Why I Never Find Money in Old Coat Pockets

One of the biggest Cold Weather challenges for me (aside from the cold, snow, chapped hands and lips, etc.) is… too many pockets.

Have you ever noticed?  Too many coats, too many layers, too many pockets – these make it difficult to keep track of things like receipts or car keys or that one thing that I just had… a minute ago… in my hand… hold on, maybe it’s over here… no, not there…

Well, you get the idea.

We can wait for Spring, certainly, which will solve the too-many-pockets challenge with fewer layers and, dare I say, coat-free days, but we may still be challenged with too many places to put things and no habit or routine to help us take care of those things.

The challenge of losing things in pockets can be addressed and resolved, like so many challenges, with better habits.

Working with a new client yesterday, we talked about Routines and checklists, and a Landing and Launch Pad for getting out the door on time.   Keeping track of our time and our stuff relies on Routines and habits, and setting up space in our homes and offices to nurture those routines and habits.

When you get home from your day, what’s in your pockets?  An informal survey this morning (thanks, FB Friends, for playing along!) reports many of us are walking around with:

from
makemesomethingspecial.co.uk

  • debit card;
  • car keys;
  • straw wrappers;
  • wallet;
  • Sharpie;
  • lint;
  • lip balm;
  • those little dental picks;
  • tissues, clean and dirty;
  • loose change, ranging from 30 to 76 cents;
  • receipts;
  • Legos;
  • dog treats;
  • key card for work;
  • Jewel monopoly pieces “that are probably duplicates”
  • good luck penny;
  • business card (cards to give out, or perhaps a card just received?);
  • rosary;
  • flash drive;
  • pocketknife;
  • medication;
  • “my precious” (thanks C!)
  • “my hand” (thanks  P!  And standing up, yes, it’s probably in your pocket!).

 

To track and manage the stuff in our pockets and in our lives, we need to

  • Create space to deal with the stuff;
  • Create habits around dealing with the stuff;
  • Encourage others around us to create space and habits for dealing with stuff; and
  • Maintain the habits once we’ve created them.

 

First, create space to manage the stuff in your pocket.  Near your entrance, have

  • a garbage can (for things like straw wrappers, lint, tissues, dental picks, etc.);
  • an envelope for catching receipts until you are ready to deal with them;
  • a jar for loose change;
  • a bowl or basket for the really important things you may need while you’re home, like your CELL PHONE or  READING GLASSES;
  • a bowl or basket, or the habit to put-in-your-handbag, for the things you will need again when you leave, like KEYS, WALLET, SUN GLASSES.
  • For me, these all reside on my desk, right next to the back door.

 

Create the Habit for yourself:

  • The items listed above offer a visual reminder for me when I walk in the door to empty the stuff out of my pockets.  Even if I’m not ready to deal with it all, at least it is out of my pockets (ever run pens or lip balm through the laundry!?! Or cell phones?!?!).
  • I take care of receipts and bookkeeping items with just a few minutes every day – it’s easier to recall details when I do this daily!
  • While I wish I could be one of those people who slips on a coat not worn recently and finds a $20 bill inside, I much prefer to be one of those people who knows where her money is!
  • Let me encourage you to establish this Space and this Habit near your entrance (instead of on your dresser or in the laundry room), since much of what you brought home with you will also probably leave with you.

If you live with other people, encourage them to create the space and habit for themselves, too. For example, with 4 drivers in our house, there is a specific place for car keys to live, so we can find what we need when we need them!

Once you’ve created the space and the habit, Keep Up Every Day.  And if you or a family member start to lag or drift on the habit, be ready to re-commit with reminders and routines until emptying out your pockets, taking care of business and preparing for a seamless next departure becomes a natural and comfortable action to complete!

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
Online at  http://peaceofmindpo.com
www.Facebook.com/MColleenKlimczakCPO
Via Twitter, @ColleenCPO

“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
Discover the benefits of Organizational Coaching;

Please contact me.

Call / text 708.790.1940
Online at  http://peaceofmindpo.com
www.Facebook.com/MColleenKlimczakCPO
Via Twitter, @ColleenCPO

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
Online at  http://peaceofmindpo.com
www.Facebook.com/MColleenKlimczakCPO
Via Twitter, @ColleenCPO

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!

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!

Tax Season Has Ended – Whew! 5 Lessons We Learned.

I truly believe we can learn from every experience, if we’re paying attention.  Every day, every moment, every experience.

Along that line of thinking, I just wrapped up a call with a good friend / network partner, and the last thing we did was Review and Recap what we had discussed and what our next steps were.

So, let’s Review and Recap what we have learned from this tax season, just ended, and what we can do to make next season more organized and less stressful!

 

  • I could have started preparing  a lot earlier. “  Start early.  There is really no reason not to.

ACTION STEP: Take a few simple steps now to make next April go much smoother!

 

  • “I keep too much paper!”  Everyone does, it’s true.

ACTION STEP:  Call me!  Or, read my other blogs on paper management and change the way you save paper.

