so and didn’t think that she could be ready until April.  Knowing full well that her accountant would prefer to meet this month, I suggested that she call her accountant to set the appointment, and within minutes the meeting was booked for the very end of March.

Deadlines Keep You Accountable

During the rest of time scheduled to organize her tax paperwork, Joan was much more focused on the tasks that needed to be done and spent the time reviewing and consolidating her income information while I worked on filing one last batch of 2013 receipts that we had discovered.

Now that Joan has to be prepared to hand off her tax information on March 31, homework assignments are more likely to be completed between our meetings. Hence, I will be ending each of our upcoming meetings with an assignment. Today’s “homework” included printing the one remaining credit card summary statement.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

We have worked together to organize tax paperwork for Joan’s accountant for the past four years.  Over this time, we have developed a process for sorting, filing and categorizing the expenses. This year we have introduced a significant change.

Instead of preparing a handwritten document summarizing the expense categories with their respective totals, Joan agreed to let me help her create a worksheet in Excel for capturing all of the relevant information.  This not only allows us to easily make corrections as needed but also let excel do the calculations instead of relying on the calculator (with a number 3 key that sticks!).

Needless to say, introducing technology into our process was a major step.  I had created the original worksheet four years ago, but we never used it as this was outside of Joan’s comfort zone.  Fast forward four years later … this year Joan was ready to embrace this change and has been adapting well to our new process.  The combination of using Excel plus having a definitive deadline will ensure that this task is completed well in advance of Joan’s meeting with her accountant.

So, just like Joan, you, too, can make the necessary changes to help you get your taxes organized and ready by the deadline. There’s still time!


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LinkedIn: 3 Simple Tips To Increase Leads

On March 10, 2014, in Social Media, by Nealey Stapleton
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There’s a lot of buzz about LinkedIn these days, but what the heck is it anyway? As a small business owner (or someone who’s looking for a career change), LinkedIn can be a great resource. And, you might find potential clients there.

Increase your leads with LinkedIn


What is LinkedIn?

LinkedIn is a social media platform that serves the business community. In my opinion, it is one of the top social media websites and very worthy of checking out and getting involved in.  It’s like attending a networking event except it’s online, and you don’t have to get dressed up for it.

You meet new people, give out your business card, create relationships and hopefully work together in the future. It’s a fantastic resource and can be used to your advantage with small amounts of time and effort.

Why should you use LinkedIn?

I follow a bunch of social media experts online and found that they had some of the same ingredients when it came to LinkedIn success. I put their tips into action in the last few months and what do you know?! Success! I’ve already gotten a client that I meet with on a regular basis, and that alone is enough proof that LinkedIn is worth a shot and the following tips will work.

By doing a few simple things, you can achieve similar results.

How can you increase your leads with LinkedIn?

Here are the top three LinkedIn tips you can use to increase leads. I learned these strategies from social media experts far and wide and highly recommend you put them into practice.

1. Complete Your Profile. First, it is imperative that you simply complete your profile.  I know this seems obvious, but many people don’t do this and it costs them.


Second, the first thing people should read on your profile is how you can help them. This way, they can quickly learn what you offer instead of immediately clicking away, and then you can funnel them to your website or e-mail list.

2. Do The Networking. Add connections on a regular basis. As a frame of reference, I invite two new contacts to connect per day. If you don’t want to commit daily time to it, then add fourteen new connections one day a week. The bottom line is to add contacts regularly, so that your network is constantly growing.


Once you connect, send your new contact a welcome message. I HIGHLY recommend this. I crafted a customizable welcome message and it’s saved in my Drafts folder. When I have a new connection, I copy the welcome text into a LinkedIn message, customize it with their name and send it. I’ve gotten great responses from new connections by doing this simple, quick task and have also grown my social media following because of it.

3. Get Active. It doesn’t have to be every day, but get involved regularly. I would recommend some sort of participation at least once a week. This can include taking part in group discussions, posting status updates of your own, and liking and commenting on others’ status updates.


What has been your experience with LinkedIn? Do you have a specific question? Please share it below. I’d love to hear from you!

If you want to connect with me on LinkedIn or take a look at my page as an example, feel free to check out my profile here. Looking forward to connecting!

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Fact Friday: “Music Helps You Finish Boring Tasks Faster”

On March 7, 2014, in Fact Friday, Productivity, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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“Because listening to music you like is pleasurable, it will not only make the task seem more fun but as research shows, it can actually help you complete the task faster.

In a study published in the journal of Neuroscience of Behavior and Physiology, it was found that a person’s ability to recognize images, letters, and numbers was faster when rock or classical music was playing in the background compared to when there was no music.”

