Tuesday, January 31, 2017

February is Time Management Month

Good time management is really good choice management. We can't save time. We can't speed up or slow down time. We all have the same 24 hours or 1,440 minutes a day. It's up to us to spend it wisely.

Easy to say - harder to do.

Below are 9 tips to help you stay in control of your day:
  1. Know how you are using your time now. Track how you are using your time for a couple of weeks. The first week you might track Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The second week you might track Tuesday and Thursday. Add in weekend days if that is also an issue. Use a timer and every 1/2 hour make a quick note of what you are working on. No cheating! (Wow, the timer is about to go off, I'd better log off Facebook and pay some bills!)
  2. Notice what interrupts your time and pulls you off task. Do you answer every phone call? Do you really need to? Do you have an audible alert when emails come in? Do you check them when they come in? Do friends or colleagues feel they can drop in at any time? Anytime you are pulled away from a task, make a written note of what you were doing just before answering the phone or talking to the person in your doorway. That simple task locks in the importance of your task and makes it easier to return to it.
  3. Never multitask. Having said that, you can fold laundry and talk to your husband. You can go for a walk and mentally put together a plan for tomorrow. What you can't do is write a report and talk on the phone or pay your bills while checking emails. Neither task will get your full attention. It is exhausting for your brain to keep switching back and forth. The adrenaline rush will hurt your concentration. There is no way you can get into the zone where work flows easily. Do one thing and do it well.
  4. Know your priorities. What is important to you today? What 3 big tasks need to be worked on or completed? Are you keeping in mind other priorities besides work? Is exercise and a time to eat a healthy meal a priority? Is family time a priority? Keep in mind that some priorities are not urgent things to do today but tasks that will help you down the road.
  5. Use your calendar. The calendar is your friend. I like calendars where I can see the whole month. Every appointment, every obligation, every birthday/anniversary is seen at a glance. As soon as I have a known date for a commitment I put it into my calendar. Long term projects are put on the notes side of the calendar of the months that I intend to devote the time on.
  6. Use a daily schedule. My calendar holds the big things, but my daily schedule has the details. This is where I not only have down what I plan to do for the day but also when I plan to do it and how long I have allowed for the task. I work in transition times between tasks. When life happens - and it does - and I know I will not get through everything on my schedule, I pause and do triage. I pick out what must get done and move the rest to later in the week.
  7. Know your peak production times. These are the times you schedule the tasks that are more difficult and require concentration. For me, I kick in about 9:00 am and need to stop the morning by about 11:30. In the afternoon I can get into heavy lifting around 1:00 and am getting weary by 5:00. Anything I do after that is mostly automatic non-thinking tasks.
  8. Delegate. Some tasks I know I do not have expertise. Some tasks I can do very well but I choose to use my time on another task. So I pay for others to do these tasks. I also am lucky in that my husband is willing to run errands for me like taking items to Goodwill or going to the post office. I have clients who can delegate some tasks to their children like taking on the shredding. Don't try to do it all.
  9. Come to each day rested and spend some of the day on you. If you are not rested, well nourished, and centered you will not concentrate on tasks at hand. On your daily schedule allow time for breaks, meals, whatever centering practices that you use, and a decent bed time.
Look over the above list and choose a couple to concentrate on for February. I would love to hear some of your wins.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Seize the Day

"Don't be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of." ~ Charles Richards

Every now and then we get a much needed reminder about how important this is.

Yesterday morning I had a job that ended at 2:00. At that time I checked my phone for messages. I had one from my husband telling me that he had to check into the emergency room of the hospital that afternoon and that probably he would have an operation tomorrow - maybe to remove a kidney. I was at least 35 - 40 minutes from home. I called him back to say I was on my way. On the drive home, I called (hands free device) a person that I was to have a coaching call with that evening. I made lists in my head of who I had to contact to shut down my business for at least this week and to give a "heads up" to the person I was giving a presentation with this Saturday.

I arrived home. My husband had his bag packed. He expected me to drive him to the emergency room and come home. Was he crazy? I immediately packed a tote bag with paperwork, a book, my calendar, chargers, my iPad, a bottle of water, and a sandwich. I knew my way around that hospital and the emergency room pretty well as I had spent a lot of time there with my previous husband before he died. I was scared but at the same time trying very hard to put positive spins on the situation. I did not want to attract bad karma.

After many hours, more tests, and phone calls to the doctor who wanted him admitted and the surgeon on duty, it was decided that this was not an emergency nor was an operation necessary. Instead of looking at a kidney, they were looking at appendicitis and the medicines the doctor had already prescribed when he thought he was probably treating diverticulitis was doing the job on the appendix. That evening we were released to come home.

The evening sky was lovely, the house was warm and inviting, the cats were waiting , and we were very happy. Today, since my clients were already cancelled, I took the time to do some extra coaching calls, set back up the rest of my week, and really savor the joy of sleeping in late with my husband and going about a more leisurely and reflective day.

