Category Archives: Time Management

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

Stop Wasting Your Time, Money and Attention

Book cover_not giving an F - 1

When people talk of organizing, we often think of getting rid of “things.” We found a humorous, and irreverent, resource for tackling the clutter in the rest of our life. The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck: How to Stop Spending Time You Don’t Have with People You Don’t Like Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do is written by Sarah Knight who gives straight talk on a touchy subject.

It’s a spin on the decluttering principles made famous by Marie Kondo – conscious decision making. Crafting a life by design instead of by default.  It’s not really a parody, rather it’s a parallel to the Konmari method…it’s Konmari turned on your life instead of your stuff.

Fair warning: the book is intentionally riddled with the F-word, but we found if you mentally substitute something a little less harsh such as “care” – as is “don’t give a care” it’s a little more tolerable.

Cares

We have a limited amount of bandwidth and energy; time and money and we get to choose how to spend that. We get to make a budget of “cares,” so to speak.  When you’re spending it on people place and things you don’t really care about, you’re draining yourself.  You are keeping yourself from doing things you really want to do and which bring you energy and joy.  When you realize how much power you have to give yourself permission to set boundaries and say no, it’s completely liberating!  And (bonus!) you can do it without being a jerk.

Recognize the Drain

The author lays out a method of how to go about this but one of the first steps is to think through all the ways you spend your time, energy, and money and start to see which ones don’t feel good. Here are some red flags to recognize things that you might be doing things that don’t bring you joy:

  • Where do you feel obligated?
  • When do you think of doing something with someone and your feeling is dread as opposed to pleasurable anticipation?
  • What tasks feel inefficient and inconvenient?

Examples of things you may not really care about:

  • Attending routine professional meetings that aren’t truly mandatory
  • Dress codes – high heels, come on! Need I say more?
  • Clothes – are you dressing for yourself our outside expectations?
  • Giving and receiving Christmas gifts. It’s hard to keep coming up with original ideas. A lot of time and energy is spent getting there.
  • Cooking

What To Do About It

Review your list and see what you can let go of wholesale. Let them go and move forward guilt-free! We can’t automatically jettison everything we don’t love. You could, however, find ways to eliminate or modify the most onerous parts of that task to help.

  • 
Hate to fix dinner for your family but want everyone to eat healthy?

Buy pre-cooked meats or pre-cut veggies from Trader Joe’s is a good shortcut to a well-rounded meal. Have a standard set of 10 meals you rotate through and don’t worry about whether your family is bored with it.

  • 
Dread getting dressed for work in the mornings?

Make a uniform for yourself so you never have to angst about what you’re going to wear.

  • 
Anticipate holiday gift-giving with panic?

Decide on one simple gift and give it to everyone.

Don’t Be A Jerk

One of our hesitations to start shedding off obligations is the fear of offending people we care about or risking repercussions from work or others. It’s possible to be true to yourself and honest without being a jerk about it. Politeness, honesty and authenticity are key here. Saying the truth is usually the best tact.

  • “Thank you for inviting me to the symphony, but I really don’t enjoy sitting and listening to music for more than 15 minutes.”
  • “I have a personal policy that I don’t give donations at the door”

Releasing yourself from obligations that don’t enhance your life is incredibly liberating. Start by noticing where you already make choices about activities that feel valuable to you and build on that. Give yourself permission to say NO – you’ll change your life!

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Filed under Decluttering, Guest Experts, organizing, Perspective, Strategies, Time Management

The Allure of Free Stuff

The allure of FREE

Every week the SF Chronicle runs a classic column from years past. This week there was a gem from 1988 titled, “1,000 paper clips? If they’re free, customers love it.”

It seems an office supply store ran a promotion giving away 1,000 paperclips per customer hoping those folks who turned up would shop for additional supplies. Thousands showed up, few bought office supplies, and probably even less needed the paper clips in the first place!

Here’s a perfect quote from the article:

First in line was an elderly gent named Mr. Jeffries, who said he did not know what he was going to do with his 1,000 free paper clips, but they would surely be nice to have around.

When I asked him, when was the last time he used a paper clip?

“I can’t remember,” he said. “Couple of weeks ago, I think. Mailed in a bill.”

At a rate of one clip every two weeks, Mr. Jeffries’ free clips will last 38 years.

“How about that?” said Mr. Jeffries.

One could argue that a few boxes of paper clips isn’t going to take up much space but we often see this same pattern on a larger scale:

  • Duplicates, triplicates, and quadruples of tools and utility items picked up at garage sales cluttering up drawers and shelves
  • Chairs taken from the someone else’s curb that seem so full of potential, if only you could get them recovered and figure out where they go in the house. Meanwhile they crowd a guest room. For years.
  • Books – recently a young couple that lives in tiny 1 bedroom home wanted to keep a free set of hardbound Harry Potter books – for their not-yet-conceived child to read one day.

For us humans, FREE is an inexplainable siren’s call that triggers our sense of need and desire regardless of the actual value of the item to our life. It’s useful to recognize this powerful pull and practice taking a step back and thinking about how the item will add VALUE to your life.

  • Do you actually need it?
  • How often will you use it?
  • How does this add value to your life TODAY?
  • Where will you keep it? Is that space better used by something else?

Define value based on need and relevance, not cost and availability.  So, next time you get caught going after something that’s “FREE,” or “cheap,” pause and think, “who am I going to hire to sort, catalog or store it?” “Is this really WORTH it??”

