If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes.

I have an article half written for publication this week regarding great questions a client asked about menu planning.  But that is not the point of this post.

Fact is, my thoughts on the menu-planning article were pushed away this morning by the recurring mantra “If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes”.  (I googled this quote, to give it and it’s author proper credit, but it is unclear as to who actually coined the phrase.)

“If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes.”

This phrase has been rolling around in my head since last night when I co-taught a class with my friend Mark at the Oak Lawn Public Library on Bullet Journaling.  Bullet Journaling is a great productivity tool, and I promised some of the class participants that I would publish more about it soon.  But that is not the point of this post.

“If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes.”

People don’t attend classes because they want everything in their lives to stay exactly the same. People choose to learn about new things because they want to think or do things differently.

“If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes.”

So, what do you want to change about your life, and what are you willing to do differently to create that change?  Some times, change happens to us from the outside.  Sometimes we are the catalyst for change from inside.  In this instance, I am asking YOU what YOU want to change or make better.

“If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes.”

Last Fall, I was asked to make a really big change, to take on a responsibility that would help my community.  One of my very wise sons asked me 3 questions:

  • “What will change, from day to day, if you take this on?”
    • The answer was “I will have to make room in my schedule for these new responsibilities, but I can and am willing to do make the necessary modifications, to let go of a few roles and responsibilities to make room for this new one.”
  • “What GOOD can you do?”
    • This was the more important question for me.  Yes, this big responsibility might be time consuming and a little intimidating, but the idea of the GOOD that could come from the change was enough to inspire me to act.
  • And, “What did Dad (my husband) say when you told him?”  That one made us both laugh!

Change is exciting and motivating and energizing.  It can also be occasionally terrifying, uncomfortable and paralyzing.  Change can be difficult.

What if the change is the wrong change?

Yes, but what if it’s the right one?

What if change is awkward or hard or uncomfortable?

Yes, but what if it’s not?

“If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes.”

There is an old adage that I read recently, “There are 7 frogs on a log, and one decided to jump. How many are frogs are on the log?”

The answer, of course, is 7.  Until that one frog actually jumps, there are still 7 frogs on the log.  Decision making is important, of course, but real change only comes from Action.

“If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes.”

So, think your thoughts, dream your dreams and make your plans. Then act.

Take that single small first step towards change on your own terms.  Jump off that log.  Because “If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes.”

National Organize Your Home Office Day: My High Tech Me Project

Did you know?  The second Tuesday in March is National Organize Your Home Office Day.

I’m entertained by the fact that, thanks to technology, I started this blog seated at my favorite satellite office, the Corner Bakery near my home.  Not to be confused with my favorite Conference Room, the Beverly Bakery, also near my home and where I take my breakfast meetings.  The real irony is that I’m avoiding baked goods, but I really love these places!  And now, I’m home in my actual office.

These “home office” musings remind me that my “Home Office”, or in my case, just my “Office”, is anywhere that I am at that moment, thanks to technology.  There is a dark side of tech, though:

I’ve been struggling with the myriad methods of communication available, and how to manage them all well.  For example, last summer, a friend asked “Did you get my message?”, so I went back to check my:

  • recent texts;recent voice mails on my mobile phone;
  • recent voice mails on our home phone;
  • FB messages on my personal page, and
  • FB messages on my business page;
  • professional email;
  • personal email;
  • at the time, cub scout pack email (as I was still Cubmaster and she is a scouting friend);
  • twitter; and
  • actual snail mail, and my really big white mail box because she lives down the street, and could have left something for me.

Ridiculous.  Not the message or the friend (she is lovely), but the number of places I had to check for communications.  Ugh.

Fast forward: I spent the first 7 weeks of 2017 working on what I called my High Tech Me project. My plan was to make the moving parts of my office experience work better together.  To organize my “office” and clear communication clutter, I organized my tech.  After assessing my needs, I (just to list a few steps):

  • streamlined my IPad and IPhone apps, and set up my laptop so all the devices communicate with each other;
  • set up my devices to update automatically overnight, and installed yet another external hard drive;
  • purchased a few more chargers and surge protectors for the places we all use them the most (and my chargers are pink as the only female in the house, to easily identify who swiped my stuff);
  • fully embraced Gmail for my personal email – it’s easy and has an app!, and I left behind our old email provider that doesn’t have an app and regularly froze up or kicked me out;
  • wi-fi enabled my new IPad (woot woot);
  • adjust my privacy and notification settings on all my social media and email accounts, to better manage my information;
  • explored Evernote, and now use it more fully to organize my thoughts and notes;
  • unsubscribed from dozens of retailers and email mailing lists; and
  • re-established a relationship with Siri on my apple devices, and while we still don’t always see eye to eye, we’re making progress (and Siri is now an Australian male voice and I refer to him as Nigel.  Whatever works.).

On this National Organize Your Office Day, remember these important points:

  • Technology is amazing and overwhelming, but it is just a tool.   It’s here to make our lives better, so set yours up to improve your life and not detract from it (and if you don’t know how, ask my web guru Claire and she will say – When in Doubt, Google it Out!)
  • BACK IT UP.  To the cloud, to a hard drive, to your lap top.  Back up your information. And get a case for your phone.  Yes, you,
  • Keep current on your device udpates, all the time.
  • De-Clutter or streamline what you can. Unsubscribe, send all your emails to one address, get rid of your home phone (we’re working on this one!), mirror your devices so you only have to remember one set-up, etc.
  • Make maintenance a habit.  I have actually added a line item to my daily routine to remind me to check different communication methods until it becomes a habit.

 

“If I Don’t Write It Down, It Doesn’t Exist”

“If I don’t write it down, it doesn’t exist.”

After a conversation with a friend last week, “If I don’t write it down, it doesn’t exist.” was already the working title of this week’s article. Then, yesterday, a friend texted, and I quote, “seriously, If I don’t write it down, it’s gone!”

Maybe this statement resonates with you, too?

To be honest, I hesitated to write this article, worried that you might harshly judge your professional organizer who has to write things down to remember them.  But then I realized that to help us all get more organized, I needed to share the solution I have found to a common challenge!

“If I don’t write it down, it doesn’t exist.”

Our brains are always working.  My brain has a lot to do, and a lot of tasks to juggle.  Often my brain will supply a thought, idea or an answer to a question that I am not, at that moment, ready to process.

This happens all the time.  While I’m:

  • driving;
  • trying to fall asleep;
  • in the shower;
  • in Mass;
  • sitting at a soccer game;
  • working with a client, etc.
You get the picture.  Personal thoughts come while I’m working, and client/business thoughts come in the midst of personal time.  I want to capture those ideas for later, and then get back to what I was doing.
Appreciate your brain, and all it does for you.  And give it a little help.
Clear your Mental Clutter by getting those swirling thoughts out of your brain.
  1. Create the Habit of Writing Stuff Down (you can try voice recordings, too, if you prefer);
  2. Create the Habit of turning your notes in Actions;
  3. Act on the Ideas.  And then
  4. Give your brain another challenge to work on.
  • Write Stuff Down, as it comes.
    • Capture the idea.
    • I have a large Post-It pad in the car (orange), and a similar one next to me right now (pink).   The different colors help me to put them back in their proper homes, should they wander.
    • I also have a dry erase marker in the bathroom, for jotting notes down on the mirror; and
    • I even have a waterproof note pad and pencil in the shower (www.myaquanotes.com)  
    • What I use most to collect my thoughts is Evernote on my laptop, IPhone and IPad.
  • Make A Habit of Collecting / Compiling
    • Regularly (daily?), compile the little notes into an Action list.
    • Once a day, I collect all the little notes and put them into my master lists on Evernote.  Tasks, blog ideas, personal and professional development ideas, grocery lists, etc..
    • This keeps them from piling up or getting lost, and reminds me of the urgent issues I need to address.
  • Turn Your Ideas Into Actions.
    • Make your notes and ideas actionable, so you don’t just have a jumbled pile of papers in front of you to compete with the jumbled ideas in your brain.
    • My large orange Post-It note from a car trip yesterday (I jotted it all down while parked in a parking lot, very safe I promise) included:
      • Explore Bullet Journaling idea for workshop;
      • Send A theatre ticket info;
      • Send D Cub Scout info;
      • Send T the recipes;
      • Return client calls on Tuesday; and
      • remember to carry promotional materials to all your presentations.
    • So, last night, I made sure to add these ideas to my Project List and Daily Task Lists, and
      recycled the note.
  • Ask for reminders in the form that works for you.
    • If you prefer auditory reminders, ask folks to call you and leave you a voice mail.
    • I prefer written reminders.  For example, when my son asks me to buy something at the grocery, I refer him to the grocery list.  He can say the words to me, but if it’s not written down, I may not remember 4 days from now when I actually go to the grocery.
      • This is also the reason I prefer emails and texting to phone calls – I can refer back to the message, for details or contact info, etc.  I don’t remember entire conversations for more than a couple of days.

