Thursday, September 29, 2011

To Do Lists

How do you manage your "to do" lists? As I work with clients, I see a variety of tactics. Some people have the little sticky notes or small pieces of paper everywhere. Others have small lists on envelopes, sheets of paper, or anything handy. Some keep running lists in a notebook. Others have lists on their computer or in their calendars. Almost everyone, including me, gets frustrated by the unfinished lists of "to dos."

I often help clients set up action files or folders for their "to do" items. Usually we set up two folders. One folder is for items that need to be done very soon and the other one is for items that are not so urgent. The trick is that sometimes there are important but not urgent items in the second folder that work their way up to "need to be done very soon" and if that second folder is not monitored, those items can get missed. I am beginning to think there should also be a third folder for things we would like to do someday but that aren't essential at this time. This could be more like a bucket list or dream folder.

For immediate "to do" items, I encourage putting only one item on an index card or paper. Place these papers in the folder. Don't worry about forgetting the tasks when the papers go into the folder because the crucial time related tasks should also be recorded on your calendar. When a task is complete, that paper can be thrown away. ( I have one client who likes to put her completed tasks in a jar to see how much she has accomplished!) For the other folder, you can either use single sheets or lists.

Now, here is the important part. Once a week - it could be a Friday or Sunday evening or a Monday morning, items should be taken from that "Urgent To Do" folder and actually scheduled on the calendar. I recommend scheduling 3 major things each day to accomplish that will move you toward your goals. When I try for more than 3 big things, I usually run into grief from over-scheduling. At least once a week, the secondary "To Do" folder should be reviewed. Schedule a couple of items from this folder if possible. At the very least, be aware of what is lurking in that folder.

Now, everyday when you open your calendar, the important "to dos" are already scheduled. At the end of the day, if an item did not get done, because life can intervene with the best of schedules, go ahead and move it to another slot immediately.

No system is perfect. I'd love to hear what has worked for you.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Project Meltdowns

It is very discouraging at times when you really want to complete an organizational project and it just isn't going the way you plan.
Sometimes it is just that life has become more complicated. Or perhaps this project is taking a lot longer than you thought it would. You feel so discouraged and are tempted to just give it up.
We all know that change is hard. We also realize that the disorganization in our life didn't happen overnight and neither will the change.
When this meltdown happens, it is really important to go back to your original vision and ask some questions.
  1. Why did I want this project done in the first place?
  2. Is my vision for the end result still true?
  3. Is it worth the effort?
  4. Do I need to rework my timeline and expectations?
Maybe you are trying to do too much too fast. Life does need to go on while you are working on this vision.
List all the things you have accomplished so far. Focus on this instead of what has not yet been accomplished.
Think about breaking some of the tasks into even smaller parts and reworking your timeline.
Check to see that old habits aren't slipping back and slowing the progress.
Reward yourself often as you move through the project.

"Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going." - Jim Rohn, speaker and author

For more insights, check out the chapter "Roadblocks and Setbacks" in my book From Vision to Victory: A Workbook For Finding a Simple Path to an Organized Home.
The book is available on my website -

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Quick! Where does it go?

Sit back and look at your desk top. If it looks like mine right now, it would make a good "before" picture.
Daily it is a struggle to conquer the mess on the desk. Yes, I know and I preach that every task should be put away before the next one begins. And often I do just that but sometimes ........
I have action files and that does make clearing my desk much easier when it does look like this.
Everyone's action files or desktop files may have different headings.
Mine are:
  • Read
  • File
  • Do
  • Pay
  • Pending/waiting for
  • Communicate
I also have my calendar, project bins, a trash can, and a shred box in the office.
So here is what I recommend. Set the timer for 15 minutes and put every thing on your desk in the correct spot.
Now what might be on a desk and where might it go? Always think what will be the first action with that item.

note scribbled on post-it note from last phone call - File
client info about rescheduling a session- calendar then File
notice of a committee meeting - calendar then Project bin
info on upcoming workshop I might want to attend - calendar then Pending
invite to a party - calendar then Pending
ideas for newsletter - File
phone message from auto shop - Communicate
notes from potential clients - Pending
ideas for an article - Do
solicitation for a new credit card - Shred
credit card bill - Pay
article pulled from magazine - Read
CD from workshop - Read (yeah I know, but that's where I would put it)

Now the desk is clear. I don't need to worry about forgetting items because all crucial items were first posted in my calendar.

What is on your desk? Quick! Where does it go?

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Friday, September 9, 2011

Decatur Book Festival

Last weekend was the Decatur Book Festival. This is one of my favorite yearly events in Decatur. Judith Kolberg, Diane Quintana, and I had a booth that offered organizational help, book coaching, and of course a chance to buy our books.
Judith, Diane, and I also had an opportunity to do a book signing at the booth of Eagle Eye Book Shop. Eagle Eye is so supporting of the local authors. They also carry our books year round.
I also enjoyed chatting with all the people who stopped by our booth to buy our books, look at our before/after pictures, share their organizational challenges or victories, talk about book ideas , or ask questions about the local NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) group. It was great to see and reconnect with people that I know and to meet new people who may become friends, clients, or colleagues.
It was also fun to visit the other booths. It is exciting to see the diversity of books and services that are offered. I also revel in all that good food and good food smells, the sound of people enjoying themselves, and the children's parades.
If you missed the opportunity this year to go to the festival, there is always next year. I am already looking forward to it.
If you missed the opportunity to buy our books they are available not only at Eagle eye but also at Squall Press My book is also available on my website -

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Workshop/Garage Zone

If you follow the zone plan of organizing one area of your home every month, September is a great month to tackle the garage or workshop area. It's getting a little cooler. It's time to think about putting away summer equipment and evaluating your current zone placements.
Start by listing all the zones this area has. Some possibilities might include yard/garden storage; tools and workshop area; storage of home repair projects; recycling center; storage of extra household purchases like paper towels, cleaning materials, or soft drinks; storage of items for outdoor entertainment; sports equipment storage; and if it is your garage, maybe even a zone for parking your car!
Next envision where to logically place these zones. For items that you use regularly, you will want your zones near the entrance. I want my bike near the front entrance for example. On the left side of my workshop one wall is all gardening/lawn equipment with the lawn mower near the entrance.
As you group your items together, look for containers that can hold your smaller items. All seed packets go in a clear shoebox or all gardening gloves in a basket or all small gardening tools store together in one container with a handle.
Utilize shelves, pegboard, and hooks to keep items off the floor. Don't stack items on top of each other because, for sure, you are going to want what is on the bottom. Keep wide walkways so that it is easy to access every zone, otherwise you will wind up just dropping items at the entrance instead of walking back and placing them in the proper zone.
Now grab a big black trash bag and purge in every area. Goodbye to old seeds, dried paint, gloves with holes, rusty nails. Use your broom and duster to clear away the heavy dirt and cobwebs as you go.
Once you are finished with this zone, reward yourself. Admire your clean, organized space. Now hop on that bike and ride up to the coffee shop!

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer