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

Monday, May 16, 2011

Using Evernote to Organize for Success

I have to admit that one of my favorite (if not my absolute favorite) organizing tool is Evernote, which can be found at There is too much to remember on a day-to-day basis, but this tool enables you to securely capture and retain all those thoughts, checklists, web clippings, photos, audio recordings and so much more; then, Evernote allows you to easily access all that information from anywhere by using its advanced search capabilities via multiple outlet options. As a business organizing consultant, I find this tool to be sooo fabulous, both for myself and for my clients. Here are just a few techniques to best utilize Evernote as a tool to organize for success:

Regularly upload lots of different kinds of information to your Evernote account from anywhere via DIFFERENT CAPTURE OPTIONS... You can add content wherever & whenever it comes across your mind on the web-based version, on the version downloaded to your desktop OR on the version installed on your smartphone as an app. Still, you can also send notes to your Evernote account directly from your email management solution; once you've logged into Evernote, click on Settings to access Account Summary, where you can find the email address to which you need to send info you'd like added as a note in your default notebook. Or you can forward Tweets to your Evernote account from Twitter via @myEN to be added immediately as notes in your default notebook; follow myEN from your Twitter account to get a direct message back with a link-up URL. Evernote makes uploading content so convenient.

Vary the information you upload based off all the DIFFERENT CONTENT OPTIONS that Evernote allows. Evernote readily accepts plain text notes, web clippings, photos or uploaded images (in JPG, PNG, PDF and more), screenshots, audio recordings and checklists... Evernote Corporation truly encourages capturing everything by offering so many options for acceptable content.

Make sure you use all you have added to your Evernote account via the DIFFERENT RECALL OPTIONS offered within the system. As Evernote explains on its website, this tool helps you remember everything by making anything you see, think or experience accessible and searchable across all the platforms and devices that you use, but what does that mean?
--- Everything you upload is automatically indexed to be searchable, meaning typed or handwritten content can be searched, even if the note's content is simply a scan or photo of the writing.*
--- Notes can be organized into different notebooks, allowing you to sort through a smaller number of uploaded notes at one time by selecting a single notebook to be viewed at that time.
--- If you choose, you can add tags to different notes, organizing content from different notebooks into groupings by tags and allowing you to search for them by that assigned tag term.

Think of your Evernote account as being a shelving unit in your office, except that Evernote is accessible when you are mobile while a shelving unit is accessible only when you are in your office. Then, each notebook in Evernote would be like a 3-ring binder on your shelving unit, and each note in an Evernote notebook is like each sheet of paper in those 3-ring binders on your shelving unit. However, unlike the shelving unit where you have to look at each binder's label or the content on each page in that binder to see its content, Evernote allows you to type a word in the search field to find it anywhere in any note's content, notebook name, title or tags.

Basically, I see Evernote as a "data dump" for all the information that overloads all of us each day, week, month or year, but it's greatest strength is how easy it makes retrieving the information you uploaded to your account. This program's search capabilities are simply amazing!

Although I will continue sharing additional ways to best utilize Evernote, I would love to hear how this tool is impacting your life right now. Are you using Evernote already and, if so, what techniques do you use to maximize this tool's effectiveness? Please share in the Comments section below.

If this is the first you have heard of this exceptionally fabulous tool, it is never too late to get started using it... Feel free to visit today, click on "get started" to set-up an account as well as download the desktop version for your particular computer and view how-to videos. I am confident that you will not be disappointed in all that you are empowered to do by using this tool.

* The only exception to a note's content being searchable would be a PDF in the free version of Evernote, but that can be overcome by switching to an Evernote Premium account at $5/mo or $45/yr.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

May is Revise Your Work Schedule Month

In honor of National Revise Your Work Schedule Month, here are tactics to get the ball rolling on evaluating (and, hopefully, implementing) alternatives to your daily commute:

1. Research how flex-time and telecommuting opportunities can be an alternative that would be mutually beneficial for both you and your company, focusing on how an employee who doesn't use company office space but fulfills all of the job's responsibilities is more cost-efficient without all the office-related overhead, has less down-time since work can be done more easily amidst life activities and, often times, will get more done in less time without office or commute distractions.

2. Determine if you are able to stay on task and maintain daily structure for yourself, with the assistance of task-focusing technologies or by using an accountability partner, particularly since individuals who telecommute do not have management around to regularly enforce productivity. This can be easier for some than others, and it is important to be aware upfront as to your limitations.

3. Talk to people you know who are currently working flex-time schedules or telecommuting, even if they are only doing so from time-to-time or very irregularly. Find out what works well with what they are doing as well as what they would change, and ask about how they got to their current situations.

4. Tweak your current work schedule a bit for greatest productivity and optimum efficiency. Know during which time of day your energy is at its highest and determine which tasks can be shifted into that time of day. Group like tasks together to process through each grouping more quickly, like all your calls together or all your emails together. Such in-office successes can set the stage for even greater success in flex-time or telecommuting scenarios.

5. Plan how to address any questions your boss might raise about a flex-time or telecommuting alternative, including what might be your work schedule, equipment requirements, accountability measures and how your work will be monitored.

6. Finally, muster up your courage and ask for your work schedule alternative... The answer will be "no" to 100% of the questions never asked so it is important to present your idea along with all the supporting data you collected and, then, work with your boss for how to make it happen successfully.

What have you done already to take charge of your work schedule? Are you currently utilizing flex-time policies or telecommuting? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Confused By Options For Document Storing, Sharing & Syncing?

As new technology is created, there are more and more options, and it can be very overwhelming... I mean, have you seen all the cloud options for storing and sharing data?!? Wow! The key, though, is how each tech option makes your life easier, more organized and more productive. Read on for a little clarification about various available tools and what differentiates them...