 

  • “This process would go a lot smoother if I made a file folder at the beginning of the year called ‘Tax Documents: Current Year’, and added to it through the year as pertinent documents came in.

ACTION STEP: Make the folder, title it “Tax Documents: Current Year”, and USE it!

 

  • “I should adjust my withholding, then I wouldn’t owe so much next April.”  And if you’re self-employed, like me, perhaps you said (as I did), “Perhaps it’s time to start sending in quarterly tax payments, instead of one lump sum.”   Yes, you should.

ACTION POINT: Talk to your HR department, or if you are self-employed or own your business, discuss your options with your CPA.  April 14th of next year is too late to make positive changes for this year.

 

  • “Wow, A lot of people must procrastinate about their taxes.  My usual accountant barely had time to speak to me last week and those other places were a zoo. I could do my taxes myself, but not if I wait until the last minute.”   Yes, all true.  Lots of people procrastinate. Don’t be most people.  Refer to the other learning points above, and …

ACTION POINT:  Book your appointment for next February NOW!

So, take a few actions this week to make your 2016 more organized, and your tax season next year go more smoothly!

What Was That?  Three Types of Paper, You Say?

The Second Tuesday of March is National Organize Your Home Office Day.

Over the past 13 years, I’ve learned a lot from my clients and experiences in home offices.  Why are Home Offices a Challenge?

  • Home offices are still evolving, as more workers move out of brick-and-mortar offices.
  • With a blend of both home and office, there is just more paper to deal with, plus the boundaries between professional and personal papers blur.
  • Industries often provide Document Retention Policies, with clear instructions about what papers to keep, and how to confidentially get rid of documents when they are no longer needed (consider medical records in a hospital).  However, personal papers do NOT come with document retention policies, and we have to create them.

Most of the papers we have in our homes and offices fall into three categories:

  • Active;
  • Passive; and
  • Archival.

Your home office undoubtedly contains all three types, and each type requires different handling and storage.   Here ‘s what you need to know about each type:

ACTIVE PAPER

Active Papers are defined as papers that require some action to be taken.  Examples of Active Papers are: a bill to pay, a greeting card to send, a form to complete and send back to school.  The actions required might be a bit more complex, too, for example: a sports schedule to be entered into your calendar; a business card from a new contact that needs to be entered into your contacts and also an email sent; a reminder to call someone or make an appointment.

The most important thing to know about Active Papers is to ACT ON THEM, and then move them on.  So, pay the bill, send the card, complete the form, enter the info, make the call, send the email.  And them move the papers along, either into Passive storage, Archival storage, or the shredder or recycling bin.

PASSIVE PAPER

Passive Papers are Active Papers whose actions are complete.  Now, they require no further action except for retention for a predetermined amount of time (for reference or just in case), and then safe and confidential disposal.  For example, you may decide to keep one full year of receipts, paid bills, statements and the like until you file your taxes for last year.  Some people may feel more comfortable keeping 2 full years, and that’s OK, too.

The important thing to remember about Passive Papers is the “keep for an amount of time and then dispose of them” part of their definition.  Often my clients and I unearth grocery receipts from 4 years ago, maintenance records for cars they no longer own, or the electric bill from 7 years ago.  None of these papers have any bearing on our life today, and are just cluttering up our office and files.

Set up your Passive Paper files to store each month’s info together (no more micromanaging your filing), decide how long – 1 year or 2 years – to keep your Passive Papers, then put an annual date on the calendar with your shredder for old Passive Paper destruction.

ARCHIVAL PAPER

Archival Papers are the papers you will need in 5, 10, 20 or more years.  Archival Papers may include, but are not limited to: mortgage papers, car titles, certificates (birth, marriage, sacramental), passports and original social security cards, etc.

There are two tricks to handling Archival Papers.  The first is to be able to identify what is TRULY archival.  A couple questions to ask yourself:  Who else needs to know this info? Will it have bearing on my life or decisions in a year or 10 or 20?  Will someone ask me for this information some day?  How important was the transaction attached to this information?

Very few papers actually make it to Archival status, so you don’t need to dedicate too much space to them.  But the other important tip you need is to keep your Archival Papers SAFE. Invest in a portable fireproof safe, or a safety deposit box at the bank.

Invest a little time to day and this week to restore order in your home office.  Consider the various piles of paper in your space, determine what type of papers  you have, and plan your work and storage accordingly.

Productivity Series: What to Do With All the Receipts?

Last week, I started this Productivity Series with solutions for the desk dumping ground! A related question was “What to Do With Receipts? specifically receipts for filing business taxes?” I understand the connection  – I’ve seen dozens of desk cluttered with receipts!
Think about this.  Generally, we need to keep receipts for three reasons:
1. for the information contained on the receipt;
2. as a reminder of a next action to take; and
3. as a physical record of an action, in case you need to prove how money was spent.
Next, think about basic accounting. Money spent moves out of “Cash” and into a different category.  For example, buying a printer at Office Max / Depot moves money from my checking account into my office supplies / assets.
Reason #1: Manage the information contained on the receipt.  How much, to whom, for what?  And make it meaningful.
For example, my business recently spent $$ on:
  • a new printer and toner, a lamp and pens
  • advertising in the form of a charitable donation  / sponsorship
  • gas
  • day-care expenses
  • lunch at Panera
  • annual dues for my professional organization
  • UPS for shipping, on behalf of a client
Each expense I mentioned above would be listed under different Expense categories in my Quicken software.  Office supplies, advertising, Dues and Subscriptions, Meals and Entertainment, Automotive, etc.  These categories are pre-set in Quickbooks and Quicken, and you can also create new ones specific to your business. (I’m not recommending one type of software over another, just reporting on what I know).
Since my friend’s question was about Managing Receipts for Tax Time, I strongly recommend discussing category questions with your Accountant as you set up your system, to make tax time easier. 
Manage your bookkeeping regularly (and if you need help with this, I can suggest a few great people!).  My business books are simple.  I track my expenses and sales daily on a spreadsheet, entering it all into Quicken once a month with my bank statement reconciliation.  My next step is to streamline that process, and enter the daily info directly into Quicken.   Some businesses will need to do this daily, some can stretch to weekly or monthly.   Regardless of how often, We HAVE TO DO IT!
Once the categories are created, and your information for the year is entered, preparing for tax time is a matter of running your reports, and handing the reports and receipts over to your accountant
Reason # 2: Take The Action Required:
For example, in my list above, the actions are to input the information into Quicken, and then with the UPS expense, I need to collect payment from my client, for services rendered and also for the UPS expense.  When I manage my bookkeeping, I need to make sure the two items are entered separately – one for sales, and one for reimbursement.
Manage your bookkeeping, send the invoice, submit the expense report, etc.    JUST ACT!!!
After you record the information, and take the actions required, storing the physical records is easy.
 
Reason #3: Keep your receipts in a monthly folder.   This makes it easier to reconcile your monthly bank statement, and in the rare instance that you actually need to produce the receipt as proof of an expense, monthly files will make your items easy enough to find, without wasting too much time on filing.  Don’t bother with specific vendor files, chronological files should be detailed enough, since you’ve already recorded the information.
Wrap up your receipts with your tax returns, and store them for 4-7 years.  Random receipts for printer toner from 3 years ago should not be floating around your office!!
Imagine how clean your desk will be, with all the Receipts managed and easily filed away!`

Productivity Challenge: My Desk is a Dumping Ground!

Last week, I asked professionals to share their Organizing Challenges.  The first response was:

“My desk!   Working from home, I’m so busy keeping the rest of the house organized, everything gets dumped on my desk! (thanks MG!)”

Has this happened to you?  You’re ready to get down to business, but your motivation and energy drain away as you face a desk cluttered with

  • Mail
  • School papers
  • Shoes / socks / clothing / dry cleaning
  • Legos (maybe that’s just me)
  • Receipts
  • Other people’s keys, wallet, phone
  • Office supplies or craft supplies
  • the list could go on and on …
Whether you work from home or in a more traditional office setting, trying to work at a cluttered desk can be a struggle.  Sometimes other people drop the stuff, and sometimes we ourselves do the cluttering.  Sound familiar?! Here’s what to do!
  1. When you sit down to work, spend the first 10 minutes of activity putting the dumped stuff AWAY, and the last 10 minutes putting your own stuff AWAY.  Most of us work better in uncluttered space, so that is a great place to start!   If you can do this every day, the piles will be progressively smaller, and you won’t need 10 minutes anymore!  Dedicate that small block of time at the start and the finish – seriously, set a timer if that helps!
  2. Make sure important things have a home.  For example, everyone needs a special place to put their cell phone, keys and wallet.  Establish a home for these important items NOT on your desk top.  Near it, perhaps, but not on it!
  3. Carve out “My Space” and “Public Space”, if you can.  For example, I recently rearranged my work space, and added shelves. I’ve moved the items that other people need to the shelves next to my work space instead of on the shelf over my work space.  In theory, this will cut down on interruptions and also encourage others to put things away!
  4. Establish containers for regular offenders, to direct stuff to other places:  An In-box for papers coming in; trash / recycling / shredding bins close at hand for papers going out; an errand bag for mail to mail or library books to return, items to drop off to other people, items to be returned to the store, etc.
  5. Act on your action items: In a client’s home office last week, most of the desk top was occupied by items that required action or an errand.  For goodness sake, ACT on your action items!  Invest an hour or two to take the actions or run the errands that will clear away those piles, then revel in the uncluttered space.
  6. Do you drop the stuff, or do other people?  If other people are the problem, set the example: Respect your own boundaries!  Clean off your desk and your own clutter, so the offending items are very noticeable when someone else drops them on your work space!

Keep you work space as sacred space!  Give it the respect it deserves, and expect others to do the same!