Paperwork, filing, taxes -- there must be some people who enjoy dealing with these, right? I’m not one of them and I suspect you aren’t either. Unfortunately, with tax day coming up next month, piles of paper are a reality for many of us.
What are the top causes of this paper pileup?
What are the solutions to these problems?
At the beginning of every year, there are a lot of ideas rattling around in my head of new things I'd like to do and others I’d like to refresh or revise. The problem is that it can be hard to change habits and make a fresh start, right?
I don’t want to end up next December wondering where my time went and what happened to all those things I’d hoped to get done. So, I came up with a new event to help me achieve some goals.
If you’ve ever had the chance to attend a professional conference, you know what a rewarding and renewing experience it can be to learn new things and network with people in your profession from all around the world.
At this year’s conference of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals, I met organizers from as far away as China and Australia!
In addition to being a geographically diverse group, the organizing professionals I met are varied in the types of organizing they do and the ways they run their businesses. Some organizers have lots of employees while others are solo-entrepreneurs. Specialities include home organizing, business organizing, photo organizing, digital organizing, time management, and more.
Now that Kate Bosch Professional Organizing is in its fourth year in business, I decided to focus on conference sessions that would enable me to run my business smoothly while it grows so I can maintain the level of excellence that my clients expect.
The connecting theme of these conference sessions was “process.” The emphasis was on defining and refining your processes so that what you do becomes more automated and things don’t fall through the cracks.
Thinking about processes can help you be more organized in your home, too. A session called “The Boring Stuff” emphasized using checklists to manage processes. If you know how much I love my to-do list app (TickTick being my current app of choice.), you know this resonated with me because I run my life with to do lists. A checklist is just a repeatable to do list.
Use a checklist for processes that involve a series of tasks, such as daily routines. You might create a checklist for your children of things they need to do when they get home from school (hang up backpack, put away lunch box, eat snack, get out homework, etc.) or a checklist for yourself to streamline your morning routine.
If there’s something you do frequently that involves a list of items to remember, use a checklist. For example, create a packing checklist to ensure you’re never caught without essentials such as charging cables, contact lenses, or (gasp!) underwear. You think you’d never forget something so basic, but it’s the mundane stuff that we sometimes overlook. A checklist solves the problem.
The session on using Customer Relations Management (CRM) software taught me that, before you create the checklist, you need to evaluate your processes to make sure they are good and streamlined. If you have a messy process, then continuing to do it will just frustrate you.
Let’s use the example of the child’s after school routine. You want your child to hang the backpack on a hook, but maybe the hook is too high. Or perhaps the child usually comes in through the back door but the backpack cubby is near the front door, so it’s not convenient. These impediments cause a messy process, and a messy house! So solve the problems first (e.g. move the hook lower), then implement the process and checklist with your child. Customize your household processes so they are convenient and efficient for you.
The conference session called “Run Your Business Like a Badass” was all about creating an Operations Manual. You might be asking yourself, “How could a corporate operations manual lecture possibly relate to home organizing?” Simple! If you are managing a household with lots of people, an operations manual might be just what you need to get everyone on the same page and keep the house running smoothly.
Consider creating operations manuals to use as communication tools to share processes and information with family members or others. Here are some ideas for household operations manuals you could create:
Streamlining your processes at home can help you stay organized, keeping your home tidy and running smoothly.
First, evaluate your process by taking a look at what you’re doing to see if steps can be eliminated or if there are stumbling blocks that are getting in your way. Once you know your process is a good one, use a checklist or write up an operations manual to make it easy for you to maintain the process. Periodically reevaluate and update the process and adjust it as your needs change.
Do you need help creating and evaluating a process? Schedule a Video Chat Strategy Session with me! We can discuss what’s not working in your home and your routine, then we’ll construct a plan to get you back in control. Afterward, you’ll receive a written report of your strategy -- an operations manual!
What process in your home or life could you streamline?
Did you know that January is GO Month? The National Association of Organizing and Productivity Professionals created GO Month as a way to kick-start the year by focusing on getting organized and being productive.
Instead of focusing on the depressing fact that most New Year’s resolutions fail by February, let’s keep ourselves motivated by using the word GO:
GO = Goals + Outline
What’s the difference between a resolution and a goal? A resolution defines an action you’ve decided to take, but a goal is the reason WHY you’re taking that action. An action can produce multiple goals. Here’s an example:
Resolution: I will open the mail every day.
Goal #1: Eliminate the giant pile of unopened mail that accumulates on the kitchen table.
Goal #2: Pay bills on time.
Goal #3: Save money by not paying late fees.
Keeping your goal in mind motivates you to continue doing the thing you’ve resolved. Even if you slip a little bit, remember your goal and keep inching toward it.
Having a goal is great, but without a plan of action you won't get very far.
The outline is the map that leads you to your goal.
Step 1. Define and write down your goal, either on a piece of paper (sticky note, notebook, calendar, etc.) or somewhere in your digital world (a list app, document, notes app, etc.). Don’t forget to write the “why” of your goal (e.g. Open mail daily and don’t let it pile up on the kitchen table so my family has a place to eat dinner.) to keep your eye on the prize.