Notes-Keeping Options:

Although Yojimbo and Growly Notes are Mac-only while OneNote caters to the needs of PC users, Evernote works in both the Mac and PC realms, making it easy to organize all information in one, reliable solution. Plus, whereas there is a fee to use any form of either Yojimbo or OneNote, there is a fairly robust option for Evernote that is absolutely FREE... Such a beautiful word, eh? With each of these tools, you can store text, images, PDFs, checklists and more, organized with tags, by labels or in groupings / notebooks and easily searchable. Access your Evernote or OneNote account via the Internet, on your computer's desktop or on your smartphone and access your Yojimbo or Growly Notes account anywhere data is synced through MobileMe.

Options to Aid in Creating a Paperless System:

Both Shoeboxed and OfficeDrop offer mail-in scanning services, where you package your papers in pre-paid shipping for those companies' employees to coordinate scanning your documents into an organized, electronic format for you. However, if you prefer to scan your own documents for yourself, there are several other options... The Neat Company offers NeatReceipts as a portable option and NeatDesk as a desktop scanner, allowing you to scan your business cards, receipts and 8.5" x 11" documents into a digital filing system. Both Canon Document Scanners and Fujitsu ScanSnap Scanners offer mobile, personal, sheet-fed and network options to scan your documents. Although each self-scanning device integrates differently with collaborative solutions, like Evernote, the option for you may depend most on current pricing so it's recommended that you research online before buying.

File Collaboration, Sharing, Syncing and Back-up Options:

If you are looking for a tool that relies solely or primarily on you manually moving a document from your computer to the cloud or web-based solution, there are plenty of options available. A free account through Dropbox gives you 2GB of storage for life, but a paid account will increase your Dropbox storage capacity; any file can be shared from Dropbox via the appropriate URL. Windows Live SkyDrive is very similar but is limited to PCs and bumps the storage limit up to 25GB with a 50MB cap for each file. A free account through gives you quicker, real-time storing and sharing of files for 90-day intervals. Furthermore, MediaFire has no restrictions except that files be smaller than 200MB. A free account through gives you 5GB of storage with a 25MB cap for each file, including a collaboration "holtlink" for any shared files. And the very popular option of Google Docs can be found at to upload files from desktop, access them from anywhere and do real-time collaboration with others.

On the other hand, if you are looking for a tool that will move documents from your computer to the cloud automatically, the available options are a little different. With these options, you simply install the technology on your computer (PC or Mac) and, at different intervals when your computer is connected to the Internet, your selected data will automatically be encrypted and securely backed up to the cloud, allowing you to restore or remotely access as-needed later. In February of this year, Mozy replaced its unlimited backup plan with a tiered storage plan of 50GB or 125GB, allowing users to purchase additional storage in increments of 20GB each. If you are looking for an unlimited option, Carbonite offers such a solution for $59 a year while the unlimited solution from Crash Plan is $49.99 a year, but Crash Plan has smaller storage options for less money, too. And there's good news... In addition to the aforementioned manual option, Windows Live Mesh's SkyDrive also offers an automated sync for PCs, too!

Finally, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud is a web service that offers a customizable, pay-as-you-go option for storing in a cloud environment, allowing you to quickly scale capacity up or down and pay only for the capacity that you actually use. For details on this new and different option, I recommend visiting

Options Enabling Remote Access to Paperless System:

Now that you've created all these electronic documents, some will be accessible via Internet access through cloud technology; however, sometimes, you just want to work with them on your own computer. If you travel a good deal, options for accessing your own computer via the Internet from a remote location might be very helpful, and there are several options for accomplishing that goal. LogMeIn and GoToMyPc allow you to access, support and manage devices (including Windows-based PCs and iOS-based Macs) at any time from any location via a secure, Internet login. Or you can use Windows Live Mesh to work on your PC from another location, running programs or browsing PC files remotely. Finally, if you have an iPhone or iPad, use Mocha VNC to connect to your Windows PC or Mac OS X and see your files/programs exactly as you would sitting in front of your computer itself.

Smartphone Solutions for Working with Documents:

Although many of the aforementioned tools enable access from your smartphone, a growing number of people elect to work via smartphone, rather than focusing on use of desktop and laptop computers. Quickoffice Connect and Documents to Go - Office Suite are options to create, edit and share Microsoft Office documents on your iPhone, iPad, Android technology or Blackberry.

Do you utilize cloud technology and, if so, how do you upload data to "the cloud"? Are you backing up data automatically or adding it manually? Which tools do you prefer most? Please share in the Comments below.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

It's the Official "Organize Your Files Week"... Let's Celebrate!

We're in the third week of April, known as Organize Your Files Week, and it's a great time for this project, especially since Tax Day has passed, you've filed your tax return (or an extension) and you may have moved last year's financial documents.

Step One... Determine what needs to be kept for how long. Although a quick Internet search of "record retention" or "what to keep for how long in office" produces a wide variety of websites to help, it is always advised to check with your accountant for current requirements, too. A little bit of homework can go a long way for making the purging and sorting process much easier.

Step Two... Purge what doesn't need to be kept. My clients like using separate bins for TO KEEP, TO RECYCLE, TO SHRED and TO OTHERS when working through the purging process, but the particular categories you use would be unique to your specific needs. As you review each item, determine what's the worst possible result if you get rid of it; then, determine if you can replace it should the need arise.

Step Three... Sort items from the TO KEEP bin into categories. Group like with like into appropriate yet general categories that will aid in correctly labeling contents to remain in your space. You want to have enough files to contain all items that will remain, but you don't want to have too many files. If you have to wonder in which file a document should be added when filing that document, chances are good you'll wonder about the same thing when going to retrieve that document, which goes back to the need for limiting the number of files as available options when originally creating those file folder options.

Step Four... Color-code your system. Color is fantastic, and creating appropriate yet general categories limits the number that you use, allowing you to assign a different color to each category. File folders now come in such fabulous colors, including ones that are lighter inside than out so you know for certain when you are putting papers inside the file rather than in between files in the same drawer. Furthermore, colors drive action: you can see at a glance to which topic the file is related and a topic you dislike in a file that's your favorite color is less likely to be avoided.

Step Five... Assign a "home" to each category's items. Make sure to account for what you already have as well as what will be added. Then, when creating sub-categories, utilize the same tab position. For example, for the TAXES category, you may use the same, far-left tab position for TAXES 2010, TAXES 2009, etc. For the THINGS OWNED category, you may use middle tabbed files for STOCKS, BOAT, AUTOMOBILE, HOUSE, INSURED JEWELS, etc.

The goal is to know where to quickly locate what is needed when you need it... Can you put your hands on any piece of paper in 30 seconds or less when you determine that you need it? What paper management tactics do you use for your file drawers, and what's working best? Do you mirror those tactics for your electronic files? Please share in the Comments below.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Using One Address Book to Organize for Success

For contacts' names, phone numbers, emails and snail mail addresses as well as any notes related to that connection, keeping everyone's information centralized within one system makes it easier to keep contacts' data up-to-date and to access those details quickly whenever they are needed. However, how do you make an address book really operate as a tool to encourage your great success? Read on for tips to best utilize your address book...

1. Use what works for you. Test different options to see if your personality and specific needs mesh best with a paper or electronic option. With smartphones that sync with cloud technology as well as small paper options, either can be as mobile as needed to update contacts' information as you are out and about, but there is no "right" or "wrong" option; just select whichever option is best for you.

2. Be clear and honest with yourself about what you consider a "contact" you'd like in your address book. This would preferably be someone with whom you plan to interact regularly or with whom you'll do business... Not everyone from whom you collect a business card will qualify as a contact to go in your address book. However, since you still want access to the contact info for those that do not make the cut, I recommend scanning their business cards into your computer with NeatDesk and, then, uploading those scans into a "Networking" notebook in your Evernote account, allowing you to easily search for their information should it be needed down the road.

3. Update the information for those contacts in your address book regularly, especially as the details of their information change. The most useless tool is one with out-of-date data, like the saying of "garbage in leads to garbage out". Therefore, it is vital to be proactive and stay up-to-date. At least once each quarter, purge contacts you no longer want in your address book, especially if there's no longer a valid reason for them to be there, and, then, review the accuracy of remaining contacts' information.

4. Know upfront what is your goal for using an address book. Choose whether you want to simply manage contacts and their information OR if you want a Customer Relationship Management tool that can add in history of communications or retail trade-cycle management functionality. Do you want a record of interactions you've had or projects that you have worked on together? Do you need to schedule follow-up with this person? If you are fully aware of your goal, you can better use your selected address book tool for achieving it.

5. Utilize all the bells & whistles that come with your address book. Some address book options allow you to connect each contact's record with his / her social media profiles, which is a great way to see what important events might be occurring in that person's life. Some address book options allow you to print labels, which is a great way to alert clients and business partners about important happenings for your company or in your life. Yet, it is very important that you do not get distracted by all the current bells & whistles... Your address book is a tool, and successful use of this tool depends on keeping that in mind whenever you're using it.

What techniques do you use to maximize your address book's effectiveness? Please share in the Comments section below.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Using One To-Do List to Organize for Success

Are you jotting down reminders on multiple sheets of paper, in various notebooks or via sticky notes posted all around your office? If so, how many of those action items are actually getting completed?!? Keeping all your to-do items in one place makes it more likely they will each get completed and aids in prioritizing. However, how do you make a to-do list really operate as a tool to encourage your great success? How do you compile your action items to ensure all of them get done? Read on for tips to best utilize your task management solution...

1. Use what works for you. Test different options to see if your personality and specific needs mesh best with a paper or electronic option, keeping in mind that electronic options allow for reminders while some people remember better what they write down on paper. With smartphones that sync with cloud technology as well as small notebook options, either can be as mobile as needed, but there is no "right" or "wrong" option; just select whichever option is best for you.

2. Remember that it's okay to say "no". When someone asks you to do something, ask yourself "Is this task important? Does this task move me forward in achieving my goals? Is there someone else that should be doing this instead?" Be strategic about tasks you complete versus tasks you decline or delegate, and know that saying "no" can be a very powerful tool in your arsenal.

3. Do not depend on your mind to remember all tasks. Keep one tool (whether smartphone for your electronic option or small notebook for your paper option) with you at all times to continually add tasks as they arise. This "data dump" becomes your master to-do list, from which you pull a daily to-do list at the end of each day as you plan for the following day's activities.

4. Delegate. To get more done, find all the tasks on your to-do list that can easily be accomplished by someone else and, then, delegate those tasks to that person. Sharing tasks empowers the other individual AND opens time in your schedule to complete the tasks that can be done by only you.

5. Delete. Cross non-critical items off your to-do list so they don't nag on you or distract you from what really must get done... Focus on what remains, and relish in how good it feels to remove items from your to-do list.

What techniques do you use to maximize your to-do list's effectiveness? Please share in the Comments section below.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Business & Professional Women's Young Careerist Finalist

Last night, I was honored to be one of three finalists in Raleigh's competition for the Business & Professional Women's Virginia Allan Young Careerist Program, organized by Paulina Bohorquez of Paulina Real Estate Team and judged by all-stars in our community: Folami Bandele, Executive Director of the YWCA Greater Triangle; Jean Hedges, Founder and Executive Director of Women's Power Networking as well as Senior Loan Advisor at Prime Lending; Pat Howlett, Creator of and President of The Howlett Group. With the competition including essay, interview and speech presentation components, this was an excellent opportunity to review my accomplishments thus far. Therefore, I'm using this week's post to share with you my "tell us your story" speech, hoping you enjoy reading these insights as much as I had fun presenting them during the event. And, without further adieu, here's my speech from last night's Young Careerist competition:

Some people read minds. Some people read lips. I read between the lines... or so I've been told... In 2007, I created my very own business, Organize for Success, using laser-sharp focusing methods to help business people, just like you. As a professional organizer, it is my responsibility to empower clients with a few essential skills. For your listening pleasure, I present them in alphabetical order:
- Skill number 1... Finding what you need when you need it.
- Skill number 2... Getting more done in less time.
- Skill number 3... Taming your technological tools.

