Category Archives: Time Management

Overwhelmed? The Power of List Making

to do lists

It happens to all of us: that creeping feeling of overwhelm as the tasks pile up, coming in via mail, email, voicemail, texts. Your head is over-stuffed with details and surely you’re going to forget something!

There is an extremely simple tool which is the starting place for any task or time management system: the LIST. The power of this basic tool is manyfold:

  • Gathers all your tasks in one place
  • Gives you a birds-eye view on everything
  • Allows you to categorize and prioritize tasks visually
  • Can create as many or few lists as needed to manage the different projects in your life
    • Work projects
    • Client follow-up
    • Home design/repair ideas
    • Travel plans
    • Kid’s activities

How you create and manage a list is up to you – a simple piece of paper works just fine! If you want to get fancier, here are more options:

  • Task/List Apps: Trello, Google Tasks, Wunderlist, Evernote, OneNote
  • Bullet journal
  • Post-its on a wall, on a paper in a file, on a white board
  • White boards for temporary lists
  • Project management apps: Asana, BaseCamp, Microsoft Project

Going digital with your list has some advantages of being able to share with others, color code, and to include formats beyond text. Each mode has pros & cons; pick a mode that works best for you. And don’t be afraid to go as simple as possible.

To start, grab a pad of paper and do a big brain dump of everything on your mind and on your plate. How do you prioritize?

  • What’s stressing you out the most? Ask yourself: “If one thing got done on here, that would make me feel a relief of pressure, what would it be?”
  • Which things have an actual deadline and what’s due next?
  • When feeling unmotivated to get things done, look at the list and pick a few short, easy things to knock off just to reduce the volume.

And yes, you do need to keep updating them! This process of having to re-write your list is actually a valuable part of the process. The act of reviewing and revisiting tasks gives you the opportunity to reflect on their priority.

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Filed under Business Organizing, Decluttering, General Organizing, home organizing, organizing, paper organizing, Strategies, Time Management

Be S.M.A.R.T. About New Year’s Resolutions

hallway (2)

It’s that time of year – we are flooded with messages in ads, articles and magazine covers, about setting and keeping New Year’s resolutions. Over and over, GETTING ORGANIZED ranks in the top 3 – right next to getting healthier and managing your money better. Guess what?  Getting organized can help you with your other goals! A lot of us are great at setting goals but not so great at following through consistently to make progress. Without a plan behind the goal, it’s pretty hard to truly make changes.

An often-used concept in coaching and organizing is to set “S.M.A.R.T.” goals. Keep this in mind as you plan out your journey to a de-cluttered home.

S – Specific

Is your goal well-defined? For some “Getting Organized” is their goal. But it isn’t specific enough. Enlisting a friend or professional organizer to help you do big-picture planning is one way to start. Defining what you truly want and are willing to work for may be more challenging than you think. If you’ve started projects in the past and not completed them, getting specific may have been the missing piece. Instead of “Organize the house”, how about “Organize the hall closet and entry area”?

M – Measurable

Identify the milestones as you progress. If you are organizing your home, emptying out one closet and re-filling it in a way that makes sense to you is a measurable task. It’s good to define your goal in a way that lets you measure your progress and success. How will you know when the hall closet and entry are organized? Will it look different? Function differently? Feel different? Understanding exactly what items need to live in these areas and having clear and functional homes for those items is measurable.

A – Action Oriented

What specific actions are required to move you toward your goal? It’s difficult to take action on something that has many components, breaking the pie-in-the-sky project down into concrete, manageable bites helps. What would be the next logical first step? Is this action observable? It could be that you schedule 1 hour progress sessions. Action tasks could be: “Go through coats and donate ones we don’t use” or “Empty out the floor of the closet and only put back what truly needs to live here”.

R – Realistic

Have a realistic game plan. Are you trying to organize an area that requires other people’s input? If so, do you have it or how will you get it? Does your project require some space to stage items as you go through them? If so, don’t start working on it right before hosting a kid’s birthday party or having guests over.

