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

Monday, December 11, 2017

Over 60 Gift Ideas to Eliminate Clutter for Loved Ones

It's 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, access to an experience or consumable items (edible, personal care, art supplies) offer excellent alternatives, we often want to give a tangible item that can immediately improve the recipient's life. When determining which such gifts to consider, it is important to think about lifestyle elements for the recipient. Here are some of my favorite, clutter-free gifts for folks on your list:
  • Mornings can be tough for some of us, but the BEDDI Glow help.s This intelligent alarm clock enables waking up naturally with sunrise simulated wake up light paired with your favorite music from Spotify, Apple Music or other music players. Set multiple alarms on different days, and receive traffic / weather information once you wake up. You can also sleep well every night with soothing white noise or choose from five, relaxing, nature sounds while charging your phone and tablet.
  • As a huge fan of music for motivation, I love starting my day by singing in the shower, and Kohler's Moxie 1-spray showerhead with wireless speaker offers a great tool to facilitate this. It enables streaming music wirelessly with any Bluetooth-enabled device, and the speaker can be easily removed from the showerhead for recharging. If gifting this great find, pair this with an Apple iTunes gift card, and your gift recipient will be ready to jumpstart the day.
  • Misfit Ray is an exceptionally versatile tracker while offering a sleek style for those preferring a minimal option. It automatically tracks steps, distance, calories and light versus restful sleep; it can count swim laps, too. Its vibration alerts provide notification of calls, texts, when to move and set alarms. It is smart button enabled to control connected household devices while never needing charging and is water-resistant up to 50 meters so it can be worn constantly, providing more data, better insights and greater motivation.
  • For those of us on-the-go throughout each day, it's easy to have devices that need refueling while out and about. The QBracelet merges technology with modern style to offer a sleek, lightweight bracelet that can charge an iPhone, holding its charge for up to 30 days and charging your phone up to 50% in 40 minutes. Offering size and color options, it works with iPhones 5 and up, including the iPhone 8, 8+ and X.
  • With all the buzz around Meghan Markle these days, I'm inspired by an item she considers a "travel essential", but be forewarned that the associated cost makes this more of an investment piece. The Personalized Stow Leather Zipper Tech Case is made from buttery soft Spanish leather and helps keep track of all your tech accessories in one place, regardless of whether you're home, at work or on-the-go. As described on its website, "there's a spare leather pocket and loop, perfect for headphones and extra cables, and a leather pen loop centrally placed. Travel essentials such as passport, boarding cards, reward cards and receipts are organized neatly to the right." 
  • For those who struggle to have a "home" for their iPhones or iPads, the DOCK+ Charging Station with Lightning Cable sits elegantly on a desk, nightstand or any flat surface for a sleek, stable base in minimalist design to charge a device while allowing comfortable use or viewing the screen at a glance.
  • For those with multiple devices needing homes for charging at once, Hammacher Schlemmer's 7 Device Charging Station is ideal. This charging station supplies power to seven USB devices simultaneously. The hub draws power from a standard wall outlet and supplies up to 14 amps to tablets, smartphones and other electronic devices via two 2.4-amp, three 1-amp and two 3-amp ports. The dock's integrated smart-charging technology adjusts the energy output of each USB port to optimize recharging speeds of plugged-in devices. The 3-amp ports also feature Quick Charge 3.0 technology for compatible Qualcomm devices that can recharge a completely drained battery to 80% full in just 35 minutes. It turns off automatically after devices are charged, occupies as little space as an alarm clock by standing devices on end and includes plastic dividers that help protect screens while minimizing cord tangles.
  • Whether your gift recipient's phone or tablet is an Android or Apple iOS device, Neet Products can protect the charging cords, make them easier to wind up for traveling and differentiate between similar cords in the same household by giving each person an assigned color. The Cable Tie Wrap is available in 36-inch and 8-inch options, comes in 11 colors, reduces everyday wear and tear, eliminates tangles, reduces strain on cable tips and is a lightweight addition to tech tools.
  • Power Perch is a charging shelf that can be added to any single outlet. This is a great gift for folks who travel a bunch and need to keep mobile devices perched atop outlets across the room from any tables or flat surfaces. It can also help for those living in smaller spaces where it doesn't make sense to take up floor space near the outlet for resting what will be plugged into it. or where there is a desire to keep mobile devices off limited countertop space.
  • It's easy to get grossed out by what happens to our tech tools, but PhoneSoap will keep anyone's smartphone disinfected as it charges; plus, the brand-new version adds wireless charging for your device that offers this functionality already. Pair this with the screen cleaning wipes from Spruce and Co to make life a little brighter with the cleanest mobile devices possible.
  • Many of us hover between a love of technology and a dependence on the effectiveness of paper solutions; if you have someone on your list that fits that description, consider gifting the Bamboo Slate Smartpad, which is a board that holds your own paper so you take handwritten notes naturally, push a button on the board to upload to the cloud and organize, edit or share those saved notes and sketches how its easiest for you to use and get things done. Turn your handwritten notes into text and, then, sync across devices. Work smarter, not harder.
  • If your loved one likes swimming laps at the local gym or riding the waves off the coast, protecting technology from water is a key consideration. The Unifun 10400mAh Waterproof External Battery Power Bank Charger includes a strong LED flashlight and strap hole for devices. Its creative design is waterproof, dustproof, anti-shock and skid resistant, making it ideal for campers, hikers, skiers, construction workers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. It can fast-charge two devices simultaneously. To help your gift recipient protect mobile devices, consider the Ace Teah Waterproof Phone Pouch Underwater Dry Bag, which is snowproof, and dirtproof in addition to waterproof. Cellphones, IDs, credit cards, cash and keys are protected from water, snow, dust, sand and dirt when diving, swimming or partaking in other outdoor activities while the crystal clear transparent window remains sensitive to touch so typing, taking photos or videos and making calls continue. Plus, Finis' Duo™ Underwater MP3 Player uses bone conduction audio transmission for incredibly clear sound, making it a game changer for swimming laps. Its integrated clip design secures to google straps to rest on the cheekbones for a comfortable and streamlined fit; there are four buttons to easily navigate between songs, podcasts, audiobooks and other supported audio files. The device offers 4GB of flash memory and a Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery life of up to 7 hours.