But I don't stop with my clients... I believe it's critically important to give back to the community, and here are three ways I'm serving our community, again, presented in alphabetical order:
- 1st, I'm the incoming President for the North Carolina chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers... NAPO for short.
- 2nd, I serve as the Media Coordinator for the North Carolina Lung Cancer Partnership.
- 3rd, I am the Secretary for the Triangle Alumnae Chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta.

Before we go any further, a little background info so you'll know a little bit more about where I've come from to get to this point...
I am one of seven children, and my parents were married 35 years.
I am a graduate of Wake Forest University...
I'm a sports-aholic who roots hard for my Demon Deacons (a little tougher this year but I'll always stick with them through thick and thin).
I lost my father to lung cancer one year ago this month.
And, as a Marketing Director for local automobile dealerships, I am a woman working in a man's world, often joking that I created Organize for Success to escape the male-dominated world of automobile dealerships.

I believe I am a good mentor... There are a lot of young women who want to and need to learn how to be successful in a man's world. In other words, with a little coaching, GEN-X and GEN-Y women can easily hit home runs, score game-winning 3-point shots and run entire football fields to score touchdowns... All while wearing Spanx!

I stress the fact that many of today's businesswomen believe they have to walk, talk and act like a man to be successful. On the contrary, I believe it's important for businesswomen to embrace being women while still relating to the goals, thought-processes and communication styles of the men with whom they work.

My marketing background, my organizational skills and my appreciation of the sports world enable me to "get it"; plus, coming from a large family, I really know how to share... and sharing this knowledge is exactly what I plan to do with business and professional women of Raleigh and beyond. I hope to help many young women in business read between the lines, helping them to not settle for bronze or silver but go for the gold medal.

How would you answer the request of "tell us your story" and have you reflected on your accomplishments recently?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Using One Calendar to Organize for Success

Whether it's paper or electronic, a single solution enables tracking all commitments (personal & professional) in one place, making it less likely that appointments will be forgotten or that you will double-book. However, how do you make a calendar really operate as a tool to encourage your great success? Here are tips to best utilize a calendar:

1. Use what works for you. Test options to see if your personality meshes best with daily, weekly or monthly and whether paper or electronic is best for you. Find more about the process at
  • Electronic calendars give you the option of setting alerts for upcoming events, which is ideal if you tend to forget birthdays, anniversaries or leaving for meetings and appointments. Look for repeat features that let you input daily, weekly, monthly or annual data only once.
  • Paper calendars often allow for more easily viewing the entire month at one glance, and the fact that you can write in whatever size you choose enables you to decide how much information fits within each date's box.
2. Color-code your calendar. To have one calendar tool for all facets of your life, use different colors for each (work vs family vs friends vs fitness vs self). Or use a different color for each project being completed, role you fill, person for whom you are responsible or different area of responsibility within your job. Visual cues, like colors, are great for driving action, particularly so you can tell what needs to be done by simply glancing at your calendar solution.

3. Include all pertinent details for each entry. When adding an appointment to your calendar tool, insert the phone number next to the name of the person you are meeting so, if you're running late, you can easily call. Plus, make sure to include the who, what, when, where and why beside each appointment being scheduled on your calendar.

4. Track to-do items amidst appointments. A calendar solution can be so much more than just a place to track appointments. To use your tool most effectively, assign a "when" for each "what" on your to-do list. I have yet to find a "someday" on any calendar, but I have seen how tasks with times scheduled for getting done are completed more regularly.

5. Always expect the unexpected. If you know precisely how long something should take, schedule it in your calendar with a 15-minute or greater buffer. You never know when traffic or another hurdle will delay your plans so approach proactively.

What techniques do you use to maximize your calendar's effectiveness? Please share in the Comments section below.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

March is National Caffeine Awareness Month

To celebrate National Caffeine Awareness Month, increase your productivity while combating your need for caffeine with these tactics:

1. Get enough sleep... Most adults need 7 to 8 hours a night for the best amount of sleep, although some people may need as few as five hours or as many as 10 hours of sleep nightly.

2. Perform some simple stretches to get your body active, including your mind, your heart, your blood flow and your metabolism. For examples of such useful stretches, visit

3. Sit up straight and take a few deep breaths from way down in your gut. Oxygen fuels your brain, and deep breaths get even more oxygen to your brain, activating it for work all the better.

4. Soak up some fresh air and sunlight with a quick walk outdoors or around your building... The vitamin D from sunlight is great for boosting moods; plus, as you move your body, you get a little more energized.

5. Move to a different location, whether it's moving from your office to a conference room, leaving your home for a coffeehouse or just shifting from one side of the room to the other.

6. Hydrate with lots of water... Since 60% or more of your body weight comes from fluids, staying hydrated is necessary for optimum performance. And, if you need some extra flavor, just toss in a Crystal Light packet.

7. Instead of letting it slow you down, fill "down time" with smaller projects that can be done quickly. Just like the saying of "a rolling stone gathers no moss", it's easier to be active when already active... So, if you don't have time to complete a project, at least get started and leave it out for when you can pick your work back up again.

8. Eat foods that increase your energy rather than those that cause a slump an hour after eating. Eating things like whole-wheat bread, strawberries, broccoli, pork and bananas will help keep energy levels more constant and consistent.