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, Perspective, Storage, Strategies, Time Management

Collaborate for Success

Dana Arkinzadeh and Katherine Korlacki - 1

This week we are celebrating our 200th blog post!! Let’s take a step back and tell you the story of our blog. It’s a story of risk taking, growth, and collaboration.

Back in November of 2012, both of us felt some pressure that we “had” to have a blog to be “legitimate businesses” and jump in the pool of social media marketing. At that point Dana had been in business 10 years and Katherine for 16 so we both felt established and reluctant to take on a new form of promotion. We decided to tackle the project together – to co-write a blog that we would publish jointly and could each re-purpose for our own use.

Here are 10 lessons we’ve learned through 200 posts:

  1. Don’t go it alone – tough jobs are way easier, and often actually fun, if done with a friend
  2. Have courage to move forward even if you don’t know what you’re doing – things have a way of sorting themselves out and you learn along the way
  3. Commit regular time in your calendar – make it realistic if you want to get something done
  4. Don’t give up – your partner may have energy when you’re flagging
  5. Honor your limits – over the last 6 years we adjusted our start time, adjusted the frequency of posts, and gave us ourselves permission to repost old blogs when feeling uninspired
  6. Go for good enough, instead of perfect – don’t let perfectionism be a roadblock; done is better than perfect
  7. Keep things simple
  8. You don’t have to have all the answers – bring in outside experts to help with topics or technical issues
  9. Make your own rules for success – don’t let others’ expectations drive your goals or standards
  10. Celebrate your accomplishments – it’s often only the negatives we focus on, celebrating helps you remember and savor the positives

Does the blog get us new business? Hard to tell. But we get consistent feedback from current clients that they like hearing from us and get value from the topics. Taking the time to think through topics keeps us curious and open to ideas and creates content that we can use in presentations, newsletters, and other places. One of the biggest benefits to us is a regularly scheduled time to stay connected, support each other through business challenges, and celebrate business and life successes.

How could you collaborate to achieve some of your goals? Have you had a great collaboration experience related to organizing? Share your story with us!

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Filed under Bay Area Services, Decluttering, organizing, Perspective, professional organizer, Strategies, Time Management, Work

Organized Travel – Planning Tips

Travel Planning

Summer is approaching, what are your travel plans? There are a lot of moving parts in travel planning: ideas, resources, and schedules.

Stay Organized, Create a System

Having any kind of system in place to manage the inflow of resources is critical to reduce overwhelm and help make your decision making more efficient. Organizing information is like organizing things in your house.  Having a dedicated space for your travel plans makes it easy to pick up where you left off in your planning efforts.

Choose one location where you’ll keep track of everything. This is critical to avoid having bits of information floating everywhere – random emails, scraps of paper, bookmarked website. Examples:

  • Evernote or Pinterest –online project management tools
  • Email folder and/or Documents folder
  • Spreadsheet
  • Notebook
  • Shared calendars or documents or folders if multiple people are involved in the planning.

Keep a running to-do list of planning tasks. In addition, create a checklist of major components: this includes transportation, lodging, activities … in addition to logistics: banking, credit, phone. Checklists help you know what has been handled and what is still outstanding.

Travel Checklist

Set Your Priorities

Sometimes working with the blank slate of an open 2 weeks is daunting. To help build out the structure of a trip it helps to determine your “have to do’s” vs. your “nice to do’s”.

  • Are your to/from dates set in stone? How much flexibility do you have around travel dates? Prices can vary a lot based on day of week you travel
  • Are there key sights or events that are MUST do’s? If so, are they available any time or are there limits? For example, if you’re traveling to Paris and getting to the top of the Eiffel Tower is a must for you – researching the availability of tickets for that may determine which day that has to happen.
  • Are you traveling for an event such as a wedding or concert/play/tour?

Your top priorities will be fixed points both for day and location that the trip planning will evolve around so figuring them out first makes planning more efficient.

Gather Resources

Planning can take a lot of time – start your research early – talk to friends, put it out on Facebook, browse travel websites. Find out what you shouldn’t miss! This will help give you a rich pool of things to choose from while setting your top travel priorities.

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

Many people have taken your trip before you…there are tons of travel advice and resources on the Web. A quick search of “things I need to do before traveling to X” will turn up a great list to build your Travel To-Do list.

Delegate

Delegating can make the trip more fun for you…especially if you’re not the only one responsible for logistics.  Share the burden and get your fellow travelers’ buy-in. Can you assign your partner to handle a component of the research and planning… or can your teen-age companion scope out fun things to do at your destination?

Stay Organized on the Road

As the date of departure approaches, tidy up.  Dispose of unnecessary bits of info and separate out the final itinerary details from all the planning materials.

You’ve worked hard to plan the trip – continue to reap the benefits of your organization the whole way. Create digital images of all your important documents and reservations. Keep one pocket of your carry-on dedicated to holding any travel plans. Have a backup also – send it to yourself in an email or make sure you’ll have cloud access to any summary documents you created. Make sure your traveling partner has all the info as well.

Just as being organized at home helps you enjoy your space better, organizing your travel planning helps you focus on the adventure ahead instead of being mired in logistics.

Happy Travels!

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Decluttering, Holidays, organizing, Perspective, Strategies, Time Management, Travel

5 Ways to Manage Your Holidays

Pacing Yourself During the Holidays

If 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 or invite a friend to work with you- baking or gift wrapping are examples. 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 December 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