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 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 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 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.

Clean Up Your Tech for National Clean Off Your Desk Day!

my portable office

my portable office

The Second Monday in January is National Clean Off Your Desk Day! If you look around, though, you may notice that desks and work spaces look vastly different than they did a few years ago!

My “desk” or “work space” is often just my smart phone, as I work through my days out with clients and at meetings.

Even in my actual office, I move between my laptop, IPad and smart phone as I work and connect with clients, or friends and family.  Here are 6 ways to organize your new and evolved “office”!

  1. Keep your tech items (laptop, tablets, smart / mobile phones) charged. Tech items are only good if they actually work.  Last year, my old IPhone battery slowly stopped holding a charge.  It became nerve-wracking, knowing I could run out of battery life at any moment.  Once I got my new phone, I realized how much I had stressed over the lack of battery life!  Save yourself some mental energy, and: make a habit of charging your stuff; keep extra chargers and cords in obvious places (like your desk at work, or in your car); and if a dying battery is a real concern of yours, invest in an external battery charger / power bank.
  2. Keep your tech items updated. Updates matter, and exist (in theory) to keep our tech items running smoothly.  Last Fall, I set my IPad and IPhone to automatically update, instead of trying to remember to update as needed (which I always forgot to do).  Again, one less worry.
  3. Keep your data up to date.  Create a habit of adding phone numbers and contact info into your phone as soon as it comes in.  Any time I receive a call or text from a new phone numbers, I add the contact to my list.  My habit is to not answer any calls from unknown numbers, too, so adding contact info helps me effectively decide what calls to answer and which to skip.  In addition, I connect my IPhone to my laptop multiple times a day to keep all the data current. I’m sure there is an automatic way of doing this, too, so I’ll need to research that!
  4. Clear your email clutter. This time of year, I have “Unsubscribe x 5” at the top of every day’s to-do list.  As I log into my personal or business emails, I un-subscribe from 5 unwanted ad emails, instead of just deleting them.  I am already noticing cleaner in-boxes!
  5. Clear your device / smart phone screen clutter. Clear screen clutter by keeping your most used apps on your first screen, deleting unused apps, and making folders for similar apps (like “travel” or “games”).
  6. Clean Your Tech, like actually clean, today!  Wipe down your cases, screens, keyboards, ear buds, etc.  Because, well – ewwww!

So how will you Clean Off Your Virtual Desk today?  Get to it, and good for you!

Productivity Challenge: Get Up! Sitting at a Desk is Bad for You! 

“Getting Up and Moving Around at Work” has been my intended topic for this week, but I find it amusing that I’m writing it while standing because my hip is sore. I’m blaming the high heels I wore to a weekend wedding, though it could have been the Cupid Shuffle at the reception!

The research is in, and it shows just how bad prolonged sitting at a desk is for our health, our productivity and our happiness.  Too much sitting increases obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and depression; and decreases metabolism, circulation and energy levels.  This challenge is compounded by the fact that so much of our leisure time is also spent sitting – driving, watching TV, sitting at home computers, eating, etc.  This sedentary and seated lifestyle is taking a toll on our bodies.  On a personal note, last winter I went to the Chiropractor because of intense lower back pain, and sitting too long at my desk was part of the problem.

There is a lot of information out there right now supporting standing-while-working and increased activity during the workday.  Standing up and moving around counteracts those negative physical effects of prolonged sitting.  There are also productivity benefits to standing and moving around (just google “productivity benefits of standing work stations”).  My energy and focus increase, while my stress decreases and my mood improves. Just by standing and moving around.

If you need more convincing, please do your own research – I did and I was amazed.  But how to incorporate this strategy into our day?  Try these:

1. Just Pay Attention. Making a change makes us pay attention to our current situation, and this usually leads to increased engagement and productivity.

2.  Include activity breaks in your blocked work time.  The Pomodoro Technique suggests 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of break; I’ve also read 50 / 10.  The premise is that our minds focus for a certain amount of time (25 minutes), and then our mind and our body need a break (and not just switching over to Facebook, or checking our phone).   A break means getting up and moving, stretching, breathing deeply.  My phone’s timer App can remind me to take my 5 minutes, or I can use my microwave timer if I’m home – it’s great because I have to get up to turn it off!  The 5 minute break could be standing, stretching, walking around the office; or if you work from home, play with the dog, toss in a load of laundry, make a cup of tea, etc.  Track your progress with a FitBit or activity bracelet.

