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

Monday, March 29, 2010

Organize Your Home Office

Whether your home office is simply where you take care of the mail and pay each month's bills or is the spot in which you complete all the tasks of your full-time occupation, having an organized environment in which you can find anything needed at the exact moment you need it is extremely important. Such an environment can be good for your mental and physical health, can lower your stress, can improve your efficiencies and can provide you with extra time for doing the things you really enjoy in life, rather than just the things you "have to do" in life. Here are a few tips for achieving that environment:

Clutter is the result of postponed decisions... Whether it is paper, an electronic file, a tool used to perform your job, postage to mail checks in paying your bills or the information that fills your home daily, give items a "home" so you will know the answer of what to do with them upon receipt and after each use.

Use just one notebook for recording all messages (phone, exchanged face-to-face, transferrred from email or snail mail...) and for keeping all your notes together, rather than posting sticky notes everywhere.

Keep email manageable by retaining only those necessary and dealing with action items as quickly as possible, wether creating a task assigned to a specific time or completing the necessary action immediately. If the requested action takes less than 5 minutes, do it now; if longer time is required, schedule accordingly. Then, since the most recent message of a back-and-forth conversation usually includes the content of all previous messages, keep only the most recent and adjust each subject line to better indicate the content for easier locating later.

Make sure to keep only one calendar / planner... Anything more leads to forgotten commitments, appointments falling through the cracks and unnecessary stress... Plus, incorporate color whenever possible. For example, add items from the same area of your life in the same color of ink to show they are of the same facet in your life.

When naming paper and electronic files, balance carefully between generic and specific. You want each item to be filed fitting within one fo the files available, but you do not want any item to be filed abled to fit in multiple file options. Furthermore, be certain to use the same names in both paper and electronic filing systems, streamlining things.

These are just a few ideas to get you rolling along, but what are some of your favorite techniques? How do you organize your home office? Can't wait to hear all your ideas!

Looking For a Little Inspiration?

Did you know that organizing your space can help to lower or eliminate your stress? As we move towards April, which is National Stress Awareness Month, could you use a little inspiration for organizing your space? In the Photos section of The Container Store's Facebook fan page, which can be found at!/containerstore?v=photos, there is a section of Fan Photos. This is an area where customers can upload images of how they've utilized The Container Store's products for bringing calm and order to their home and office spaces. I just love the utilization of color in these spaces, whether to add a little sunshine or to group like with like or to help locate important items as they are needed. Enjoy all the great work spaces interspersed throughout, and feel free to contact Organize for Success at 919-981-6397 or if you need a helping hand in converting your space into something similar.

When Your Office Is On The Run

If you have a mobile office, it absolutely must be efficient. Use these organizing tips to keep your necessary supplies at your fingertips and your mode of transportation neat as a pin.

Use an on-the-go filing system to get papers under control... For travel by automobile, one cost-effective option is Real Simple's Portable File Tote, available at Target or online. However, if you prefer, your local office supply store should have a wide array of portable, lidded file boxes in addition the opton of a simple plastic crate. Label hanging file folders with broad categories, and slide important papers into the correct spots. If traveling by air or train, invest in an expandable briefcase. Very important... Always make sure to have extra folders and labels so you can create new files on the run as needed.

Keep office supplies contained and handy... Stock a small, lidded, plastic box or a small Ziploc bag with essential office supplies, like pens, sticky notes, note cards & envelopes, stamps, return address labels, correction tape, paper clips and a roll of Scotch tape. Don't forget business cards, brochures and other promotional materials. If not in that same bag, keep pens and pencils in one of your automobile's cup holders. Always pack your supplies in the same area of your box, bag or auto organizer, and keep everything together... For auto organizers, I recommend the Case Logic Front Seat Mobile Office Organizer, the Sunshine Kids Travel Pal or the High Road Front Seat Organizer, all available from Target's website. Before leaving home or your physical office, give your in-vehicle storage solution a quick once-over to make sure it is completely stocked, and take a moment to fill in any missing items or those running low.