This week, give your brain a break and boost your productivity by creating the Write Stuff Down Habit!

 

To:

Receive more ideas and suggestions like these;
Book time with me in person or virtually;
Arrange a presentation for your upcoming event; or
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Call / text 708.790.1940
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National Clean Off Your Desk Day: Whadda YOU looking at?

No, really, what do you see?

This time every year, we have a chance to review, refresh and de-clutter our work space with National Clean Off Your Desk Day, celebrated annually on the second Monday in January.

I’ve published many articles about organizing your work surface, but today I suggest you lift your eyes, and organize your visual work space (your view).

Look up from your desk for this one.  What do you see? Look straight ahead, side to side. Order or chaos?  Positive messages or nagging responsibilities?  Simple beautiful things, or old and outdated things?  We are all influenced by our visual fields, but we can also become overwhelmed with visual clutter.

Let’s make it better!  Think about this statement:  “I want to see that which I want to attract.” For me, I want to look at a view that is simple, streamlined, functional and beautiful!

Spend some time cleaning off your desk space today (yes, you still need to do that!), and then Look Up! and apply the same steps (from Julie Morgenstern’s SPACE Method) to taking care of your view!

 

SORT your stuff into categories:
Clear the stuff off that message board or wall in front of you.   Yes, all of it.

Then, sort the stuff into categories, for example:  Photos, memos, messages, task reminders (bills on paperclips to send in or pay, post it notes with “call Bob”, or “order baby shower gift”), decor / tchotchke / kitsch, things to go elsewhere or to other people, etc.


PURGE:

Ok, friends. Time to get real.  Let’s go back to the statement “I want to see that which I want to attract.” Keep only the items that encourage, nourish and support your work.  Put away the rest, or purge it completely.

If you are not ready to part with all the stuff, consider a seasonal visual work space / view: swapping out your photos or inspirational messages every week / month or season.

(I like my Chrome extension Momentum: every day I’m provided a new beautiful photo, an inspirational quote and a space to jot down my intention for the day.  Then I see it whenever I sit down to work at my computer.)

A few words about… Post-It Notes.  I have a love/hate relationship with Post-It Notes. Post-Its are meant to be momentary reminders.  However, when we use Post-Its a lot, we start to look past them.  When I ask clients about the notes all over their work space, I’ll hear “Oh, they’ve been there so long, I don’t even see them anymore.”  Then WHY ARE THEY THERE?

So, jot a note on a Post-It Note, and then do something with it.  An event reminder?  Put it in your calendar.  A phone number?  Enter it into your contacts.  A task reminder or creative idea?  Add the task to your to do list, or the idea to your idea file.  AND THEN TOSS THE NOTE!!

 

ASSIGN A HOME, CONTAINERIZE and EQUALIZE:

When assigning a home and containerizing the stuff in our field of vision, consider keeping only those things that are useful and beautiful.  Keep pictures that make you smile (only a few), inspirational messages (only a few), and a handful of little items that evoke positive memories or creativity.  Add a plant, if you’d like!

Consider boundaries – limit your visual clutter to a small space in your line of sight or just one shelf or tray for kitschy items.

We want a nice view, but not too nice!  Have nice things to look at, but not so nice that they pull your focus from your work.  I love my vision board (thanks, MTO!), but if I look at it all the time, I take it for granted.  It’s more inspiring for me to intentionally look at it, and then set is aside and move on to my tasks.

Now, set a reminder to do this again every few months, to keep your View looking good!

OK, daylight’s wasting! Get on with cleaning off that Desk!

You Can Change the World in 17 Minutes (or less)

Big progress and big changes can be made in little pieces.

Too often, we believe that great progress towards a goal can only be made with a great investment of time and effort.   We get stuck in perfectionist thinking, believing that we can only make progress or work on a project if we have a bunch of uninterrupted hours all together (that doesn’t sound like my typical day or week, how about you?).

However, maintenance and progress towards goals really can happen in bits and pieces of time, in 5 or 10 or 15 minute increments, fit in around all the other tasks and responsibilities we take care of  on a regular basis.

For example, consider the 7th game of the 2016 World Series.  

I would love to know what was said to the Chicago Cubs team during the 17 minute rain delay in the 7th game of the World Series back in November.

If you were watching the game that night (as myself, my family and most of the cities of Chicago and Cleveland plus millions of others were), you may remember the rain delay.  

It was a late night with an extra inning, so when the rain delay was called, I decided to go to bed.  In those 17 minutes, I plugged in my phone to charge, brushed my teeth, put on my PJs and hit the pillow.

As I drifted off, I heard my husband and sons start to chat again and I figured (correctly) that the delay was over  and the game had resumed.  So Of Course I got up and watched the fantastic end.

17 minutes.  The team all said how important and pivotal the talk in the weight room was, how simple and moving words made the difference.

17 Minutes.

And here we are, in 2017.  Let’s appreciate that symmetry.  As we begin 2017, what can we learn from the 17 minute rain delay?

Do not underestimate the power and potential and progress that can be found in small bits of time.  5, 10, 15 minutes?  17 Minutes?  I’m just sayin’!

So, what can we do in 17 minutes (or less) that can help us have a better, healthier, kinder, more productive, more organized 2017?

  • Take our vitamins; 
  • Take a power nap; 
  • Take a shower; 
  • Make our bed; 
  • Run an errand; 
  • Text or call a friend when we think of them; 
  • Pay a bill, either in person or on-line; 
  • Pray; 
  • Respond to an email ( I just booked a presentation for April.  2 minutes.  done!); 
  • Delete a bunch of emails; 
  • Unsubscribe from a catalog or retailer; 
  • Steep a cup of tea; 
  • Clean out the fridge; or 
  • Fold a couple loads of laundry, and put it all away.

And per my awesome friends and readers:

  • Reorganize our purse or bag (receipts; discard or file, update or toss notes/ lists, change, bills in place;
  • Clean that pile of mail off the printer;
  • Clean out junk mail (both physical and email), as well as
  • Empty the recycling bin (virtual and physical);
  • Throw out the garbage in the car (No, C., no judgement here!);
  • 10 minute pick ups in each room;
  • Take 5 min when you use the bathroom to wipe it all down;
  • 10 min quick clean up of my desk;
  • Gather dishes(coffee cups!) from various reading spots and put in dishwasher;
  • Empty and reload dishwasher, makes a huge difference;
  • Go through the house, gather shoes, put in correct bedrooms;
  • Do a once thru the house to pick up items and put them where they BELONG; and
  • Stash a bag on every floor for donations, add to the bag as you come across things to purge!

Imagine with me, friends.  If we were open to taking little steps instead of waiting to take great strides to our goals.  We could feel the rush of accomplishment in a steady glow, stay motivated, makes changes mid-stride. Let’s think about 2017, and all the great progress we can make in 17 minute-or-less pieces!

Here’s to a great 2017!

To:

Receive more ideas and suggestions like these;
Book time with me in person or virtually;
Arrange a presentation for your upcoming event; or
Discover the benefits of Organizational Coaching;

Please contact me.

Call / text 708.790.1940
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564 Words About Gift Cards (and some special skills)

I, like all of you, have skills.  In addition to organizing,

  • I can quote movies and song lyrics from a range of decades and genres;
  • I can roll my tongue, and wink with either eye (my 12 year old’s suggestions);
  • I can read upside down, and I know the number equivalent of each letter of the alphabet, so writing in code is a piece of 3-1-11-5 (cake); and
  • For today’s purposes, I know way more about gift cards than most people.  (There are more skills, of course, but that’s enough for now!)

gift_card_holder_2lWhy do I know about gift cards?  In addition to giving and receiving gift cards like most people, I help administer a gift card-based tuition reimbursement program at my son’s high school, so I spend a lot of time working with gift cards.  To help you this Holiday Season, I thought I would drop some knowledge on how to use and give these handy items!

