Podcast 061: Organizing basics

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I’m going to talk about some fundamental concepts and ideas about organizing. The two I’ll talk about today are: keep things you use often close by and things you seldom use farther away, and keep like things together.

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This podcast is based on my book, 52 Simple Ways to Get Organized, available on my website. Each week I go into greater depth about one of the 52 ways. Some weeks I’ll take on different organizing topics and reader suggestions.

If you’d like to comment on the podcast, you can leave a review on iTunes. I read all your reviews, and  your positive, creative comments help others find my podcast.

If you have a question for me that you’d like me to address on the podcast, please post it on my Facebook page, Instagram or Twitter.

Podcast 060: Managing passwords

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It’s about creating good passwords, keeping them safe and, of course, being able to remember and find them!

Subscribe:  iTunes  ⋅  Stitcher  ⋅  Soundcloud ⋅  YouTube  ⋅  Google Play

This podcast is based on my book, 52 Simple Ways to Get Organized, available on my website. Each week I go into greater depth about one of the 52 ways. Some weeks I’ll take on different organizing topics and reader suggestions.

If you’d like to comment on the podcast, you can leave a review on iTunes. I read all your reviews, and  your positive, creative comments help others find my podcast.

If you have a question for me that you’d like me to address on the podcast, please post it on my Facebook page, Instagram or Twitter.

8 productivity traps to avoid

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What is productivity, really? It’s not just clearing off your desk or ploughing through your email inbox. Stop, take a breath and make sure you’re getting the important stuff done.

Obviously, productivity involves producing. Producing widgets, events, reports, sales. The more producing you do, the more money you have and the greater success your company has. Right?

It’s not that simple. It doesn’t matter how many widgets you produce if no one buys them. It doesn’t matter how many reports you produce if they’re irrelevant. So, productivity must be tied to a worthwhile goal.

This is a simple concept, but one that is easy to forget in the hustle and bustle of the day. It’s easy to be fooled into thinking you’re productive when you answer emails and phone calls and get paper off your desk.

They clamor for your attention. The trick is to handle them or keep them at bay while you spend time on the things that actually are important, that are quietly waiting for you to get to them.

So, here are the eight productivity traps you need to avoid:

  • The “I can do it all” Trap.
    Newsflash: you can’t do it all, and you’ll never be able to do enough. There will always be more you could have done. This is the perfectionism trap.

    Solution: decide when enough is enough. What is the ROI on your time for a particular project?

    If you’re talking about getting a contract that will be half your profits for the year, spend a lot of time on it. If you’re talking about figuring out how to save $40 a month on supplies, spend an hour or less on that.

  • Picking a system and then not using it consistently.
    Stick with certain ways of doing things. Keep your to do list in the same spot and create items for it with similar language all the time.

    This allows your mind to concentrate on the content rather than being distracted by the form. Let the form be the holder for the content; something to bring it to you efficiently and invisibly.

    Each form has its own good qualities, so you just need to pick one. What if phone book entries were all written differently? Some with the first name first, some the last name, some the address first, some the phone number first? Can you see how much harder it would be to look through a book like that and find what you need?

  • The “But we’ve always done it that way” Trap.
    Take time to look at what you’ve been taking for granted and see if its efficiency or productivity can be improved. This can be anything from regular meetings to how your desk is set up to how you get to work in the morning.

    Anytime you hear yourself saying “we always (fill in the blank),” question that statement. Do you “always” for a good reason? A good reason two years ago may not be applicable anymore. Is it necessary?

    Could it be done faster or piggybacked onto another task? Sometimes just thinking carefully of the steps involved in a particular project can spur a brainstorm to improve it.

  • The “I don’t know what to do next” Trap.
    Be your own boss, and your own employee. When you’re the boss, you formulate and set goals and figure out ways to get there. When you’re the employee, you get down to work on those tasks.

    By separating these functions, you don’t second guess yourself as much. Your boss has already decided, for example, that a new brochure needs to be created and it should have certain elements and be ready in 3 weeks. As the employee, you start writing the new copy; you don’t waste time worrying about whether the old copy really needs changing, or if 3 weeks is a realistic deadline.

    If new information comes up while the project is in progress, the plan may change. But, again, trust that the decisions you make as the “boss” are the best you can make with the information available, and then let your “employee” act on them.

  • The “I just can’t focus on what I have to do” Trap.
    Most of us thrive on novelty. We crave variety. The latest thing almost always can get our attention.

    So you need to figure out some tricks to make your existing project seem new again. Tackle it from a different angle. Ask a colleague for advice and see it from his or her point of view.

    Break it down into components and then work a little on each one so you don’t get burned out on any one element. Pack up your materials and do some work elsewhere; a conference room, your kitchen, a café.

  • The “I need more information first” Trap.
    This is a variation of #1. You must control your options. People generally confuse having lots of options and choices with getting the best possible result. Fewer choices might mean that the best one was left out.

    But, lots of choice can induce paralysis. There’s an infinite number of questions to ask and conditions to satisfy to determine which choice is the best. And as long as you’re stuck on that task, you aren’t getting to the doing of the project.

    Have some simple criteria to judge options, gather them quickly and move forward. What really matters is getting the house built, not making sure you had the world’s best hammer to do it with.

  • The “Everything seems equally important” Trap.
    There’s no way you’ll get everything done. If you ever did, you can be sure more things would crowd in the door behind them.

    You must set up criteria for what the important things to do are. In addition, identify things that don’t meet that criteria and consciously decide not to do them. Be clear about what you’re not

    Why? Because if you don’t, those items will remain on a phantom to do list, forever undone and forever bugging you. Even though you’re not doing them, they suck energy away from the important things.

  • The “Everything seems equally important” Trap, part 2.
    If you can’t get everything done, and you don’t set your own criteria for what’s important, that means that someone else is setting it. Your boss, your mother, whoever.

    Think of this not as having to give things up, but regaining power over how you spend your time.

The payoff is having clarity about what you are doing, which makes you more productive and efficient. The way to avoid these traps can be as simple as maintaining a regularly reviewed to do list and remember to ask yourself, “why am I doing this?”

 

Podcast 059: Living with others

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Living with others, whether it’s roommates, kids or adult children, takes work. Look at running your home like a business to improve productivity, communication and shared vision.

Subscribe:  iTunes  ⋅  Stitcher  ⋅  Soundcloud ⋅  YouTube  ⋅  Google Play

This podcast is based on my book, 52 Simple Ways to Get Organized, available on my website. Each week I go into greater depth about one of the 52 ways. Some weeks I’ll take on different organizing topics and reader suggestions.

If you’d like to comment on the podcast, you can leave a review on iTunes. I read all your reviews, and  your positive, creative comments help others find my podcast.

If you have a question for me that you’d like me to address on the podcast, please post it on my Facebook page, Instagram or Twitter.

Focus like a celebrity chef

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What do celebrity chefs know that you don’t? Well, you probably do know about it, but may not have thought about applying it in different areas. 

They spend a lot of time preparing before they work so everything will go more smoothly.

How do you set up your work space so you can stay focused and get things done?  Mise-en-place. 

Do you watch cooking shows? Of course, you do! Working in a tight space under a deadline, a chef has to keep paraphernalia down to a minimum. She needs to set up the work area so that everything she will need is ready and nearby. That’s mise-en-place, French for “putting in place.”  

A New York chef says, ”It’s like a very … Zen-like thing. All my knives are clean. Clean cutting board. Clear space to work. Clear mind.”

It also means that everything that’s not needed for the task at hand is not in the way. You have what you need, and you also don’t have what you don’t need. Unnecessary items just get in the way and distract you. 

Here’s how to get that celebrity chef feeling at home or at your office.

  • Keep your work area spare. lt’s tempting to keep current projects out to remind you of them, but that takes your attention away from the thing you’re working on.

  • Stash your other projects in folders in a file holder on your desk. That way they’re within reach but out of sight. Keep them out of your current work area on the desk
     
  • Look out the window if you need a break, rather than reading email. Whatever your view; street, trees, buildings, sky; it’s visually engaging but not mentally distracting.
     
  • No window? Put inspiring pictures and photographs on the wall. Serene images in colors that are soothing and uplifting occupy your visual attention and refreshing.
     
  • Keep a small notepad (physical or digital) for thoughts that pop into your head while you’re working. Distractible, creative types have lots of these thoughts. Jot your ideas down so they won’t be forgotten and you won’t feel the need to act on them immediately.
     
  • Doodle. Like looking out the window, this is a great way to switch mental gears for a bit. Moving your hand on paper without writing words engages a different part of your brain and can spur insights as well.
     
  • Let music set the mood. Classical music is the classic choice to aid concentration, but other types work as well. Most people prefer music without lyrics to distract them, unless they’re in a language they don’t speak.

Be your own “boss”

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This week I’m giving you the second tip in my new book. This is one of my favorite tips, actually. I think it’s applicable in many situations.

Be your own “boss” and delineate specifically what needs to be done. Then put on your “employee” hat and just get to work; no more deciding or second guessing or looking for new ideas.

This was the topic of podcast #43, Boss Hat/Employee Hat. When you’re thinking like a boss, you are brainstorming, strategizing, evaluating and planning. When you’re in employee mode, you are executing, doing, completing. You can also think of it as thinking vs. doing.

When you understand that they are different and need to be separate, you can alternate the two activities. They inform each other, but they need to alternate, not happen at the same time.

The boss devises work for the employee based on the information she has gathered. Then the employee does the work. And sometimes runs into snags because things have changed and evolved. Then it’s back to the boss to re-evaluate based on this new information. And the cycle continues.