Be smart in recording expenses... Dedicate an envelope to hold business-related receipts, emptying it once each week. Don't forget to keep a mileage log tucked into your visor, door pocket or glove box for tax purposes. Cardinal Brands sells a great, 3.25" x 6.25" Vehicle Mileage with Annual Summary log that can be found on its website or through Office Max, which is an especially great option for recording mileage due to its compact size.

Don't forget to say "thank you"... Always have a box of "thank you" notes and envelopes on-hand to write while on-the-go. Also, since you'll have postage stamps and return address labels in the aforementioned plastic box or bag, always make sure to have your address book (or method of looking up people's addresses), too. If you want to personalize your postage, just like you can get professional-looking, pre-printed return address labels, you can order stamps that include your business' logo from Zazzle's website, delivered directly to your home or office.

Utilize technology for improved efficiencies... If you have a laptop computer, store as much information on it as you can, like phone numbers, calendars, client information and important documents. Or, if not your laptop computer, any "smart phone" cell phone will work, too. This will limit the hard copy materials you'll need to lug around, but make sure that you back-up your electronic files and information regularly.

Keep reading material together in one file... When you receive a new magazine, thumb through for the articles you'll want to read and add them to your "to-read" file. When you find yourself waiting for an appointment or the next leg of your travels, take that opportunity to catch up on the latest industry news or clean unnecessary information out of your briefcase.

Consider some specialty car organizers... There are visor organizers for CDs, auto litterbags for trash, auto tray tables and back-of-the-seat organizers for cleaning wipes, tissues and an extra bottle of water. Case Logic is an excellent and well-known brand for these items, and their items can be found online or at Target stores nationwide.

Make sure you don't forget your brilliant ideas... or the "to-do" list items that randomly pop into your head... or that great comment made on the phone call you just wrapped up... or anything else that is filling up your mind. Stash a small, hard-cover or spiral-bound notebook to catch those moments and details. On the other hand, to keep your eyes on the road, tote a mini-recorder, use the voice record feature on a "smart phone" or call your own voice mail to leave yourself a reminder message.

Toss it out and tidy up each day... Keep a nylon or plastic garbage bag in the vehicle so messes get cleaned up as you go. Simply take five minutes at the end of each day to empty the bag and tidy up the entire vehicle. This small investment of time will prevent the need for a longer clean-up later.

How Do Your Files Look?

Since what goes into your files typically must come back out at some point in time, what is your retention schedule? For financial documents, individuals and businesses should keep tax returns forever, supporting items for at least 7 years and non-tax paperwork for no more than 3 years. Although businesses should consult with their accountants and lawyers for more information, individuals can visit this website:

Just as important as "what" you keep is "where" you keep those items... Use 3 zones for filing: fingertip files for active & daily-used items on desktop, regularly used files in a file drawer nearby, rarely used files in an archive area. The items in your fingertip files should be action items in current use, keeping them visible to remind you of what needs to be done for each.

Are you keeping the right items for the right amount of time? Are you purging often to make sure things are current? Many people keep every tiny scrap of paper, but not everything needs to be kept. In fact, many items that once were available only as papers can now be found online... When evaluating what papers to keep, ask yourself, "Can I find this on the Internet?" If the item can be easily found elsewhere or easily reproduced, is keeping it worth the time, effort and space invested in doing so?

Since it's ideal to review your files twice a year, usually in April and October, feel free to contact Organize for Success, LLC if you need help creating a filing system, purging your current files or establishing a schedule for future purges.

Smart Planning Makes Quick Work of Your To-Do List

When your desk is piled high with "to-do" items, it's easy to stall if you don't know where or how to begin... Here are tips to increase your productivity and tackle projects, both big and small.

