Let’s Talk about Organization

One of the things that a lot of people do in the beginning of the year is get organized! The new year is a great time to evaluate what you’ve got and how what you got over the holidays works in with all of that.  It’s a great time to donate what you don’t use anymore and throw out what isn’t good anymore, donating to some of the needy communities who can really benefit from it during the winter months.

It’s also a great time to get organized and help your kids get organized.  Teaching your kids about organization at a young age is important because it helps them start thinking in ways of organization, which will benefit them in many ways throughout their adulthood. Organization also helps to keep the clutter down and make cleanup easier because everything has a home.

So how do you organize?  When you’re organizing think about what works for the people who are using it. Don’t forget to make lots of storage available at kid level for the kid’s daily use, and higher for more permanent/seasonal storage. Don’t force your partner into a storage system that doesn’t work for them (there are lots of storage options out there than can easily be changed around to accommodate lots of different needs and styles).

There are tons of great companies that have come up with lots of products that make it easier for us to be organized, but if you’re just looking for something simple that is versatile, just start with putting up shelves, shelves that can have their height adjusted so that they grow and move with all of you.

It doesn’t have to be a new year’s resolution, but I would encourage you to take the time to get organized this year because it will make your life easier and make everyone happier.

Organizing Your Business

Today I’m thinking about a really important topic for your business, something that often stands in the way of businesses being successful: getting organized. As I was thinking about things that are happening this month, Veteran’s Day (11th), Clean out your refrigerator day (15th), and Small Business Saturday (24th), I was reminded again and again the power and support that being organized can give to your business.

Being organized is about scheduling. One thing that veterans and active military personnel can tell you is that there’s something to be said for the structure and scheduling. Taking the time to write down the steps to doing anything that can be done by any employee or team member, scheduling (and keeping) regular meetings with employees or teams, scheduling in times to deal with emergencies and surprises that come up, really investing serious time in training employees consistently (both when they’re hired and throughout their employment), keeping track of and planning out all the marketing you’re doing, and planning out the products/services/programs you’re offering for the year ahead can ease a lot of the frustration, panic, annoyance and extra expenses that crop up for those who don’t plan ahead.

Second, being organized is about knowing when to get rid of stuff or release stuff to be more productive. For some business owners this is difficult because they’re, to put it bluntly, a control freak, and they have to have their hands in everything and nothing can be completed without their say-so. Business owners should be involved in their businesses, but there comes a time when the business owner can’t manage everything and certain, specified and discussed, things should be released to employees or team members, which allows the owner to focus on things only they can truly do.

Finally, being organized means you’re able to succeed whether you’re small or large. Being a small business you’ve got a lot more flexibility and ability to pivot than the big businesses do, but one of the biggest struggles to being a small business is that you’re small and fewer people are managing more. So having your ducks in a row, having a filing system that everyone can use and understand, scheduling your bills and invoicing, having a small but mighty team you can rely on, collaborating with other businesses, and planning ahead can all make a difference to your success or failure.

So what about your business? What most challenges you most about organizing your business?

Getting to Inbox Zero

Over the past few weeks something has happened that hasn’t happened in a long time: I’ve reached “Inbox Zero” on 3 of my email accounts. For someone who loves emails it’s a bit mind altering to sign into my email and see only that day’s emails and one or two others and that’s it, let alone get through that day’s email and see “you’re all caught up!” when there aren’t any emails left. It was also really rewarding too, finally getting these things taken care of as I’ve been meaning to.  I know this is something that is talked about as being a big success step, and as someone who enjoys organization and knowing where things are I thought we’d talk about how this can be possible for you and …?

There are a couple of very simple things you need to do if you want inbox zero to be something you see on a regular basis:
1-unsubscribe from emails you don’t want to receive anymore or manage your subscriptions so you’re getting fewer emails from those organizations.
2-go folder crazy. I have no problem with keeping emails, but keeping everything in the inbox isn’t helpful. Make sure everything has a place to go.
3-commit to reading emails consistently. It’s much easier to read through your emails if you’ve only got that days emails to go through.

Let’s unpack each of these a bit. First, let’s talk about folders. Folders are a way of sorting your mail so that it’s easier to find and keep, without necessarily typing in a search request. In some cases a general folder for a category is sufficient, but in many cases you’ll need a general folder and several specific sub folders. For example you may create a general family folder, with sub folders for your significant other, your kids (either individually or as one folder), one for each or all of your siblings, and folders for your parents or other family members as appropriate.

The one cheat I have with folders and inbox zero is that I’ve got a ‘to do’ folder in just about every category. It’s a folder with something I know I’ll want to review or will keep regardless of whether I read it now or in the future. I keep this folder as empty as possible, but find it’s helpful for getting stuff out of my inbox and keeping track of what I still need to read but didn’t have the current interest or time.