When you pingpong back and forth between these modes, you get stuck. You don’t get anything done because you don’t trust that you’re doing the right thing and don’t even get started. So the employee isn’t in doing mode.

The boss is stuck because she doesn’t want to take the time to think and plan because something needs to be happening now and the stress of that is distracting. Instead of planning, the boss is looking over the fence to the other side and trying to prod the employee into action.

Basically, they’re trying to do each other’s jobs, but not from the correct mindset. The boss can’t make effective decisions under pressure and in haste. The employee can’t be productive if she’s questioning and analyzing everything on the to do list.

A simple way to keep these separate is by doing them at different times. At the end of the workday, the boss reviews the day and makes plans for the next day and the rest of the week. In the morning, the employee gets started on that list of tasks and just does them, knowing that they are correctly prioritized.

You may find yourself leaning naturally more toward one role than the other, but it’s important to be able to do both, so spend some time improving your skills in your lesser realm.

If you lean too much toward “boss,” you may be making plans that never come to fruition. If “employee” fits you better, you may spend a lot of time doing stuff, but it’s not necessarily the important or valuable stuff.

 

Podcast 058: Forget about trying to remember

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Memory is overrated! Quit cluttering up your brain with information you can get elsewhere easily. Reserve your brain for thinking up cool ideas instead.

Subscribe:  iTunes  ⋅  Stitcher  ⋅  Soundcloud ⋅  YouTube  ⋅  Google Play

This podcast is based on my book, 52 Simple Ways to Get Organized, available on my website. Each week I go into greater depth about one of the 52 ways. Some weeks I’ll take on different organizing topics and reader suggestions.

If you’d like to comment on the podcast, you can leave a review on iTunes. I read all your reviews, and  your positive, creative comments help others find my podcast.

If you have a question for me that you’d like me to address on the podcast, please post it on my Facebook page, Instagram or Twitter.

Podcast 057: Develop your vision

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Don’t just rush out and buy containers for your stuff. First, take some time to develop your own personal vision of what an organized life looks, feels, smells and sounds like.

Subscribe:  iTunes  ⋅  Stitcher  ⋅  Soundcloud ⋅  YouTube  ⋅  Google Play

This podcast is based on my book, 52 Simple Ways to Get Organized, available on my website. Each week I go into greater depth about one of the 52 ways. Some weeks I’ll take on different organizing topics and reader suggestions.

If you’d like to comment on the podcast, you can leave a review on iTunes. I read all your reviews, and  your positive, creative comments help others find my podcast.

If you have a question for me that you’d like me to address on the podcast, please post it on my Facebook page, Instagram or Twitter.

Declutter cardboard boxes

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I worked with a client yesterday to declutter her garage. It went faster than we thought it would because a quarter of what was in there turned out to be empty boxes!

I find many people hang onto boxes for a variety of reasons. This client was moving and thought they’d be helpful. In my experience with movers, they hate packing a truck with boxes in dozens of sizes that don’t stack together well. Moving boxes come in only three sizes, plus wardrobe boxes, so movers can fit them in the truck like a Tetris game.

If you have an item that came in a special box you want to keep, pack it in there yourself, then let the movers put it in a larger box. A reputable mover will pack your electronics and fragile lamps well; they don’t need the original box for that.

Furthermore, movers won’t insure against breakage unless they pack the items themselves. That means you assume the risk if you pack it into its original box on your own.

The other big reason people keep boxes is to return high ticket items. Sure, keep them for a month or so, until you decide you want the item. If you would actually ship it back to the manufacturer if it breaks while under warranty, keep it for that length of time too. For decluttering ease, write on the box (or on a removable sticker) the date the warranty expires.

Finally, with items such as electronics, the resale value is usually higher if you can provide the original packaging. If you’re the reselling type, you are probably already familiar with what packaging is worth keeping for which gadget.

One last thing! UPS will often take packing peanuts. Check your local office to confirm.

Define the steps

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Define and write down the actual steps you will take to complete any project, even if you know them in your head. This also helps you know what not to do.

This is the first tip in my new, free book, 101 Productivity Tips (to get the important things done at work). It’s from the first section about defining your work. I’ve written before about the value of writing things down, not only to remember them, but to clarify your own thinking.

Especially if you’re a creative, more right brained, person, the projects you have in your head are not stored there in a logical, orderly fashion. But in order to execute a project, you can often benefit from having a logical and orderly plan. And that means writing things out.

When you commit to writing, one idea has to follow another. One sentence, then another, then another. The order you do things may change but getting them down in writing help you see what you might have left out, or what might have to happen before you can even start.

It also helps if you need to streamline your activities to get everything done. You’ll discover details you can leave out or address later. Tasks that other should do will be more apparent. Basically, you’ll get more clarity about the project in general that’s very hard to do when it’s all in your head.

Below is a link to the book. Get your free copy today!