Posts Tagged ‘organize’
I recently joined two organizing-industry committees that study organizing trends, and I’ve detected a clutter tsunami coming our way.
- Aging, first-tier Baby Boomers will continue to downsize now that the housing crisis is over and they are seeking outlets for their excess clutter.
- Second-tier Baby Boomers, hit hard by economic swings, will cash-in their home equity, shed excess, and become more mobile.
- Gen Xers, concerned about job security, will want to continue their dominance as home-based business owners in their basements, attics, and rooms left available as their kids go off to college.
- Gen Y, could well be sandwiched between their Boomer parents and children with all three generations living together in precious space that has no room for clutter.
- And if you think Gen Z wants to inherit the stuff from other generations, think again. They’re totally into small living quarters, with techy, multi-purpose furnishings unlike their parents or grandparents.
We’ll all need to employ a great number of de-acquisition methods to stop from being carried away in the flood of clutter. That means, not just charitable donations, recycling, and consignment but also using specialty sales sites like moveloot.com for furniture; decluttr.com for games, DVDs, and CDs; thredup.com for clothing; and usell.com for electronics. CraigsList and Freecycle are unbelievably effective in eliminating stuff. Just observe a few common sense safety measures (here and here) before you take advantage of them.
Check out our “Get Rid Of Your Stuff” flashcards to help organize and declutter.
Hey, you don’t need to be great at all these methods. Go to www.napo.net to find a professional organizer who can help you. In Georgia, that would be FileHeads at 404-231-6172, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Digital Estate Planning
It’s a new year. A fresh start. Let’s get your affairs in order. If, God forbid, you suddenly died or became incapacitated, you not only need a Will, a designated Executor and Power of Attorney, and a Living Will, but also a Digital Estate Plan. A Digital Estate Plan:
- Provides for the safe transference of passwords, user codes and other log-in information to your Executor or other authorized representative.
- Creates a “paper trail” for online or web-based accounts which often have no statements or paper trail.
- Accounts for digital assets that might be overlooked by your estate.
- Records your wishes regarding social media and protects you from unauthorized access by identity thieves and other digital mischief-makers.
- Centralizes all your digital information in one place.
It’s impossible to put a price on that kind of peace of mind. Let me sit by your side and create your confidential Digital Estate Plan with you for just $250.00*. On average, it takes about 3 hours to create a Digital Estate Plan if you do a bit of easy preparation before the session (we’ll send you a simple preparation checklist prior to the session.) You can schedule two 1½-hour sessions or one 3-hour session, whatever is convenient for you. Simply shoot me an email to Judith@fileheads.net with ‘DEP’ in the subject line and we’ll nail down a time.
And here’s another benefit. Doing a Digital Estate Plan for yourself positions you to provide Digital Estate Plan services to your clients by becoming a certified Digital Estate Plan Consultant. Contact me at Judith@fileheads.net or 404-226-1381 for more information.
Here is a free Digital Estate Plan checklist to get your new year started right!
*Some Digital Estate Plans are incredibly complex. Some people don’t prepare at all in advance of their session. These factors can result in a higher fee. But you’ll always be informed beforehand if we cannot honor the $250.00 quote.
Getting Kids Organized
Got kids or grandkids that need help with their nascent organizing skills? Start them young! I want to congratulate my colleagues and friends, Diane Quintana and Jonda Beattie, on the publication of their children’s books, Suzie’s Messy Room and Benji’s Messy Room, both available at Amazon.com
September is Disaster Preparedness Month. Recently I was interviewed by a Los Angeles Times reporter writing an article about things we might forget to do during a disaster. Stress is high. The brain gets overwhelmed. We’re often sleep deprived. It is a perfect storm, if you’ll excuse the pun, for forgetfulness. I am the author of Organize for Disaster: Prepare Your Family and Your Home for Any Natural or Unnatural Disaster and while it’s a great book, you won’t find these ‘Don’t Forget’ tips in it. Disaster preparedness is a very dynamic field. After every disaster, there is always more to learn and implement into our own personal disaster preparedness plans.
So, what might you forget to do?
Don’t forget to periodically download to a flash drive, digital information such as the account numbers and log in information for your web-based bank and brokerage accounts. Make sure you give the flash drive to a designated authorized representative, Executor or Power of Attorney in the event of your incapacitation or death or in the event the disaster wipes out the Internet. See my Creating Your Digital Estate Plan for more tips.
Don’t forget to download a local disaster preparedness app on your phone. A local app is going to tell you about school closings, shelter locations and roads that are flooded. Get one from your state Emergency Management Association or your county American Red Cross office.