Here are some tips to help you manage your Gift Cards:

  • Gift cards are money.  Therefore:
    • They are meant to be spent, and
    • They need to be managed (management is defined as getting the most out of our resources).
  • Know where your gift cards are, and what you have in stock.  Have a single safe place at home to keep them, in one drawer or on your desk (Not all over the house!).
  • If you just don’t know how much a gift card is worth, call the customer service number on the back, or go to the website.  If a card has been used, the company can usually track exactly when and where the balance was used. Grab a sharpie,  and jot the date and current balance on the front of the card.  Keep a small sharpie with you, to jot the new balance on a card if you only use part of the value. This one clicks on a key ring!  minimarker_black
  • If you received gift cards for a certain store or restaurant, sign-up online or via an app or social media (FB, Twitter) for special offer notifications.  Use your gift cards along with those special promotions to get a bigger bang for your buck.  For example, I have a Starbucks Gold Card, and with my on-line account I receive special offers and can add money or gift cards to the balance.
  • Carry the gift cards you plan to use with you, but certainly not all the cards you have. Carrying all of them could be cumbersome and you risk losing them! (There are apps like Slide to manage and digitize your gift cards.)
  • And yet, you don’t have to take your gift cards with you.  If you receive gift cards for on-line retailers like Amazon.com or ITunes, redeem the gift cards and add to your online account balance when you receive them, and then toss the redeemed cards away.
  • USE YOUR GIFT CARDS!  They are money, but some can lose value over time, or merchants may go out of business.
  • If you have gift cards that you don’t ever plan on using, you can sell your cards.  There’s Craig’s List or Facebook groups dedicated to buying / selling, plus other websites or apps just a quick google search away.

This week, collect those gift cards from all the spots you’ve stashed them, and turn them around for more gifts, a nice dinner out or maybe some $$ for Christmas Shopping!

Tech and Back To School: Update your Home, Habits and Devices

c89201_usb_phone_pakGetting your Tech and Home organized for family productivity is a great idea any time,  but especially for Back To School! Read on for 11 tips for getting your Tech and Home in order!

Update Your Home for Tech.

  • Centralize your office supplies and printers.  Have you noticed?  As our capacity to work anywhere in the house has expanded, so has the spread of office supplies and clutter. Establish one printer space and a wireless network for printing.  Then, collect all the supplies stashed all over the house, and create office supply (pens, papers, post-its, etc.) storage near the printer.  This will: save time searching for items; save money when we can find what we need and don’t have to buy more (I found lots of new items that we can use for back-to-school); and cut stress when we don’t have cabinets in every room dedicated to half-used notebooks or derelict writing supplies.
  • Work Stations Are Good. Consider your favorite library or coffee house – flat work space, no storage.  Have specific spots available for family members to work – home office, kitchen counter, traditional desks –  and let folks be flexible and share the spaces.  At these specific spots, make sure there is good lighting, access to an outlet, a comfortable chair (or make it a standing work station, also awesome!).   Keeping specific work stations makes it easier to find that rogue charging cord or book left behind.51L838PvfDL._AC_US200_
  • Desks are Bad.  Have you also noticed? New desks have changed a lot.  New desks (more likely to be called a Work Station) don’t offer drawers these day, and that’s a good thing (see the centralized supplies idea above!).  Traditional desks with multiple drawers full of paper and supplies and clutter are just waiting to drive us crazy!
  • Establish a Charging Station.  Find a convenient-to-everyone counter or shelf, NOT on your surge protector with usbkitchen counter where you need to make dinner; add storage for cords not being used; and a surge protector (new ones include USB ports).  We mounted ours on the wall, to cut down on counter clutter.  And here’s an idea – if your cords “wander off” sometimes, like mine, label the chargers and cords with a sharpie or label maker, or choose a color per person (once I started buying pink earphones and cords, they stopped disappearing.  Go figure!).

 

 

Update your Habits.

  • Pick Your Battles.  In recent history, I have advocated for keeping tech and charging out of bedrooms.  The light of technology devices disrupts our sleep signals, texting and notifications can occur 24/7, and even the fields generated by electronics can disrupt sleep in some sensitive folks.
         However, slowly the chargers have moved into the bedrooms, which aggravates me, but my 16 and 18 year old offer solid arguments, and need to learn to manage themselves.  I am reminded often that the world they are growing up in looks a lot different than the one I grew up in.  So, I have stopped pushing so hard on that, though I still encourage screen-free time and getting enough sleep.
  • Using your cool new charging station, make charging your devices a habit, part of your routine.  We have extra charging cords stashed in the car and at work, just in case!
  • Use On-Line Portals for School. Most schools have on-line parent / student portals these days, and some teachers have websites for their classrooms, where students can access homework and educational resources.  Make checking on things part of your habits (for example, I have a item on my daily to-do list to remind me to check the on-line announcement page for the high school).
  • Passwords and Log-Ins. Keep a page for each child’s passwords and login info for their student portals and on-line resources (these often go missing in our house!).

 

Update your Devices.

  • Buy the warranty.  Since our tech devices go with us everywhere, chances increase that something bad may happen to them.
  • Stay up to date!  Automate your device or computer udpates, or add “check updates” etc. to your weekly routine.41DGbXhN5zL._AC_US160_
  • Keep the college laptop safe.  (Love these, thanks MJS!) College students should invest in and use a lock to tether a laptop to a desk at the library or in a dorm room.  Also, buy an extra long charging cord in case your student is on the top bunk.
Save yourself hassle later, and invest time a little time and energy this week getting your home, tech stuff and tech habits ready for Back-To-School.
To:

Receive more ideas and suggestions like these;
Book time with me in person or virtually;
Arrange a presentation for your upcoming event; or
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Paper Management for Evolving Humans (Summer Project #4)

We are all evolving humans, isn’t that cool?  But I am referring to paper management and kids.

I spent a few hours on Sunday organizing papers.  More importantly, this time I involved my evolving humans (my kids) in the process, since they will need to manage their own papers some day.  My boys are tweens and teens, but even little kids can get in on the process, sorting last year’s school papers, using the shredder (with guidance), or taking out the recycling!  We just have to set the example!

There are three main types of paper – Active, Archival and Passive. Each requires specific handling and storage.  One of my sons had the the opportunity to touch all three types of paper this week, this is how it went.

Active Paper: Definition

     Active Papers Require Action.  Mail to open, forms to complete, bills to pay, phone calls to make, etc.

Active Paper: Everyone needs an In-Box.

     As I reviewed papers, I established an in-box for each of my sons.  Each of them now has a 851604_scene7labeled folder in the command center in the kitchen.  I shared the location and purpose with them, I will add to the folders as mail or info comes in, and they will check the folders every couple of days (at least that is the plan!!).  No more counter piles – yeah!!

Active Papers: Even I Need an In-Box.
There is also a folder for me, containing active papers pertaining to my sons that I need to act upon.  For example, it now holds registration info for the middle schooler (8/1), and the photo order form for the high schooler (that he will need on the first day of school 8/18).

Active Papers: Need a Process for Action.

     Establishing a home for active papers keeps them from getting lost and ensures the “action” actually occurs!

Active Papers: Technology is changing how we handle papers.

     Technology is increasingly useful and pervasive in managing paper and information, and our kids are on the ground floor.  Last week, we ordered the high school text books on-line, including the digital texts for my son’s Chromebook.  Few papers come home from school anymore, and much of the kids’ work is completed and even submitted digitally on their tech devices.

Archival Papers: Definition.

     Archival papers are a very important, small and specific category of papers.   Very few papers become archival items.  Archival papers are the papers that we will need today or in 20 years. Birth certificates, sacramental certificates, social security cards, passports.  As we grow up, we may add items like car titles,  mortgage papers or insurance policies.  Again, a small and specific type of paper.

Archival Papers: Safe Storage and Retrieval. 

      One of my sons got his drivers license last week.  The Secretary of State required his SS card  256564_p_open_leftand birth certificate, so he learned where we keep them (a small fireproof portable safe) and how to access them.  The very nice lady at the Sec of State also reminded him that he needs to learn his Social Security # (we’ve told him this, but it means more coming from someone else!!).

     I also cleaned up everyone’s academic binders over the weekend (click here for info).  I weeded out old school news and duplicate event programs, filed each kids’ papers by year in the binder pocket, and generally cleaned up the cabinet where the binders live.  We’ve added to these binders every school year since preschool, and we can refer to them as academic and achievement record.

Passive Papers: Definition.

      Passive papers don’t require action (Active Paper ) nor will they stand the test of time (archival). They just require retention for a certain amount of time, for reference.

Passive Papers:  Keep them for Reference.  

     Passive Papers are the ones that tend to give us the most grief, as this is the biggest category.
We keep passive papers around because we might need to refer back to them, at least for a certain amount of time.   For example, the Sec of State requires two other documents for a driver license, recent mail with a home address on them (we brought a savings account bank statement and a final grade report).

     My high schooler also went through all the papers in his room.  128585_pHe mentioned that he had thrown a lot away (hooray) and sorted the rest into broad categories, like school and music and college.  I suggested 2 other categories, Boy Scouts and bank statements.  We went to Office Depot, bought a $15 file tote, and made hanging file holders for each of his categories.

Decision Making Made Easier.

     There is great power in knowing what papers to keep, because we then know what we can toss.  When you look at a piece of paper, and it doesn’t fall into the three broad types of papers above, or the categories within your Passive Papers, its likely that you don’t need to keep it at all.
 So, tackle your papers this week WITH YOUR KIDS, and let everyone learn from the process!

“…Except For the People You Meet and The Books You Read.”  Summer Project #3

You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.”  

– Charles “Tremendous” Jones, author and motivational speaker.

 

 Last month, I re-read Marie Kondo’s bestseller, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” for a

003presentation at a local library.

 

According to Kondo, the purpose of a book is to impart information.  Once the book is read, it has done its job and fulfilled its purpose.  Therefore, there are a handful of paths every book in your house may take:
  • You keep it because you are reading it now;
  • You keep it to refer back to it again;
  • You keep it because you love it (Kondo’s “Hall of Fame”); or
  • You pass it on so that it can impart its knowledge to someone else.

I love these very simple decision-making choices!   These criteria fit into my typical advice to keep things only if you need / use  / love them (Barbara Hemphill).This week, let’s tackle those book cases!

Tackle the Books a room at a time (or a family member at a time).

     Marie Kondo would suggest bringing every book in the house into one room, piling them on the floor and handling each and every one of them.  I do not agree with this suggestion!  Too messy and too overwhelming for most of us!
     Tackle the books a room (or even a shelf or case) at a time.  This makes much less of a mess, and keeps the project a manageable size.

    Today, I quickly reviewed my tween’s bookcase for any books he has grown out of or doesn’t like anymore.  I also reviewed my own book case, and will ask the teens to review theirs this week, too.

Now is Not the Time To Read.

     Review the books but do not open them! (Per Kondo, and me!)  It’s so easy to get pulled into an old favorite, so do not open the books!  Stay the course, keep your focus, and make your decisions!

Find a Motivator.

There are lots of reasons to move your books along, from your bookshelf to someone else’s.  If you’re looking for motivation, here are a few destinations for books you would like to purge:001
  • Your local public library.  Our Evergreen Park Public Library has a book sale every August, so we have the habit of going through our bookshelves every summer for books to donate.  I spoke last month at the Oak Lawn Public Library, and they always have a sale table, to keep books moving along and to help fund library programs.
  • Little Free Libraries, http://littlefreelibrary.org/  .  Love these!  A few friends have them in their front yards (pictures included), and they are a great place to pick up or leave a book, to move the info around!
  • Leave your book in a public place, after labeling it as a BookCrossing book, to be picked up and shared, check out http://www.bookcrossing.com/ .
  • Contact local retirement or nursing homes, to stock their resident libraries
  • Half-Price Books, www.hpb.com.  You may not make lots of $$, but you may make some!
  • Check out Stick Figure Books, if you have a large collection to part with,  http://www.stickfigurebooks.com/shop/stickfigure/index.html  .
  • If you’re in my neighborhood, check out Bookies,  to buy or sell used books (summer reading lists, anyone?!)  https://www.facebook.com/bookieschicago/  .

Know Your Self and Your Reading Habits.
     As I review my bookshelves this morning, I was extra ruthless with my purging, as I reminded myself that:
  • I have a kindle app on my IPad, so I buy new books in digital form;
  • If I’m traveling, I only bring my Ipad and not physical books;
  • I can check out e-book copies of new and old books from library, also to be read on my Ipad app.

“Should” is not a reason to read a book.
    Kondo tells us that half-read (for a long time)  books are telling us something.  Sometimes, that something is that you don’t want to read that book.
     Over the years, I have read lots of books on the suggestions of others.  And I have loved some of those books.  And I have really disliked some of them, too.

     Today, I am giving you permission:  Unless it’s for school or professional purposes,  You do not have to read a book just because someone gave it to you or told you that you Should read it.

Review your books this week.  Choose the books to keep, and let the others move on to impart their wisdom to others!

Small Business Week: How to NOT Overbook Your Calendar

Recently, a friend/client/networking partner had to cancel a morning meeting because she had overbooked her Tuesday.

Another client had to reschedule a document drop-off with me because he “ran out of day today.”

No judgement here.  Been there, done that.

In her text message to me, the overbooked friend/client/networking partner asked me to write a blog about how to not overbook our schedules!  So, friend, in honor of National Small Business Week, here it is!

When do you work?  Where?  How?   Workdays and work places have changed, due to worker and industry preferences.  A “typical” workday is anything but typical, more than half the workforce works for themselves or small businesses, and many of us work from home (or Starbucks, or someone else’s home, etc).

As the lines of work and home blur, it’s difficult to keep all our commitments straight!  So, to help get the most out of your schedule, without resorting to teleportation or cloning, here are a few ideas:

  • Check your schedule regularly, with an eye out for potential snags or trouble spots. Don’t wait until tomorrow to plan for tomorrow. or until next week to plan for next week.
  • Schedule recurring events.  Actually put them in your calendar / planner / etc.  Yes, you will probably remember.  But then again, you may not.  Just write them down.
  • Better yet, Just write everything down (or make a note in Outlook or Google Calendar, or your planner, or however you track such things).  I can’t be trusted to remember things unless I write them down.
  • Determine realistic time estimates for your regular tasks.  Have you noticed?  We tend to underestimate how long our favorite tasks take, and overestimate how long dreaded tasks take.  We assume the easy stuff will go quickly, but get snagged or run late when something goes wrong.
  • Factor in commuting time between meetings where applicable,  and multitask your travel time.  I’ve been leaving a more generous time cushion between client appointments, to accommodate conversations that go a little long, traffic troubles, or a quiet moment to eat my lunch on the way to the next appointment.
  • Keep your calendar and contact information up to date and with you at all times, so if you do find yourself overbooked or running late, you can do the polite and professional thing and call ahead.
  • Do not feel you have to explain yourself.   No one needs to know that you need to leave a meeting on-time to get to a 6th grade soccer game.
  • If you do double book yourself or if life gets in the way, just OWN UP, APOLOGIZE and reschedule.  Make that call with solutions in mind, as in “I’m very sorry, something unexpected came up and I’m going to be late to our 1 o’clock meeting.  Would you like to push it to 2 pm, or reschedule for a different day?”
  • Meetings.  Ah, meetings.  Meetings, by definition, involve other people.  And talking, and planning and note taking and assigning tasks.
    • Don’t be ‘that guy’ or ‘that woman’.  You know, that one with the late, rushed and loud arrival. Be early, be prepared, and be quiet until there is something to say.
    • Don’t like making pre-meeting small talk?  Smile politely, then make a show of reviewing your notes, or making new notes (even if it’s your packing list for vacation, or an email for later).
    • After the fact:
      • Set an alarm to keep from getting chatty.
      • Factor in processing time for your notes and action steps from the meeting, before heading to your next activity.

As you move through your week this week, keep your schedule in mind, and try a tip or two to make that next workday or meeting go more smoothly!