The second thing is that while unsubscribing from emails you don’t want is great, you shouldn’t feel shame deleting emails if you’re not in the mood to read them or the headline doesn’t speak to you, but you don’t want to unsubscribe completely. If you know that you want to get emails from the company only over the summer or only regarding to Black Friday, that’s fine, and you can stay subscribed for those times.

Finally, I think the thing to remember is that email is supposed to be a tool and support to you, rather than something that drags you down. But like many other relationships in our lives, it needs some time, attention and TLC too.  Yes, getting to inbox zero this time will take some work and time, but in the end I think it’s worth it.

A Refresh for Spring Success

With the official arrival of spring, I’m thinking about why many of us are so productive in the spring. I think it has to do with everything being fresh. We’re more likely to pick up the new shirt, spend time in the clean rooms, and even be with people who are more like sunshine than rain clouds. There’s something magical about going out in nature after a rainstorm, or seeing peices of history uncovered by a storm. There’s something refereshing about walking into a clean room or putting away clean clothes or finally getting things organized (that hands-on-the-hips, surveying the victory moment).

With that breath of fresh air also seems to come a burst of energy, a feeling of renewal, and a spark to the motivation that may have been missing for some time. So if you’ve been struggling with success, maybe it’s time to give yourself a little spring refresh. I get it, we’re pulled in many directions, given more to our piles rather than less, distracted by shiny things and trying to stay with the movement of life. Whether you get organized, hire help, delegate, or let go of stuff, spring is a great time to give yourself a fresh chance at success.

Spring would be beautiful if just the green stuff showed up or if we only had flowers come up, but true spring experiences are an explosion of activity, growth and new life. Spring isn’t just baby bunnies or crocuses, there are countless animals and flowers that come into bloom. It’s only when it’s all taken together that you can really see and appreciate what spring is all about. Don’t feel like you have to make “spring” happen in your life without help. Yes, you’ll have to make some potentially big decisions that you may have been avoiding, but passing on the cleaning to a cleaning crew, hiring a carpenter to build you shelving that actually works for you, deleting emails you’re never going to read, or saying no to some things you’re really not passionate about can give you the mental and physical freedom to get more done that only you can do, and only in the way that you can do it.

So on this fine spring day, what freshness will you commit to creating or welcoming in your life?

Time for Changes

In thinking about Daylight Savings Time that the US adjusted to this past weekend I thought we might talk about the idea of it being time to make changes. I never can quite remember which way the clocks are supposed to go when they switch, I’m very thankful for technology that does it by and large for us now. Sometimes change is like that: we just feel the need to make changes but we’re not really sure which changes to make. So today I thought we’d take a look at some changes you can make if you’re not sure what changes you’re in need of, and until you’re certain of what changes need to be made in your life.

Clean and organize: many of us are blessed to have lots of stuff and lead busy lives, but with lots of stuff and busy lives it doesn’t always leave a lot of time to clean and get organized. Many of us just do the minimal to get by each week and end up one day with a big pile of stuff that needs to be gone through and more dust bunnies than real ones hopping around. Cleaning and organizing is one way to clear out some of the old and make room for the new, a symbolic welcoming of whatever changes your life is bringing.

What you eat: there’s never a bad time to make a decision to eat healthier, and today is no exception. But you don’t just have to change to healthier food, you can choose to change and try new foods and recipes too. There’s nothing wrong with having some go-to foods that you love, but it’s often fun to try new foods and recipes and mix things up a bit. Maybe it will give you the chance to learn a new cooking technique or try an ingredient you’ve always wondered about but never really knew how to put it in a dish, and this would be the chance to do either or both.

Consideration for others: one of the biggest areas of our lives that could use some changes for most of us are the relationships we have and ways that we interact with others. Maybe you’ve gotten in the habit of being on your phone at the dinner table, you think or say really nasty things about the other drivers on the road, you talk with your mouth full, you don’t give your significant other much of your attention, you ignore employees under you or belittle them, or you haven’t made time for making new friends and relationships or learning about other cultures. It’s not about being best friends with everyone but about respect, learning to listen, being open to others being different than you, and doing better at sharing the space we all live in.

What changes are you feeling inspired to make in your life?

Secrets to Success: Schedule It

Today we’re continuing our look at little secrets to success with one of the things many find to be challenging: scheduling. The issue though isn’t really that we don’t like scheduling necessarily, but more often that our nice, neat schedules get messed up, adjusted, moved around and pre-empted. So it makes it understandably frustrating when we try to make schedules because they just don’t work out. Even though I have those same issues I still believe that having a schedule can be one thing that will help you be successful.

One of the things I think is noteworthy about schedules is that they reveal a lot about our priorities. If your schedule always has fitness and if something comes up during your regular time you don’t just skip it but move it to another space in your day, that says to me that fitness is very important to you. If your schedule includes a date night with your partner every week, that says to me that your relationship is something very important to you. If you consistently get up at a certain time every day so you can have a couple of minutes to look over the day ahead and have a cup of coffee so you’re somewhat sane by the time the kids are up, it tells me you’re a focused and organized person.

The lack of a schedule also reveals a lot about you as well. It’s not “wrong” to not have a schedule and to let the day take you as it will, but I think even those of us who consider ourselves free spirits probably do have some type of schedule, even if it’s just a list of things that we do at some point in time every day, or something like moving through the natural process of breakfast and getting ready for the day then work then lunch then work then dinner then bed, with some activities and engagements in between. You may be a very productive person with this type of free schedule, but today we’re kind of going on the assumption that you’re not as successful as you would like to be, and that having a schedule would help you be more successful.

So why should we use schedules? A schedule allows you to predictably and more consistently have the time you need to do things. It means you’re intentionally setting aside the time to do things that you think will bring you to success or bring you happiness or add value to your life.  Schedules also give you the opportunity to plan things out and make sure that you’ve got the time and resources in place for what you want to accomplish.

Not sure you’re ready to go full-blown scheduled life? Then start with writing a to-do list of everything you need to do over the next few days or weeks and setting up a chunk of time each day to work on that to do list. This will give you a way to get used to having a schedule in your life and see results very quickly because each day you’ll be crossign things off your list.

As far as how to schedule, you can of course use an app program on your phone or just the calendar app, write on a white board each day (and/or for the week), or have a paper planner or calendar that you use, or use a mix of all of them.

Do you use a schedule and what are the benefits you find in having one?

Motivated to be Organized

Over the past week I’ve been doing some organizing in my office. I enjoy organizing and it’s something I do on a regular basis for clients, but if I’m completely honest there’s something comforting about the piles and having things around you, so I get why some people get sucked into the disorganized trap.  I enjoy seeing everything in a place though and knowing that everything has a home. It’s also nice to have a clean desk and and neat shelves to look at. So it got me thinking about the motivation and inspiration behind organization and getting everyone in the family more on board with being clean and clutter free.

Organization means that you can easier rotate through kids toys so when they’re bored with some toys you’ve got others you can bring out that they haven’t seen in a while. Organization also means less clothes in the closets and drawers because you’ve got everything for the cold/hot season that it’s not boxed or bagged away, and if you don’t have hot/cold seasons then you can follow the concept of the toy rotation and rotate your clothes that way as well. Organization also means that it’s easier to find things because you’ve got only the stuff you need and it’s all in a home where you always know you can find it.

So what about motivating people to be organized, whether adults or kids? It’s a little easier with kids because you can add cleaning up their toys and putting clothes in a hamper or their closets/drawers as part of their chore list or as part of the list of ways they can earn money. You should make it as easy as possible for them, whether having a storage system that’s low to the floor so they can reach it all (think low bookshelf height) or spending some time with them while they clean and getting the boxes down for them from taller shelves and then helping to re-store them after cleaning.

If you’re motivated as an adult to get clean and organized you can either make the time to do it yourself, a little every day whether at the end of the day or as part of your morning routine, or hire someone to tidy up on a daily/weekly basis. If you can’t get your partner to do their organizing, then you should do the organizing and give them one of the other tasks you typically do that they’re more inclined to do so you don’t have to do both it and organizing.  As far as hiring someone, there’s no reason to feel shame or as though you’re lacking if you can’t find the time to do it yourself, you just have priorities that are more important than cleaning up. The only way shame should become a factor is if the “priorities” that you’re putting ahead of cleaning up are just watching TV (something you could do while organizing) or going out with friends every night or surfing the internet and YouTube.

Once you’ve got a system in place it takes a lot less time to clean up as long as you’re consistent about doing so. So as daunting as it may seem right now to get organized, once you’re over that hurdle, as long as you’re committed to consistently cleaning up it’s really not as bad or challenging as it could be if you let things keep going as they are. I encourage you to make time this week to work with an organizer or set up a system yourself that works for you and your family.

Make Your Own Success

This weekend I read an article that reminded me the value, the necessity, of being yourself and doing your own thing. Yes, to an extent there’s good in doing the same thing, for example with many medical practices (how many ways can you really put a band-aid on a single cut?), and in doing better with treating everyone with respect, regardless of our differences. We have to find ways to unify the many divisions that have been created and reinforced over the past few years. But today I want to talk about being more willing to march to our own tune, do our own thing, and create our own successes.

In the world of organizing there are 2 basic keys: 1-reducing and 2-structure for storage and going forward. Beyond those two keys there are tons of ways to get and stay organized, and which way is chosen depends completely on you. Let’s take a simple one that most of us deal with: the calendar. I’m a much more traditional person, I prefer to write out my calendar/appointments on paper, but prefer to reference the calendars on my various technology devices as necessary while I’m working if I need to know when a date falls in the week/month.

When it comes to success the same is true: it takes hard work and a plan. But the work you choose to do and the plan you choose to have depend on you, your preferences, your knowledge, your abilities, your resources (or ability to tap into the resources of others) and your dreams. You can take the idea that someone else started with and turn it into your own. You can take what was bland and boring and add personality that only you can bring to the table. We may have similar experiences but that doesn’t mean we will tap into them in the same way. We may even have similar dreams but put them to work in different ways. Or, of course, you can do something new and revolutionary in an industry.

Don’t be afraid to be your own person, do your own thing, and shine in the way only you can. Don’t be discouraged by failures, setbacks or critics, many of the most successful people and organizations in all types of industries and walks of life were only successful after many tries.

Summer of Change

Summer is a great time to work on change with your kids and family. Why? Because most of us have lighter schedules that allow for taking a little time off to do those big projects, weather that allows both indoor and outdoor activities and plans to be done, less things on the schedule and more opportunities to put in a little time each day to work on those changes, and an abundance of people home from college who can watch the kids if you and your partner need to work independently of the kids on something. It’s not always easy to work on change, but having the abundant resources that the summer provides to work on changes does make it a little easier and remove many of the excuses you’ve been using to hold yourself back.

Why work on changes? Because whether it’s the mile-long to-do list that you’ve been adding to for too long, or the stuff that’s just sticking around bothering you or holding you back, neither is good for your family or you personally. If you’re familiar with the concepts of Feng Shui, the law of attraction and the laws of abundance, they also speak to the importance of having a space that allows you to think, grow, love, create and prosper, which aren’t things you can do if you’re feeling pressured by that to-do list or all the stuff just hanging around.

Also, if it’s on your to-do list it must be there for a reason. Sometimes we do put things on there that we think we’re supposed to put there, but most often it’s stuff that really does need to be there, even if we end up doing the lower priority stuff first because it’s less intimidating, or less of a commitment, or less of a change.

So what are the big changes you might work on this summer? Organizing clothes, organizing the kitchen, organizing the garage/shed, cleaning up the outdoor areas, organizing the office, changing diets/eating habits, increasing exercise consistency, setting aside consistent time for personal development, making more consistent time for your partner and/or kids, reducing your bad habits (including overspending, too much TV, too much junk food, not enough sleep etc.) or even job searching (or starting a business), just to name a few.

What will you (finally) work on this summer?

Processes and Procrastination

As we head towards the end of another week you may be thinking about what you can toss onto the piles on your desk or mark so that you deal with it next week and not today or tomorrow.  I’m familiar with the process, everyone does it to some extent. And to some extent it’s necessary to do because there are only so many hours in a day and while you may have something sudden and time-sensitive come up today, you may not have that tomorrow and be able to deal with things from today tomorrow.  The danger comes in when you never get to “tomorrow” and you keep having to put out fires and deal with emergencies today and never get to that other stuff you keep putting off.

The good news is that a portion of what you keep putting off can be handled by someone else.  You can get someone else to file the papers or place/pack orders or refill supplies or input data to a spreadsheet or program or app.  The bad news is, as you probably guessed, they can only do so much as they are not you. All that help is great to a point, then you have to step back in and choose or approve purchases, reply to clients, or confirm the data.

But what it comes back to is that you need to stop and realize that there’s a problem and you’re tired of seeing the problem day after day and not being able to do what you want to with or about it.  Maybe it’s as simple as changing the software, program or procedure that you do things with/through.  Maybe it’s creating a schedule and following it 95% of the time.  Maybe it’s just hiring someone to help out a few hours a week (on either the personal or the professional side).  But I believe that for many of the things that we’re putting off, there’s a simple solution that can make it much easier and much less painful to do the job and get it done quicker and with the results you’re looking for (or at the very least results which is something you didn’t have before).

If you’re struggling with the never ending search for tomorrow in your work or home, I encourage you to take an important first step before the end of the week.  Maybe it’s reaching out to an organizer or coach like myself who is local to you and getting the conversation going.  Maybe it’s taking 30 minutes to investigate other program/procedure options.   Maybe it’s sitting down with your team and talking about who’s doing what and who would rather do what and who can help you clear things off your plate (making things easier for everyone).   What will you do?