Organizing Tips – General
While many of us continue to struggle with managing our overload in electronic information and our overflowing email in-boxes, there lies in a deep corner of your office in a drawer hidden away, a tangled mess of cords, software & manuals. In this electronic mecca of gadgets, where one upgrade after another has created a mound of unforgotten and deceased peripheral attachments, we have a new cause for clutter – the electronic graveyard.
Rather than having your IT person sort through your rats nest (unless you don’t mind the billable hours to do so) I would suggest that you get on top of this pile by following a few pointers:
- Take any user manuals, installation CDs, warranty information and additional cords & peripherals out of its shipping package.
- Cluster items using a large zip-up bag.
- Using clear bags will help you see what is inside and to easily locate what you are looking.
- Include original sales receipt / date the contents of each bag with date of purchase for warranty purposes.
- Label cords & adapters so you know which device they belong to.
Here’s an added bit of ‘fun’. If cord management is another cause for headaches, try these creative ideas to sort things out.
Recycle your bread ties by using them to label electronic cords (or you can purchase new items like these ‘Kableflags’).
Paper towel rolls can help to keep cords in order to avoid the snakes-nest approach to cord management.
culprit of stress in 2010 according to new numbers from StatisticsCanada.
A pressure-cooker to begin with, the workplace is made even more stressful by being disorganized.
“Canadians are in a constant time crunch and experience feelings of stress, failure and frustration,” says Clare Kumar, a Toronto-based professional organizer. “Today’s office workers must take stock of both their work habits and their environment, and take necessary action to alleviate the tremendous pressure disorganization has on their productivity and work-life balance.”
“By having the right tools in place, Canadian office workers can save at least 15 minutes per day which works out to a week and a half per year,” adds Linda Chu, a professional organizer in Vancouver. “This has a dramatic effect on the health of businesses and their workers.”
Professional organizers say desks in disarray causes a drop of 20 per cent in worker efficiency; costing the economy billions of dollars in lost productivity. Studies show the average worker spends at least 400 hours per year searching for paper documents. “This places tremendous stress on the bottom line for many businesses that need to return to profitability, especially coming out of the economic downturn.”
Chu recommends several steps to become more efficient and productive in the workplace.
- Categorize. Sort through possessions and group them into similar categories of information and tasks. Identify what things are, instead of getting sidetracked by thinking of solutions.
- Limit. If space is a premium you may have to choose between what is important – your space or your stuff. Limit your collections by regularly reviewing and letting go of information.
- Evaluate. Focusing on what matters most is the key to prioritizing. Continually evaluate information and tasks as they relate to achieving goals to increase your efficiency and productivity.
- Allocate. Find a method to store information and possessions to be able to find what you need, when you need it.
- Remove. Items that are no longer of value or no longer needed can be removed from the workspace. Focusing on what is important will get you on track to be more efficient.
Knowing how to prioritize tasks is a common problem. It’s a challenge whether you’re keeping your home de-cluttered or maximizing productivity for your business. I see it with my clients and I definitely know it from personal experience.
As most of my friends and colleagues already know, I’m getting married this year. Naturally, I’m organizing the big event. I’m also running my business full-time, running off to consultations and home-organizing gigs. And of course, I have to have a life…
How do I avoid burn-out? I prioritize.
Before diving head first into a long list of tasks, it is important that you are clear on your vision and goals. Determine what you want to achieve in your organization, business, work and personal life.
- Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you know what your company vision is?
- What are the goals you need to accomplish to meet this vision?
- What are your short-term and long-term goals?
- How does your personal goals fit into your day?
- What is important and of value to you?
Be clear about what needs to be accomplished. Every action that you take should serve to support reaching this vision. See your goals. Schedule milestones. And once you’ve got that plan, don’t procrastinate.
Great containers are only half the battle. Linda Chu of Vancouver’s Out of Chaos offers a series of tips in the Fall issue of Western Living Condo Magazine.
Divide and Conquer
Split your clothes into two seasons, winter and summer. Store any items (like heavy skiing sweaters) that you would never wear out of season.
Birds of a Feather
Put pants in one pile, T-shirts in another and so on. Subdivide the piles into casual and dressy items. Take it one step further and sort by colour or sleeve length – a great way to discover a glut of items. Do you really need a dozen black camisoles?
If you’re waffling on an item, put it in what Chu calls the “not-sure box.” List what’s in the box with the current date and the contact information of a charity and attach it to the box. Make a note in your calendar a year from now. If you haven’t missed anything in the box by then, you can donate it to charity without opening the box (and risking a trip down memory lane).
Question each item using two principles of purging: When was the last time you used it? Were you surprised to find it?
Clothes need to breathe, so don’t store them in plastic boxes. Be sure to label the containers.
Call for Help
If you feel overwhelmed by your closet, Chu recommends having someone support you in the process. Make a deal with a friend to work on your closets together, or hire a professional organizer for help restoring order to your space.
We’ve all gone through those moments when the idea of tearing out our hair has sounded oddly soothing, when the hundreds of lists in our heads collide and the only left is to sit in the corner and (gently) bang our heads against the wall. So how do you do it?
We thought we would ask a few experts—people whose job it is to help others stay on track, stay focused, and accomplish their goals, whether those goals are about career, health or just plain being organized. We hope their thoughts and advice will inspire you to pick up where you left off, and take charge of your life—in all areas. Because you can do this.
The Time Factor
Busy working mothers juggle a lot of hats these days. Even stay-at-home moms seem to have too much going on. How can they get rid of the mental clutter and help themselves focus and relax, exercise occasionally, and maybe even carve out some personal time? How do they juggle work and family without sacrificing one or the other?
Focus is the key. When the mind is cluttered, it’s like a kid in the candy story, not knowing what to pick first. The time honoured to-do list is key. The only problem is not the list itself, but our lack of focus, prioritization, and follow-through. Jotting down all your to-do’s only de-clutters the mind. Prioritizing what to do next and when, is critical in helping to keep you on track and in focus.
Using a priority action system will keep you on track. Note: this system can be modified to suit individual needs. When you have a priority action system in place, you are able to plan your highest priority items each and every day, but most importantly when emergencies come up (and with kids, the unexpected does happen), you are able to re-shuffle your priorities, as long as you know in advance what they are.
If you want to start your own business, a business plan is key, where you spend time to determine what your goals are and how you will achieve these goals, including monetary & time goals. Without a map, you have no sense of direction.
Obviously family life is important, so this needs to be factored into your ultimate daily schedule. Do you want to only work weekends? Are you only available after your drop off your children and before you pick them up from school? Find a line of work that will give you the time you need, the income you want. If it is important enough, you will schedule the time to make things happen. Just like all those competing weekend birthday parties & multiple kids’ activities.
“Not enough time!” is definitely the biggest obstacle I hear from my busy moms. Notice I said “obstacle” and not “barrier”—there are ways around it! Instead of having a workout be an hour—you can split up the time throughout the day in smaller blocks; 15 minutes in the morning, half an hour at lunch and 15 minutes after dinner. It is the cumulative time that counts but you have to make the best use of your time.
Try incorporating exercises into your morning routine: pushups at the kitchen counter, balance on one leg while getting lunches ready, step-ups while brushing your teeth, triceps dips at the edge of the bathtub, crunches on the floor and squats while waiting for the shower to warm up.
Stroller Stride type classes are fantastic for new moms, but once a baby starts to walk and move, workouts need to change. If finances are an issue, moms can get together and create a babysitting co-op where one mom baby-sits while the other two workout. Sharing the cost of a babysitter is another option or tag-teaming the babysitting between partners. While one partner works out, swims or goes for a jog, the other partner watches their child and then they switch after an hour!