Step 2. Brainstorm and list all the actions you could take to achieve your goal.
Step 3: Put the actions in order.
Now that you have your GOAL and your OUTLINE, you can GO!
What do you want to achieve this year? I’d love to hear your goals!
Do you ever struggle with how to be efficient and productive at work? Do you dread meetings because they're torturously long and nothing ever gets accomplished? My colleague, Maryann Murphy, has written a fantastic book to help you with these common dilemmas: Stop Wasting Your Precious Time. This book should be required reading for any workplace or organization (Hello, schools and nonprofit boards!) that needs to get more done in less time and with less aggravation.
I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of the book and I loved it! I started implementing some of her suggestions right away and was able to clear my “Action” file in record time.
This is definitely not one of those organizing books that I’m going to find among your piles of clutter, where I usually find the Marie Kondo book or another comprehensive “this-will-change-your-life” organizing book. Maybe you had high hopes when you bought those books, but I think they are overwhelming for most people.
Why will Stop Wasting Your Precious Time not get buried on your bookshelf? Because this book is really a handbook or instruction manual that is packed with actionable strategies. You’ll want to keep this out on your desk so you can refer to it whenever you find yourself stuck and unable to overcome a productivity obstacle.
What I love about the book is that Maryann gets right down to business without wasting the reader’s time with a lot of filler and background information. She doesn’t over-philosophize about why you waste time; she just outlines effective solutions that you can implement today to see immediate results.
The best way to use this book is to turn to the table of contents and select the chapter that relates to your worst time-wasting challenge. Are you in information overload, are you forced to sit through unproductive meetings, or do you procrastinate? There’s a chapter for each of those problems and several more. So choose a chapter, select one or two of Maryann’s strategies that you think will best help you, and work on putting them into practice. She guides you every step of the way, making it really easy to develop new, anti-time-wasting habits.
Although subtitle of the book “60 Easy Strategies for Eliminating Your Biggest Time Wasters at Work,” this book would be useful to just about anyone who’d like to be more productive: students, stay-at-home parents, retirees, or volunteers.
So go and grab a copy of Stop Wasting Your Precious Time by Maryann Murphy and then let me know:
Do you, your children, or your coworkers have trouble staying on time with tasks?
Try using a Time Timer, an innovative timer design that shows a visual representation of time elapsing that's easy to see at a glance.
Use a Time Timer for:
Best of all, there's a Time Timer for everyone because they come in lots of sizes, several colors, an app, and a desktop version.
[Full disclosure: I'm using a Time Timer on my computer desktop right now so I don't dawdle the night away fine-tuning the details of this blog post!]
Yesterday, I did a spot for our local NBC-10 station about the latest organizing craze, Swedish Death Cleaning. Click here to read the article and click below to watch the video!
Want to save a little money, reduce your errands, and cross some tasks off the list of things you have to remember (but always forget)? Use Amazon Subscribe & Save!
Most of us already use Amazon to order all kinds of household goods, but by using the Subscribe & Save feature, you can group items you need to reorder into scheduled deliveries, saving as much as 15% on each item.
I schedule deliveries every 3 months, but you can choose the schedule that works for you, from monthly to every 6 months.
Some of the items I put on my list are things like toothbrush heads (every 3 months) and refrigerator filters (every 6 months). Why? Because you're supposed to change those things on a regular basis, but I could never remember when I'd last changed them. Now, I change them when the new ones arrive. This also saves space in my house because I don't have to store them (or remember where I stored them!).
Here's what's currently on my Subscribe & Save list:
Basically, anything that you use up on a consistent basis, don't want to spare space in your home to stock, need to remember to replace regularly, and want to save money on is a good candidate for your Subscribe & Save list.
What ideas can you come up with about what to put on your Subscribe & Save list?
.August is right around the corner and, for parents of school-age kids, that means back-to-school time.
Get your family ready with this handy, printable checklist from Smead. If you prefer not to print it to cut down on paper clutter, just save the PDF file on your computer or phone. It's a pretty thorough list, so you won't forget any pesky little tasks.
The checklist breaks down the tasks by when they should be completed, so you can simply glance at the chart to see what you need to do this week or this month.
[NOTE: One thing I disagree with on the timeline is buying supplies 2 weeks before the start of school. Most parents know that stores begin featuring back-to-school supplies in July, so if you wait until mid-August, stocks will have been pretty depleted. Why not get that task out of the way as soon as possible?]
Using a checklist like this will make it easier to get ready for school while still holding onto the summer fun.
Do you listen to podcasts? They make excellent commuting companions and workout buddies because the time seems to fly when listening to something entertaining and educational.
If you want some extra inspiration and information for your organizing journey, try the Keeping You Organized podcast by Smead (maker of innovative home and office organizing products). The podcasts are 15-20 minutes long and cover a wide range of organizing topics such as paperwork, time management, and decluttering.
Find the Keeping You Organized podcast in iTunes or on the Smead website.
P.S. If you like podcasts, two non-organizing related ones that I enjoy are How I Built This, which profiles entrepreneurs and innovators, and The Way I Heard It with Mike Rowe, which tells surprising stories about people and events you thought you knew.