Don’t forget to pack a cell phone charger in your disaster kit. I like this one. Solar chargers are good too, but then again many disasters are sunless events.
Don’t forget to set up a Twitter and a Facebook account. You will find it a useful way to communicate with family, friends and co-workers during a disaster even if you don’t use it for any other purpose.
Don’t forget to rehearse your home evacuation plan in the daytime and in the dark of night.
If you want to learn more ways to protect your family and home in the event of a disaster, I recommend my book, Organize for Disaster: Prepare Your Family and Your Home for Any Natural or Unnatural Disaster.
Other Posts You Might Enjoy
Calendar of Upcoming Organizing Events
Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) Annual Conference and Exhibition – September 17-19, 2015, Cleveland, OH, Exhibitor
Professional Organizers of Canada, Virtual Chapter, January, 2016
National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) Annual Conference and Exhibition. May 18-21, 2016, Atlanta, GA. Workshop TBA
How amazing is it to be able to work anywhere without regard to outlets, wires, walls, offices, or bosses? Latest statistics reveal the average American uses up to 3 mobile devices daily (source: McAfee.com.). The untethering of people to computing has made productivity shoot up. But just because we can work anywhere, anytime, doesn’t necessarily mean we should. That’s because no matter how mobile we are, different kinds of work still require different kinds of environments. Strategic planning, brainstorming, creative projects, and large group work thrives in open spaces with lots of light and windows and plenty of space to spread out. Loud talk, patching in people via Skype, and lots of input that might otherwise be considered interruptive are welcome in this scenario.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is intense, solitary work such as analysis and writing. This is best accomplished in smaller, quiet spaces, such as study cubbies at the library where you turn off your cell phone and interruptions are held to a minimum. A client of mine does her professional reading in the lobby of a local hospital across the street from her office. “That’s where I hide,” she tells me. Another client checks into a hotel for two days to do her taxes. “Only my family knows how to reach me. After working a few hours, I can take a swim, workout in the gym, or get a massage. Meals are convenient and the whole idea of a dedicated place seems to make me more productive.”
Kind of in the middle of the spectrum is purposeful small team or committee work that benefits from a lot of collaboration, decision-making and accountability. This is best accomplished in an environment of small tables, chairs that swivel, and an easy way to take notes or minutes.
The benefits of technology, especially computers, are crucial for any kind of productive work, but the physical environment also plays a huge role. Teachers in classrooms have known this for years. Steelcase recently conducted research on this topic concluding that even an ergonomically comfortable chair on rollers attached to adjustable work surface improves kids’ concentration.
When choosing the best place for working on a task, ask yourself these questions:
- What is the task to be accomplished?
- What level of focus does the task require?
- What physical setting would best support the task?
If you want to learn more about how our world has changed into one full of infinite information, constant distractions and boundless stuff, I recommend my book Getting Organized in the Era of Endless: What to Do When Information, Interruption, Work and Stuff are Endless But Time is Not.
Other Posts You Might Enjoy
Wednesday March 19, 2014, 8pm-9pm ET Price: $79.00
We are overwhelmed by information and yet many of us can’t seem to get enough of it! In this teleclass, you’ll hear the latest research about why information turns us on and makes us seek even more. Information turn-on can be especially harmful in the era of endless information in which we live because it can diminish productivity, steal precious time away from other activities, and overwhelm us. You’ll learn how to assess information turn-on in your life, methods to help filter information, who to determine when ‘enough is enough’, how to implement ‘the new stopping points’, and social media rules of engagement. These new skills are practical and easy to implement. (For those in the organizing trade, assessing and addressing information turn-on can be directly transferred to your clients, increasing your service offerings, and enhancing your unique value.)
** Classes are recorded. Registrants have access to mp3 audio recordings of each class in case you miss one!
See other classes
Coping with Endless Connectivity, March 20, 2014
Information Afterlife and Digital Estate Planning, April 17, 2014
We’re All Time Managers, April 23, 2014
Organizing in the Era of Endless, 4 Teleclass Series
Any questions, please contact our Teleclass Techie, Allison Carter, at email@example.com, or call (678) 439-8866
Decision-making is a great life skill. Decisions move myriad little daily tasks along to accomplishment, allow us to make progress on complex projects, and keep us on the path toward goal achievement.
Chronically disorganized (CD) people love the thrill of the hunt for information to help them make a decision, but the activity of actually making decisions — not so much of a thrill there. And now that we are living in the era of endless information, the hunt for information can undermine decision-making even more. Truly, we can search the bottomless pit of information endlessly and still there would be more.