Telling yourself you are going to organize your house in a weekend when you work full-time and have 2 kids who are active in sports isn’t realistic either. Make your plan do-able. Look at the reality of your schedule and how you like to work and plan out time accordingly.

T – Time-Based

What is your deadline for achieving your goal?  And is there enough time to achieve it? A realistic time frame can keep you sane. Remember that trying to fit a new project in an already-full life, no matter how inspiring it may be, can be a stressor. Blocking out time to act on your plan helps ensure success. Beware – it is very common to underestimate how long it can take. As organizers we usually allow 2-4 hours minimum to full go through, purge, and re-organize a small hall closet (with no re-design). What can you NOT DO in order to create time to do what you are most excited about?

Enjoy the surge of motivation the new year often brings and set yourself up for success by taking the time to record your desires and spend time planning to turn those intentions into actions…and results. If you can make the journey satisfying, you’re more likely to stay on the path.

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Filed under Decluttering, disorganization, General Organizing, Holidays, Perspective, Strategies, Time Management

5 Ways to Manage Your Holidays

 

Holiday OrganizingIf you regularly have a lot going on in life, the added tasks of the holidays can wreak havoc on your time management. Shopping, hosting, holiday cards, parties, travel…where does the time come from to fit everything in?

Time Estimating

One of the biggest traps of time management is magical thinking around how long tasks will take. An easy rule of thumb is to estimate how long a task will take then double it! If you end up with time on your hands you’ll have no trouble filling it.

Be realistic about your schedule. Some things have to give to make room for the extra tasks of the holidays. Time isn’t going to magically appear in your calendar. Be vigilant about passing on opportunities that arise that don’t help your goal of having a wonderful holiday. That could mean saying “no” to the 7th Christmas party invitation!

Simplify Your Task List

There are many ways to enjoy your holidays and some are less time consuming than others. For example, if you realize it will take you 10 hours to put together holiday cards (including addressing, stamping and getting them to the mailbox) you may choose to do something simpler – or choose a different time of year to reach out and connect. Remember your original desire to make connections with family and friends. Realize there are many ways to do that.

Other time saving examples:

  • Store-bought food instead of homemade
  • Pot-luck instead of full hosting
  • E-cards instead of mailed cards
  • Gift bags and tissue instead of gift wrapping

Don’t Go It Alone

It’s easy to feel like we are solely responsible to make a memorable and magical experience for our loved ones. That can be pretty unrealistic and overwhelming. Have a look at your task list and see how you can share the load:

  • Where can the kids participate?
  • Can you invite a friend to work with you- baking or gift wrapping?
  • Is there cleaning or errands you delegate or actually hire out?

Where possible, focus your time and energy on the tasks you really enjoy and figure out how to get help with the others.

Learn from holidays past

Think back on what worked before.  Was there a year where you breezed through the holiday with ease?  What worked?

If there was a season that went poorly, you felt more stressed, you didn’t enjoy the celebrations – ask yourself, “What could you do to avoid those pitfalls?”

You could jot notes and track how long it actually took to: prepare for a party, to do the gift shopping, to pick out clothes to wear to the gala, to find the best gifts for your friends and family or to determine which character you’ll come as to the Dickens Faire.  These estimates could provide a template for happy holidays to come.

Balance

Holidays can be a time when life gets out of balance. In order to make more time in our schedules we often sacrifice personal time for exercise or re-charge. Make it a priority to plan in time for self-care so you can give the gift that really matters – yourself!

Taking this time to practice time management can help you in the rest of your life!

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Filed under General Organizing, Holidays, Strategies, Time Management

De-Stressing Your Move: Phase 1 – Planning Ahead

planning for a move

It’s been said that moving is one of the top 5 most stressful life events –

  • Death of a loved one
  • Divorce
  • Moving
  • Major illness or injury
  • Job loss

And often moving must happen because of one or more of these life events!

While there’s no way to make moving completely stress-free, with some forethought you can keep the move manageable. There’s a lot to cover so we’re going to talk about moving in three phases:

  1. Planning Ahead
  2. Start Packing
  3. Moving Day & Beyond

Plan Ahead & Start Early

This is probably the biggest key to managing the stress of a move. Having enough time to organize all the moving parts (pun intended) and stay on top of details keeps you feeling in control. Often the timeline of a move will feel like a ball rolling downhill, picking up momentum and going faster and faster – the closer you get to move date the shorter each day will feel!

  • Ideally, a minimum of 2 months before your move schedule movers and start to tackle problem areas, room by room.
  • Decide if how much packing and moving you’re doing yourself vs. hiring help. If you’re going the DIY route, allow for more time. If you’re hiring packing help, you’ll need to pre-sort things to avoid having boxes of mixed-up stuff to untangle at the new home.
  • Moving isn’t inexpensive! If you hire help for packing and moving, even for a local move, expect to pay a few thousand dollars. Hiring help can be well worth the value. With someone to schlep boxes, you’ll be able to focus your energy on decision making rather than physically wearing yourself out.
  • Know the limits of your new space and let that guide your purging, especially for items such as photos, memorabilia and books. Floor planning ahead of time gives you the exact reality of what will fit in your space. You want to make sure the available storage will hold whatever you bring.
  • Honor your own limits of time and energy for combing through these things in order to weed the collections.
  • Think about what to do with everything you won’t be taking with you. Decide if you want to sell anything via a garage sale, estate sale or online. Identify local donation places and find out if they do pickups. You will have leftovers that can’t be donated; identify haulers or find out your city’s policy on bulky pickups as part of your trash service.

This first phase of moving is all about getting a handle on the big picture and getting through as much of the sorting and purging as possible.

Even if you’re not moving now and just considering it for the future, the process of sorting through things and paring down will make you more nimble if and when you decide to move.

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Filed under Decluttering, home organizing, Moving, organizing, Perspective, professional organizer, Seniors, Time Management

What Flavor Of Organizing Do You Need?

 

Did you know organizers don’t just organize?  Professional organizing comes in all sorts of flavors. Some organizers are more generalists and cover lots of areas; others pick one specialty and stick to that.  Have a look at the variety of challenges where professional organizers can help:

  1. ADD/ADHD
  2. Bookkeeping
  3. Business development
  4. Children and teen organizing
  5. Chronic disorganization
  6. Closet design and organizing
  7. Coaching
  8. Consulting
  9. Corporate operations
  10. Digital organizing
  11. Downsizing
  12. Eco-organizing
  13. Estate management
  14. Estate sales
  15. Event planning
  16. Feng Shui
  17. Financial management/Bookkeeping/Bill-paying
  18. Garage sales
  19. Garages/Attics/Basements
  20. Hands-on organizing
  21. Hoarding behavior
  22. Home inventories
  23. Home offices
  24. Home staging
  25. Household management
  26. KonMari organizing
  27. Notary Public
  28. Online sales
  29. Paper management
  30. Personal assistance
  31. People with disabilities
  32. Photography/Memorabilia/Collections
  33. Project management
  34. Psychology involved in organizing/productivity
  35. Records management
  36. Relocation and move management
  37. Social media
  38. Space planning and design
  39. Speaking and training
  40. Storage units
  41. Task and time management
  42. Team productivity
  43. Technology
  44. Travel prep
  45. Virtual organizing

No matter the size or scope of your project, we can help you find an organizer with the specialty you need! Ask us for recommendations or go directly to the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals — NAPO.net.

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Filed under ADD/ADHD, artwork, Bathroom, Bay Area Services, Bedroom, Business Organizing, children, Closets, clothing, couples, Decluttering, disorganization, downsizing, Empty Nest, Garage, General Organizing, Holidays, home organizing, Kids, Kitchen, Laundry, Living Room, Memorabilia, Moving, Office, Paper, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, School, Seniors, Storage, Technology, Time Management, Travel, Wedding

Productivity Tips for Life Management

productivity morning ritual

Tip: Start your day with a routine that primes you to be in charge

All of us, at one time or another, get that sinking feeling of having way too much to do in way too little time. It’s demoralizing to feel overwhelmed by the routine tasks of everyday life. While barely treading water with the routine tasks, it doesn’t take much – a flat tire, an unexpected potluck, a roof leak – to push your schedule into full chaos. How can you reclaim your sanity and sense of control and competence?