9. Listen to some energizing music. Music is a powerful tool, particularly for affecting emotion, so handle with care but utilize it fully. As a huge fan of music, I find it to be a very effective tool, like "Celebration" by Kool & The Gang or "All I Want To Do" by Sugarland. For other examples of energizing music, visit

Are any of these strategies you are using right now to re-energize? And, if you have ideas for other ways to increase your productivity without the use of caffeine, please share those in the Comments section below.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Power of One

As Three Dog Night explains in the lyrics of their 1969 hit, one can be the loneliest number. Sometimes, there is power in the masses, meaning a group makes more impact that just one; however, when it comes to certain organizing tools, one can be a very powerful number. It can be very important to "practice the power of one". Here are a few examples:

- One Calendar... Whether it's paper or electronic, a single planner enables tracking all commitments (personal and professional) in one place, making it less likely that appointments will be forgotten or that you will double-book yourself.

- One To-Do List... Are you jotting down reminders on multiple sheets of paper, in various different notebooks or via sticky notes posted all around your office? If so, how many of those actually get completed?!? Keeping all the action items needing your attention in one place makes it more likely they'll get completed and aids in prioritizing.

- One "Data Dump"... Our brains get filled with more and more information each day; keeping them in one place ensures meeting notes, ideas, phone messages, inspirations and the like are not lost and are easily accessible, regardless of whether that one place is the paper option of a spiral notebook or an electronic option, like Evernote or OneNote.

- One Address Book... For contacts' names, phone numbers, emails and snail mail addresses as well as any notes related to that connection, keeping everyone's information centralized within one system makes it easier to keep contacts' data up-to-date and to access those details quickly whenever they are needed.

Are any of these areas in which you can streamline? And, if you have ideas for other items that are more powerful when you have just one of them, please share those in the Comments section below.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Totally Terrific Tech Tools

When it comes to computers and what goes with them, I help clients tame technological needs daily, speaking Mac and PC as well as iPhone, Blackberry, Android and much more, but the available options are virtually endless for electronic tools that make life easier and help obtain optimum performance day-to-day. Here are just a few that I find most helpful:

- Customer Relationship Management Tool... While there are tons of options, like SalesForce, ACT!, Zoho, GoldMine and Kyliptix's KiBS, I find that BatchBook provides the best option for the most different industries, allowing you to create and sync contacts, invoices, eBlasts and communication logs online.

- Electronic Password Keeper... When not using a printed list, I prefer RoboForm for storing my online usernames and associated passwords, but other great options are Password Safe, SplashID and KeePass.

- Online Backup Service... To automatically backup everything on my computer with a service that encrypts my files during backup and storage, I rely on Mozy, but Carbonite offers a good alternative, too.

- Scheduling Application... While I prefer using Doodle, it is also easy to schedule meetings or gatherings with groups of people using TimeBridge, or Meeting Wizard.

- Keyboard Macro Program... Although Macs come with all sorts of shortcuts built in, there are options like ActiveWords (which I prefer) or AutoHotKey that enable PC-users to associate select words with Substitute Text, Launch a Program, Open Document, Navigate to Internet Site, Send Email, Open Folder or Scripting.

- Online File Sharing... To share or sync files between computers, especially when email just can't handle those really big files, I rely on Dropbox, but Live Mesh, Syncplicity, SugarSync and SparkleShare work, too.

- Task Management Solution... While I prefer Outlook since it can combine email and calendar in the same tool as my tasks, other great options include Producteev, Toodledo, Remember the Milk and TadaList.

- "Remember Everything" Tool... To save images, text, audio and video somewhere I can access anywhere (including desktop, smart phone or Internet) through a quick search of keyword, tag or included text, I rely on Evernote, but OneNote offers an alternative that many others utilize, too... Evernote is such a fantastic tool!

Since these are just the tip of the iceberg for available tech tools, I'd love to hear what you like, too... What electronic tools do you use to make life easier?

Monday, February 14, 2011

How Do You Keep Your Computer Clutter-Free?

In past blog posts, we've discussed overflowing paper files and overwhelming email inboxes, but what about your computer's electronic files? Whether you use a PC or Mac, does your computer's electronic clutter make it difficult to quickly find what you need when you need it? Do you waste valuable time searching for documents and / or replacing those documents you cannot locate? In honor of today's Clean Out Your Computer Day, here are some practical organizing tips to start tackling this project:

1. Automate your computer updates and virus scans. Then, schedule time weekly on your calendar to delete any temporary files that have not been touched in more than that week. Particularly for PC users, run a disk cleanup weekly and a disk defragment every-other-week.

2. Be vigilant in removing documents that are not used or can be easily found online. With what remains, remove visual clutter by funneling desktop icons into just two folders: Documents and Software.

3. Mirror the names of your paper file folders when creating or maintaining your electronic files. To easily find filed items, start the name with the general category and follow that with the specifics. For example, file names could include INSURANCE - AUTO, INSURANCE - HEALTH and INSURANCE - HOME / OFFICE.

4. Be certain to back-up data regularly... If you have a system for remembering to back-up regularly via flash drive, disk or external hard-drive, those are viable options; however, I highly recommend a cloud solution that will automatically back-up your data in a "set it and forget it" manner. I prefer Mozy, but Carbonite is an excellent alternative, too.

5. Speaking of "the cloud", remember that you don't have to keep all electronic information saved on your computer's hard drive... Evernote is an absolutely fabulous way to capture anything (ideas, articles, to-do lists, shopping suggestions, photos, business cards and so much more) in an organized manner to be accessed anywhere. There are Evernote tools for your computer, smart phone or web browser, and they all enable finding whatever you need very quickly, whether that be through keywords, tags, printed text or, even, handwritten text inside uploaded images. For details, visit today.

What will you do today to clean out your computer? What are your current processes for keeping your computer cleaned out? With which portions of your computer do you struggle most to keep clutter-free?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

NC Auto Expo: Organize for Success in Buying a Car

As explained by ads running in the Triangle right now for this weekend's 2011 NC International Auto Expo, "people love their cars", and isn't Valentine's Day weekend a great time to fall in love with a new ride?!? If you're planning to head to the NC State Fairgrounds to find your next vehicle or just drool over the new Chevy Volt, Maserati Gran Truismo, Dodge Challenger and Aston Martin V8 Vantage, this is a great time to organize your car-buying process.

First and foremost, determine what type of vehicle you'll need and what equipment that vehicle will need to include by analyzing what you'll be doing with your vehicle... Do you need to haul furniture, gardening supplies, business equipment or some other large items in the bed of a pick-up truck or in the back of a SUV? Do you need a vehicle with really good fuel economy, like a coupe or compact sedan, or is towing a priority? Do you feel it's important to be able to check your Facebook newsfeed from your car or sync your MP3 player with your car's radio? Do you desire any bells and whistles, like heated seats, sunroof, navigation, rear entertainment system, parallel park assist or Bose speakers with your AM/FM/satellite radio? Does your extended travel make warranty coverage and roadside assistance important? Do you prefer leather or cloth, 4-wheel or 2-wheel drive and 4-, 6-, 8-cylinder or another option? The more you know with regards to what you like about your current vehicle, what you'd like to change about your current vehicle and what you'll be doing with your new vehicle, then the better prepared you'll be for the process of obtaining a new car, truck, van, SUV or crossover vehicle.

Speaking of this process, thinking about your buying and driving habits will help you determine if it is better for you to purchase or lease your next vehicle... How often do you want a new car? Do you prefer to change vehicles frequently or keep your car "until the wheels fall off"? How much do you drive? Does your annual driving fall within the 12,000 - 15,000 miles per year range allowed with leasing or do you tend to drive more each year? Do you use your car for business purposes, allowing more tax deductions with a lease? Do you worry about your car's resale value? Are you hard on your car and wear down the interior quickly, which might lead to penalties with leasing? Do you prefer to have equity in your investment as you pay off the vehicle's entire cost or to lower your payments by paying off just the depreciation on the car? Still, regardless of which automobile financing option you choose, a greater downpayment will lead to lower monthly payments so it's also a good idea to evaluate your downpayment options before heading out to shop for your new ride.

Then, you must tackle a really difficult task as you determine how much money you can spend... What payment will fit within your monthly budget's constraints? What sort of finance rate will your current credit situation allow you to obtain? There are tons of vehicles out right now that can fulfill both your automotive wants and needs while still fitting within your budgetary constraints, but it is important to be aware of that budget before starting the process of getting a new vehicle.

If you're replacing a vehicle, ensure you get the most money back from that previous investment... Gather together all documents for what maintenance work you've completed because that documentation will increase your vehicle's value. Then, check Black Book Online at to get a ballpark figure for the value of your vehicle, keeping in mind the final assigned value will depend on the dealership's assessment. Finally, thoroughly clean the inside and outside of your vehicle so it is in its best shape possible.

Now, it's time for the fun part... Shop online and in-store for the vehicle that you like best and that meets your needs best. Just remember that, although there's a great deal of information on the Internet, nothing can really give you a feel for which vehicle you should buy like sitting in the driver's seat. For more details on the Wake County New Vehicle Dealers Association's auto expo, visit, and I'll see you at the Jim Graham Building this weekend.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

February is Archive Your Files Month

When working on Paper File Management, my clients and I typically establish three "zones" within the office space: DAILY USE or CURRENT PROJECT items get the "prime real estate" in fingertip files on your desk or in your immediate work area; ACTIVE FILES that are used regularly but not daily would be stored in a nearby file drawer or cabinet; ARCHIVE FILES that require reference rarely are stored further away from your work area. February is National Archive Your Files Month since it's an ideal time to focus on these three Paper File Management zones.

Why February? Well, by now, you should have received most (if not all) year-end statements and documents for the prior year, enabling you to prep your income tax return with plenty of time left to track down any missing documents. Plus, since the new year is well underway, last year's active files can be removed completely or moved into archive space, enabling you to open up space for the new year's files to be added.

Utilize this time for purging to prevent overfill of your filing solution so you can locate needed documents and find room for new ones... Using sorting options of KEEP, RECYCLE, SHRED and SEND TO OTHERS, do you know what really needs to be kept and for how long? Establishing specific records retention guidelines that apply to your unique situation can be vital. Furthermore, as you purge your paper documents, think about what are you really using and, for those not used now but that might be used in the future, whether the document be easily recreated or retrieved elsewhere... For details on what tax-related documents need to be retained, visit

It is imperative to stash the following items in your safety deposit box or fire- and flood-proof home safe: birth certificates, adoption papers, Social Security cards, citizenship papers, passports, marriage certificates, deeds, divorce decrees, insurance policy papers, lease agreements, loan documents, mortgage papers, personal property appraisals, stock / bond certificates, vehicle titles, copies of wills, powers of attorney papers and death certificates.

Also, as you remove old files and add new files, remember that there is no "right" or "wrong" way to set-up a filing system. The system that will work best for your unique needs & specific personality will depend on the way you categorize information, the type of information you keep, the volume of information with which you interact regularly and whether others in your office will need to access files in your absence.

Finally, make sure those files that you're keeping are labeled clearly and correctly. It can be a balancing act to make sure you have enough files for all your necessary papers while not having so many that it's hard to find what you need, but an effective filing system can significantly improve productivity and efficiency.