  • Although it can often appear that electronic storage space is limitless, we're regularly reminded of the limits to our physical space. Combat the space constraints of drawers in your gift recipient's home with a couple items from The Container Store. The Dream Drawer collection offers organizers and dividers to make better use of each drawer's space; likewise, the 5-Section Boobie Trap Bra Organizer is created specifically to store up to 10 bras while preserving their shape, protecting delicate lace and guarding against snags.
  • Sharper Image's Motorized Tie Rack offers the ultimate tie organizing, holding more than 45 ties, belts and accessories within a smaller space and making it possible to find the perfect one with the press of a button. The rack includes 3 bright white LEDs to illuminate all items, making it easier to quickly find what's needed, and they shut off automatically.
  • For the person on your list who loves the outdoors, the CGear Sand-Free Multimat has a double layer weave made from 100% PE, which is perfect for camping and the beach. It is easily cleaned and dries instantly should drinks be spilled; plus, as you lift it off the ground, sand, dirt and dust disappear before your eyes. Its D-Rings around the edges help to affix it firmly to the ground, and it is UV stabilized to prevent fading. Choose which size and color is preferred.
  • No matter why your loved one is headed out into the cold, you can help prepare them with Ravean heated down jackets and gloves. With these tools, anyone can control the temperature whenever and wherever needed. Plus, the same cord that heats the jacket can charge a mobile device, making sure no one suffers from a dead battery. As an alternative, consider the EnergyFlux Enduro Rechargeable Hand Warmer, which doubles as a USB portable charger power bank to make sure your hands stay warm while keeping your device charged. As a bonus, it includes a built-in flashlight, too.
  • For family trips to the beach, afternoons at the park or protection during outdoor concerts, the Sport-Brella Portable All-Weather and Sun Umbrella offers an 8-foot canopy with UPF 50+ protection to keep your skin safe and protected from over 99.5% of UVA and UVB rays. Side panels offer extra protection while wind flaps provide ventilation. It is water repellent to keep everything inside dry and relaxed on rainy game days or cool from the warm summer sun at the beach. The kit is easily portable, collapsing down to a 54" x 4" x 4" unit, which weighs only 9 lbs and can be carried in one bag with the 8 steel ground stakes and 3 tie-down cords.
  • For the yogi in your life, consider YoYo Mats from The Grommet. This self-rolling fitness and yoga mat helps maintain the Zen moment well after each class. With two, patented steel bands hidden inside, you can give it a toss while holding on to one end to unroll; then, push and click the other end down to keep the mat flat. To roll it back, give it another quick toss, which will make it snap shut like a slap bracelet, and it will stay put. The lightweight mat is made from a recyclable, eco-alternative material that's nontoxic and free of latex, PVC as well as phthalates; further, its closed cell construction blocks out moisture, bacteria and odors.
  • As I explained in last year's gift guide, the S'well water bottle is an excellent tool to keep hydrated as it keeps beverages cold for 24 hours or hot for 12 hours; when I shared that tidbit, the only option was the original S'well bottles and accessories, but, now, they have expanded to include travelers and tumblers, which ensure the S'well brand meets all the beverage needs while eliminating use of disposable bottles. Choose from a wide variety of colors and exterior textures to best reflect the personality of your gift recipient.
  • We all need socks; however, the gift of socks can be yet another something to fill your drawers unless you give Bombas socks. Each pair purchased leads to one pair donated to someone in need. Yet, these aren't normal socks... At Bombas, the "goal is to make socks that feel better than anything you've ever put on your feet." These socks offer superior comfort, support and softness. Click here to learn all about Bombas' higher level sock tech and prepare to be amazed.
  • Does the stylista on your list love the most beautiful shoes that always make her feet absolutely ache? It's tough being gorgeous, but your gift can help. Sole Serum's essential oil and lidocaine-infused lotion relieves foot pain and discomfort instantly, lasts for hours, reduces inflammation, dries quickly, is easy to carry, doesn't leave a stain, refreshes skin, offers non-greasy moisturizing and has a soothing scent.
  • Although a local fine jewelry store claims that every woman wants one of their boxes, I must admit that I prefer more eclectic jewelry, and many of my friends feel the same way. If someone on your shopping list fits that description, consider The Painted Pearl for your gift-giving needs. The artist making these small paintings and hand-crafted jewelry is Courtney Frye, and her signature oyster necklaces are both unique and beautiful with every necklace being different from any other. Other items of note include Courtney's tassel and City of Oaks acorn earrings as well as her watercolor calendars.
  • Rumpl blankets utilize technologies developed for activewear, outdoor gear and sporting goods to modernize the everyday blanket; these high-quality, versatile blankets keep their users comfortable anywhere and everywhere. Offered in a variety of colors and sizes, you can get the original or down puffy, which can each be rolled up in their bags for easy transport.
  • Batteries run out at the most inopportune times, which is why it's so helpful to keep a stash of back-up batteries in the sizes you use most frequently. The Battery Organizer Storage Case by Range Kleen holds 82 batteries of various sizes in one tiny space, organizing the batteries by type to keep every size easy to see, access and keep stocked. The case includes a detachable battery tester, and it can be stored in a drawer or mounted on the wall, offering a unique, durable design.
  • For the person in your life who loves to cook, consider Agatha, who will hold your spoon and release the steam from your bubbling pot, adding a playfulness to what work is happening in that kitchen. The Dreamfarm Spadle is a versatile, silicone spoon that features a flat squeegee tip to scrape, a deep 1/2 cup scooping head and useful measuring lines. It's designed to sit up in your pot while also offering the option to be a serving ladle with its unique shape. Simply twist the handle to transform from spoon to ladle and back again. The MasterPlan non-stick 3-section meal skillet lets recipients use only 1 pan to cook a full meal with 3 compartments to cook 3 different elements of the meal at once. Its non-stick and stain resistant surface is oven and dishwasher safe, making life much easier. The Honey Can Do herb preserver keeps herbs fresh for up to two weeks. The Taylor Weighing Bowl and Scale measures up to 11 pounds to give your chef the knowledge necessary to create a sensational finished product. Likewise, the bakers in your life might prefer the Flower Pot Bread Making Kit from Terrain, which includes four terracotta baking pots plus the dry ingredients needed to make tasty flower pot bread and lavender butter. All your chef would need to add are butter and parchment paper. Plus, any BergHOFF Perfect Slice plan set with slicer tool provides a grid around the dishwasher-safe, nonstick baking surface so you can line the silicone cutting tool up to make all servings equal sized and of the size you desire.
  • Whether your gift recipients love to cook or to eat, chances are good they'll enjoy Jacobsen Salt Co.'s tasty offerings. I recommend the Sourced Salt Vial Set to get a cost-effective taste for their variety; however, the many infused salts (black and white truffle, cherrywood, garlic, ghost chili, habanero, lemon zest, pinot noir, rosemary, vanilla bean and more) beckon deeper analysis to find the best option for giving.