“I’ve got to decide what my students need to read each semester,” says “Lisa,” a college professor. Lisa prepares her students’ reading list by reading academic journal articles, reviewing e-books, watching videos, listening to podcasts, and reading blogs.
“I love this part, the actual hunting down of information,” Lisa says. “It’s like being on a safari.” She’s so afraid she’ll miss something vital to her students’ education that she endlessly prepares right up to the deadline when the course curriculum and reading list are due. “I run out of time to decide what to include and exclude because I get so caught up in the search. It’s always so stressful.”
Another woman spends as much time researching a new backpack for her child as she does his summer camp.
Quoting psychologist Kent Berridge in an article on Slate, Emily Yoffe writes, “[Information addicts] become obsessively driven to seek [a] reward [on the Internet], even as the reward itself becomes progressively less rewarding once obtained. … [W]e find ourselves letting one Google search lead to another. … ‘[T]he consumption renews the appetite.’
Just sitting in front of a screen can be a burst of a pleasurable mood for some of our clients (a “dopamine squirt,” I’ve heard it called). And then there is all that wonderful “serendipity information,” the accidental and incidental good stuff our chronically disorganized clients encounter on the way to what it is they are looking for.
Are We Done Yet?
Endless information can also cause some people to freeze altogether when it comes to decisions. Many people, CD or not, often choose the default 401(k) plan at work or automatically renew a health insurance policy without considering alternatives because “there is just too much information.”
Endlessly adding data, more information, and inputs leaves us precious little time to stand back; and it is this standing-back, this bit of pull-back, that allows us a little cognitive space for judgment to be applied so we can tell if we’re “done.” Being done is increasingly a moving target when comprehensive information knows no bounds and there are so many decisions to make.
So what are some organizational moves to enhance your ability to make decisions?
- Research/search in proportion to the consequences or risk. A wrong decision about a backpack has much less consequence than a summer camp, so devote less time to it and be a little more proportional in time and effort based on the risk involved.
- Set “done” or “enough” ahead of time. Set a quantitative limit (rather than a qualitative limit) to your informational pursuits (for example, three hours of research, three different brands of backpacks, and five camp selections).
- Pull-back. After amassing information for a project or assignment, plan time to pull back, assess what you have, figure out what’s missing, and fill in the gaps, rather than just going and going.
- Decision-making “freeze” and default decision-making can be the result of a deadline’s approach. Add more lead time to your projects. It may be hard to estimate how long it takes to search and digest information.
- Offload serendipity information and save it to the side to look at later so you won’t be distracted from the main search, research, or informational hunt.
And finally, be at peace with your decisions. Making decisions large and small, living with those decisions, and moving onto the next decision is healthy.
If you are paralyzed by decision-making, live in fear of making a wrong decision, or are obsessed about finding just the right information, seek the advice of an experienced ICD professional organizer or a counselor with anxiety specialization.
Making decisions is a good use of time. Decision-making moves a myriad of little daily tasks along to accomplishment, allows us to make progress on complex projects, and keeps us on the path toward goal achievement. In the Era of Endless when information never ends, decision-making is profoundly impacted. Endlessly adding data, more information, and inputs leaves us precious little time to stand back and put all the pieces together. Take the example of the April, 2010 BP oil spill. Within hours of the spill the Incident Commander of the Coast Guard (the person in charge) received 400 pages of e-mails, texts, reports, and other messages. “I might have acted faster if there was less input,” he commented.
Endless information can also cause some people to freeze altogether when it comes to decisions. We choose the default 401k plan at work or automatically renew our health insurance policy without considering alternatives because “there is just too much information.”
Endless information can bring decision-making to its knees. To avoid this:
- Pick a time in the information-gathering process to step back, to see the novel connections, detect hidden patterns that emerge and apply judgment about what missing information still needs to be sought.
- Add a time frame to your decisions. A decision has no power if it is made too late.
- Since information is endless but time is not, add a limit to how much time you will devote to finding information.
- Consider team-based decision-making. Divide up the information gathering process between several people, each person share’s the information, and then as a group based on the information, a consensual decision is made
Remember, in the era of endless, there can be no end to the quantity of information we find to solve a problem, address a need or make a decision. Trade in quanity for quality.
Organization and Quality of Life
Organization is a little like art. We may not always know how to describe it but we know it when we see it. Without ‘organization’ the quality of our lives is diminished. I have been privileged, as a public speaker to travel to Japan and The Netherlands. I have had organizing clients in Bermuda and Costa Rica. And I’ve corresponded regularly with readers of my books in Korea, Brussels, England and Saudi Arabia. Everyone I have spoken with shares the view that quality of life and organization are paired. “An organizer is uniquely able to influence a client on reaching goals, managing stress, and getting things done” notes Mayumi Takahari, President of the Japanese Association of Life Organizers. Reaching goals, managing stress, and enhancing productivity are at the very heart of a good quality of life. My Bermuda real estate client said, “I want to conduct my business efficiently but not lose sight of old ways that bring us quality of life in Bermuda.” In organizing terms, that meant setting up office hours rather than permitting constant interruptions, and developing routines at work so her fine 18th century home could be dedicated to family and leisure.
Organization and Demographic Shifts
The Japanese are known for living and working efficiently in small spaces. The average home is only 983 square feet. They enjoy the planet’s longest life span. It is common to see active 80 and 90-year olds. There are also many baby boomers. Elderly Japanese are increasingly moving into senior community homes. Many middle-age boomers no longer want their parent’s possessions. “Middle aged people and younger prefer to shop at IKEA”, my Japanese/American translator told me. Coping with multi-generational stuff that is no longer wanted or handed-down is an example of how professional organizers are smoothing out these demographic shifts. Demographics in The Netherlands are also shifting. It is common for both household adults to be working. Boomers are sandwiched between the needs of their grown children and elderly parents just like in the US. Affordable housing is in very short supply. And, more and more people are working from home as corporations outsource. Here too, organizers smooth the way helping families and businesses manage projects, time, clutter and space.
Organizing Makes The World Greener
The rain forests of Costa Rica with ozone-filled clouds wafting past 2,000 year old trees and bizarrely colored frogs jumping at your feet can turn anyone into an environmentalist. My client, a professor at a Costa Rican university, and I traveled miles to take waste paper from her office to a trade school where it is combined with banana by-products and pressed it into another generation of paper. Recycling, reusing and repurposing is important in small countries were landfills are not an alternative. Even small towns in Japan have modest recycling centers. Charitable-giving, with its roots in the Christian church, is not a big part of Japanese culture. In Holland these charitable thrift stores are common and known as ‘kringloopwinkels.’ “In the Netherlands we are known for frugality”, a leading organizer told me. “Our clients tend to want certain objects completely used up before they are willing to discard them.” Yard sales and garage sales are strictly a US tradition, though flea markets have there origin in Europe. My Dutch colleagues were unfamiliar with consignments stores but Tokyo touts high-end, designer brand consignment stores. Every country has its own reuse, repurpose and recycle methods.
Organizing Is Universal and Personal At the Same Time
Organizing has universal appeal, but it is still a fairly personal activity. This is very beneficial to chronically disorganized clients who require one to one assistance. A Japanese organizer asked me, “I am patient while my client learns the organizing process. I believe it is better to wait than rush her. However, it means the organizing takes a very long time. Can you tell me how to manage a client who works so slowly?” Organizers everywhere confront these issues with grace and compassion. The Netherlands, with its long tradition of psychology (think Freud) makes it easy for organizers to connect how the mind works to how people organize. If you are diagnosed with ADD you can get a ‘persoonsgebonden’, a personal budget from the government for services, including organizing services. In Japan, an obstacle to organizing like a neurological disorder or a learning difference might still be considered a personal failing though thanks in part to professional organizers, that is changing. In Bermuda, Costa Rica, and many countries throughout the world, asking for organizing support carries a stigma. Organizers are playing a role in helping to bring that stigma to an end.
—-This article originally appeared in the March/April 2012 issue of NAPO News.
My client, Lisa does not know how to stop. Lisa is a 39-year old university professor. Like most professors, when it is time to prepare her student’s reading list, she reviews hundreds of books and academic journal articles. That was overwhelming enough, but to ‘keep up’ now, she also has to go through videos, podcasts, and blogs. “I’m afraid I’ll miss something really vital to their education”, Lisa says. She researches and prepares, prepares and researches until the final deadline for submitting the reading list looms close and large. “I have no idea when to stop because I have no idea when I’m done,” Lisa confesses.
It’s a common complaint these days. In the era of endless, information is infinite, but time is not. Time is finite. So at some point quantity has to be qualified. What is a sufficient quantity to sift thru? How much is enough to qualitatively satisfy a need? It’s increasingly difficult to know. Too Big To Know by David Weinberger traces the history of facts as they evolved from scarce, isolated foundations of finite bodies of knowledge to the present day where knowledge and facts are common, group-oriented, and readily available. The concept of rare has gone away in an era of endless when things are equally and endlessly available.
If you find it difficult to stop, here are some tactics you can use:
- Practice the Law of Diminishing Returns which is the tendency for a continuing effort toward a particular goal to decline in effectiveness after a certain level of result has been achieved. Or, as a client in Houston once put it, Stop when the lemonade ain’t worth the squeeze.