Is your filing system meeting your current needs and have you purged unneeded or outdated materials lately?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Startling Statistics Must Drive Action

Did you know that identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America? Although they readily admit this number is probably low, the Identity Theft Resource Center recorded 662 data breaches in the United States in 2010, a nearly 33 percent increase from 2009. Our current economic situation, the increasing use of smartphones or other mobile devices and U.S. troops returning home to increased risks with which they are unfamiliar all contribute towards the continuing threat of identity theft, but there are things you can do to protect yourself.

[ ] Regularly pull FREE credit reports from To have year-round awareness, pull Equifax in January, Transunion in May and Experian in September... Have you pulled your Equifax report this month?

[ ] Add security software to your computer, preventing illegal access to your network and computer. Purchase anti-virus software and install a firewall. When security levels are set at their highest, proper software can provide protection from spyware, adware, worms, Trojan viruses and hackers. Plus, always keep your operating system software updated.

[ ] Carefully guard your online logins, passwords and personal identification numbers (PINs). Use unique passwords whenever you can, and change those passwords regularly, making sure you don't use the same password in multiple places. Finally, do not set your computer to "remember my password" or have it preset in your system.

[ ] Look for the https at the beginning of website URLs before submitting personal information. Seeing the https beginning signifies a secure site, which means your personal data is kept secure as it's transmitted across the Internet.

[ ] Do not carry your social security card in your wallet. In fact, your social security card, birth certificate and other certified documents should be kept in a high-security location, like a safety deposit box or fire- and flood-proof safe.

[ ] Carefully guard your credit and debit cards. Do not regularly carry in your wallet any credit or debit cards that are not used on a frequent basis. For those cards you do elect to carry, keep photocopies of each card's front and back in a secure location. Do not write your personal identification number on the back of any cards. Instead of signing the back of each card, write "Check photo ID" in the signature block. Review monthly statements closely, looking for anything that looks irregular or that you don't recognize. Finally, opt out of pre-approved offers by calling 1-888-5-OPTOUT.

[ ] If regular bills don't show up when you know they should, follow-up with the company. This may be a sign that someone has stolen pieces of mail from your mailbox. Likewise, when you reorder checks, arrange to pick them up at the bank instead of having them mailed directly to you, eliminating the chance of them being taken out of your mailbox.

[ ] Always be aware of protecting your general safety and security. Take precautions with wireless networks, especially those publicly available. Shred whatever paperwork is being discarded that might include personal information.

What steps do you take to protect your identity with all of today's challenges? What can you do TODAY to start making a difference?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Does your calendar help you focus on your purpose?

January is "National Be On Purpose Month", which is further outlined at, and I firmly believe your calendar solution can help you stay on the path of your selected purpose, especially when that tool is utilized to its fullest.

Many available calendar solutions walk you through how to select your own specific purpose, determining how you want to be remembered and what kind of footprint you'd like to leave on the people you know, the world you've lived in and the future of our society. Almost any Franklin Covey option, whether paper or electronic, is a great example of calendar solutions that enable future planning, mission / vision development and analysis of your personal or professional goals. Have you used any such tool for your own future planning and, if so, what level of success did you experience or do you recommend one tool over another?

Whether you've selected a paper or an electronic option, your calendar helps you see how much time is available each day and, then, allows you to determine how best to fill your available time. When faced with more than one appointment option occurring simultaneously, you have to deliberately determine which opportunity is more in alignment with your own specific purpose, making a conscious decision as to how you'll spend that available time. Do you have a clear purpose and, if so, what questions do you ask yourself when determining if an upcoming opportunity aligns with that purpose closely enough to be added to your calendar?

That same calendar solution often allows you to manage tasks on your to-do list. If you are using Outlook or another electronic calendar solution linked to your email, you can actually add the associated item to your to-do list as the email containing the action item request is received. If you are using certain paper or electronic calendar solutions, there are tools included for prioritizing such tasks on your to-do list. However, there are limited hours in each day, and one person can only complete a certain number of tasks, especially when intertwined with scheduled appointments. Do you delegate or discard tasks unrelated to your own specific purpose?

Still, enabling your selected calendar solution to be a tool in your staying on the path of your selected purpose depends on whether you take time to fully learn the bells and whistles of what that calendar solution offers and, then, keep the solution where you'll reference it frequently to fully utilize all of those available bells and whistles. Are you aware of all the options offered by your electronic calendar solution, like scheduling repetitions of activities at whatever might be your desired intervals, programming audio, text or email reminders of upcoming events / celebrations and easily updating directly from existing email applications? Are you aware of all the options offered by your paper calendar solution, like sections for meeting notes, built-in holiday notifications, areas for tracking expenses, auto service or medical records and references for toll-free numbers, weights and measurements?

Which calendar solution are you using for 2011 and how is it helping you stay on the path of your selected purpose?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Paper, Plastic or Reusable?

Okay... So we don't ask ourselves the same questions when picking out a calendar solution as we are asked in the grocery checkout line, but there are plenty of questions necessary for finding the calendar solution right for your unique needs. Are you struggling to pick your new calendar solution for 2011? Or had you previously selected a solution and are now finding that solution isn't really working for your current style and commitments? No problem... Let's evaluate your personality and scheduling needs to see what might be a better option.


Do you have tons of appointments each day? If so, a monthly view might be too overwhelming and might not allow enough space for all your commitments in each day's block. On the other hand, a daily view might make long-range planning more difficult since you won't be able to see the big picture of a week- or month-view to know all that is going on. Plus, if you don't have many appointments each day, a daily view might be way too much paper or

Do you know what size spacing works best for you and how it impacts which solution you should get? For paper planners, is your handwriting larger or do you prefer to write very small? For electronic planners, can you see your appointments in the program's available font sizes?