We never know what the future holds, so let us all remember to love and savor the now.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Reduce Tax Stress - Maintain a Yearlong Tax File

Don't lose your dining room table for a month while working on taxes. One of the files you should have near your desk is your tax folder. I like mine a bright red and it sits behind all of my standard desk files in my file drawer.

All through the year, anything that comes in that is related to taxes should be dropped into this file. Don't take time at this point to sort them. It is more efficient to sort them when you seriously start to work on your taxes. Acknowledgements of contributions, real property tax statement, monthly mortgage payments, medical expenses, motor vehicle registration, etc. are examples of what you put into your folder. If you have a business, you will need your business receipts. Have an envelope for each month and after you enter the amount into your budget or QuickBooks, just drop the receipt into the envelope.

About this time of year forms begin to come in. Look for W-2 forms, 1099 forms, SSA-1099 for Social Security, investment interest expenses, Roth account statements, IRA forms, your end of year tax stub, and more.  Watch for the forms that you expect and drop them into this folder.

I keep in the same drawer my tax papers from last year. I use this document as a template to make certain all forms are in. Your CPA may also have sent you a checklist. When I pull out last years tax paperwork and look it over, that's when I remember to get my mileage log out of the car for my business deduction or call any group that have not yet sent me a needed form.

Call your CPA and set an appointment as soon as you feel everything is in or if you do your own taxes, set aside on your calendar a couple of large blocks of time to organize the paperwork and put it on the correct forms.

Doing the tax preparation is never fun but it is a lot easier if you have kept everything in one place.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Plan Your Transition Times

Managing how we use our time is always a challenge. There is so much to do and we want to do it all. We try to prioritize but we almost always over-schedule. I see this over and over again and struggle with it myself.

One of the big problems is not scheduling transition times.

For example, you have a meeting with a teacher at the school or a networking meeting at a coffee shop. The meeting is scheduled for 3:00 and will last 30 minutes to an hour. Block out the hour. Then realize that you must gather items to take to the meeting and that you must get yourself out the door and into the car (one more trip to the loo and then pouring coffee into your go cup does take time) so add 15 to 30 more minutes. You have to drive to this meeting so add on that time remembering that the meeting is to start at 3:00 so by 3:00 you should be in the meeting place sitting down and saying "hello" - not pulling into the parking lot. You have the meeting. It is now 4:00. You have to drive home - in rush hour traffic. Allow time for that. You arrive home. Now you need to schedule any action that came out of that meeting (set up study times with your child, reread and file away notes from the meeting, write a follow up email, schedule the follow up meeting) and clear your desk of anything you took to or brought back from the meeting. In reality, your one hour meeting needs about a 3 1/2 block of time.

The same can be said for working at home on a project. When you work on a project you usually have to get things out to use. For example, if you are working on your taxes you need to assemble all the required paperwork. If you are working on cleaning out a closet you want to assemble all the cleaning items, donation boxes, trash bags, etc. Then you do the project. Now you have a natural disaster of papers to file away or clothes to return to the closet, trash to take out, and donations to go to a donation site. You must allow time to clean up after any project so that you are ready to work on the next item on your list. We tend to forget how long all of this takes and then get discouraged that we don't complete all of the items on our "do" list for the day.

My challenge to you is to pull out your daily calendar and look at what is scheduled for the week. Have you allowed enough time for each required item? Make adjustments as needed. Now, breathe. You can do anything just not everything.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Organizing the Office Zone

For years I have been maintaining my home using a Zone Plan. This plan has me touching everything in my home at least once a year. When I work in my designated zone each month, I declutter and get rid of anything I no longer need or love.

The first zone I work on each year is my office. After a year, files are way too stuffed. Project bins are still hanging around even if the project has been completed. Some new items have been added and not enough stuff has gone away. So now is the time to look open-eyed at the office and work my plan.

  1. What is bothering me in this zone?
  • Clutter
  • Too much on the desk top
  • Files too full
  • Too much  paper lying around screaming  "do me"
     2. How do I want my office to look and feel?
  • Uncluttered
  • Clean
  • Welcoming
  • I want to feel productive and happy
  • I want empty space to allow for growth
     3. What do I need to do to meet this vision?
  • Clear our all desk drawers and the desk top
  • Purge files and remove what is now archival to another place
  • Clean out bins of completed projects and ready the bins for new material
  • Clear all surfaces - leave out only what I need and love
  • Declutter and organize bookshelves and the storage credenza
  • Deep clean room
      4. Schedule times to do each task.
  • Pull out calendar and see what times are available to work on zone
  • Write on calendar what tasks I plan to do on available dates - not only date but also time of day
By the end of the month, I will say "good enough". Daily and weekly maintenance are scheduled but I won't have to visit this zone again until next January. I reward myself with fresh flowers on my desk and make my plan for the next month in a new zone!

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer