Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Back to School Basics

It just doesn't seem possible that the new school year is already here. However, like it or not, school is about to begin again. Everyone wants this new year to be as good of an experience as possible.

Here are some tips to make this vision happen:
  1. Set the stage for a great experience.
  • Watch your attitude. As parents you have a strong influence on how your child views the upcoming year. Don't express doubts or worries you might have (I know that 3rd grade is tough.) but instead play up the positives (I understand there is a unit on dinosaurs this year.).
  • Take away the fear of the unknown. Visit the school together before school starts, talk about the schedule and the teacher in positive terms.
  • Provide a good example. Let your student see you enjoy reading or studying. Take trips together to a museum or science center.
  • Allow time for morning routines. Give extra time in the mornings to get ready. This is easier if bedtime is also earlier.
  • Teach your child to be self-sufficient. Have him do chores at home, develop checklists, have him lay out clothes and pack up for school the night before.
2. Develop good study habits.
  • Know peak work times and use them when scheduling homework.
  • Set up a calendar showing the study schedule.
  • Chunk up big projects so that the projects are not so overwhelming and so that your student can say "done" more often.
  • Use the calendar to show all commitments so you child is aware when he has after school activities, doctor appointments, music lessons and can then plan his studies and projects without setbacks.
3. Organize school materials.
  • Obtain and use a planner.  The planner should be checked every morning and evening.
  • Synch the planner with the calendar.
  • Organize notebooks, folders, and binders so that they are easy to use and find. Color coding for different subjects helps.
  • Organize and minimize study supplies so that they are easy to carry to school and to use at home. Check with the school supply list. Avoid buying "fun" items that are a distraction to learning.
  • Choose the best backpack for you child. Check to see if the school has any restrictions before purchasing.
  • Set up a file at home for all returned and graded school papers. Keep all papers until grades come out. If the grade lines up with what you have, then purge most of them only keeping the ones that show growth and creativity.
5. Individualize study to suit your child.
  • Know your child's learning style. Is he a visual, auditory, tactile, or kinesthetic learner? Use his strengths to  help him learn new material.
  • Make learning real. Use new skills in real life settings. Use math to shop or cook. Use reading to follow directions or enjoy a funny story. Use writing to make lists or write a letter.
  • Set up the best study environment for your child. Discover if he works best alone and with quiet or in the hubbub of the kitchen area where others are present.
For fun, start a "back to school" family tradition. Have a cookout before the first day of school or take a trip to a favorite place to eat where the children can order what they want. Talk about the joys and excitement of the upcoming school year. Have a surprise wrapped up for the children to open when they come home from school after the first day.

Let this be the best year ever!

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Backward Planning for Stress Free Projects

I frequently use and recommend backward planning as a time management tool when working on any project. Backward planning works equally well on smaller projects like planning a party or preparing a presentation, or on larger projects like moving or house renovation. Once you have developed your plan, you just follow the plan and relax knowing that everything is covered.

It works like this:
  • Start with the end in mind. What does the end product look like and how are you going to feel? Using a party as an example, I would envision that my home is filled with friends, there is an abundance of good food, and that I am enjoying this party as well as my guests.
  • Plan an end date. When does all this have to come together? When is the party? When is the move?
  • Do a brain dump of all the things that must happen in order for your vision of a perfect project to come true. For the party some items on my list are: make up a guest list, decide on a theme, send out save the date emails, choose invitations to mail, plan a menu, schedule extra yard maintenance, schedule extra house cleaning, decide what foods I am going to order and what ones I plan on preparing, make shopping lists, prepare the food, and set up seating areas.
  • Put your "do" list in a sequential order. For the party I started with who I was going to invite and ended with lighting candles and making cozy seating areas.
  • Give each item on the list a "do it" date. Several items can be done on one day but make sure each item has a time attached to it. Allow some wiggle room. Sometimes things happen so you can't do an item on your intended date so have a fall back time available. Also, start early. For a party I start the process two months out.
  • Now, just follow your plan.
The real advantage of using this system is that you won't have all these thoughts about the project squirreling around in your head and you won't worry about how you will get this accomplished. You just make your plan and then work your plan.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Open Your Mail!

Seriously, open your mail daily or at least weekly. Unless the envelope reads "to current resident" or it is very obviously an ad or plea for money, just open the envelope and see what is inside.

As a professional organizer I often help people sort paper and old mail. Here are some of the things I have come across.
  • Old checks made out to the recipient - sometimes 10 years old
  • A final notice that since the speeding ticket had not been paid (notices in other envelopes not yet opened) the drivers license was being revoked - right before a big road trip for this lady
  • Gift cards
  • Thanks for donations form letters - that should have gone into the tax folder
  • The car title of a car that the owner now wants to sell but she had not opened this envelope and gone to DMV to get the title in her name
  • Credit cards and debit cards that have not been activated - sometime duplicates sent at different times
  • Invitations to parties or weddings long past
  • Recall notices on items purchased
  • Warnings that utilities will be turned off if the bill is not paid because old bill were not opened and paid
Have a landing pad for all incoming mail. Immediately discard ads, catalogs, and any other obvious trash. Then open that mail daily or weekly and put the items in action folders or baskets so that all bills are in one place, all items to file are in one place, and any mail that requires an other action is in one place. Schedule a time at least once a week to deal with it. Then the mail never becomes overwhelming or fearful.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer