Brought To You By Emily Parks
Productivity Consultant at Organize For Success, LLC...
Helping You Make Every Minute Matter!



Friday, February 10, 2017

7 Travel Hacks You Need to Know Before You Go

To give you a taste of what's to come in Emily Parks' series of travel tips that will count down to Memorial Day, we welcome Sarah Smith of ThePersonalIncome.org to present today's post.

People like reading about travel tips simply because travel can be overwhelming and confusing. There are tips about booking cheap flights and getting the best hotel accommodations for a good rate. These are, of course some of the main concerns of travelers, but there are other things about which a person who travels a lot might be concerned. Packing and taking great photos are two of those.

Many people worry about what to bring and how to cram everything they need for a few days into small pieces of luggage. Did you know that rolling your clothes makes them easier to pack and leaves them less wrinkled? You will benefit from packing mostly dark-colored clothes since they don’t get dirty very easily. You can just hand wash them with soap and water in your hotel room and hang them at the clothesline if there’s no laundry service. This way, you can reuse the same shirt or pants several times during your trip.

You can bring shampoo, conditioner and toothpaste in sachets since you'll need only a little of each, but bring a lot of sunscreen, especially if you will be spending a lot of time under the sun.

If you are traveling with your loved ones or friends, it will also do you well to book tours. It will make going around islands or cities much easier since everything will be taken care for you. The itinerary will also be laid out, and you won’t even have to worry about meals and other incidentals.

This timely infographic details travel hacks and other tips that will serve you well during your next trip:

7 Travel Hacks You Need to Know Before You Go

Monday, February 6, 2017

Productivity Best Practices from Super Bowl LI

Bill Belichick, the coach of the New England Patriots, is often called a "legend" or the "greatest of all time", and his team's win in last night's Super Bowl LI reinforced those beliefs for many who had been thinking that way. At halftime, the National Football Conference champions (the Atlanta Falcons) led the American Football Conference champions (the New England Patriots) by a score of 21 to 3, and most folks were saying the game was over. No team had ever overcome that large of a deficit in the Super Bowl, especially when the lead stretched to 28 versus 3 in the 3rd quarter, but no one counted on the spectacular play of Patriots' supporting cast members, like running back James White, tight end Martellus Bennett, wide receiver Danny Amendola, defensive lineman Trey Flowers and wide receiver Julian Edelman. There are a couple important productivity lessons brought to light by this Patriots' win, and we can implement them to organize for success in our lives.

First, there's no I in TEAM, and, together, everyone achieves more. Although quarterback Tom Brady was awarded the Super Bowl MVP in 2015 and 2017, he acknowledged in both cases that he could never have achieved such a big, hairy, audacious goal without everyone on the team carrying their share of the workload. In 2015, he gave the truck he was awarded as MVP away to Patriots' cornerback Malcolm Butler; then, earlier today, Brady again acknowledged this win coming from a real team effort by saying "I think James White deserves it" in reference to the truck Brady was awarded as the 2017 Super Bowl MVP. Situational football plays a key role in such an epic comeback, and there are so many critical plays that contribute to a team performance of this magnitude: James White set a Super Bowl record with 20 points and 14 receptions; Trey Flowers sacked Falcons' quarterback Matt Ryan in a pivotal play late in the 4th quarter, which is one play Ryan truly wishes he could change; Julian Edelman might've saved the day with a miraculous, gravity-defying, history-making and absolutely incredible catch, which you should click here to watch now if you've yet to see it or follow a step-by-step breakdown of the play here. Aristotle said, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts", but it is through the culmination of all these players' contributions that the entire Patriots' team won.

Second, focused efforts without distraction over the duration of a project lead to effectively achieving desired results. When trailing by over 8 touchdowns, the Patriots could have easily given up, and most folks could have related to that feeling of being unable to overcome such a large deficit, particularly as such a Super Bowl comeback had never been done before. It's hard to believe you can accomplish something no one has done before, but the Patriots exhibited the mental toughness necessary when it might've been most difficult. One of the mantras for which Coach Belichick is most well known is "Do your job", and, for each member of the Patriots' team, doing his job consisted of diligently and attentively playing football, working beyond his limitations and showing mastery for all aspects of his game throughout the entire 60 minutes of four, 15-minute quarters as well as the first 4 minutes of overtime. No more and no less. Some have said the Falcons' defense appeared tired in the final quarter of the game while others have said the Patriots' offense finally figured out how to overcome what the Falcons' defense had been doing; regardless, the New England Patriots fulfilled Coach Belichick's expectation of doing all the little things it takes to win. Diligently paying attention to details led to the Patriots' success.

The men's basketball team for North Carolina State University was coached by Jim Valvano from 1980 to 1990, after which he famously battled metastatic adenocarcinoma, a type of bone cancer. One of Coach Valvano's most memorable motivational speeches was delivered February 21, 1993, during which Valvano stressed the importance of hope, love and persistence and included his famous quote of "Don't give up, don't ever give up." In last night's Super Bowl LI victory, the Patriots chose to never give up. Couple the Patriots' persistence with teamwork and each team member doing his job with great focus as well as attention to detail, and it's easy to see why the New England Patriots were rewarded with a remarkable Super Bowl victory.

What productivity practices make your organization most successful? Do you practice teamwork? Do you reinforce focusing on the details to do your job well? Do you have a culture of not quitting and not giving up?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

February 1st is Change Your Password Day

No matter how diligently you plan for your financial future, chances are pretty good that you put your future at risk every day. If you are like me, you have online accounts that run the gamut, including logins to download music, purchase clothing, pay bills, communicate on social media, share documents or information and much, much more. Back when the Heartbleed security bug exploded in early 2014, we all had to take stock of our online accounts to change passwords for all the infected sites, and I realized how long my list of accounts had gotten. Couple the vast number of accounts with password security ranging from horrible to somewhat mediocre, and our risk is very scary.

According to CNN, half American adults were hacked in 2013 alone, and evidence indicates that situation is not slacking off. Looking at the list of biggest data breaches in 2016, there are some big names that can invoke real fear for those of us dependent on the Internet. A plethora of databases (from the U.S. Department of Justice and Internal Revenue Service to LinkedIn, Yahoo!, Weebly website design, Cisco and Wendy's) are all included. Yes, I did say Wendy's the restaurant chain, and there's no telling what 2017 has in store.

Back in 2012, Gizmodo declared February 1st to be "Change Your Password Day", which I think is a pretty good idea. Using a password manager can increase the security of your passwords by having them created via the technology itself rather than your brain and secures those passwords electronically; however, even if you choose an alternative method for keeping track of all your online accounts, it's probably been awhile since you've refreshed your passwords. Take action today and change your passwords!

How do you keep track of the logins and passwords for all your online accounts? Will you take time today to assign each online account a new, more secure password?

Friday, January 27, 2017

What Does It Really Mean to "Be Productive" or "Boost Productivity"? Redefine Productivity for Greater Success

Productivity is a popular topic at networking events, in office conversations and for articles across many business-focused publications. I often hear people talk about how productive they are. Some folks use this buzzword to describe the rate at which a person does useful work while others use it to reference how much is getting done or how capable someone is to accomplish all that is needed. Maybe it's as simple as accomplishing what one sets out to do, fueling greater peace, happiness and success.

Although the dictionary definition of productivity is "the quality, state or fact of being able to generate, create, enhance or bring forth goods and services", I think it is so much more than simply getting more done in less time; from my viewpoint, productivity is about efficiently working to effectively achieve results desired for all elements of life. The emphasis on each element of life fluctuates as priorities change while our actions and efforts in each element of life can complement the other elements rather than having them compete with each other.

All individuals must determine what is "right" for their own productivity based off varying priorities and desired results, knowing there is not one best way to do this. Here are 6 common themes in how I help my clients boost productivity:
  • Time is a limited resource and needs to be invested wisely. Each day gifts us only 1,440 minutes; each week is only 168 hours. Saying yes to doing something means saying no to anything else using that time. Once we have lived that time, we cannot get it back; unlike money that can be invested to grow, the return on time spent must be greater than simply more time. How each of us measures the return on our time investment should reflect directly on our priorities.
  • Distractions are extremely detrimental to your desired results. Research shows the average US office worker is interrupted 11 times each hour of the workday and, then, it takes 3 to 8 minutes to refocus, although it can take up to 25 minutes to really refocus when working in deep thought. I'm not a mathematician, but even I can deduce how that doesn't leave much time for getting things accomplished. Since time is so limited, reducing distractions is a valuable skill to learn.
  • It is imperative to utilize all available resources. Each of us has different assets in our productivity toolbox, but we all have tools to use. Resources can include apps or websites, streamlined workflow processes, an organized space in which you know where things are stored, consultants hired for their expertise, employees or service professionals to whom you delegate (including house cleaners and chefs), calendars, timers, boundaries, to-do lists, email, automation and much more. Sometimes, an unbiased individual with a fresh set of eyes can best find additional sources of help, but there are always tools to support our efforts and make life easier.
How do you define being productive? Do you tie it to literally producing more, helping you feel more in control, making more money or something else? When thinking about boosting productivity, are results or feelings more important to you? What do YOU consider productivity?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

How Are Your Resolutions Coming? Or Do You Have a "Word of the Year" Guiding Your New Year's Direction?

The beginning of a new year often presents a fresh start and is an ideal time to develop new habits, attack new goals and "be better" or "do better" in whatever areas of life have been challenging. Yet, for many of us, motivation and momentum starts to wane a bit after a few weeks. Life gets in the way, distractions arise, your annual battle with bronchitis comes back with a vengeance or you move on to whatever might be bigger and better at that moment.

Research tells us 92% of new year's resolutions fail. There are a number of reasons resolutions fail, including overly ambitious targets, vague details and peer pressure, but the fact remains that resolutions are rarely successful in driving change.

What if we tried something different for this calendar year?

I've heard more and more people moving away from new year's resolutions; instead, we're setting a theme by picking one word to summarize who we want to be, what we want to accomplish and our overall desire for directing our actions in 2017.

It won't really matter what word you choose as long as it resonates with you and your vision for the new year. How do you want to feel? What goals do you want to accomplish at work, at home, in the community and for yourself? What are your dreams and big, hairy, audacious goals? What successes would make you proudest?

For 2017, I have chosen "uplevel" as my word of the year. According to the Urban Dictionary, uplevel means "to transform and grow in an area previously stagnant." This covers everything from my network connections to the service I provide clients, how present I am when hanging out with friends to how organized I keep my home and how proactive I am in my Lung Cancer Initiative volunteering to my dedication for working out at least once per week at LifeTime Fitness. It's an all-encompassing goal!

If you create new year's resolutions, how successful are you each year? Alternatively, have you considered replacing your new year's resolutions with a word for your new year? If you chose a word for this year, what is your for 2017?

Friday, December 23, 2016

Tackle the Time-Crunch for Better Gift-Giving Success

There are many folks who purposefully wait until the last few days to complete their Christmas shopping, loving the energy that comes with running around on Christmas Eve or finding that these last-minute shopping sprees fill them with the Christmas spirit. I have vivid memories of running out with Dad on Christmas Eve to start his shopping, feeling the excitement from everyone's harried movements. However, many procrastinators who have shopping left did not plan to not be done and are truly feeling the crunch. 

If you would rather skip the mall madness, you have a few options:

One wonderful idea is to "shop small" and visit the locally-owned and -operated small businesses throughout your community. When you shop at a chain store, only $43 of every $100 spent benefits your neighbors locally; however, when you shop at a locally-owned business, $68 of every $100 spent stays right there in your local economy. When you look at the statistics, there's ample rationale for saving your sanity, enjoying greater service and shopping your locally-owned small businesses. If you are in the Lake Norman area, consider supporting my sisters' shop, Sweet Magnolia; if you are in the Raleigh area, consider supporting Stylefinder, DECO or The Green Monkey. Which locally-owned and -operated small business in your community is your favorite?

Another alternative is to subscribe your gift recipients to goodies that will be delivered directly to their front doors. The younger folks in your life might appreciate a delivery from Rockets of Awesome, where experts hand-pick a selection of stylish clothes, sending 8-12 outfit-ready items that are $12-$36 per item and can fit what size you select between sizes 2 and 14. The dog lovers in your life might appreciate a delivery from Barkbox, which includes a monthly box of goodies for dogs and their humans. If you have not already gotten them a Poole's: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner book by Ashley Christensen and Kaitlyn Goalen, the foodies in your life might appreciate a subscription to the Snack Smart, Do Good club from Love With Food, which delivers all-natural, organic or gluten-free snacks each month. Those folks in your life that lack a green thumb and want plants easy to keep alive might appreciate a delivery from The Desert Box, which includes a planter made from repurposed wood, 1-3 succulents and / or cacti, depending on size, soil and moss, pouch of white granite pebbles and a plant care card. Plus, anyone can benefit from a subscription to the Dollar Shave Club, which offers blades and associated shaving products as well as sulfate-free shower products that hydrate without stripping, hair styling products and skin protection products. Which subscription gifts have you loved giving or receiving?

Stop spinning your wheels; take advantage of these options to organize for success. What other tactics work best for you? Please share your strategies for time-crunched gift giving to better enjoy the holidays. Make every minute matter!™

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Over 60 Gift Ideas to Eliminate Clutter for Loved Ones

It is the holiday season, and, whether you're celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah or Boxing Day, chances are good that your shopping list feels endless. While giving the gift of your time or tickets to an experience offer excellent alternatives to eliminate clutter for your loved ones, we often want to give a tangible item that can immediately improve the recipient's life. When determining which gifts to consider, it is important to think about lifestyle elements for the person to whom you're giving a gift. Here are some of my favorite clutter-free gifts for many of our work-life needs:

- In this day and age of being attached to our smartphones, battery power can extremely valuable. Gifting a tool to charge your loved one's mobile device while on-the-go is a great idea, and the blue leather iPhone charge-and-sync bracelet from Jet is cost-effective. As another option, consider the mobile power banks or the solar power bank from The Container Store.

- Speaking of charging devices, to provide an amazing charging outlet for home or work that allows doing more in less space, consider gifting the thingCHARGER. In addition to 2 standard outlets, this has 2 built-in USB ports and a top that doubles as a charging dock for your phone or tablet. Alternatively, consider the USB wrap and charger to wrap excess cord around the charging plug as your gift recipient's device is being charged.

- Do you have a gift recipient who often has a phone near water at the pool, lake, beach or bath tub? Consider the Dry Spell Floating Phone Case from The Container Store to lock out sand and water while keeping a smartphone safely tucked inside, enabling the user to continue taking photos, texting, using the phone for calls and, generally, having fun or catching up on work. Plus, if it falls into the water, it's designed to float so the phone stays protected.

- While on-the-go, wouldn't it be nice for your loved ones to have a smaller charging cord for their PC laptops? Consider Dart micro PC laptop charger from FINsix, which offers a PC charger shrunk to fit in your pocket, delivering 65W of energy through a six-foot cable with a built-in USP port to power up another device. There are 9 interchangeable tips to fuel up just about any brand of PC, but it's not an option if your recipient prefers Macs.

- On the other hand, for those with the 2016 MacBook Pro, consider the Thunderbolt 3 USB-C Hub from HyperDrive to equip this Apple laptop with HDMI video output, Thunderbolt 3 video connectivity, USB-C with 5Gb/s data speed, SD with UHS-I 104MB/s, microSD with UHS-I 104MB/s and 2x USB 3.1 Gen 1 with 5Gb/s data speed as well as high power to various devices. This will be a game-changer for folks who utilize multiple devices with their MacBooks so make sure to check out the video on their page.

- It's easy to get grossed out by what happens to our tech tools, but PhoneSoap will keep your smartphone disinfected as it charges while the Electronics Cleaning Brush by OXO cleans the hard-to-reach nooks and crannies from keyboard keys to camera lenses. Plus, the screen cleaning wipes from Spruce and Co make life a little brighter as they clean mobile devices' screens.

- Although there are plenty of options for bluetooth speakersBose Soundlink Mini 2Beats by Dre Beats Pill+ and Sony SRS X77 offer the best portable bluetooth speakers that I've seen. Plus, I'm loving the JS Portable Mini Wireless Bluetooth Nut Speaker with Sling for iPhone, iPad, Android and more for an itty-bitty sized speaker with elegant looks and simple operation. Or consider the bluetooth waterproof speaker from The Container Store for a high-performance, go-anywhere bluetooth speaker that lets you stream music or take calls anywhere, whether outdoors or on the water.

- The Monkey Mat Quilted Blanket or Mini Monkey Mat create the perfect clean, dry surface to sit on at the beach, for a picnic in the park, during an outdoor concert or sitting on a hill for a football game. Padded for comfort but exceptionally lightweight, its lightly weighted corners keep the mat down, and it comes in a compact travel pouch for easily taking anywhere.

- Allow your gift recipients to keep an eye on their homes while at work, out on the town or traveling via the Canary All-in-One Home Security Device with a live video stream of whichever room in which it is kept and a measure of air quality to keep safe.

- I'm a big fan of the personal assistants available on smartphones, like Cortana, Dragon Mobile Assistant, EasilyDo, Google Now, Maluuba, Siri and 24me, there are a growing number of technological assistants to keep in the room with you, like Google Home, Amazon Echo and Echo Dot.

- Your loved ones can keep clothes looking their best wherever needed with the Gleener On The Go Travel Fuzz Remover, which includes a lint brush and three garment-safe blade options to remove pills from fabrics as fine as cashmere or as heavy as wool.

- Folks don't want to leave home with a big gap at the back of their pants or a bulky belt buckle that ruins the lines of a fitted top; therefore, consider gifting Invisibelt for the perfect, low-profile alternative to hold up pants without adding bulk.


- Consider BootRescue or ShoeRescue to wipe away dirt, grime and damaging salt stains, especially with how difficult weather can be for those lovely accessories protecting our feet; HandbagRescue cleans/ conditions prized purses via essential oils.

- If your gift recipient could benefit from a better way to more easily grab a bag's zipper and use it to open the bag, consider gifting the zipper pulls from The Container Store. Choose from Paracord Zipper Pulls in durable nylon or plastic zipper pulls from Eagle Creek in black, lime green or ocean blue.

- Do you have a gift recipient who runs a business, will be making big changes in the new year, has tons of new ideas to be implemented or is looking to uplevel goals moving forward? Consider the Powersheets® Intentional Goal Planner. As another option, consider the Fit-Spirational Journal to log every calorie eaten, every exercise and that for which there is gratitude.

- Do you have a gift recipient with a keychain full of keys? Consider the KeySmart Minimalist Key Organizer to contain up to 10 different keys within a compact key holder that fits neatly and comfortably in a pocket.

- Do you have a gift recipient who loves to workout? Consider the Life Energy Ekosmart Yoga Mat from Bed, Bath & Beyond, Gaiam Restore Deep Tissue Roller from Target, S'well water bottle to keep beverages cold for 24 hours or hot for 12 hours, leggings from Lululemon or Athleta and Phillips Freshtones Wireless Earbuds. As another option, consider the Harmony Mat from Jade Yoga, which provides a thick mat with great traction, comes in a variety of fun, soothing colors and gives back by planting a tree for every mat sold while contributing to charities corresponding to colors.

- Do you have a gift recipient who spends a great deal of time working or playing outside in the cold? Consider ThermaCELL Heated Products, like shoe insoles and hand warmers.

- Do you have a gift recipient who loves living a spirited life? Consider a tool that multi-tasks, like the Beer Opening Glass from Uncommongoods. Alternatively, the portable wine glass from The Container Store makes a great gift. Or choose from Corkcicle's innovative bar accessories for a reusable cork that chills wine, an in-bottle beer chiller, an intriguing wedge of ice specially designed to cool the contents of a tumbler glass and the Arctican to keep 12-ounce drinks cold without chilling your hand.

- Do you have a gift recipient who sips on a cup of a coffee for hours or starts a cup of coffee only to get pulled away with a distraction? Consider Mr Coffee Mug Warmer for Office/Home Use. Plus, anyone who enjoys a hot beverage would enjoy the Multi Photo Color Changing Mug; it is dishwasher and microwave safe.

- Do you have a gift recipient who is a foodie? My fellow alumnus from East Forsyth High School in Kernersville, NC, Ashley Christensen, owns the AC Restaurants group and is sharing some of her famous recipes through the Poole's: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner cookbook. You absolutely must try her macaroni au gratin! Alternatively, consider gifting a Shiitake Mushroom Log to grow multiple crops for up to 3 years.

- Do you have a gift recipient who wears glasses? I know first-hand how difficult it is to keep glasses clean so I'm extremely excited about the creation of Peeps carbon eyeglass cleaner.

- Do you have a gift recipient who needs a little stress relief? Consider The Head Duo - Cooling and Soothing Kit from Saje Natural Wellness for a refreshing blend to be used with a soothing head massager for an ultra relaxing scalp massage. Or perhaps your gift recipient would prefer calming essential oils from Young Living or Doterra.

- Do you have a gift recipient who is often searching for keys, wallets, bags and more? Consider TrackR Bravo coin-sized tracking devices to track whatever needs to be found. Attach the tracker to something valuable, connect the app on a smartphone and, then, when the item of value is missing, it can be found via the app's locate button. Further, consider the KeyCatch Magnetic Key Hangers to replace the lower standard screw of any light switch plate with a super-strong magnet that holds even heavy keychains so your gift recipient can always find those vital keys.

- For the travelers on your gift recipients' list, Lay-n-Go offers products for hauling around toiletries, cosmetics, technology accessories and Legos alike. Likewise, the Everything ORGO Expandable Travel Organizer provides a whole system to organize and keep track of makeup, toiletries, jewelry and more that fits securely over your sink to conserve counter space.

- For folks who travel most via plane, consider the TAB Seatback Pocket Organizer from Walter + Ray to keep what's needed at your recipient's fingertips while on a long flight. Further, make the trip a little cozier with the easy-carry travel blanket from The Container Store that is ultra-soft as well as lightweight and comes packed in a zippered, jersey-knit pouch. I'm considering this blanket as perfect for an upcoming football game in Annapolis, MD.

- For folks who travel regularly and need help sleeping in hotels or on planes as well as those who have streetlights seeping into their bedrooms, shut-eye sleep mask from Madewell can help.

- If your gift recipient travels most often via automobile, consider a JunoJumper portable battery pack with enough power to jumpstart most 4- or 6-cylinder cars (or mobile devices) via 12 volts and 300 amps, all in a pack roughly the size of a cell phone. Plus, no need for extra cables as JunoJumper comes with its own.

- Whether you are gifting a guy or a gal, it's vital to be prepared, and the minimergency kits from Pinch Provisions provide many tools necessary for life's little emergencies. Better yet, look to the states of emergency kit for "personal care that meets local flair".

- Speaking of preparedness, the right tools are the key to staying safe during a storm or power outage, and Eton Emergency Preparedness Tools provide an arsenal of innovative safety gear to survive difficult situations. Choose between the Blackout Buddy and Scorpion II Multi-Function Emergency Radio to best prepare your gift recipient for whatever issues might arise.

- The PocketMonkey will become the go-to tool for anyone to whom you gift it! This 12-in-1 tool fits in any wallet, is as thin as a credit card, is built of unbendable stainless steel and is TSA-compliant. Or consider the Micro Plus EX Hand Tool to have one tool for pliers, wire cutter, wire stripper, wire crimper, bottle opener, flat screwdrivers and Phillips screwdrivers.

- The Classic Leather Front Pocket Wallet from Rogue Industries provides advantages over traditional, back-pocket wallets in that it's safer to carry your billfold in the front, and puts less stress on your back, allowing for comfortably carrying cash and cards alike.

- Everyone appreciates a pair of comfortable sneakers to wear everywhere, and Allbirds uses the amazing qualities of merino wool to minimize odor, regulate temperature and wick away moisture in sneakers that feel like clouds on your feet. Or you could gift a subscription to the "sneaks of the quarter club" so your recipient gets a curated mix of the best apparel and shoes from Adidas every 3 months through Adidas Avenue A.

- Personalized gifts don't have to include the recipient's initials or name; instead, highlight one of your loved one's favorite places with laser cut street maps from CutMaps. Try a campus map for a recent college graduate, the city where he grew up or the place a couple got married. The stainless steel design comes already framed so all you have to do is wrap it, and, at 5" x 7", each map is just the right size to sit atop a desk or on one's entry foyer table.

- Whether your little one is a fan of Batman™, Darth Vader™, Spider-Man™, unicorns, princesses or critters, Pottery Barn Kids offers a bath wrap option that doubles as a towel and a cover-up.

Since it is hard to go wrong with gift cards and gift certificates, consider Gyft to buy, send, organize and redeem eGift cards while the Yiftee app will let you send certificates for what's local to any recipient via text or email message.

I recommend culling together all your gift-giving ideas, what you've bought for whom, where each present is stored and whether it has been wrapped thus far. Evernote provides an excellent option to organize those details amidst all the other information you must remember; however, if you are seeking an app designated to tracking your gift-giving activities, The Christmas List, GiftPlanner and Santa's Bag are really fabulous iOS alternatives while Gift List Manager and Christmas List Snowball are great Android options, and Christmas List works cross-platform. Which will you try?

Above all, though, realize we are still 2 weeks from Christmas so there is time to pull together all the loose ends. Take a deep breath, remember to take care of yourself amidst the craziness and start breaking the big projects down into manageable action items.

Finally, if you are shopping in stores, you can compare prices with the Bakodo app; alternatively, if you are shopping online, use the Honey browser extension to find ways of saving money instantly.

What gifts do you have in mind to help your loved ones boost productivity while taming technology or limiting clutter? What tools do you currently utilize in your own work-life integration efforts? What are your go-to gifts that are functional for folks? I am always looking for more and would love your ideas!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Do You Look to Squeeze Every Minute Out of the Day?

Has it really been over 8 months since my last post to the Tips To Organize For Success blog? Yes, I took a bit of a hiatus from blogging, investing that time in making sure Organize for Success, LLC is growing effectively and efficiently to best meet the needs of my clients while making the greatest impact on improving this world. To make sure my company is moving in the right direction, I'd love your feedback (and your referrals) as you see the following best fitting into your life and your loved ones' lives.

The vision statement for Organize for Success, LLC is to "Make life efficient for time-crunched leaders" while its mission statement is "Maximize work / life solutions for meaningful results with your very limited time." Since we are gifted only 1,440 minute each day, it is imperative that each of us invest every minute as best we can to achieve our current priorities in each domain of our lives: work or school, home or family, community or society and the private realm of mind, body and spirit. Although we cannot achieve complete success in all domains at one time, harmony is possible as we work to have each domain complement the others.

Life is fluid, meaning there is an ebb and flow to our priorities. At some points in life, our emphasis might be more on work or school while, at other points, our emphasis is more on home or family. The key is to adjust our organizational systems, workflow processes, technological tools and general approaches to getting things accomplished accordingly so we best address the most important goals for each specific moment in the cycle of life.

In fulfilling this mission statement and working towards this vision, I partner well with several types of folks, which are detailed below:

  • Time-crunched, high achievers who want to squeeze every minute out of each day.
  • Overwhelmed managers who have more deadlines than hours or days to get it all accomplished.
  • Teams that need tools and technology to better collaborate for attaining loftier goals and desired results.

As my business continues growing and I near Organize for Success' 10th anniversary, I've revamped my packages, expanded my eBooks, added a self-paced online video course and renewed my emphasis on speaking engagements nationwide to share more useful tidbits with a greater portion of those needing my help.

When you think about your own productivity and how you handle each day's limited time, with what do you struggle the most? Where do you feel like you are losing time or being inefficient?

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Celebrate Mom & Pop Business Owners Today


Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy, fueling our country's prosperity in many different ways. In 2012, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, there were 5.73 million employer firms in the U.S., and firms with fewer than 500 employees accounted for 99.7% of those businesses while companies with less than 20 workers made up a whopping 89.6% of all in existence. These small businesses employ many of our neighbors as they put a good deal of income back into the local economy to benefit all those living, working and playing nearby.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there are more than 27 million small businesses in the United States. Still, as many of us small business owners can attest, it is not easy to own your own business; it takes long hours, lots of hard work, a good deal of dedication and a quality team supporting your endeavor, whether your company has been handed down from one generation to the next or is a brand-new start-up that you've created to pursue your passion. Today's National Mom and Pop Business Owners' Day is an excellent time to show appreciation for the vital role small businesses play in the U.S. economy.

As Grasshopper shares, small businesses have a big impact locally. "If you spend $100 at a local business, roughly $68 stays in your local economy. If you spend the same at a large business, only $43 stays in the local economy," which adds up for major effect.

Please take time today and every day to support the privately-owned small businesses in your own community. Share your positive experiences with others and give feedback to the companies themselves when your visit does not meet or exceed your expectations. It is through healthy small businesses locally that the entire U.S. economy thrives, benefitting us all now as well as far into the future.

Friday, March 25, 2016

10 Commandments to Have Productive Meetings

Whether one-on-one or with a group, many of us spend a good deal of our working hours in meetings. Since time is such a limited resource, it is important to make good use of all that time we are investing in meeting with others, and there are steps we can take to positively impact the productivity of our meetings. Follow these 10 commandments to have meetings that truly make every minute matter:

1. Thou shalt have a clear purpose. Many meetings mistakenly focus on simply updating those in attendance; however, there are plenty of alternative means for conveying updates that are less intrusive to attendees' valuable time. Instead, meetings are most productive when they focus on one of two purposes: (a) discussion or (b) decision-making. If your meeting's purpose is not one of those, could the goal be achieved in an alternative manner?

2. Thou shalt be strategic with scheduling. Often, when meetings are set, we indicate a starting time but forget to set a specific ending time; attendees can better plan the remainder of their day if provided an end time in addition to a start time. Further, be cognizant of vacation plans so meetings are not scheduled when many who need to attend will be gone. Plus, avoid scheduling a meeting in the days leading up to a big deadline if the meeting is unrelated to the project coming due as well as during times when there will be too many distractions for folks to focus.

3. Thou shalt trim the fat. Shorten how long you plan to meet and, then, push yourself to accomplish everything on the agenda within that shorter duration by using a timer or having someone serve as timekeeper. Try to end meetings at least 10 minutes before the next hour, i.e. 12:50, 1:50, 2:50, etc, or schedule your meetings in 15-minute blocks, like running from on the hour to quarter 'til the next hour. Attendees will appreciate those few minutes before the next hour to return a quick call, run to the restroom, grab a beverage or gather their thoughts.

4. Thou shalt invite the right people and only the right people. Whether having a discussion or making a decision, it is important to include those whose contributions are necessary for accomplishing the meeting's goals: those with the authority to make decisions, those with enough pull in the organization to advocate for meeting decisions, those with the expertise needed to make informed decisions as well as the plans necessary for successfully executing said decisions and those who will be needed in executing such plans to accurately complete the plans resulting from the meeting. On the other hand, the Rule of 7 states that "everyone in a meeting over 7 people reduces your ability to make decisions by 10%." Therefore, include only those whose contributions are necessary for accomplishing the meeting's goals as too many attendees will deplete productivity.

5. Thou shalt have a plan to achieve the stated purpose. Create a realistic agenda, listing what you truly believe can be accomplished within the scheduled time allowed. Structure that agenda to address the most important issues first. Try to indicate how much time is being allocated for each element listed. Solicit feedback from attendees to ensure anything important is included while lower priorities and unrelated topics get removed.

6. Thou shalt prepare beforehand. Distribute any supplemental items for review to all attendees beforehand. Share necessary updates via email before the meeting date. If there is legwork that can be done in advance, completing that beforehand will allow the meeting itself to run more efficiently. As explained by Dana Manciagli in The Triad Business Journal, "proper planning prevents poor performance". Take time to get your ducks in a row before, allowing the time during which folks have come together to be devoted to discussion and / or decision-making.

7. Thou shalt communicate expectations clearly. If you are leading the meeting, set expectations on how those attending should behave and share those with attendees, whether in writing prior to the meeting or at the start of the meeting. Here are a few suggestions: come prepared, contribute to the discussion with feedback, share your insights as applicable, make sure to ask whatever questions you have and limit technology distractions. Additionally, specifically state guidelines for interjecting during the agenda, like when to ask questions, how to pipe up for brainstorming or at what point is it appropriate to share feedback during a discussion. Think proactively about what situations might arise related to each meeting and be specific with standards set.

8. Thou shalt take notes. This shows your commitment to the topic, helps you pay attention and enables you to refer back to items covered earlier as the meeting progresses. If you have the agenda beforehand, use that agenda as a framework for filling in notes from the meeting. Highlight what is important, whether via a different color of ink or by blocking that content off separately. Designate each task that must be done as it arises in conversation during the meeting. Then, end your meeting notes with a recap, including the highlights, action items and timing of next meeting.

9. Thou shalt stay focused. Denote on a separate list any tangents or issues not on the agenda as they arise. If there is extra time at the end in which attendees want to address those items, feel free to attempt it; however, it is often the best use of everyone's time to schedule another time for discussing or resolving those issues on a later date.

10. Thou shalt be accountable for completing tasks. When it comes to moving items from to-do to done, my rule of thumb is "every what assigned a when is more likely to get done", which means each action item arising from the meeting needs a deadline for its completion. Further, ensuring tasks get completed is more likely when there is someone accountable for that task's completion, hence why there needs to be someone assigned to the completion of each task that results from meeting discussions.

What tactics do you utilize for successfully having productive meetings? What are your success stories? What issues have you faced in keeping your meetings on track?

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Clients Are The Foundation of Every Business

This Client's Day, we show gratitude for our customers because, without customers, there would be no business. Whether the customers of your products and services are visitors to shopping centers or e-commerce website visitors, they are each company's most valued partners. Since 2010, companies and government institutions alike have had March 19th as a dedicated day for showing gratitude to those clients who are the foundation of our businesses.

Celebrate today by making a client smile like never before. Here are ideas from http://clientsday.com/en/How-to-Celebrate/ to get your creative juices flowing but do what's best for your clients:

- Post a sign by your entrance to share "We love our clients!"

- Add a banner to your website showing your appreciation

- Have your CEO call smaller clients for a brief chat

- Volunteer locally to share your social responsibility

- Bake a big cake for anyone stopping by to enjoy

- Send a letter expressing your appreciation

- Distribute postcards with a big, smiling emoji on the front

- Share happy-face stickers with everyone in your offices

- Offer tea and cookies to all customers

- Invite your clients to lunch or dinner

- Provide clients with a useful and personal gift item

- Let your client pay a bill after its due date

- Organize a "behind-the-scenes" tour of your company so clients see how things work and that about which you are passionate

How will you share with your clients how unbelievably important they are to you and your business? I'm off to write a few extra thank you notes and to take today's client a tasty treat!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Schedule Meetings More Easily With Better Tech Tools

There are many different commitments and responsibilities vying for our time… Clients, family and friends, business development, volunteering, personal growth, exercise, meditation, eating, sleep and more! When scheduling time with others, the back and forth communications can be overwhelming. What if there were tech tools to simplify and streamline this process? Well, you are in luck!

If you are scheduling a one-on-one appointment with someone, whether that's an individual or a team you are consulting, these tools will help:

- Acuity Scheduling --- automate client bookings, cancellations, reminders and payments as well as offer online sales of gift certificates

- Booking Bug --- multichannel bookings, event ticketing, customized booking journeys, appointment outcome analysis and CRM integration

- Calendly --- clean, simple, beautiful way to set your availability preferences and share a link to your calendar; then, after others pick desired times, they appear automatically on your calendar immediately

- Meetin.gs --- beyond simplifying scheduling, allows accessing meetings on-the-go to view details, respond to requests, receive notifications and connect via teleconferencing, Skype, Google+ Hangouts or Lync

- Pick --- compare calendars, regardless of email domain, and choose to share calendar link or use iOS app to schedule meetings on-the-go

- SchedFAST --- integrates receivables; provides email and text notifications for appointment confirmations, reminders and payments received; can import entire customer list and allows for multiple team member activity

- ScheduleOnce --- easily integrate booking page into your website, from which customers can book directly to your calendar from any device

- Setster --- include confirmations, reminders, cancellation and rescheduling options; allows requesting payment via PayPal; integrates with FreshBooks

TimeBridge --- integrates with Outlook or Google, including maps; handles unlimited changes, rescheduling, cancelations, notifications, reminders, location details, conference calls, video conferencing and time zone sync

- Time Trade --- schedule appointments through any channel, like website, email, phone and social media; can include concierge and analytics

- Vcita --- much more than simply online scheduling with live portal to cull together inquiries, CRM, online payments, document sharing, widget with dynamic call-to-action for website, custom forms and tons of integrations

- Vyte.in --- see invitees' availability alongside your own; can suggest places directly from calendar inquiries; invitees don't need to have own account

- YouCanBook.me --- integrates with Google and iCloud calendars via your own personalized scheduling page; bookings go straight into your online calendar with reminders, payment options and rescheduling available

If you are pulling together a group of individuals for a meeting, team practice or volunteer session, there are plenty of tech tools that can help... In each of the following solutions, whoever will be hosting the event, meeting or gathering goes to the website, enters date and time options and gets a link for soliciting feedback from potential attendees; then, those being invited click through the link provided to indicate which of the options provided will work. I highly encourage anyone hosting to specify a deadline for providing feedback when sending out the indicated link, after which you can go with whichever option got the most votes. No back and forth. No email overload. It's a simple and direct way to save time and limit stress in scheduling.

Why waste time going back and forth with folks to simply set time for later? Why reserve time for something that will end up happening at some other date and time? Let technology aid your efforts so you can use your time for that which better aligns with your goals and needs, boosting your outputs and enhancing your peace of mind. Add these links to your email signature or website, and you'll move towards simplified scheduling immediately.

Have you tried any of these tools before? What technology do YOU utilize for setting appointments and scheduling meetings? 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Online File Repositories Are Not Cloud Backup Solutions

Too many of my clients have mistakenly implemented an online file repository in lieu of a cloud backup solution instead of utilizing both in tandem. Together, they can better help you and will boost your productivity more significantly.

Let us get started by examining Dropbox as an example of the many available online file repositories. As Wikipedia explains, "Dropbox is a file hosting service... that offers cloud storage, file synchronization, personal cloud and client software"; however, nowhere in that description is there any notion that it automatically backs up all your computer's data. Instead, Dropbox allows users to create a special folder on each of their computers, and Dropbox synchronizes the documents that the user puts into that folder so their accounts appear to contain that same content regardless of which device is used to view it, including laptops, desktops, smartphones, tablets and Dropbox.com itself.

Other options for online file repositories include Box, Google Drive, iCloud Drive, OneDrive, SpiderOak and SugarSync, all of which function similarly but with some variations. The bottom line is that each of these solutions will save the documents you select to the cloud. Period. That's it. They do keep those documents easily accessible across all your devices, but the file syncing is limited to documents and only those documents that you specifically choose.

Alternatively, a cloud backup solution provides you with a different set of services. When you create your account, you are walked through installing the solution on your computer, at which time you tell it which types of content to save for you, including photos, music and all your irreplaceable files. Then, all your files will be backed up automatically to the cloud; it's a set-it-and-forget-it solution for automatic and continuous backup of all content. Nothing to remember, no scheduling and no need to plug anything into your computer for saving your data. With your files safely stored in the cloud, should your computer crash, get infected with a virus or be stolen, you can get your data back anytime with a simple restore, and you can access your content anytime via any Internet-connected computer or mobile device.

Options for cloud backup solutions include Backblaze, Carbonite, CrashPlan and Mozy, all of which function similarly but offer varying deals so you can get the solution that saves you the most money while meeting your needs for amount of data to be saved. The bottom line is that each of these solutions will enable you to safely and securely keep an automatic backup of all content on your computer running continuously without your manual involvement.

There are reasons to utilize both of these types of resources. Actually, many of my clients use multiple online file repositories so they can maximize the amount of free storage offered by each and, then, search between their databases with Citrix ShareFile Quick Edit or CloudCube. No matter which approach you choose, please keep in mind the differences between these tech tools and don't implement an online file repository as your cloud backup solution.

Do you use an online file repository? If so, which do you prefer? Do you use a cloud backup solution? If so, which do you prefer? How do you see these solutions differing from one another, and how do you see them complementing each other? Share your experiences.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Is Your Team Filled With March Mania?

Whether you are not a fan of basketball at all or you are wildly cheering for your favorite team, you're probably well aware of the fact that March mania is here, which means college basketball is heating up and folks are getting their office pools started. As conference champions are crowned and the madness of the National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball tourney nears, I see many parallels.

If you're asking what successful businesses have in common with winning basketball programs, here are a few of their similarities:

- Teams need strong leadership. For sports programs, that leader is the head coach, and Coach Mike Krzyzewski is a shining example of how strong leadership creates a winning environment. The leadership lessons from Coach K are limitless, like "Make people feel you, not just understand you", "Be responsive to the short-term goals, but never lose sight of your long-term mission", "Empower others to scale and sustain your impact", "Meet your people where they are" and "Your platform is a gift... Use it wisely"; however, there is no question that leadership is needed to succeed, and that same principle applies to any company's team.

- Team is defined as "Together, Everyone Achieves More". Each individual is human, which means our abilities are limited; however, if everyone is contributing to the same goal, the sum of those parts creates a much larger impact than any one can do individually. Larger goals can be achieved when everyone on the team is working together, associated in a joint action. For a college basketball program, that would be an NCAA Tournament championship; however, for your company, that success comes in achieving whatever "big, hairy, audacious" goal your team set for itself. Loftier goals are achieved only when working together, like the members of a crew rowing in sync and in the same direction.

- Teams succeed when members skillfully fulfill their roles. Throughout the history of basketball, the most successful teams pass the ball more on each possession than their opponents, trust their teammates to be in the right position at the right time, communicate clearly as to what is needed of each role player and have team members that dedicate themselves 100% to the specific roles asked of them. Whether asked to play point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward or center, each member of the team knows their role and how it meshes with the other roles to achieve the team's greatest goals. Winning teams pull together groups of stellar athletes to win against schools that have "the best player" but no one on the same page to fill the other roles.

Whether a basketball team or business entity, when each member does an assigned part and carries the associated workload, the combination of those roles is a winning team, where the synergy from working together creates bigger, better, stronger results.

Do you have a favorite sports team? How does that team exhibit principles of teamwork to make it more successful? How can your company implement the teamwork tactics of your favorite sports team to achieve greater success?

Thursday, March 3, 2016

How Can Emily Parks Help Me Organize for Success?

If you are out and about, networking across Raleigh, the Triangle, North Carolina or anywhere in the nation, chances are good you've met several productivity consultants and professional organizers. With so many specialties and niches in the professional organization industry, I frequently get asked, "Don't y'all do the same things?" or "What makes you different from XYZ?".

Here are a few points of differentiation for me (Emily Parks) and my company (Organize for Success, LLC):

I partner with busy professionals and corporate teams. Although some challenges are alike in residential environments, I have a skill set fine-tuned for the distinct needs of workspaces, whether in four walls, a shared space, a vehicle or an airport.

I specifically said "partner" because I serve as someone working with you to help you succeed in your endeavors. Together, we determine your unique needs and create a game plan specifically for attaining your desired results.

I help you make every minute matter. In each day, there are only 1,440 minutes; when you invest your limited resource of time in doing something, you are inherently saying no to doing something else. I help you use all available resources for best investing your time in each of these ways:
- efficient workflow processes;
- an organized and streamlined workspace;
- using the best technology in the most appropriate way;
- planning strategically to proactively address your priorities;
- thoroughly utilizing delegation and automation options; and
- communicating skillfully.
Be amazed by what you can do in 15 minutes!

I believe it is through work-life integration that we are our best, developing harmony, efficiencies and lower stress. Many people speak of the elusive "work-life balance"; however, when I hear that, I think of a see-saw, where success in one area of life leads to failure in another. I do not believe my "work" competes with my "life"; instead, I see how they complement each other. Life encompasses many different elements: work, home, community and the realm of mind, body and spirit. As stated by Stew Friedman of the Wharton Leadership Program, "you don't have to sacrifice, tradeoff or balance to have sane, productive and meaningful work life and home life." As human-beings, we wear many different hats and fill many different roles all the time; the emphasis on each is constantly evolving and rotating so I help you create systems and implement tools for the fluid system needed to address all appropriate elements of life and living.

Productivity is focusing your actions to achieve your desired results for work-life integration as efficiently as possible so you can make every minute matter. I am driven to make a difference in this world, helping you and your team stop treading water so you can start attacking more of what is really important.

Do you worry that you're missing opportunities? Do you feel buried in email or simply unable to keep up? Are you constantly in a frenzied or stressful state? Do you wonder how many commitments are falling through the cracks? Does it feel impossible to get anything accomplished amidst the distractions? If so, let me help you organize for success.