Here are some strategies from a recent workshop we took from Productivity Coach, Steve Kirch.

Make Conscious Choices

Busy is a choice, but often doesn’t feel like it. You may not feel like you have choice or control over your time. But even in the most obligated person’s schedule there is enough wiggle room to create space for reflection, planning, and some choice-making. Regaining control of your schedule and your life, starts with making a little time to evaluate the bigger picture and consciously deciding what tasks are essential and where they fit best in your schedule. Otherwise, we get pulled from our important goals into other people’s priorities.

Purge, Purge, Purge

One of the most essential things to do is re-evaluate how much you take on. Just as our spaces get cluttered, so do our schedules. Given your personal priorities, figure out both your essential tasks and those that make you truly happy — and fit those in first.

Create a Morning Routine

It doesn’t have to take oodles of time to plan.  Start with 10 minutes of any day and be intentional about how you are going to spend your day. What are YOUR critical few priorities for today? The ideal time to do this is first thing in the morning.

Consider getting up a little earlier and incorporating this short morning routine that grounds you for the day and helps you feel in control of the ship:

  • Stretch or move
  • Drink some water
  • Meditate
  • Plan the day (check your calendar)

Get Things Done

Try these strategies for actually getting tasks done:

  • Time blocking – group like tasks together and schedule a block of time to complete them before moving on to a different set of tasks or project.
  • Pomodoro Technique® – work for 25 minutes, don’t work for 5 minutes, for 4 rounds –then take a longer break.
  • Don’t check email first thing in morning.
  • Know your biological prime time – what is yours? Try and schedule important tasks during this higher energy time.
  • If you’re naturally distractible (ADD), structure your planning time to avoid distractions and consider silencing your phone or putting it on airplane mode to avoid interruptions.

Try to incorporate one or two of these tips into your day and see how it feels.  If you need more help, consult with a Professional Organizer, Coach or Productivity Specialist.  Asking for help can be one of the most productive tips of all.

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Filed under ADD/ADHD, Decluttering, home organizing, organizing, Perspective, Technology, Time Management

Do You Expect Too Much? Give Yourself a Break!

expectations girl

Do any of these feel familiar?

  • Things are getting done but feels like it’s only by blind luck or chance rather than design
  • You’re barely treading water with all the tasks, apt, obligations on your plate
  • You fantasize about more time for leisure or healthy habits like yoga, meditation, exercise?
  • You feel like a fraud? You hold it together in your professional life but fear if people saw how you managed your home or your personal life, they’d be shocked?
  • You say “no” all the time and it still isn’t enough?

If the list above feels familiar, stop and reflect on how you are already accomplishing a full and active life.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do critical items such as bills and deadlines mostly get handled?
  • Are your kids going off to school fed and clothed?
  • Are your kids’ interests being supported?
  • Do you move your body or do some form of physical activity?
  • Do you maintain regular contact with your friends?
  • Do you show up to work regularly?  Are you doing an okay job at work?
  • Is your home functioning to support your basic living needs?

True, there’s always room for improvement in some or all these areas but we often see people measuring themselves against a completely unrealistic standard of what they think they are “supposed” to be doing. Holding onto unrealistic expectations is setting yourself up to feel perpetually overwhelmed and underachieving.

In our modern world, with access to unlimited information and means to acquire things, many of us have raging expectations — wanting our homes to look like a magazine — wanting our bodies to age without showing — wanting our relationships to look perfect — wanting to avoid making mistakes — wanting to give our kids every opportunity for enrichment and advancement.

So, ARE you disorganized?

Like most of us, probably a bit. But it’s possible you’re being unrealistic and not appreciating how hard you’re working and how much you’re accomplishing every day.

Take a step back and savor the life you have, accepting what you have is “good enough.” You can still dream for “more and better.”

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, home organizing, Perspective, Strategies, Time Management