Many gyms offer babysitting between set hours. If you can make it to these times, the actual cost can be quite reasonable. Once your children are able to play safely on the playground equipment, the playground can be your gym too! There are so many fun ways to turn an hour at the park into a workout for you. Try decline crunches on the slide, walking lunges, hamstring curls and knee tucks with the swings and of course pushups—you can always find a space to do pushups!
The first step to a woman getting past the guilt around family/work balance is understanding that she can “have it all.” Being a good parent doesn’t mean you can’t have a career, nor does focusing on your career make you a bad mother. The secret is having separation in your life. When you are with your family, be with your family. When you are at work, focus on your work. Unless you are a neurosurgeon on call, turn the cell phone/blackberry off when you get home and on weekends. Work will always be there.When you are at work, work diligently to increase your professional value and find joy in the work that you are doing. Having success in both parts of your life comes from having systems and backup plans. Don’t just have one babysitter, have three. That way if one isn’t available, you have a backup. When you are taking time off to be with your family, find someone you trust to cover you in the event of an emergency at work or in your business. Train this person how to handle situations that can come up, and then let it go. Kids don’t like it when mom is continuously checking her blackberry and work doesn’t like it when a woman misses a meeting because she has to get her kids from school. Find resources to cover your transitions between work and family and your stress will go down.
One local resource for women looking for multiple babysitters is Lullaby League. This service allow parents to meet 10-20 babysitters at a mixer in under an hour. Another well known service is Nannies on Call.
Set personal, professional, and financial goals for yourself. Make sure that every goal has a measurable plan associated with it. Find an ‘accountability’ partner to share your goals with and to keep you on track. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Women put their own goals behind those of their partners, their family, and their friends. Focus on yourself so that you can empower other women to do the same. It is women’s time to shine but you have to step out into the light.
The STUFF Factor
Children’s toys, books, homework, STUFF always seems to be a big issue for moms. How can they organize all the stuff and get their kids to maintain it? Is there a way to organize your
Less is more. In these economic times, gluttony is not a game to be playing. A serious purge session is in store for everyone. Get everyone involved. Start kids young by personally taking them down to transition homes & street youth centres, etc so that they can see for themselves those in need and less fortunate.
Create a box for each person of items that you know you have not used, but can not bear to let go of. List an inventory of items. Date the box. Identify the name & number of a charity for donation. Store the box away in your garage/ basement/storage locker. Mark a date on your calendar for 6 months or 1 year for this date (whatever is reasonable to you). If you have not touched these items in this period, your commitment will be to donate the contents of the box. Do not open the box, hence the inventory list. Touch/feel/smell will bring back memories & intentions making it harder to let go…
Regarding husbands…a family counsellor/therapist I am not! [laughing] I would recommend that communication is key. Just like when your got married and talked about children, your expectations and goals must be out in the open and talked about. Be clear in what each expects of each other. Who is responsible for what. Division of tasks is very important. Do not overlook that unpaid work (like being a stay-at-home mother) is still work, with all the emotional and physical demands of working outside for a paycheque.
If budget allows, you may want to look at leveraging off some tasks to auxiliary services like a housekeeper, lawn-mowing service, personal chef, professional organizer etc. What is your time worth? Is time better spent on family vs. the entire weekend on certain chores? You decide.
The Legal Factor
Most parents have RESPs and RRSPs in place, savings accounts and life insurance set up, all to protect their families. Is there anything else they should be doing?
GET YOUR WILL DONE. This is item one, two and three on this list. In your Will, the following issues should be addressed:
1. Name a guardian. If either you or your spouse (who is your child’s biological parent or adoptive parent) pass away, the survivor would become the sole guardian. But if you both pass away, the court will appoint a guardian. The court will usually appoint the closest relative (next-of-kin). This is problematic if:
a. There are two equally related next-of-kin who both want to be guardian (i.e. your parents and your parents-in-law)
b. There are any relatives you do not want raising your children;
c. There are any relatives you expect may pursue a battle over guardianship;
d. There are no suitable relatives;
e. You want your child to remain with a step-parent.
2. Name one or more alternate guardians. If your named guardian is someone that you are close to, it is possible that you could be in a common disaster with that person. Have a back-up just in case.
3. Appoint an executor and an alternate executor of your Will. These people need to be capable of managing your children’s inheritances for the long-term. If your children are young, your executor will likely be handling their finances and dealing with the guardians until your children reach the age of majority.
If you are a single parent because of a breakdown in your relationship, your former spouse would likely be awarded guardianship of your children. If your children’s other biological parent is not in the picture at all, it is even more critical to have a guardian appointed in your Will because you do not have a second-parent safety net. If you are concerned about your children being returned to an unfit or abusive former spouse, you need to raise those issues with your lawyer to ensure that your reasons for wanting to exclude that person as a guardian are properly documented.
Some factors to consider when choosing a guardian are:
- Does the person like your kids?
- Do your kids like the person?
- Do you have similar parental values and parenting styles?
- Does the person have sufficient financial resources and, if not, do you have sufficient life insurance to provide that person with access to enough resources to care for your children until they reach adulthood?
- Is the person’s location satisfactory?
- Is the person young enough and in good health to take care of your kids until they reach adulthood?
The Work Factor
Women face a lot of choices in the workplace or when running their own business. How can they get ahead and stay on top? What should they avoid doing?
Women give up their power and this can be challenging to get back. They need to be clear that business today is not gender specific. Their actions will either play into stereotypes, or will support them being seen as an exceptional professional. In the book, “What Men Don’t Tell Women About Business”, over 16 points are covered on how women inadvertently give up their power in business.
Here are some of the more common pitfalls:
- Make excuses
- Not getting to the point
- Taking things personally
- Declaring open war on others
- Not understanding professional endorsement
- Accepting poor treatment
- Being selfless rather than selfish
- Not asking for what they want (instead asking for what they think they can get)
- Expecting that everyone will act fairly towards them
- Not having a Plan B (backup plan)
- Being too loyal
Get advice on how to build your business from other entrepreneurs who understand the challenges moms face. Beware of government resources online, most have been built by government employees, not business owners. Find someone who understands business and the dynamics of being a parent.
Know that women are leading the edge of self-employment based in the home. You aren’t alone in doing this. Find a good mentor who can help you through the challenging parts and you too can join the ranks of successful female entrepreneurs that can have it all.
The Health Factor
What’s the best way for busy moms to lose those post-baby pounds, get more energy and stay healthy and strong?
When it comes to losing body fat, what you eat is number one! Getting back to or developing healthy eating habits are key to fat loss. Along with diet, comes strength training—they go hand in hand. If you dramatically change your diet but don’t start or maintain a strength training program, you can lose muscle mass. Your muscles are your fat burners. Thirdly, you want to add in cardio because you need to keep your heart and lungs strong too. Instead of doing steady state cardio for long periods of time, add in some high intensity bursts of speed to both challenge yourself and boost your metabolism.
The first year after birth is a challenging time for fat loss. You need to be kind to yourself—your body has gone through a lot—you just made a baby! Your body will hold onto body fat while you are breast feeding and if you are stressed out. Sleep deprivation is definitely a stress. Once your baby gets on a more regular sleep schedule and your sleep improves, your body will start to relax and let go of the extra pounds.
Watch out for the following common pitfalls that mothers are most prone to:
- Eating what their kids eat
- Eating their children’s leftovers
- Eating prepackaged food
- Not preparing ahead of time
- Skipping meals
- Eating late at night
- Waiting too long between meals
- Not drinking enough water
- Depending on coffee for “energy”
My favourite thing is to put a sticker on my kitchen calendar after I have completed a workout (walking, strength training, swimming, yoga, etc.) The more gold stars I see at the end of each week, the better I feel!
By Jennifer Fresher – WestCoast Families