Do you spend more of your day sitting at a desk or moving around? If at a desk, can you keep an electronic program easily accessible and open on your computer's desktop throughout the day or would you have space atop your physical desktop to keep a paper planner visible, like maybe setting on a cookbook stand or one of Franklin Covey's Compact-Classic Planner Holder with Paper Storage? If more mobile, do you carry items in a briefcase big enough for a larger paper planner, do you need something smaller for a purse / shirt pocket or do you have a portable electronic device that can provide access to the electronic solutions available?

How many people need to have access to the selected calendar solution at any one moment in time? Are you the team's Chief Operating Officer, making you the only one that needs to access this calendar, keeping track of others' activities amidst your own as needed? Will all members of the office team and / or family be adding, subtracting and referencing this calendar equally? A personal paper planner versus a larger, wall-hanging calendar versus an electronic option will all offer differing levels of access, all depending on many variables.

How much time can you commit to maintaining your selected calendar option? Appointments must be added, regardless of whether the option is paper or electronic. Paper calendars need to be referenced since there aren't email or auditory reminders. Electronic calendars often need to be synced, particularly between team members' computers or your own devices, and always need to be charged or "powered up" to work.

Do you remember things better when you write them down? Can you look at a computer screen and memorize what's on tap for the day, visualizing that image throughout the day as a reminder? When you read a book, do you turn down corners of pages to mark content that needs to be referenced later? Do you enjoy the feel of flipping planner pages as the year progresses? Are you comfortable with tech gadgets? When you ask for directions, do you prefer a map drawing or turn-by-turn navigation provided by a GPS?


Paper calendar solutions work well for visual folks who process information by writing it down, often more "global thinkers".
--- Always on and ready: there's no on / off switch to make sure is flipped in the right direction, no battery to charge and no syncing to occur.
--- Often less expensive, keeping track of appointments, big events, annual celebrations, to-do items and addresses in a cost-effective way.
--- Since a paper planner can't "crash", the only way to lose your data is to lose the entire system itself.
--- Offers sharing between team or family members with a larger, wall-hanging option, but that is not as mobile as a personal planner.

Electronic calendar solutions work well for detail-oriented folks who remember things without really looking at them all at once, often keeping track of tons of appointments by focusing on one day at a time.
--- Includes options like scheduling repetitions of activities at whatever might be your desired intervals, programming audio, text or email reminders of upcoming events / celebrations and easily updating directly from existing email applications.
--- Offers sharing between team or family members with web- or server-based options, but requires additional devices for mobility.

A hybrid solution that is often ideal for groups or individuals encompassing both personality types would be to enter things electronically and, then, print the daily, weekly or monthly calendar to carry with you or post on a wall, which is especially important when info must be shared.
--- Requires training yourself to always add data to the electronic solution, using the paper portion simply as a printout of what's in electronic


There is no "right" or "wrong" answer to which calendar is best for you. In fact, when selecting a calendar solution, there really is only one "requirement" per se... Pick only one tool that will hold everything in it. That means all your personal and professional commitments are noted on that one calendar, not bouncing between different solutions. People that use more than one calendar have a much greater chance of something falling through the cracks, and we really don't want that to happen. Along those same lines, though, I do recommend incorporating color so different facets of your life or different projects in process have different colors, making it easy to see what's happening with each at a glance, and that tip is easy to utilize in any calendar solution, regardless of whether your chosen option is paper or electronic.

Then, once you have settled on the calendar solution deemed best for your unique style or personality and current commitments, I highly recommend allocating time to really get to know all that is offered by that particular option, training on its associated tools and applications so you take full advantage of what is available in getting and staying organized for your ultimate success.

What type of calendar solution do you use? How well is it working for you right now? What do you like best and what would you change?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Ready, Set, GO!

As outlined on, the new year brings a variety of focuses for folks worldwide. Maybe your 2011 resolutions include "spend less, save more" or "quit smoking, get fit and stay healthy" or "enjoy life to the fullest", but many people have "get organized" atop their resolutions' list... and now is the time to GO towards Getting Organized!

The average worker admits to wasting 2 hours per 8-hour work day. However, getting and staying organized helps everyone maintain productivity, which has become more and more important as businesses streamline and employees must continually do more with less. With that in mind, it really is no surprise to me that "be organized" tops the list of new year's resolutions for many folks. To help, January is National Get Organized Month, otherwise known as GO Month, and there are many ways you can start being organized right now.
As you tackle the various tips that best meet your unique organizing challenges, there are a few things to keep in mind:

- Every person is different so it can take different amounts of time for different individuals to turn actions into habits, but simple, repetitive tasks require a timeframe of approximately 21 days to condition. Furthermore, most people require 30 to 40 repetitions to firmly adopt a habit. Stay focused... Success will come with time.

- Since people are different, there is no right or wrong way to get organized. Organizing is not "black and white" with one system that meets everyone's needs. Instead, what works best for you will depend on your unique needs and your own personality traits. For example, when things are filed away in a drawer, do they fail to get accomplished because it's "out of sight, out of mind" or does leaving things out in the open lead to inactivity because the visible things feel like clutter? Do you remember things better when you write them down or is an auditory reminder from an electronic device more helpful? Are you more energized early in the morning, mid-day or later in your workday? Would you prefer more to get organized with regards to to-do lists, space management, best utilization of your available time, communicating with others, optimizing the skills available on your team or something else? Success will come best when you know yourself well.

- Seeking help from others can be a very good thing. If you delegate a task to someone else, you are freed up to do something else while the original task is being completed. If you hire a professional whose services are in an area outside your expertise, the task will be completed much more quickly, maybe even more thoroughly. If you utilize a team in the completion of a task, the end result will benefit from different skill sets, different thought processes and different knowledge bases. Success is richer when you delegate, outsource, partner with others and simply seek assistance.

Whatever might be your resolution, today is the first day of the rest of your life and a great time to get ready, get set and GO towards Getting Organized... I wish you ultimate success in a joyful, prosperous and organized 2011.