My client Debra is an HR director for a law firm. Her job is to find qualified prospective attorneys to work for the firm. The longer she keeps looking, the more the open post continues to go unfulfilled. The other attorneys have to add more work to their plate to cover for the unfulfilled position, and the as-yet unhired attorney’s contributions are forestalled. Debra says, “It’s just not worth it to the company for me to keep going and going and going with my recruitment efforts.”
- Spell ‘done’ out ahead of time. Debra decided to prospect the 10 best candidates as a result of her best efforts exerted over 30 days. Any more effort applied actually diminishes the return.
- Keep in mind that progress towards closure is a quality of life issue. It is good for your mental health to complete things. David Allen, of Getting Things Done fame rightly observes that, “When we spend a lot of psychic energy on half-closed loops, on things left undone, we waste time and energy that could be put to better use elsewhere.”
- Ask yourself, outloud, what are the 2 things I can do right now to bring this task/project to closure, to get it off my to do list? It might be to make a call, find something on the web, get a question answered, or take even a small action towards closure.
- Close before you open especially in the morning. Finishing something early in the day builds a “meaning reservoir”, an expert on obsessive behavior once told me. Completing just one thing early in the day can give meaning to the entire day.
- Focus on one or two big wins for the day.
A day is still 24 hours long yet there are features of modern work that seem to bend a day a little bit farther over its natural edges, a phenomena I call ‘work creep.” In the name of greater productivity, there are out-of-office conference calls, weekend team building trips, shifts to cover, and time zone differences. ‘ Technology has made it possible to work without an office, without a supervisor, and without regard for time of day. In the absence of absolute clarity about the boundaries of work, the line between our working lives and our non-working life is blurred, and discretionary time is disappearing altogether. 62% of at-work email users check work email over the weekend. 50% check email on vacation. In 2009 Americans threw away 465 million vacation days. And 40-hours is rapidly becoming the new part-time. Add to this mix, the fact that we are in a deep recession where the expectation of working longer hours is the norm, and its no wonder we find it hard to find the time to anything but work.
As a professional organizer and time management expert, I tell my clients that I will find them more time, but not to invest into more work. Instead it will be leisure time that we will actually put into their schedule to rest, relax and recreate. Here is where that time can be found:
- Use Skpe, web-based meeting programs, and phone to limit face-to-face meetings.
- Agendize business phone calls, all meetings, and interactions. Write a teeny agenda of what to cover, ask, solve or do at those interactions.
- Delegate to the machines. Taking time to learn how to optimally use your smartphone, tablet, web tools, software and apps can be a huge return on investment in terms of time you save.
- Limit social media usage to a hour at a time. Set an alarm. Get up, walk, and then before setting the alarm for the next hour, decide if you can knock off.
- Schedule leisure, rest, relaxation, and every other kind of downtime. It may sound counter-intuitive to your sense of spontaneity and fun but you’ll find you have the best of both worlds: spontaneity and planned non-work time.
Need more help? Contact a professional organizer who can show you how to manage your time to combat work creep.
PURGE AND OUTPUT
A society marked by inundation requires a new time management, one that puts more of an emphasis on purging and output than the old time management does. We regularly have to carve out time to clear up backlog and inundation whether it’s our hard drive groaning with content, flash drives of mysterious content floating around the desk, or scores of bookmarks and RSS feeds. Purging has to move into the mainstream of our schedules and not left “for a rainy day” or “when we find down time.” Those days are gone and not coming back.
Here are three ways to purge:
- Scour your Favorite (bookmarked websites) and RSS feeds monthly. What else do you do monthly? Review your investment statements? Visit your Mom? Tie your scouring habits to something you already do monthly.
- Download thematic, archival content to flash drives and label the flash drives. Get stuff off of your hard drive that has a theme and is inactive. Examples might be an old job search, or the research material for a report you finalized. Another option is to send this stuff to the cloud using Dropbox or another cloud alternative.
Purging takes time up-front. The return on this organizing investment is great. It saves time finding information, saves time coordinating files together, and saves time releasing space on your computer. It also saves time that would otherwise be wasted worrying about what is where. Never underestimate how much wasted energy and time is devoted to worry.
Output activities means actualizing all that information you have gathered. Make it come alive. Use it. Output activities include:
- Print your favorite photos. You are allowed to have favorites!
- Plan time to view videos and movies
- Move your music files to where you’ll actually listen to them
Couple your purging habits with output activities, and you’ll be able to turn ‘overwhelm’ into plain old ‘whelmed.’