3. Stay hydrated:  I have learned a lot since my first trip to the chiropractor last winter, including the fact that I was chronically dehydrated.  Add more water to your day, and you will get up and move a lot more, to re-fill your water bottle, and to use the wash room!

4.  Run your own errands.  Technology is great and convenient, but often it replaces actual activity.  Yes, you could send someone an email, but you could also get up and walk over to their work space.  Or drop off papers instead of using interoffice mail, or take a walk at lunch instead of ordering in.

5. Consider a standing Work Space, or other options.  The standing work space is gaining popularity (go to Amazon.com and check out the variety of options!).   We created standing work spaces in our home (here is what I am using right now),  and more traditional offices are offering standing options, too.   We don’t need to only stand, though – my massage therapist reminded me that standing all day could have its own negative effects.   So, change up your space, and include both seated and standing options.

Stand Up!  Don’t let that desk chair do you in, Get Up and Move Around to Feel Better and Work Better!

Productivity Challenge: Time Management!

This week’s Productivity Challenge is Time Management!
My associate writes:
“As a small business owner, we wear so many hats and have to stay on top of so many tasks.  
  • There are daily tasks, weekly tasks, monthly tasks; 
  • There are “big picture” issues to address – new product lines, new marketing ideas, personnel issues, all of the “where is our company headed?” type-stuff ; 
  • There are “small task” issues – placing orders with vendors, scheduling service calls, handling customer service issues, and even just answering the phone; and then of course
  • There are the “fires” that occasionally pop up that require me to drop everything and handle immediately. There is only so much time, and we work with a skeleton crew – so how can I better organize to stay on top of it all?”
As a fellow business owner, I can totally relate to all of these!  So, let’s tackle them one by one!
Managing the “daily tasks, weekly tasks, monthly tasks”.  With these recurring tasks:
  • Keep a Master To-Do List – a running list of everything that needs to get done.  I maintain my To-Do list in Evernote (a cloud storage notebook), so that I can access it from all of my devices.  I can even share my To-Do list (and other Evernote documents) with others, if I have info to share with staff or co-workers.  I have clients who use MS Outlook for the same purpose.   When I finish a recurring task for today on my Evernote list, I cut it and pasted it to the next day, week or month or whenever it is set to recur (For example, daily habits, weekly errands, and monthly billing and client care).
  • Actually block out time on your daily, weekly and monthly schedule for these tasks.  Make an appointment on your calendar, so other things don’t squeeze out these important tasks!  A client mentioned that her bill-paying was slipping and she was starting to incur late fees because she hadn’t blocked the time to manage her daily and weekly bookkeeping.
  • Attach paper / ideas / tasks to your time blocks, too.  For example, my Friday afternoons are blocked for bookkeeping tasks.  As bills come in, or tasks come up that are related to bookkeeping, I add them to Friday’s to-do list and tuck any paper bills in my Friday folder.

There are “big picture” issues to address – new product lines, new marketing ideas, personnel issues, all of the “where is our company headed?” type-stuff .

  • Big picture Issues:  We need to block time to make these big-picture discussions happen, too. They may not need to happen every day, but they are still important.  Have weekly check-ins with everyone involved, in person / Face time or via email, to touch base.  And once in a while (monthly, quarterly, etc.) Think BIG THOUGHTS!!! Set time aside, invite all the players / decision makers, go off-campus, set a time limit, and dive in!

There are “small task” issues – placing orders with vendors, scheduling service calls, handling customer service issues, and even just answering the phone.

  • There are no small tasks.  These “small tasks” are Our Work, whether they happen daily, weekly or monthly.  Communicating with our vendors and our customers – This Is Our Work! Even when these tasks seem small, they are really the most important tasks we can complete.
  • However…. we can still manage the flow of our work, to get more of Our Work done!
    • Phone calls can go to voicemail, or we can keep our calls polite but brief.
    • Emails rarely require an instantaneous response.
    • Do Not Reinvent the Wheel!  Figure out the best way to do something, and do it that way every time.  Those are your Standard Operating Procedures, and they create a uniformly excellent experience.  Start by creating standard email responses to frequently asked questions, and build from there.

And then of course there are the “fires” that occasionally pop up that require me to drop everything and handle that immediately.

  • Communication:  I received an email last week from my graphic designer: “I should be done putting out fires by XXX o’clock, I’ll call you then”.    Great way to handle it!
  • Flexibility is critical to time management success.  Having a Master To Do list means if we can’t get to something today, we can move it to the top of tomorrow’s To Do list.  Using Time Blocks are great, but we can block time later in the week just as easily as this afternoon.
  • Let me let you in an insider tip:  If you handle recurring tasks when they recur, manage the Big Picture and Small Tasks regularly – you will:  A. Have fewer fires to put out; and B. Be more prepared and able to quickly manage and put out the fires that to arise.

So, look at your task list today and this week, and consider how to manage your time and tasks to get your important work done!

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!

The Subtle Difference Between Efficient and Effective

I taught a Time Management Workshop last week.  I asked the participants “Why do you think your company chose Time Management as your professional development topic for today?”  A gentleman answered “So that my coworkers and I could be more efficient with our time”.

This was a very good answer.  I responded, “‘Efficient’ is great, and I’m sure your company indeed wants you to be efficient, because of course, who wouldn’t?”   But I went on to explain that “Effective” would be an even better way to manage our time.

Those two words, Efficient and Effective, sound very similar, and may even be used interchangeably in regular conversation, but I learned long ago in a senior management seminar that they have different meanings.  I explained:

  • “Efficient” is used to describe the least use of our resources.  If we do a job efficiently, we will spend the least amount of time, money, resources, man power to get the desired result.  That indeed may be what a company is looking for.
  • “Effective”, my preferred choice, describes the BEST use of resources.  We might spend a little more time, more effort or a little more money on something, but the outcomes will be much improved and we will deliver a better service or product.  Spending a little more time helps ensure the job is done well, and won’t need repeating, which saves $$ and time in the long run.

To illustrate, I used the example of a Trip to Costco.  For a small amount of money, I can purchase a ridiculously large bag each of rice and beans (like 25 or 50 lbs), and a couple of 12-packs of canned veggies. Spending just a little time, I can make enough rice, beans and veggies to eat every meal for weeks.  Cheap, quick to purchase and assemble, and relatively nutritious.

Sure, I could eat this for weeks, but why would I want to? This efficient use of my time and money would be unappetizing and, after weeks, my health would probably suffer.  We can see how efficient isn’t always best.

If, however, I spend a little more time and $$ in my planning, shopping and prep, I could still shop and eat efficiently, but I could also eat more effectively, enjoy my food and better health.  By adding some variety to my shopping list and to my menu and spending a little more money, I could eat and live better, which makes that little extra outlay a more effective use of my resources.

We had a visitor last week from Germany, and we went shopping on Michigan Avenue for some gifts for her family.  She was amazed at how pleasant and helpful the store employees were. She mentioned that she was used to efficient and competent customer service at home, but the helpful and chatty people made the shopping experience enjoyable.  So, the associates we worked with managed to be efficient, but, more importantly, also effective and improved their customer outcomes by being friendly and helpful.  And we probably spent more $$ at the stores because of this, which improves the company bottom line.

So, sometimes our work calls for us to be efficient, to work quickly and cheaply and get the job done. There is nothing wrong with Efficient.  But for a little extra effort and resources, we could do our work well and improve our results or outcomes.  We can be efficient and Effective, which would be even better.  And Effective brings us closer to Excellence, which would be better yet.

Goal Setting: So, What Are You Afraid Of?

A coaching client emailed me this question:

Good Morning, Coach Colleen!
Just touching base…
Not very successful in meeting last weeks’ goals.

Today I am asking myself –
What am I afraid of… if I was to let go of something?
I know what papers I want to toss or move – but I am holding on to something.
Hopefully we can move past this block.

My response (edited for confidentiality and content):

“Hmmmm….. what ARE you afraid of?”