Read More:

Listen while you work: What music does to your brain | | 2.10.14



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6 Positive Quotes to Boost Your Motivation

On March 4, 2014, in Motivation, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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Quotes and mantras can be a great source of motivation and help you to do things you didn’t think you were capable of. And, sometimes, they pick you up from out of the doldrums and encourage positive emotions. They can also make you smile and move you to share them with someone else.

Here are six motivating quotes that can help turn your day around. Tuck them in your pocket and save them for a day that you need them.

6 Quotes to Boost your Motivation

1. “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” ~Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou Quote


2. “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” ~Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan


3. “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” ~Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt Quote


4. “If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.” ~Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee Quote


5. “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage — pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically, to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside.” ~Steven R. Covey

Stephen Covey Quote


6. “When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal, you do not change your decision to get there.” ~ Zig Ziglar

Zig Ziglar Quote


What are your favorite quotes? Is there one that really inspires you? Please share it in the comments.



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Organize Your Family Contacts and Connect More

On March 3, 2014, in Busy People, by Ellen Delap
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As families, we have a lot of contact information for aunts, uncles, kids, grandparents, stepparents, and more. While staying in touch has never been easier, the old address book has been replaced with newer technology on our computers and smart phones.

The good news is having easy access to email addresses, physical addresses, and phone numbers can be simple. Keep in touch with family, friends, and acquaintances by organizing your family contacts.

organize your contacts

Here are five ways you can organize your family contacts:

  1. Collect new contacts. Select a spot where new incoming contact information is  kept until entered in your database. Do you have little scraps from envelopes and post it notes? Gather them all in one spot. It can be as simple as a Ziploc bag (affiliate link) in a drawer or a basket on  your desk.  Add new addresses once a month to keep up to date.
  2. Consolidate your contacts. Whether you use Gmail, Outlook, or Yahoo, you can consolidate all  your contacts in one spot. Be sure to complete all the contact information using just one of these platforms. You can use this as your go to resource so that you don’t have to search multiple locations for the information you’re looking for. Just be sure to sync your data so that you have up to date information on your phone and your laptop.
  3. Create your signature. Add a signature line to your email. This simple tool gives everyone your contact information so they can connect with you whenever they receive an e-mail from you (without searching). Your signature line can include your name and cell phone number.
  4. Create a spreadsheet. Create a family address chart for family members who do not use the computer. Consolidate all family addresses on a document including physical address, cell phone, and e-mail address. Then, print a copy and mail a to older relatives (they can keep it posted by the phone or in their wallet/purse).
  5. Update your address book. Still love the old style address book? (affiliate link) Keep up to date by writing in new addresses in pencil each January after holiday cards arrive.

Our family connections are very important. So, why not make it much easier to write a note or to mail your holiday cards at the end of the year? With your organized connections, it will be effortless to stay in touch.








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Fact Friday: You Can Get Secondhand Stress from Busy CoWorkers

On March 3, 2014, in Wellness, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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Fact Friday: Organizing and productivity facts Organize to Revitalize Blog“People who appear rushed all the time have a big affect on colleagues. They may not know it, but they’re usually causing secondhand stress. Seeing colleagues—especially managers—operate at a frenzied, frantic pace can make the behavior contagious, says Robert S. Rubin, an associate professor of management at DePaul University, Chicago.”

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How Busy Colleagues Spread Secondhand Stress | |12.10.13



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Quick Tip: Clean Silver Jewelry With Toothpaste

On March 1, 2014, in Lifehacks, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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clean your silver jewelry with toothpasteIs your favorite silver jewelry sitting around not being worn because they’re tarnished? Well, let them sit no more! Grab some toothpaste and a toothbrush and within minutes, they’ll be sparkling like new!

For years, I’ve been cleaning my silver jewelry with toothpaste. I love this little lifehack because:

  • I always have toothpaste on hand
  • … and extra toothbrushes, too
  • I don’t have to buy a harsh chemical cleaner
  • It’s inexpensive
  • It’s simple, quick, and easy to do
  • And, it works!

Yes, it’s a little messy, but it’s well worth it. It took me about six or seven minutes to clean my earrings, but depending on how tarnished your jewelry is, you may need a bit more time. 

If you don’t have an extra toothbrush around, you could use a old washcloth or retired T-shirt to help you get the job done. If you decide to use a toothbrush, remember to put it aside for future jewelry cleaning sessions. Use a Sharpie to label it so that you don’t forget and use it to brush your teeth. =)

So, check out how easy it is to clean your jewelry with toothpaste in the video below.


Have you tried cleaning your silver jewelry with toothpaste or do you have another tip for cleaning your bling? Leave a comment below.


