CLEAR YOUR SPACE…BE MORE PRODUCTIVE

mystery box
mystery box

A friend shared a blog posted with some quick easy organizing tips this morning and that got me thinking about productivity and organizing.  I try to keep a productivity voice to my blog – it’s what I do and who I am.  But, sometimes good old fashion SPACE CLEARING is the one thing you need to do to be most productive.  Everything I talk about is a cross between getting organized and being more productive – they are not separate, getting organized is what you do to make yourself more productive.  So in honor of Jodi’s post, here are a few tips to help you clear some space.

A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING: The greatest benefit of having a place for everything is NOT that you know where to find something when you need it (though that is lovely), it’s so you have a place to put things so they are not sitting around cluttering up your physical or emotional space.  I always think more clearly when my space is clear and it only takes a moment to put things in their place.  Having THE place is the secret.  Here’s an example:

  • Unattached or Unidentified Cords and Wires – everyone has them.  My solution is to create a MYSTERY CORDS and WIRES BOX.  When I’m looking for a cord or wire I know exactly where to go look.  But the best part is that cords don’t clutter my surfaces, if I have one I toss it in the box.

LESS IS MORE: Seriously it is.  When you have too much stuff you can’t see what’s important.  If you leave everything out so you can find it you won’t really be able to find anything.  The #1 tip for keeping stuff under control is to have less.  It’s less to take care of, less to manage, less to clean.  And the reality is you don’t NEED everything you think you need.  We keep stuff to make ourselves feel better and it actually makes us feel worse.

  • I challenge you to an experiment. Pick one thing today (pens, Tupperware, magazines, business cards) and do a purge.  Divide them into 3 piles – love, don’t need and not sure.  Donate the “don’t needs”, put back the “loves,” and tuck the “not-sures” out of the way for access later just in case.  Let me know if it’s not easier.

START WITH A CLEAN SLATE: When you start fresh it’s so much easier to make good choices.  Start planning your week with a fresh to-do list, start working for the day with a clear desk surface, start cooking dinner with a clean kitchen, start figuring out what you need for your fall wardrobe by organizing your closet.  Leaving old stuff just clutters everything up.  Clear your space and you WILL be more productive.

Organized Enough? Time – Energy – Peace of Mind

Organized Enough?
Organized Enough?

The only reason to get organized is to get something you want but don’t have.  I’m sure you’re familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but have you ever thought about this from an organizational perspective.  Getting organized and being more productive is a direct way to satisfy a basic human need.

But how do you motivate yourself to GET ORGANIZED?

Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want:

  • Don’t say: I can never find anything
  • Do say: I want to be able to find what I need it when I need it

Understand the benefits of getting organized:

  • Your most important work gets done
  • You waste less time looking for things you know you have but can’t find
  • You spend less money buying things you know you already have
  • You have peace of mind and are able to enjoy life more

Define “organized” on your own terms:

  • Organized doesn’t mean pristine or perfect
  • Organized means you can find what you need when you need it
  • Let go of perfection and go for “organized enough”

My motivation to be organized is Peace of Mind What’s yours?

The Holding Zone

The Holding  Zone
The Holding Zone

On the quest to minimize paper I will share with you a tip that helps me a lot.  I have a designated holding zone.  This is where I put things that I don’t need now, but am not quite ready to do something with or get rid of.

Remembering the proven statistic that 80-85% of all papers put into files are never referenced again it helps to explain the purpose of the Holding Zone.  Think of it as a step on the path to the recycle bin, but with the opportunity to retrieve it if need be.  When I do my weekly office organizing session I work to make all the paper go away.  But there are always a few things that I am not quite ready to toss and don’t want to put into my reference files or my action system.  My solution is to pop them right into my holding zone.

It is important to go through the holding zone ever 2 or 3 months to see what can be moved out (filed, recycled or act on) so this area remains functional, otherwise you’ll just end up with an out-of-control mess.  (To get into the habit, I recommend you calendar “process holding zone” every other month.)

The holding zone can be a file, a bin, a basket or a level of a letter tray.  I use a letter tray because that’s easy for me.  What kinds of things do I have in my holding zone? Here’s a sampling:

  • The certificate for the two hours of tech support I won at the silent auction
  • Notes from a project that I completed but want to keep around for a bit just in case
  • A sample of a marketing campaign from a local theater that I liked and might want to do something with
  • An idea for a product that I might want to do something with

Once again, remember that if the system isn’t easy, it’s too hard.  Find an out of the way yet accessible place and set up your holding zone today.

 

Ode to a Suit – Letting Go Is Hard

waiting for pick up
waiting for pick up

I spent some time in our storage room on Sunday getting rid of stuff.  My business wardrobe from the ’80’s is now sitting on the front stoop waiting for pick up from the Vietnam Vets (www.ScheduleAPickUp.com).

Sunday morning I wasn’t aware that those suits were even in my home.  Today I’m sad.  It is the end of an era (NO ELLEN – that era was over long ago – no respectable women feels like they have to dress like a man today).   But, I’m highly confident that tomorrow I will have forgotten that those suits have moved storage locations.   I have a picture of my favorite navy suit – I wore it for a photo shoot for a hotel I managed – it’s in the brochure.  That’s much better.

Goodbye skis I bought before Alex was born (soon to be 21), I’m sure you’re not safe anymore.  Pack ‘N Play that I kept in case someone needed one…I suspect your not safe anymore either – but I’ll leave that up to the experts to decide.  So long work bins I’ve evolved out of…it’s time for you all to go back to the universe and to someone who can really use you.

Ellen Delap (www.professional-organizer.com) posted a great Psychology Today article earlier this week about what happens to the brain when we let go of something.  Letting go activates the part of the brain that is tied to identity…like you are giving away a part of yourself.  Author Kelly McGonigal Ph.D. talks about how to strengthen your willpower and separate. (And for my NAPO colleagues – it’s very cool that both experts sited in this article were our keynote speakers at NAPO2013).

Interesting…I already feel better with my stuff out of the house – but it did sting for a second.

Sometimes Doing Nothing is the Most Productive Thing You Can Do

Kripalu
My Favorite Thinking Spot

If you’ve subscribed to my weekly tips for awhile you’ll know that I try to get away a couple of times a year for a few days of retreat.  I’ve just returned from Kripalu (http://kripalu.org/about_us/435/) and feel much more clear and focused.  I’m pretty sure that this quiet week of learning and renewal is one of the best things I do to keep myself productive.

With the numerous demands in today’s crazy-busy world, good productivity practices focus on doing the work that matters most.  But, when our minds are full, and bodies exhausted, it’s hard to think clearly enough to know which exactly those things are.  Quite and reflection helps me to identify where in-fact my priorities lay. It helps me identify what my most important work is.

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Free Isn’t Really Free

I went to a great meeting yesterday with a lot of free give-aways. I saw people taking and taking and taking. I kept thinking “Where are they going to put it all?” I thought about what it means to bring all this stuff into our homes and offices. Free isn’t really free. Bringing something into your space costs you in many different ways:

  • Freebies take your time – now you are going to have to make time to put it away. How much time will it take you to make a space for it so it can be useful? How much time will it take to figure out how to use it and when to use it?    Continue reading »

Focus Your Efforts

A crucial element of effective organization is to focus your efforts on something specific.  Work a small area at a time and don’t move on until that area is complete.

  • It is much more effective to spend one hour organizing a small area like a shelf, or a box, or an inbox than it is to spend it on a big area such as an office, a kitchen, or a file cabinet.
  • When you only do a little bit in many different areas the impact is minimal and nothing permanent gets accomplished.
  • When you do a specific space from top to bottom you end up with an organized space.

I call this my eye-dropper metaphor.  When you put a few drops of water here, a few drops there, and a few more drops somewhere else, you just have little puddles of water; but if you focus your resources into one specific space then you end up with something to show for your efforts.

Full Glass of Water

Pull the Weeds So the Flowers Can Thrive

We weed our garden so the nutrients and water are available to the flowers. If we leave the weeds they end up sucking the vitality from the soil and our flowers might die; certainly our flowers will be healthier without them.

Are there weeds sucking the vitality out of your life? Are they on your schedule, in your self-care, on your desk?

  • Are there things on your schedule that take more than they give? Is it time to pull that weed?
  • Is there something that you can stop doing (or start doing) to take better care of yourself? Is it time to weed your choices?
  • Is there clutter in your space that’s making you less effective, stifling you, or slowing you down? Is it time to weed your space?

I’m sitting here at my desk with the window open listening to the birds singing. Certainly spring has sprung here in New Jersey. As we move into spring think about which “weeds” you can pull so the most important things in your life can thrive.

Top 3 Tips to Maximize Working from Home

A lot has been written in the news about working from home. I understand why Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo has put an end to it for her company – a lot of people who say they are working from home, do everything but work. Working from home is a privilege I wouldn’t want to lose. Here are my top 3 tips for maximizing the opportunity:

  1. Outline a Daily Plan – Be clear in what you want to accomplish. Write out specifics identifying what you want to get done. It could be a part of one big project, or many little tasks – but write it down.
  2. Make a Daily Schedule – project how much time each item on your plan is going to take and plug it into a schedule. Don’t forget the time you need to let the repairman in or to pick up your child from school. When you see your day in black-and-white it will help you from frittering time away.
  3. Create Space – I’m a huge advocate for creating effective work space. You’ll need a clear space that isn’t cluttered with distractions that take you off your game. It could be a desk, a table or a big comfy chair – but be sure that you have room to spread out. I also suggest that you have a printer close by and basic office supplies (stapler, pens, highlighters, post-its, binder clips, etc.). It’s a huge time-suck to have to keep getting up for essentials.

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