Do the hardest thing first... Instead of starting your day by checking messages, rifling through the mail or taking care of easy administrative tasks, attack the hardest, most challenging or least enjoyable task earlier in the day, when your energy level is probably higher and your mind is most certainly clearer. Carve out a chunk of time each morning to tackle those heavy-duty projects, avoiding the procrastination often associated with large jobs. In other words, plan to be "proactive" in the morning so you can be "reactive" during moments that pop-up later, knowing your most pressing projects have been handled earlier in the day. It may not be easy to start with the hard stuff, but you'll get the momentum going and feel accomplished all day long.

Know your natural energy patterns... Although being proactive early so you can be reactive later is very important, it is equally important to tackle the hardest tasks when your energy level is at its highest, which may be first-thing in the morning or may come at another point in your day. Monitor your reaction to various activities at different points throughout the day over the next week so you can schedule your day accordingly. Then, once you know the time of day during which your energy level is at its highest, schedule your toughest tasks during that daypart, and be firm about maintaining those appointments with yourself.

Clear the clutter out of your brain... Write it down! Since the average desk worker spends 3 hours per week sorting piles to find the project needing to be worked on next, you can start getting your work under control by writing down the "to-do" items and bright ideas floating around in your head. By relieving your brain from remembering tedious details, you allow new, creative thinking to develop in there. Create a running list of phone calls to make, things to discuss with coworkers, supplies to get and other small-detail tasks. Create another running list for brainstorming, creative planning, ideas to attack down the road and life-long goals. Keep all your lists in one place, like a multi-subject, spiral-bound notebook, in your planner or on your computer / PDA, making it easier to see what can be delegrated and preventing the endless search for Post-It notes scattered about. Then, as you work into this system, use that same location for meeting notes, phone messages, things to be recalled from ongoing discussions and everything else that's been needlessly filling up your mind.

Plan for tomorrow at the end of today... Take the last 15 minutes of each workday to create tomorrow's "to-do" list, but be realistic about what can be completed in one day. Focus on 3-5 priority tasks, which can be written on a 3" x 5" index card to keep in front of you throughout the next workday. This habit of planning will give you the gift of focus, allowing you to get a jump-start the next morning, particularly important when following the "do the hardest thing first" suggestion listed above. By writing down everything that needs to be accomplished tomorrow, you create a map and can prioritize so urgent needs get done. The process of putting your thoughts in writing helps you relax at home because you'll know the "to-do" items that have been scrolling through your head are now all down on paper. Plus, during the end-of-day planning process, you can reflect on the great work you accomplished during the day, enabling you to leave work feeling proud as well as excited for tomorrow.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Benefits of Being Organized at Work

The average desk worker has 36 hours of work on his or her desk and spends three hours per week sorting piles trying to find the project to work on next. Does that sound familiar? If you're struggling through mountains of desk clutter, realize that you'll help your business run better AND you'll reap multiple personal rewards by becoming more organized.

You'll increase productivity once you have an organized and efficient schedule to keep you on track. You'll be amazed by what you get done in shorter amounts of time. By focusing on your priorities and goals, you'll be able to move ahead towards reaching them, but the benefits certainly don't stop there.

Once you are organized, you will have a positive self-image because your organized office will allow you to present a professional image to coworkers, clients and superiors alike. A clutter-free environment is also easier to manage. Your stress level will decrease dramatically. When you can find what you need, are on top of your to-do items and arrive on time, you will feel calmer and have more peace of mind. No more feeling overwhelmed by life --- You will be the one in control. You'll discover more time for yourself. When you are organized, your days go a bit smoother, and you get a lot more done. That leaves more time to indulge in a little "me time". Doesn't that sound nice?

If the benefits of getting and staying organized, efficient and more productive sound good to you, keep checking this blog frequently for tips, tricks and technicques... all courtesy of Organize for Success, LLC. For additional ideas, you can become a fan at Plus, if you'd like direct business organizing assistance from Organize for Success, LLC, freel free to call 919-981-6397 or email today.