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New Year, New Theme: What’s Your Word for 2014?

On March 1, 2014, in Motivation, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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Welcome to a brand new year! What are you plans?

One of the things I intend to do this year is to surround my goals with a theme or a word (stop by our Facebook page to share your word for 2014) instead of focusing on tasks I want to accomplish.

Attempting to achieve a goal or two or ten can sometimes lead to frustration, especially since many people give up on their New Year’s resolutions by the time March rolls around. Which leads some people (myself included) to believe that resolutions are a waste of time.

Instead, selecting a theme can support the choices you make throughout the year. Before you make commitments, before making decisions (big or small), say to yourself:

“Will doing this fit with my theme this year?”

That simple question can affect the:

  • Goals you choose
  • People you keep in your close circles
  • Activities you say “yes” or “no” to
  • Words and language you use
  • Behaviors you cultivate



So, what’s my theme or word for 2014? I’ve had a tricky time picking one, but I’ve finally settled on consistency. I chose that word because I want it to be the thread that weaves itself throughout everything I do.

I’m great at starting projects. Tracking them. Tweaking them. Focusing on them. I give them 150% (though I may need to cut back to just 100%). Then, as sometimes happens, life throws a wrench in my direction. Even with a few wrenches in the mix, I still give my full attention, but my level of consistency seems to take a hit.

Not surprisingly, once I’m off track, it’s harder to get back on it.

So, I plan to:

1. Set reasonable goals with my theme or word for 2o14 in mind

2. Be more aware of the things (or people) that yank me off course

3. Come up with short-term steps to help keep me moving forward

4. Regularly look back at “the plan” for the year to see what adjustments need to be made

5. Ask for help (I really, really need to take off my super hero cape and consistently ask for help)

With this in mind, I’m suspect this will also help me kick stress to the curb often than not. So, now that I’ve announced my plan, feel free to keep me accountable. Gentle nudges and check-ins are are welcome. =)

Ok, now it’s your turn. What’s your word for 2014?



Fact Friday: Answering E-mails at Night Exhausts Employees the Next Day

On February 28, 2014, in Fact Friday, Productivity, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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“Reading and sending work email on a smartphone late into the evening doesn’t just make it harder to get a decent night’s sleep. New research findings show it also exhausts workers by morning and leaves them disengaged by the next afternoon.”

Read More:

Smartphones Make You Tired and Unproductive, Study Says | | 2.20.14



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You Have My Permission to Let Go of Clutter

On February 24, 2014, in Home Organizing, by Janice Simon
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During an organizing session, the busy clinician I was meeting with showed me the foot-high stack of unread medical journals.

“I thought I would read them, but they’ve been there for about two or three months,” she said.

“When you are looking for an article, where do you look first?” I asked.

“PubMed.” This is code for our campus library’s online journal search program.

“You can recycle them,” I replied. “Let them go.”

She breathed out a sigh of relief, and her shoulders relaxed. The doctor smiled since I gave her “permission” to do something she wanted to do but was nervous about.

permission to let go of clutter

We organizers wind up granting permission to many of our clients. Now I know what you’re thinking. We don’t need no stinkin’ permission. Why do Official Grown-Ups (OGU) need permission to do anything? Isn’t that the right of being an OGU?

One of the drawbacks of being an OGU is that our heads are filled with rules, thoughts about that permanent record our teachers always warned us about, and worry about what “they” say. No one can identify who “they” are, but they do say lots of things that we seem to listen to.

No matter how much of OGU we are, sometimes it helps to have permission to do what you want to do. Essentially, we need to cut ourselves a break. In honor of that …

You have my permission to let go of clutter

  1. Dump that stack of unread magazines and newspapers into the recycling can.
  2. Toss unattractive photos of yourself.
  3. Donate or sell books you know you won’t read again.
  4. Donate the shoes that hurt your feet.
  5. Cancel subscriptions and memberships that no longer serve you.
  6. Go paperless for your monthly bills.
  7. Leave your clothes in the dryer or laundry basket for a day or two. We won’t tell (so let go of stress!).
  8. Recycle the product registration cards you have no intention of filling out and mailing.
  9. Toss receipts you don’t need for your taxes or proof of large ticket purchases.
  10. Ditch old files of credit card statements, utility bills and bank statements.
  11. Shred papers with account numbers and confidential information. Don’t shred every single piece of paper with your name and address on it. If you own your home, your name and address are public record.
  12. Delete emails, documents and other digital files you no longer need.
  13. That thing you spent a great deal of money on but never use — get rid of it.

There you are. You have my permission to get rid of those things you really want to get rid of and still keep your Official Grown-Up street cred.

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