  • Although we don't always find an easy way to get our daily quota of greens by eating the right foods, 8Greens' tablets make it so much more simplistic. Made of aloe vera, barley grass, blue green algae, chlorella, kale, spinach, spirulina and wheatgrass, one tablet of 8Greens is high in vitamins and minerals, detoxes organs, oxygenates the body, helps reduce the effects of aging, promotes collagen, encourages organ functioning, balances PH levels, helps circulation, decreases inflammation and provides a key source of antioxidants. Your gift recipient would simply drop the tablet in 8 ounces of water, let it fizz until it completely dissolves and, then, sip.
  • If your loved one struggles to get a good night's sleep, the Alaska Bear® Natural Silk Sleep Mask provides a sleep aid and eye relaxer made of 100% top-quality 19 momme natural mulberry silk on both sides, offering the breathable, cool relaxation of the soothing masks found at the world's premier spas. To even better ensure boosting the probability of a good night's sleep, gift a Blackout Bedroom Curtains Set, which has grommets at the top of each room darkening panel with thermal insulating draperies for saving energy, reducing noise, blocking UV rays and limiting distractions to getting more sleep.
  • Speaking of getting better sleep, it is not simply about making it easier to get to sleep; the Eden Pillow features luxurious, gel-infused, cooling memory foam and a gusseted design that allows for maximum edge-to-edge support so you stay asleep and get better rest. Pair this with the Outlast Woven All Season Temperature Regulating Blanket, and you help your loved one balance the temperature around one's body to maintain optimal sleep temperature.
  • Until any of those solutions kick in to create a more rested individual, provide your loved one with Honest Hazel Eye Gels, which use powerful natural ingredients to reduce puffiness, brighten dark circles, firm fine lines and hydrate the delicate under-eye skin. It's like the gift of refreshment!
  • Norwex started as only these miraculous cloths that effectively kill 99% of the germs on a surface by using microfiber and water, but it's grown to be so much more: laundry detergent, dusting mitts, body towels, dish cloths, cutting boards, pot scrubbers, mop collections, cleaning paste, descaler, glasses' cleaners, chenille hand towels, sink or bath mats, footstones and the list goes on and on. Further, Norwex products improve quality of life by radically reducing chemicals in our homes. My friend Heather Hooper is an authorized consultant so a purchase from the aforementioned link supports her local business. It's such a win-win to shop local.
  • As described on their website, "Usborne and Kane Miller books are the most exciting, engaging and educational books on the market today. They are high-quality, innovative, lavishly-illustrated and, best of all, they are the books kids love to read." I was recently introduced to them by my local consultant, Jennifer Hammond, and I can attest to the high quality of these engaging books. They offer a wide variety of styles, topics and book formats so there's something for all ages and interests.
  • When searching for the perfect gift to give the mother or father of a four-legged friend, consider something that would benefit the dog or cat. Casper's dog mattresses are made with the same expertise used for its people beds. Gosh EasyFeed Smart Pet Feeder is a revolutionary food and water dispenser that allows you to program a pet's meals from wherever you are and check in via webcam; it holds a liter of water and 20 cups of food, which can be released in portions at scheduled mealtimes. As seen on Shark Tank, the mind-blowing Fresh Patch is a hydroponically grown grass patch that simulates an all-natural potty for dogs to use indoors; it is easy to clean, is environmentally friendly and can be shipped across the US.
  • We never know when an emergency is going to strike so preparedness can be one of the best gifts to give. Consider the ER310 E+Ready Emergency Crank Weather Radio to provide valuable information, allow for recharging USB compatible devices, provide a Cree LED flashlight for power outages or navigating low light areas and include a high frequency dog whistle. The Preppi GoBox is an emergency kit for individuals with a briefcase handle on its compact box to easily tote around; it contains all the basic survival essentials needed: first-aid kit, 3-day water supply, 3-day food rations, Swiss Army multi-tool, LED flashlight, glow stick, mylar emergency space blanket, rain poncho, waterproofing utility bags, notepad, pencil, dust mask, safety matches, 4-hour candles, emergency whistle and playing cards. The Mini Firefighter is a fire extinguishing foam, which operates like a can of hairspray and uses foam to smother electrical, solid, fat or petroleum-based fires; push the nozzle, and its foam expands up to 40 times its size around the fire, contracting to prevent re-ignition. Once it cools, the foam transforms into a gel you can wipe off; plus, the nontoxic formula biodegrades, making it perfect for the great outdoors. If your gift recipient lives upstairs, the Easy Deploy Fire Escape Ladder might provide a necessary exit when the home is ablaze.
  • One of the more creative gifting options that I've seen is Ancestry Service from 23andMe, where recipients get a comprehensive understanding of their genetics, including a breakdown of global ancestry by percentage and connections to DNA relatives. Through December 26th, you can save up to $50 off each kit and get free gift wrap; then, fulfillment is super simple for the recipient as it's a matter of simply mailing a saliva sample back to 23andMe's US-based lab in the same kit it came in using the pre-paid postage provided.
  • Lindsay Sherbondy is a graphic designer who fell madly in love with lettering, opening the online shop for Lindsay Letters in 2012 from her belief that surrounding ourselves with beautiful and meaningful goods makes us feel special, happier and more hopeful; her latest creation is The Creatives Calendar™, and it is one of the most productive juxtapositions of beauty, meaning and function that I've ever seen. Lindsay wanted a big wall calendar that was simple yet functional and beautiful, being big enough to record all important things (appointments, meetings, social media planning, deadlines, new ideas, brainstorming and more) and with a plexiglass cover to accommodate everyone's rapidly changing minds / plans. Choose what design, size and framing option would be best.
  • If 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 up-level goals moving forward, consider the Powersheets® Intentional Goal Planner, which pairs nicely with your favorite planner as you strategically invest your limited resource of time each week and day.
  • There is a great deal of research linking gratitude with productivity, which is why FranklinPlanner's A Year of Gratitude Kit can be the gift that continues giving all year long. This is a kit to inspire 52 weeks of giving thanks, which is a habit that leads to many rewards.
Feel free to utilize these ideas for the holidays or throughout the entire new year... There are plenty of upcoming opportunities for gift-giving, including birthdays, thank yous and so many different types of celebrations. Still, since it is hard to go wrong with gift cards and gift certificates, keep in mind options like Cardpool, Gift Card Granny, Gyft or Raise to buy, send, organize and redeem discounted gift cards while the Yiftee app will let you send certificates for what's local to any recipient via text or email.

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 for tracking only your gift-giving activities, The Christmas List and GiftPlanner are really fabulous iOS alternatives while Gift List Manager and Christmas List Snowball are great Android options, and Christmas List works cross-platform.

Above all, 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. You can stay sane while addressing all priorities.

Finally, make sure you are getting the best deal possible. If you are shopping in stores, you can compare prices with the Buy VIA and Flipp apps; alternatively, if you are shopping online, use Amazon Assistantcamelcamelcamel, Coupons.comHoney, PromotionCode, RetailMeNot and SlickDeals to find ways of saving money instantly. Plus, with Ebates, you can earn cash back by shopping at the stores you love while seeing the best coupons and deals available.

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!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Prepare Your Business for Withstanding a Hurricane

As businesses and residents of Texas and Louisiana recover from Hurricane Harvey, those of us in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina brace for the arrival of Hurricane Irma. Although it can feel overwhelming to prepare for a natural disaster, especially one of this magnitude, there are steps each of us can and should be taking right now to make sure we are ready. 

Invest a little time now to make sure you, your employees, your relationships with your vendor partners as well as your customers and your facilities are prepared for whatever is headed your way. Here are 5 things businesses can do today to prepare:
  • Establish from where employees can obtain important updates during an emergency situation, especially when and where to return to work if there is a satellite or back-up location.
  • Determine how your choice of operations before, during and after the storm will be communicated to all your partners, including customers, prospects and vendors alike. If you have overdue updates to partners' data, enter those new email addresses or phone numbers before things get too hectic.
  • Verify all computer programs, documents and data are being automatically backed up from each team member's technology to a remote location, preferably via an online cloud back-up solution that will save the information to multiple servers in various parts of the country. Choose whichever option works best for your needs at the lowest cost between Backblaze, Carbonite, Crash Plan and Mozy.
  • Decide how you will facilitate payroll if you are displaced, lose power or have intermittent Internet connectivity.
  • Make certain you have proper insurance and it is up to date. Ask your insurance agent, broker or underwriter if you are adequately covered for potential property damage as well as what business interruptions you could possibly face. 
If conditions become unsafe to go out, you might be stuck at work or your home; therefore, make sure you have what supplies might be necessary for the long haul. Visit for what should be included in a disaster supplies kit and, then, start accumulating it all, storing them somewhere easily accessible yet secure. For more about what you need, click here for a video description, and take actions to get ready now.

Power outages are regularly a by-product of natural disasters, particularly when strong winds are a factor; therefore, prepare for potential power outages with these steps:
- Fill up your gas tank. Without power, the pumps don’t work.
- Visit your bank's ATM for cash. Credit and debit cards won’t work during a power outage.
- Charge your mobile devices and try steps from to conserve battery consumption. If you can, get at least one back-up battery, like this Unifun 10400mAh Waterproof External Battery Power Bank Charger, Techlink ReCharge 3400 Portable Charger or PowerNow USB Rechargeable Mobile Battery Charger.
- Keep on hand extra batteries for your flashlights so you are always ready to see in the dark.

The U.S. Small Business Administration has partnered with Agility Recovery Solutions to provide this disaster planning toolbox, from which you can obtain checklists for recovery overview, critical business functions to consider, assessing your risks, creating your emergency communications plan, phone recovery, your disaster recovery kit, winter weather preparedness, earthquake preparedness, tornado preparedness, wildfire preparedness, flood preparedness, hurricane preparedness, crisis communications to consider and much more. I highly recommend small business owners and entrepreneurs check these out to troubleshoot what's missing from any company's preparedness plan.

Above all, though, make a plan, prepare for possible communication gaps, have the supplies you need on hand and keep what you’ll need remotely stored in the cloud.

For more in-depth advice to prepare for future natural disasters, attend my lunch and learn workshop "When Disaster Strikes, Will Your Business and Your Team Be Ready?" at 11:30am to 1:30pm on Thursday, September 28th. September is National Preparedness Month, and we'll address tactics to help you, your team and your entire business become prepared for emergencies, including hurricanes, tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, fires, winter storms, terrorism, geological events and technological issues. By attending this class, you'll learn how to do the following:
  • Create an Emergency Response Plan
  • Find solutions for data and paperwork challenges
  • Build an Emergency Preparedness Kit
  • Develop a Communications Strategy
  • Maintain and update plans
To gather additional details and reserve your spot, please visit

What natural disasters are issues where you reside? How have you prepared for those potential issues? What steps can you take now to be fully prepared for the next emergency to strike?

Friday, August 4, 2017

Is It Time To Simplify Your Life?

The first week of August is celebrated as "Simplify Your Life Week"; however, I feel confident that any time of the year can be ideal for streamlining. With a little effort, you can determine what matters most and develop razor-sharp focus of your resources on those priority goals; you can best invest your limited time in efficiently and effectively achieving the results desired.

Clutter is the greatest deterrent when working to organize for success. Whether the clutter is in your space, your mind, your technology or your calendar, beyond simply robbing you of precious time, it can be physically, mentally and emotionally draining. Clutter makes each of us overwhelmed, enhancing the difficulty of forward-thinking decision-making and creating a scenario where it is more challenging to best achieve your goals.

Taking time to simplify can tame some of this stress, making it easier to quickly find what you need and effortlessly know what needs to be done at any moment. Here are some strategies that can be implemented this month to eliminate the unnecessary:

Deliberately choose how you invest your time. By developing habits for a weekly strategy session and daily wrap-up, you can map out a specific game plan to guide you throughout the week and, then, stay on track amidst the world's distractions.

- Stay true to your priorities. Yes, priorities can shift by the day, week, month or year; sometimes, there are shifts minute-by-minute. Yet, if you have a flexible game plan that can act as your protective barrier, you can shuffle how you invest your time accordingly, filling each day's 1,440 minutes with only what matters most and keeping your actions aligned with your goals.

- Respect the value of your space. Whether it's in your physical space, electronic files, email folders or calendar, keep only what is accurate, applicable, useful or bringing you joy. When anything not meeting one of those requirements is maintained, there's more to dig through, leading to overwhelm, distractions and stress.

- Be positively present. Try to live in the current moment instead of worrying about the future or what is outside of your control. Listen intently to others, focusing on understanding rather than planning how you will respond. Accept that none of us is perfect, and work to bring folks together rather than fueling divisiveness.

- Learn to say "no". What can you keep out of your space? What can be deleted in general? What tasks or time commitments can be delegated? With tips from mindbodygreen, it's easier to master the art of saying no, which eliminates what doesn't rank high enough in your priorities to earn space in your files or time on your schedule.

- Incorporate tactics for success from work-life integration. Through research by Wharton's Work / Life Integration Project along with my clients' best practices, yes, you can create harmony with goals for work, home, community and self complementing one another rather than competing with each other. Focus on outcomes over activities, and invest your time in activities that accomplish wins in more than one area of life at the same time.

What steps do you take to simplify your life? Will you try any new tactics for this year's Simplify Your Life Week?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Make Summer More Productive

Summer officially kicks off today, and you might be feeling a little more sluggish, laid back or easy going than during other seasons. When someone mentions summer, many folks' minds drift to being on vacation, hanging out by the pool or lounging on the beach with toes in the sand. Alternatively, you might reflect immediately on the rising temperatures and how difficult it is to concentrate in the heat. Yet, there are steps we all can take to make summer more productive. Here are a few ways to boost productivity this summer:

1. Calendar the craziness. Line up calendars for the next three months along your wall so you can see everything coming up at a glance. These might be wall-hanging paper calendars or dry-erase calendars; the key is to have the next three months visible at once. Then, add vacations for you and your team members, holiday celebrations, impending deadlines and family commitments, including swim meets and camp registrations alike. Include all elements of your life (work, home, community and self), considering different colors for each of those buckets. When you know what is coming, you can more proactively invest your time in achieving all of your desired results for each area of life.

2. Establish your non-negotiables from the get-go. As summer schedules tend to become a little more erratic than normal, you and your team need to know which items have less flexibility than others. For me, I absolutely must maintain my weekly strategy session and daily wrap-up, but the good habits that keep each individual on track productively will vary from person to person. Do you expect your team members to have certain hours during which they always work in the office rather than operate remotely? Is there an expectation for how team members should request vacation time or notify the rest of the team about a hiccup related to impending deadlines, which can be especially vital with varying schedules for summer vacations? This would be a good time to communicate leadership's expectations to everyone. Be as clear, concise and transparent as you can.

3. Focus your efforts on tasks, not projects. It's not possible to check a project off your to-do list in one sitting. "Plan a party" is not a single action item; instead, there are many actions that make up that project. As you are mapping out the next three months, take time to break larger goals into smaller, bite-sized action items that can be completed as individual tasks. Start each task with a verb so as to fuel action, break each task down to as simple of a function as possible, estimate how long each action item will take to complete so you readily know those tasks taking 10 or 30 minutes, and and assign a deadline for each task's completion.

4. Invest some time to reflect inward. With erratic schedules during the summer, many companies have fewer meetings that would otherwise be held at normal intervals; this can be the ideal time to review and reset some of your organization's key elements. When was the last time your team updated its mission, vision, core values, annual goals, processes and workspace organization? If it has been awhile, block out time during the dog days of summer to look them over and adjust as needed. Maybe you'll want to freshen up your customers' experiences, update what messages you are conveying across all mediums and put yourself in the client's shoes. Further, this can be an ideal time for a personal audit, where you assess what you have learned and achieved thus far this year, what priorities need attention in the coming months and what "someday" actions need to be scheduled so they move from to-do to done. Do your goals for work, home, community or self need to be adjusted, and how can you realign your actions to focus on achieving each?

5. Make time for fun and frivolity. If you block out time to truly enjoy the season, you'll be less distracted by what you are missing when you are focusing intently on getting things done. The "Fun Summer Activities Checklist" from Real Simple and "31 Totally Free Things to Do This Summer" from PureWow are excellent places to brainstorm what cool things you can do to dive into summer enjoyment; then, once you've blocked off time for those activities, your mind will be less likely to drift from working towards wondering when you'll actually be able to celebrate summer fun. Plus, when you are taking time to enjoy all this season offers, you can truly take a break from everything else since you've planned for when those other goals will be addressed.

What steps do you take to make summer more productive? Will you be implementing or attempting any of these here?

Monday, June 19, 2017

Is It Time To Stop Saying I'm Sorry?

There has been a buzz growing about the negative impact of saying "I'm sorry". Folks contend that it holds back career success, prevents stronger relationships and makes the person saying it appear weaker. As opposed to saying "I apologize", the phrasing of "I'm sorry" suggests you are claiming first-hand that you are a sorry human-being. In researching this phenomenon, I read about a study published in Psychology Science that had men and women journal how often they committed an offense as well as whether or not they subsequently offered an apology, which reported women committing more offenses and offering more apologies than men.

As I studied this, I became acutely aware of each time I used the phrase of "I'm sorry". Whether it was bumping against someone walking through a doorway, because I'd missed the other person's call due to being in a meeting or when I'm running a few minutes late arriving somewhere, I felt a twinge of "I shouldn't have done that" with each iteration. "Oh, no... What will they think of me?!?"

Although I want to be considerate of others, remembering we are all humans who put our pants on one leg at a time and regularly make mistakes, I certainly don't want others to view me as a lesser person due simply to my word choice. Therefore, I've been practicing two new habits: First, I choose carefully when an apology is appropriate or if I should be responding in a different manner. Then, second, I make sure to word each apology as "I apologize" rather than letting "I'm sorry" simply roll off my tongue. There is a distinction between those statements, and I want to make sure I'm conveying the appropriate message.

As I have made these resolutions, I've realized that breaking a bad habit is very difficult. I backslide from time to time, but I'm trying to be kind and understanding with my own shortcomings. I know that changing my words isn't about mind over matter; instead, it means I have to be thinking about it regularly until that thought process is simply inherent to my thinking. That's no easy feat.

I will keep at it, I will get better daily, and I am confident my efforts will make me a better communicator. Meanwhile, I will eagerly await the day that the Google Chrome extension for Just Not Sorry will be expanded to include the Mac Mail application.

Are you aware of how often you say "I"m sorry"? If so, what are your thoughts about that? How does it strike you when you hear someone else use that phrase? Which phrases bother you more?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

5 Lessons for Business Leaders from World Champion Coach Steve Kerr of the NBA's Golden State Warriors

Congratulations to the Golden State Warriors for wrapping up this year's National Basketball Association world championship with last night's win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. I never hide how I'm a huge fan of the San Antonio Spurs, especially their brilliant Coach Gregg Popovich; however, it's not possible to accomplish all the great feats that the Warriors have over the past 3 years without powerful leadership: at least 67 victories each year and championship rings in 2 out of the last 3 years. I have seen that outstanding leadership in head coach Steve Kerr, and I believe the following 5 leadership lessons can benefit productivity for all time-crunched professionals.

1. Inspire others with your competitive drive and enthusiasm. Knowing exactly when to show the right emotions for the circumstances, Coach Kerr energizes his assistant coaches, players and support staff with his passion for continual improvement. He works continually to expertly reign in Draymond Green's emotional outbursts while encouraging his team to play with a drive for excellence. He even famously smashed a clipboard last year as the Warriors gave up a third quarter lead, explaining that he'd rather take his frustrations "out on the board rather than a player". There's a time for everything, and each leader must be aware of the impact one's actions have on one's team members.

2. See the potential in your team members and encourage it to grow. Each year, Coach Kerr has taken a growing core of star players, invested in bettering their excellence and plotted out how to best highlight each player's strengths in a way that has them working together like a well-oiled machine. He regularly exhibits his faith in his players' abilities and invests a great deal of effort in helping them become even better. This year, in addition to the strengths of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and crew, Coach Kerr sought to incorporate the advanced skills of Kevin Durant, resulting in a powerhouse team that far exceeds its competitors. Commitment to team members makes everyone better, especially the results for the team in its totality.

3. Acknowledge that success comes from your team members' performance. In both instances that the Warriors won championships, Coach Kerr hid amongst those on stage, almost refusing the microphone as he encouraged everyone who was on the court making the shots and defending the opponents to speak. He understood that his role is to encourage their star potential, but he can only draw up the plays while they are the ones actually dribbling the ball. Everyone within the Warriors organization echoes Coach Kerr's humility, humbleness and belief in teamwork, understanding that "Together, everyone achieves more" and putting the greater good ahead of any individual's success.

4. Empower a "next man up" mentality. Whether it was Draymond Green's absence in last year's NBA Finals due to too many technical fouls, players having to step away throughout the season due to injuries or Coach Kerr's own health concerns forcing him to step away temporarily, all members of the Warriors' organization are aware of the communicated expectation that they must step up to fill any void as it appears for the betterment of the team. Coach Kerr has shown the ultimate trust in his assistant coaches, players and support staff, which empowers them to better perform their necessary duties. When your team knows you trust them, they are empowered to step up and fuel desired results.

5. Constantly take the temperature of everything related to your team. Coach Kerr has developed personal connections with each of his assistant coaches, players and support staff members such that he knows exactly what's up with his organization, can proactively pre-empt hurdles and works strategically to realign issues before big problems arise. When you connect with your people, exhibiting empathy for team members' needs, they'll open up to you and better trust your subsequent decisions.

It is with these leadership lessons that Coach Kerr continues to achieve record-breaking successes, setting an example that inspires those around him to achieve greatness alongside him.

Which of these leadership lessons do you find most valuable? Are there other such leadership skills you've seen exhibited by Coach Steve Kerr?

Friday, June 9, 2017

What Business Etiquette Do You Utilize?

Business Etiquette Basics
The first full week in June is celebrated as National Business Etiquette Week, recognizing the need for proper business etiquette to compete in the growing global marketplace. According to Business Dictionary, business etiquette is "expected behaviors and expectations for individual actions within society, group or class; within a place of business, it involves treating coworkers and employer with respect and courtesy in a way that creates a pleasant work environment for everyone." Quite a few folks claim that business etiquette is a lost art; at times, I get a little lackadaisical about some of the best etiquette rules, which is why it's time to revisit these top tips for better business etiquette:

  • Exhibit courteousness. Avoid derogatory, rude or offensive language, particularly curse words. Stop interrupting others, even if you are afraid of forgetting the point you are wanting to make. Say "please" and "thank you". However, avoid overusing "thank you" in any single conversation; more than once or twice per conversation may dilute its impact.
  • Nail introductions. Say your full name when introducing yourself. Stand whenever someone else is introducing you. If you are unsure whether those around you know one another, be proactive in introducing them to each other.
  • Send thank you notes often. When interviewing for a job or new business opportunity, send separate thank you notes to each person interviewing you. Although email is acceptable, choose hand-written notes whenever possible.
  • Mind your manners over meals. Always break bread with your hands since using a knife is considered inappropriate; tear off one piece at a time. Let wait staff do their jobs; don't push an empty plate away when you're finished, and avoid stacking dishes as you finish with them. Further, balance your food with whatever others order. If your guest orders an appetizer or dessert, do the same; make sure everyone is equally comfortable. Finally, any meal's host should always pay. If you did the inviting, you are the host and responsible for the bill.
  • Master the skill of conversation. Come prepared with a few casual, non-business topics in mind, and, then, engage fully in the discussion. Never resort to pushing your business card on folks; instead, connect about what each of you needs and discuss how you can help one another. When at a networking event, have exit lines in mind so you can leave a conversation smoothly and politely, like "Nice to meet you", "Nice talking to you" or "See you at next week's meeting". Alternatively, when wrapping up a conversation, you can excuse yourself for a bathroom break, to get food or by explaining if you need to connect with someone else before leaving.
  • Be aware of expectations regarding technology. You should never use your phone during meetings unless expressly suggested for social media promotion. When in a meeting, don't take calls, text or check email; instead, focus on the meeting discussion or presentation. Likewise, make sure you double-check each email before hitting send, and don't copy a recipient that does not need to be receiving that information; people are already overwhelmed with the loads of emails received daily and don't want additional messages that are unnecessary. Most importantly, don't say anything in an email, text or instant message that you don't want broadcast to the masses.
  • Be respectful of colleagues and clients alike. Don't walk into someone's office unannounced or without asking that person's permission. Avoid gossiping, and don't eavesdrop on others' conversations. Then, when in the midst of your own conversation, be sure you are truly listening to what others are saying with an interest in understanding their viewpoints rather than being focused on how you will respond to what is being said. Further, realize that you don't ever know the full story because you aren't in someone else's hand so don't judge and don't make assumptions; ask questions and seek clarification.
With which of these business etiquette rules do you struggle the most? Which rules would you add to this list?

Monday, June 5, 2017

I Blogged Daily for a Month... Here's What Happened

Lessons from Regular Writing
Throughout the entire month of May, I wrote at least one post each of the 31 days. Celebrating 10 years of business for Organize for Success®, I posted a "top 10" list daily, intermingled with the last four posts in my "Countdown to Memorial Day" series of travel tips from frequent travelers. It was an eye-opening experience, and I'm writing today to share some of what I discovered doing this.

First, it was much more time-consuming than anticipated. Going into this project, I figured "It's only a list of 10 things per day; how much time could that possibly require?" It ended up being a heck of a lot more time than I ever imagined. It involved time brainstorming topics for all 31 "top 10" lists, outlining all the content I wanted to include in each post, typing it out as I wanted the content conveyed, editing what I'd typed, incorporating images as needed and adding links wherever possible.

Second, it really was fun. Part of the fun was culling together the best of the best from the many tips I've shared over the years. An additional part of the fun was taking a stroll down memory lane for some of the personal experiences I wanted to share with you. Yet another part of the fun was thinking through things I enjoy and what matters most to me. It was great to get your feedback as the blog readers about how my favorites resonated with you and what are your faves. It was such great dialogue both online and off.

Third, I'm proud of all the content I created. These 31 "top 10" lists covered a wide array of topics, ranging from ways to boost your productivity to insights about me and my business, and I like the way the information was conveyed. I got into a groove of writing the lists in a conversational tone, and I believe my content was easy to digest, including lots of useful recommendations.

If you missed any of those "top 10" lists, please click here, and leave a comment; I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Which list was your favorite and why? Were there any additional lists you would've included during the month?

Friday, June 2, 2017

Emily Parks' Travel Tips

After 8 full weeks of counting down to Memorial Day with interviews highlighting the preferences and best practices of several superstars who travel quite frequently (Laura Doerre, Geralin Thomas, Coach Dave Clawson, Olalah Njenga, Natalie Perkins, Coach Jay Vidovich, David Glenn and Ashley Christensen), giving you tidbits about what works for them as well as takeaways to try for your next trip, I have been asked to share my own answers to those same questions. Therefore, today, I bring you my travel hacks:

Q: Do you travel mainly for business, pleasure or both?

A: Usually, I travel for business; however, I make it a point to incorporate some fun along the way, whether it's a concert, sporting event, sightseeing, trying a highly recommended restaurant or catching up with friends in the area.

Q: Do you prefer traveling via plane, train, boat or automobile?

A: I've never really tried traveling by train or boat, and I'm not a fan of driving; hence, I'd have to say plane. It takes me out of the driver's seat and lets me use that time however I choose.

Q: What is your favorite destination and why?

A: These days, my favorite destination city is a three-way tie between Nashville, Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and San Antonio, Texas. For more on what I like best about those destinations, check out my "Top Ten Favorite Cities" blog post.

Q: What is your preference for airlines?

A: I prefer to fly on Southwest Airlines. It matters to me that they don't nickel and dime you with added fees for anything and everything you could want. When I buy a ticket from Southwest Airlines, it includes 2 checked bags as well as a complimentary beverage and snack; plus, there is no charge to make changes to my reservation as long as I stay within the same level of ticket purchase, like Wanna Get Away or Business Select. Further, I really like how the employees of Southwest Airlines seem to enjoy their jobs more than what I've experienced with employees of other airlines. They make flying more enjoyable overall!

Q: What is your preference for hotels or accommodations?

A: Although I take advantage of my memberships in loyalty programs for Hilton, Kimpton, Marriott and Starwood Hotels whenever possible, for me, it's more important to make sure I'm staying at a hotel that is convenient to what I'll be doing when in that city. Further, I look for accommodations that are clean, safe and include complimentary WiFi as much as I can.

Q: Do you book your own travel or prefer a travel agency?

A: I usually book my own travel. Between Expedia, Google Trips, Hopper, Skiplagged and each airline's or hotel's own app, there are so many tools to make booking my own travel easier, particularly empowering me to get the best deal while allowing me to travel whenever it works best for my own schedule restrictions. I like to travel at random times, like nights, so I can utilize all my daylight hours to their fullest, and I can finagle travel around my unique preferences most easily on my own. Still, if I'm looking for some help, the Lola app is an on-demand, personal travel service to assist me in booking flights, travel or whatever I might need.

Q: Do you have any suggestions for making the most of loyalty programs or points?

A: Know what is included in your membership because you can't utilize benefits about which you are unaware. For example, with the Starwood Preferred Guest program, I get complimentary in-room Internet access when I book through their websites or mobile app as well as complimentary in-room bottled water. Marriott Rewards provides complimentary in-room Internet access when I book direct through any of their own channels. Best yet, Kimpton Karma Rewards provides free WiFi, a "raid the bar" or happy hour option, in-room spa credit, the ability to maintain a record of my custom stay preferences and a complimentary room stay during my birthday month no matter how many credits I've accumulated towards a free night stay. Keep your email address on record with your account up-to-date so you can be notified of changes to your benefits or birthday rewards when they roll around.

Q: When flying, what do you ensure is in your carry-on?

A: It's important to me that all my tech tools (MacBook Air, iPad and iPhone) as well as corresponding charging cords are safely with me in my carry-on throughout my travels. I have a Leather Charger Roll Up from Mark And Graham that includes my ESP initials which I use to keep organized an extra cord and plug for my smartphone and tablet, earbuds and cord for charging my iPad keyboard; additionally, I have Zippered Cable Tie Wraps from Neet Products that protect each of my cords while keeping them securely rolled up. Beyond that, I like to have a printed magazine to peruse during takeoff and landing, an empty S'well® bottle that I can fill up as needed along the way, IMAK Compression Pain Relief Mask and Eye Pillow, my Total Pillow microbead portable pillow, extra cardigan or sweater, meds, BandAids, toothbrush and toothpaste.

Q: Do you keep an extra bag of toiletries packed?

A: Absolutely! It makes it so much simpler to ensure I don't forget any of my necessities, particularly for my skincare routine.

Q: How do you organize your time while on-the-go?

A: I've learned to do as much prep-work as possible beforehand, meaning I'll investigate what I want to accomplish before leaving Raleigh (restaurants where I want to eat, attractions to visit, details to cover during scheduled meetings) and note as much as possible in an Evernote notebook dedicated to that trip. Then, I put as many details as I can into my electronic calendar for all my commitments, whether for conference sessions, hotel / restaurant reservations or events to which I've purchased tickets.

Q: What tools or tactics do you use to keep your accommodations organized while traveling?

A: There seems to be a trend amongst hotels, especially those that haven't been updated recently, to not have enough electrical outlets, particularly near the bed where you need to easily access phones and tablets; therefore, I make sure to take my Audiovox multi-plug surge protector. Further, I pack with all the details of what outfits I'll wear in mind so, upon arrival at the hotel, I try to unpack quickly, hanging up my apparel with all elements of each outfit grouped together on the hangers. That way, I can more easily get ready each morning, grabbing all I need at once.

Q: Do you use technology to help stay productive and organized? If so, what's your favorite program, app, website or tech tool for surviving the chaos of daily life? And what's your favorite for being your best while traveling?

A: Very much so! My favorites for maintaining my sanity while traveling are Evernote, Calendar, The Weather Channel, Dialpad, Reminders and Morning Kit. Before leaving, I like PackPoint for helping make sure I pack whatever I'll need, and, while traversing the country, I prefer using Lyft or Citymapper for on-demand transportation. Meanwhile, I depend on AroundMe, CurEatDetour, Field Trip, Find. Eat. Drink., Offline, Peek, RootsRated, Spot, The Scoop, Time Out, and Viator to find the hidden gems no matter what is my destination. Finally, if I need a place to work, I peruse the local options via Breather, LiquidSpace and WeWork.

Q: Across all your travels, which restaurants did you enjoy most and why were they your favorites?

A: In Nashville, my friend Beth and I enjoyed a delicious Sunday brunch at Adele's, which is housed in the old Universal Tire Center; with my background in the automotive industry, I was enthused by reusing this old service center for such a nice restaurant. Then, in Pittsburgh, I joined fellow members of the National Association of Professional Organizers Deb and Kathy for an amazing dinner that exceeded expectations at the highly-recommended Butcher and the Rye, following which we were rescued from a downpour of rain by the wonderful Coach Jay Vidovich, which certainly made for a memorable experience as Kathy watched the dramatic storm coming our way while we ate outside. Finally, in San Antonio, my friend Heather and I enjoyed a tasty Italian meal while overlooking the beautiful riverfront along the sidewalk of the riverwalk. Overall, I find it much easier to associate magical memories with dining experiences since they incorporate so many of our senses, especially pairing incredible food with wonderful dining companions. For more on which restaurants I've liked best, check out my "Top Ten Favorite Restaurants" blog post.

Q: If you could have one super power to make traveling (or life in general) a little better, what would it be?

A: As I've always envied Dorothy's ability to click her heels together and immediately return home in The Wizard of Oz, I would love the super power of teleportation. Eliminate wasted time!

Readers, do your preferences mirror mine? Do you use any of the tools or hacks that I've learned over my many travels? Which tip do you plan to implement in the future?

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Top Ten Favorite Songs

Organize for Success® Turns 10 
In honor of 10 years of business for Organize for Success®, I have been posting a "top 10" list to this blog each day throughout the month of May, and this is the last in the anniversary blog series. The grand prize for celebrating Organize for Success, LLC's 10 years will be awarded tomorrow, randomly selecting from all those who commented on any of the month's "top 10" blog posts as well as those who have subscribed to my eNewsletter for a winner to receive downloads of all 5 eBooks, a pass for my Stress and Time Management online video course as well as a 60-minute, video conference productivity consultation.

I've left the most challenging of my lists to write for today, which is top 10 favorite songs. I am a huge fan of music, and my interests are far-ranging, from country to classic rock, top 40 to R&B and so many in between. Therefore, I can't really limit my favorite songs to a top 10, but here is a representative list of my favorites:

10. "Whatever It Is" by Zac Brown Band (2008) - I'm a big fan of Zac Brown Band's unique sound, particularly with this really chill song and how it excellently highlights Jimmy De Martini's fiddle skills alongside Zac's singing. Plus, this band puts on a great concert, whether in a large amphitheater or a small group of radio listeners in the Entercom Communications Greensboro studios.

9. "Only Wanna Be With You" by Hootie & The Blowfish (1994) - The entire Cracked Rear View album is outstanding from "Hold My Hand" to "Let Her Cry" to "Time" and everything in between, but "Only Wanna Be With You" is my favorite of this fabulous band's tunes. I even got to ring in 1996 with their New Year's Eve concert in downtown Winston-Salem! These days, I continue enjoying Darius Rucker's talents with songs like "Alright", "Come Back Song", "Don't Think I Don't Think About It", "Southern Style", "Wagon Wheel" and "If I Told You", the last of which has a distinctly Hootie feel to it. So many good sing-along songs!

8. "We Are The Champions" by Queen (1977) - My freshman year at East Forsyth High School, our football team won the state 4A championship, and this song became the team's celebratory anthem for the remainder of the year. Anytime I hear "We Are The Champions", I immediately flashback to the fun of that victory and all the ensuing celebrations throughout the year. Go, Eagles!

7. "Sweet Tea" by Cravin' Melon (1997) - This band out of Clemson, SC, takes me right back to my days at Wake Forest University, and, as a true southerner, this song speaks to my love of good, ol' sweet tea, especially the really sweet kind of sweet tea. It's hard to not sway and sing along as this upbeat tune plays.

6. "Hold On Loosely" by 38 Special (1981) - Although 38 Special's "Caught Up In You" follows closely behind, similarly to "Blinded by the Light" by Manfred Mann's Earth Band, I couldn't have a list of favorite songs without "Hold On Loosely". There's something to be said for a classic rock song that gets you singing and grooving along from the very first beat.

5. "Carolina In My Mind" by James Taylor (1968) - The home in which I grew up had a rather large yard, and, although I'm the six of seven siblings, most of my older siblings were out of the house when I was in middle school as well as my freshman and sophomore years in high school before we moved across town; thus, it fell upon me to mow all that grass. Each week, I'd put a cassette of James Taylor's Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 into my Walkman, plug in my headphones and get to driving the lawn mower around. It was great! Although every song on that record is wonderful, I'm from the state of North Carolina so "Carolina In My Mind" has a special place in my heart and tops my list of favorites from JT.

4. "Shut Up and Dance" by Walk The Moon (2014) - One of my favorite things is finding catchy songs that my youngest nephew, Lucas, will dance and sing along with me. Initially, it was "Ice Ice Baby" by Vanilla Ice, which Lucas told his mom "is Aunt Happy's song", but I think this happier alternative might've superseded that. We do alter the lyrics to "Come on and dance" since we aren't supposed to say "shut up", but it's still fun.

3. "December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)" by The Four Seasons (1975) - I am a fan of almost anything that Frankie Valli (lead singer of The Four Seasons) performs, hence why my friend Beth and I had to go see the Jersey Boys musical when it came to Durham Performing Arts Center; however, "December, 1963" is definitely my favorite. As soon as that opening beat starts, I can't help but want to start dancing; its energy is infectious.

2. "Not a Moment Too Soon" by Tim McGraw (1994) -  Technically, I could fill this entire list with Tim McGraw songs as he's my all-time favorite musical artist, and this same album had multiple hits ("Don't Take The Girl", "Down On The Farm", "Refried Dreams", "Indian Outlaw"); yet, "Not a Moment Too Soon" truly tops my list of Tim McGraw songs, even above "Felt Good On My Lips" that he and I sang together in Las Vegas as well as "Unbroken" that he serenaded me with in Charlotte. This song is hopeful, makes it easy to sing along and was perfect cruising the curves on Hopkins Road in Kernersville when it was first released.

1. "Celebration" by Kool and the Gang (1980) - There's a party in every playing of this song! As a child, I'd run around everywhere, singing and dancing to this tune, even if the music wasn't actually playing. I love the beat, I love the lyrics, I love how easy it is to sing along to this song, and I love dancing to it!

Bonus - I'd be remiss if I didn't specifically highlight a handful of the many tunes that are perfect for belting out while driving down the road and immediately beckon me to the dance floor with the opening beats of their music, like "Dancing On The Ceiling" by Lionel Richie, "No One" by Alicia Keys, "September" by Earth, Wind and Fire or "Summertime" by Will Smith. Actually, anything by those artists is pretty amazing, but I digress.

What is your favorite type of music? Which is your favorite song? Were you unfamiliar with any that I listed here?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Top Ten Tips for Boosting Productivity with Technology

Organize for Success® Turns 10 
In honor of 10 years of business for Organize for Success®, I am continuing to post a "top 10" list to this blog each day through tomorrow. The grand prize for celebrating Organize for Success, LLC's 10 years will be awarded this Thursday, randomly selecting from all those who commented on any of the month's "top 10" blog posts as well as those who have subscribed to my eNewsletter for a winner to receive downloads of all 5 eBooks, a pass for my Stress and Time Management online video course as well as a 60-minute productivity consultation conducted over video conference.

Here are my top 10 tips for boosting productivity with technology:

10. Be proactive in protecting yourself. As outlined earlier this month, use two-factor authentication, choose private browsing when surfing the Internet, don't over-share on social media, protect your information, conduct online shopping wisely, create complex passwords you keep safe, protect your devices, monitor your accounts and know your credit scores.

9. Set others' expectations. If you don't provide those emailing you with an expectation for when they will hear back from you, they will determine the answer to be whatever they prefer. Reassure people that you have received their messages, alert them as to when you will be processing new emails rather than constantly checking your inbox and take control back over email.

8. Divide and conquer. Delegating to technology via automation is like cloning yourself; further, keep in mind that delete can be your friend, realizing that not everything needs to get done and how focusing your attention on what only you can do will boost your ability to get more of your priorities accomplished.

7. Master time-saving tricks where helpful. Whether you prefer PC or Mac, acquire complete knowledge of which keyboard shortcuts can best help in your day-to-day functions. Regularly consider where you can utilize text expansion via TextExpander, ActiveWordsPhrase Express or Alfred; likewise, make sure you are implementing automated organizers wherever you feel comfortable, like Hazel, DropIt or File Juggler. Techlicious offers some powerful options in this post, but think outside the box for more.

6. Be strategic about what tools you utilize. Follow Kenny Rogers' advice of "Know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em." Maximize the efficiency of what solutions you already own before trying something new; at the same time, know how to recognize when an outdated program is hurting your business so you can replace it and continue moving forward.

5. Learn all you can about tools you've chosen to implement. Consider saving time by bringing in a specialist for learning about, expanding use of or implementing your tech tools. Then, take advantage of the organizational tools built into the devices or operating systems you already have before looking to add new ones. Functions for calendaring, task management, note capture, contact database and more are often covered in smartphones, tablets and Mac computers so they sync even better.

4. Utilize the "power of one". Although Three Dog Night contended that "one is the loneliest number", I suggest that it can be the most productive, especially in regards to one calendar for personal and professional commitments, one running data dump of all tasks that funnels into one daily to-do list, one address book for all contacts' information, one set of naming conventions for all files, one place for all which you must remember, one weekly strategy session and one wrap-up per day.

3. Separate solutions when necessary. Your online file repository is not a cloud-based back-up solution. If you utilize Box, DEVONthink, Dropbox, eFileCabinet, Egnyte, Google Drive, SpiderOak or SugarSync, that does not alleviate your need to implement Backblaze, Carbonite, CrashPlan or Mozy, too.

2. Turn off notifications. Especially when you are deep in thought on an important or urgent project, you need not waste time refocusing after a distraction, and all of those pings, dings and previews are distractions. Instead, schedule specific times to deep dive into processing your emails and social media.

1. Remove clutter. Keep only what is accurate, applicable, useful or bringing you joy, whether talking about paper, physical items, electronic files, email or time commitments. The less you have to dig through to find what's needed means less time wasted.

What is your favorite way to utilize technology? How have you found that to boost your productivity? Will you implement any of these tips?