We set goals because we want to achieve a certain outcome. We’re also aware there may be side effects from achieving those goals.  The fear of those side effects weighs us down.

  • This client has boxes of old papers to review and purge. She wants to wrap up the paper project before starting another. She has done great work in many ways, but reviewing and purging the papers in these these last few boxes feels scary, like she might let go of something important.
  • I heard the story of a client secretly afraid of an empty in-box. It seemed that if the in-box was empty, she wouldn’t have any more excuses for not doing the other harder, more emotionally painful tasks she’s been putting off.
  • A friend is worried that she’ll lose too much weight and then she’ll have to buy new clothes and it will be expensive. So she doesn’t even start.
  • I alternate between wanting to be super-busy and then freaking out because I’m so busy and can’t do all the things I want to do.

We all have fears, it’s how we face them – what we do with them – that matters.  If you ask yourself what you’re afraid of, your mind might not produce an answer.  If you’re feeling blocked, you can instead ask yourself, “What’s the worse that can happen?”

As in, “I’m conflicted about a possible outcome. It could be good, and it could be scary. So what is the worse that can happen if I achieve this goal?”

Using the weight loss example, what’s the worse that can happen?

  • We feel some discomfort with being hungry or sore from exercising, until our body adjusts (we can survive that, no biggie).
  • We lose weight and then have to buy new clothes (not really so bad).
  • We lose so much weight we look like one of those crazy skeleton people on the news (not really very likely, now is it?).
  • We work out so much we look like those freaky body builders (also not too likely).
  • There is the unlikely event that losing weight could cause other health issues, but the list of health benefits outweigh the fears.

In the case of this client, what’s the worse that can happen if she let go of the wrong papers?

  • Someone may ask for the information (sometimes the answer is “No, I don’t have that paper anymore” and sometimes we have to go out and find the answer again. Neither is too scary).
  • She may forget about it (if the paper represents something important, she will be reminded in other ways).
  • Again, the benefits of completing this paper project, and freeing up space in her house and schedule exceed the fears.

This afternoon I found this quote while working at a different client’s house, took a picture and texted it to my client. I loved her response:

“Wow, doing 365 things a year could make a person become ruthless [her goal is to objectively and ruthlessly purge her papers]! And then nothing will scare them!”

So face those fears, and make those lists. I bet what you fear isn’t so scary after all!

Building Productivity with Time Blocks

In the interest of time management, I’ll start this article with my conclusions:
  • Blocking out time to get important work done ensures intention and attention to that important work.
  • Transition times, like school days to summertime for me, provide an opportunity to reassess our time management practices.
  • Summertime can make us lax when it comes to productivity, but that doesn’t have to be the case!
  • We make appointments for other things, why not for specific tasks?
  • Strategies that work in one area of our life often can be used to improve other areas, too, if we just pay attention.
I complete important tasks daily, and you do, too.  I manage my business, family and home, and a number of volunteer roles in my Parish and Community.  I’m grateful every day for the gift of organization, both as a concept and as a skill I am blessed to possess.  And yet, I struggle with time, just like everyone else. We’re all trying to complete our important tasks, and also, occasionally, do things that we WANT to do, and not just NEED to do.
Last week, I was struggling with a particular volunteer commitment.  It seemed that, after spending client and business hours, and family and home hours (plus occasionally eating and sleeping), I couldn’t find time to work on this important category of tasks.  During a meeting, one friend suggested Time Blocking to another friend, as a way to move forward with productivity during the summer months (Thanks, Jill!).  I use time blocking all the time in other ways, so I grabbed onto the idea to help with my volunteer commitment.
Time Blocking is a simple and obvious concept:  We block out time on our calendar, 30 minutes or a whole day, to address specific tasks or types of tasks.   Time blocking means: 1. you know your high priority tasks and projects; 2. you set aside time each week to work on those specific tasks and projects; and 3. then you actually keep the commitment.
Consider this: I make appointments to work with my clients and we keep those appointments, because I am committed to my clients and my livelihood.  I find time for family and home because we have set hours for things, like school time and summer camp and meal times.  I’m invited to parties and events at specific times and for specific duration, and I make those parties and events happen, because I’m committed to the people involved and don’t want to let them down.   These are great examples of Time Blocking.
The real magic of time blocking comes from being specific about what will occur during the block of time.  Set blocks of time aside for a specific purpose.  I’ve blocked out an hour a day this week for business maintenance tasks, and each day has a specific category attached: bookkeeping and bill pay; client follow-up and emails; presentation preparation and booking, etc. Being specific, and working with intention for even a short period of time will move me towards my goals faster than unfocused wanderings. We don’t have to complete a project in our block of time, but we can at least make progress.
A client mentioned the bills didn’t always get paid on time because she hadn’t set aside time every week to pay the bills. I suggested Time Blocks, making an appointment with herself to pay the bills.
The plumber was coming to install a new laundry sink, so I blocked 20 minutes to de-clutter the laundry room before he arrived.
Applying Time Blocking to my challenge last week allowed me to just pay attention solely to one project, one category of tasks, for the allotted time.  It was quite a relief, actually, and I completed the tasks.
How can you use Time Blocking this week to be more productive?  Give it a try!

Small Business Week: Run Your Business (and Life) Like A Boss

The first full week of May is National Small Business Week.

I respect and admire my fellow Small Business owners.  We’re small but mighty!  Yet, for every day that we are doing great things in big and small ways, we also struggle. You know it’s true:  if you have a small business, very often you are all departments – bookkeeping, accounting, IT, marketing, manufacturing, legal affairs, strategic planning – rolled into one (or perhaps a few) busy and occasionally overwhelmed individual.  It’s the same on the home front, too – we fill many roles in our homes and families.

This week, as a busy woman and Small Business Owner, I am reminded, and also challenge you, to Be the Boss.  To Be The Boss, we need to:

  • Stick with our strengths – Know what SPECIFICALLY WE ARE GOOD AT, and focus on that;
  • Know what department / individual / outside source can help us with the other areas in our life or business listed below; and
  • Be willing to ask for help / delegate.

To Be the Boss, We need to know and stick with our strengths.  Professionally, I am great at Organizing, and teaching others how to be organized, too.  That’s where I need to spend my time, in the areas where I am an expert.  Consider this, if a client required plumbing skills or financial planning, we would call in other experts.  Having me do tasks I am not good at would be frustrating all around, a waste of my time and my client’s time and $$.

To Be the Boss, we need to realize that as a huge corporation or a solo-professional like myself, We all need support in certain expert areas, like:

  • Accounting
  • Financial Planning
  • Bookkeeping including Payables and Receivables
  • Legal Affairs
  • Marketing
  • Graphic Design / Printing
  • Web Site Design / Maintenance / Social Media
  • Advertising
  • Manufacturing
  • Distribution
  • Sales
  • Customer Service
  • IT / Tech Help
  • Administrative duties
  • Human Resources
  • Strategic Planning / Board of Directors

Consider this: a few years ago, I spent too many hours researching and considering the pros and cons to the different types of legal structure for my business – S or C corporation?  LLC? Sole proprietor?  An hour with an expert, namely my attorney, cleared up my confusion.  I didn’t have to become an expert, I could just ask the expert.  Since I started my business, I have learned a lot and met some really amazing people. Looking at the above list of support areas, now I can say I have experts working with me – a CPA, lawyer, financial planner, graphic design house and printer.

Be the Boss, and know when to ask for help.  Maybe you are good and even great in some of the support areas above. But if you spend time on these support tasks instead of the Expert tasks that only you can do, it’s time to Be the Boss, and find others to help you.  What tasks are you willing to let go of completely, or delegate to others?

For example, I need to focus on delivering Organizational Services and Presentations (what only I can do).  And I like running the business of my Business. So I’m considering what personal / home tasks I can streamline or outsource to professionals, while I focus on my strengths personally and professionally.  Support services for our home life could include:

  • Lawn maintenance
  • House cleaner
  • Laundry service
  • personal shopper / concierge service / errand running
  • child care
  • occasional pet care / dog walking
  • The list is endless, and there are people to do all sorts of tasks for us!

So, whether you own your own business or not, you, too, can run your Business and Life Like A Boss by sticking with your strengths, knowing what you need, and knowing when to ask for help!