Category Archives: Work

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

Dedicating Space for Household Management


Do you find your household paperwork doesn’t have a home? Is your bedroom getting used for stashing unmanaged mail? Do you have papers and mail all over the house? Are you frustrated that your home never looks tidy? Many people use a large portion of their kitchen counter to manage notes and mail…and it spills over from there. But the kitchen counter space often doesn’t provide enough room for a tidy work space.

All these scenarios point to the importance of dedicating a space for a household management center.


The ideal location for a household management center is close to where this work usually gets done. Kitchen, dining room, living room are very common areas. Look where your paper is accumulating and see if you can dedicate a bit of space to make it an “official” work area. Active projects need to be out and accessible where you will really work on them. Where does the work actually get done?

If you have a more remote home office but don’t find yourself staging the mail and active projects there, you might find paper clutter creeping into the living space. It would be appropriate to create an active work station more centrally and store overflow and permanent files in the office. For example, if you find yourself most often sitting on your couch paying bills online, can you create a space there to catch incoming bills?

The Critical Bits:

  • Active projects: to-do’s and bills to pay
  • Active reference: family schedules and phone lists
  • Basic office supplies (stamps, envelopes, paperclips, post its)
  • Dedicated containers to get the recycling and shredding out of the way and off the countertop

Nice to Have Nearby:

  • Printer – can be hidden or made wireless so it can be stored in a back room or closet
  • Main household filing system – including past years taxes and permanent records
  • Overstock office supplies
  • Kids’ art portfolios

Instead of berating yourself for being messy, embrace the idea that household management needs dedicated space. And give yourself the gift of organization.


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Filed under Decluttering, home organizing, homework, Kitchen, Living Room, Office, organizing, Paper, paper organizing, Perspective, Storage, Work

Using Goal Periods For Time Management


Goal Periods

Breaking a master to-do list into discreet goal periods helps manage the “too much to do overwhelm.”  Trello is a free online tool to implement this strategy.

Have you ever had that feeling of overwhelm when you look at your to-do list, see a million items, feel unsure about where to start or even that the work will never end? We have too!

Inspired by her business coach, Sean Hicks, Katherine has been experimenting with using “goal periods” to help bring focus to her workday.

A goal period is a set block of time when you plan to get things done: seeing clients, doing administrative work, paying bills, running errands, doing chores.

Depending on what’s going on, each day can have several goal periods. A typical length of a goal period is 1.5-3 hours. You decide for yourself how long it should be.  But it should be consistent for you.

Planning Session

The first step to trying this out is to set aside ½ hour 2 times a week for a planning session. This is the time where you will take stock of your giant to-do list, review your schedule for the next few days and decide when your goal periods will be and which tasks will be in them.

What To Do?

Start by having a look at your master to-do list. Ask these questions to narrow the possibilities of what you’re going to tackle this week:

  • What is time sensitive?
  • What’s most important?
  • How long will each item take?

When To Do It?

Now it’s time to take a look at your calendar and set aside some goal periods for the week. Remember, it’s a good idea to do this planning twice a week so you’ll have a chance to shift items around if needed.

  • Block out as many goal periods as your schedule allows (You can have goal periods for exercise and fun stuff too!)
  • Decide which tasks are going to happen in which blocks of time.

Get Working!

When a goal period occurs, get to work on the items designated for that time. When the period ends, stop working on those tasks.

This is essential! Once you have committed to doing something within a goal period, if you don’t finish it within that goal period you have to wait until the next planning session to schedule time to work on it.

So how do you get through tasks that will take longer than a goal period allows? Split that task up into parts and schedule those. If your goal period is 2 hours and you have a task that you think will take 6 hours, you need to break that task down into parts and schedule them into 3 different goal periods.

Maintaining these boundaries is a critical part of the goal period strategy. It has helped Katherine feel the joy of accomplishment without feeling the burden of an unending list of to-dos. This technique also helps give you permission to put a period at the end of a work session, with the opportunity to get refreshed and ready to take on the next set of pre-decided tasks.

Have questions on how to implement this for yourself? Ask them here!

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Filed under Decluttering, organizing, Perspective, Strategies, Technology, Time Management, Work

Fear Factor: Papers You Don’t Think You Can Handle

In the spirit of Halloween we continue the discussion of how to banish the fears that keep us from starting organizing projects.

eyeball - 1

Fear #2: Papers You Don’t Think You Can Handle

Imagine this scenario: you get a thick envelope in the mail from your attorney…aaack! You don’t want to deal with it. You throw it in a pile, in a remote drawer or just leave it in your “in-box”.

If you’re lucky, days (or months) later, you get a call from your attorney’s office. “Did you get the papers we sent to you to fill out? They are time sensitive. “ If you’re not lucky, you’ll never hear from them again.

This is the kind of stuff that populates that scary file drawer or mail pile. It’s overwhelming, you don’t understand it all, and you know you’re going to have to THINK to figure out what to do next. Everyone seems to have an area like this; an “I can’t deal with this pile.”

Fear banishing strategies:

  1. Grab someone’s hand and tackle the pile together
  2. Pour a shot or two of whiskey and dive in
  3. Call your attorney and ask them to walk you through it
  4. Set a timer and commit to spending 10 minutes looking through the drawer
  5. Sign up for a “get it done” session with a coach, an organizer, a friend
  6. Break down the project into bite-sized chunks.
  7. Write down in advance –before you even look in the drawer or deconstruct the pile – what you “think” you have to do …providing a framework with which to sort the pieces of information

The project may be more than you can handle. But unless you dip your toe in, you may never know.  Asking for help, even to break open the drawer or pry apart the envelope is a valid strategy!

Next up…tackling those things that conjure up ghosts from the past…


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Filed under Decluttering, disorganization, Office, organizing, Paper, Perspective, professional organizer, Strategies, Work

Organize Your Home Office with One Hand


Is your home office a room you conveniently close the door on and avoid at all costs? Do you survey the mess and feel your blood pressure rise? Have you taken over the dining table or part of the kitchen because you don’t have a dedicated home office space?

At first glance the volume of stuff in a home office can look like hundreds, if not thousands, of items. In reality, there are only 5 TYPES of items that make up a smoothly functioning home office. Hold up your hand and count them off…


  1. WORKSPACE. This is the necessary flat surface for doing work.
  • Make sure you have adequate room for computer AND some papers if possible
  • It’s a work space so don’t use it as a storage Only use for storing active papers and very minimal supplies
  1. EQUIPMENT. The electronic tools we use to get the job done.
  • Computer, printer, scanner, phone …
  • Try to keep them stored off the floor, cables managed
  • Keep easily accessible from workspace if often used


  1. SUPPLIES. All the usual suspects
  • Evaluate high use vs. low use (If you only write thank you notes a few times a year, don’t store 5 boxes of thank you cards in your top right hand drawer of your desk!)
  • Only use desktop if absolutely necessary for critical supplies: stapler, tape, 1 pen cup, paper clips…consider adding a wall shelf instead
  • Drawers and shelves work best for supplies
  • Stock desk or workspace with a small amount of critical supplies and store overflow loose supplies in sorted, clear lidded containers on shelves further from workspace.


  1. ACTIVE PAPERS. These are To-do’s and Active Reference.
  • Active reference usually means things like schedules, phone lists, and upcoming events. This is the one type of paper that can justify taking up some of your workspace.
  • Piles can work OK but go vertical over horizontal by using, magazine holders, desktop file sorters, or desktop file crates
  1. RESOURCES.  Files, books, magazines.
  • Files live best in a filing cabinet, not flat in a drawer or loose on a shelf
  • Consider real estate value when assigning homes. Don’t give over a prime drawer to low-use files such as warranties & instruction manuals.
  • Make sure you have enough shelving space to accommodate the number of book/magazine resources you need

Even if your “home office” can only be a section of counter or the dining room table, assess the space for how these 5 elements are being handled. Keep your desktop as clear as possible and use drawers and cabinets to hold what isn’t active.

Whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed, come back to this concept…use your hand as a visual reminder. Everything in a home office falls into one of five categories. Take it slow, you can focus on one element at a time and make significant progress.

It make take more than one hand to get yourself picked up to start, but once you have your systems in place, maintaining it should be quick and easy. And if all else fails, you can use your one hand to wave at the mess as you close the door on it.

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Filed under Decluttering, disorganization, General Organizing, home organizing, Office, organizing, Paper, Strategies, Work

Using a Timer to Get Organized

Use a visual timer to gauge progress on tasks

Time Timer lets you see time passing

Dana just got back from the National Association of Professional Organizers conference in Phoenix, Arizona. A product highlight from the conference is the Time Timer®. This is an ingenious timer that gives you a visual of time passing.

How do timers help you be productive and get organized?

  • Stay on task by working in short segments
  • Feel less overwhelmed by breaking larger projects down into manageable chunks
  • Give time blocks to regular tasks to create routines
  • Control time spent responding to emails or checking social media by setting a time limit
  • Help kids learn about time management

The Time Timer® is also available in a phone app and wristwatch.

Any kind of timer can work to implement these principles. The advantage of the Time Timer® is you actually see time passing and can see how much time you have left. For that reason it’s a great tool for people who have trouble conceptualizing time.

The "Pomodoro Technique" focuses on learning how long it takes to complete different tasks.  Click on the picture to learn more.

The “Pomodoro Technique” focuses on learning how long it takes to complete different tasks. Click on the picture to learn more.

Time estimating

One of the more critical skills in being organized is being able to accurately estimate how long tasks take. If you start using a timer around your daily tasks, make note of what you learn –

  • Did you allow enough time?
  • How many timer sessions did it take to get through a project?

The more you learn about how long things take, the more effective you will become at time management.

What tasks are you avoiding because they are overwhelming?  Set a timer for 25 minutes and see if that helps you make progress.  Let us know how it worked.

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, Kids, Office, Perspective, Strategies, Time Management, Work

Overwhelmed with Paper?

Check out our YouTube video!

Check out our YouTube video!

The start of a new year is the perfect time to set up a new way to handle the constant flow of incoming paper. If you often feel frustrated or overwhelmed with paper and wonder where to put things, you aren’t alone!

For years now we’ve been using FreedomFiler® with clients. We love this system because it really teaches clients what they  need to keep and for how long.

The beauty of the FreedomFiler® system is that it does the work of making these decisions for you. It is designed to cycle papers OUT of the files – forever eliminating the need to set aside time to “purge the filing cabinet”.

FreedomFiler® is made up of 4 color-coded sections:

  • GREEN for monthly miscellaneous transactions
  • BLUE for tax-related transactions
  • RED for permanent family and property records
  • ORANGE/YELLOW for current policies, agreements
  • You may set up an optional fifth section in PURPLE, for saving literature, articles, and notes

When filing papers with FreedomFiler®, you only have to figure out what kind of paper you are holding; that determines which color group it gets filed in and the color group will determine how long it’s kept.

To use the system ask 4 simple questions

  1. Does this paper require immediate action or follow-up?
  2. Can I use this paper for taxes?
  3. Is this a vital record belonging to a person or an asset?
  4. Is this a newer version of an existing document?

Click the graphic below to see how it works:

Freedom Filer makes filing easy

Could it be that easy?  YES! Check out our short video intro to give you a taste.

If you use FreedomFiler® share your experience.  If you have a question, share that too!

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Filed under General Organizing, Office, Paper, Work