Thursday, 17 March 2011

Organising Myths Busted - You need to be a natural born organiser

Back in the blogging world I thought I’d post this article I wrote a little while ago. It is the first in a series of organising myths I’m going to bust over the coming weeks.

One of the many comments I often hear about organising is that people tell me “I’m just not a natural organiser. You’ve got to be born like that.”

Agreed, some people find organising easier than others. Some people have a natural knack for it. Those are the people who from childhood onwards will organise their books alphabetically, their toy cars by size or their building blocks by size, colour and shape.

But most of us, myself included, are not like that at all. We have all had to deal with our own disorganisation up to a point where we made a conscious decision to make a change. We decided to become organised. We went out and bought books, researched the web, went on courses and seminars and somehow found all the tools necessary to simply get on with getting organised.

Getting organised is a process that starts with the desire to get organised and a conscious choice to change a couple of habits. You set your mind to it. You then have to learn the tools. Whether these are time management techniques, or the best way to sort out your home or the most suitable approach to sort out your desk and set up a filing system, there are many different ways to get organised and not every way is suitable for every person. There is no right or wrong way. The important thing is that you make a start, stop procrastinating about it and get on with the process of organising. Along the way, there will be set backs and difficulties as you fine tune and hone your organising skills. But in the end you will achieve your goal of being organised. You will realise that you feel better about yourself, you will have a certain sense of pride about your achievements and you will feel a lot less stressed once everything is sorted and organised.

And once you realise that it is so much easier to maintain an organised environment than to create it in the first place you will want to keep things organised and not fall back into your old bad habits.

So you can either do it yourself, maybe enlist the help of a friend or you can call in a Professional Organiser. If you call in a pro, you can benefit from their expertise to help you set up new systems and you don’t have to reinvent the wheel yourself. Yes, their services don’t come for free, but think of the time you save for research and trial and error. They will also supply you with tips and tricks on how to keep it all up, making the process pay for itself in the long run.

So go ahead – get organised – you can do it!

Thursday, 8 April 2010

5 Ways to Erase Daily Procrastination in Your Business

According to Real Simple magazine’s survey of 10,000 readers, the average daily to-do list has 5 to 9 tasks on it. Only 5% of the readers are productive for 3 hours during a 9-to-5 workday as a result of web-related distractions. According to the Procrastination Research Group, based on some figures, it is estimated that as much as 95% of the people are prone to procrastination. Amongst them, 20% of them are chronic procrastinators.

Procrastination is generally defined as avoided tasks or activities that need to be accomplished. Poor time management and procrastination can be a direct result of having unreachable goals, having to meet others’ standards, disorganization or the inability to handle the task. Below are ways to erase daily procrastination in your business.

  1. Use the first hour or two of your day to work on things that require your attention or have deadlines. Accomplishing necessary tasks will invigorate you to do more.
  2. Inspire yourself with insightful reading. Read at least one business article daily and take action. Try implementing a new idea. Don’t just read about it, but do.
  3. Afternoon organization can make the next day easier. Take 15 minutes at the end of each day to think about tomorrow’s priorities. Knowing what needs to be done at the beginning of each day gives you focus and direction.
  4. Break large projects or tasks into smaller activities and schedule them on your calendar as appointments. Do them in 30-minutes, 1-hour or 3-hour time blocks. You wouldn’t interrupt a scheduled appointment, so don’t allow unnecessary interruptions when working on your projects.
  5. Don’t make lofty goals. Be reasonable in your expectations of yourself, your time and your commitments. Overextending yourself can cause you shut down. Be practical and realistic.

It’s always helpful to identify the source of your procrastination. Take some time to think about why you are putting things off and then try one of the above techniques. Procrastination can really be a struggle and challenge for small business owners, especially when they are simply overwhelmed and unsure of their next move. Take it one step at a time and be conscious of your actions AND inaction.

A.Michelle Blakeley is the Founder and CEO of Simplicity, Inc.; a progressive small business development firm. She manages her clients’ business expectations and prevents information overload via Micro Business Therapy™ and Micro Business Action Plans. She is featured in and the Financial Post as one of 30 Women Entrepreneurs to Follow on Twitter and the host of Simple Truths for Women Entrepreneurs on

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Using Microsoft OneNote to Get Organised

I have discovered Microsoft OneNote. It usually only appeared when my printer wasn’t installed properly and a Word document would say Print to OneNote, which I dutifully then changed to my assigned printer. But then one day, I thought: Why not have a look what this programme actually does – apart from taking printing instructions from Word and Excel.

Wow, was I amazed. I suddenly had a really good organising tool at my fingertips. If you’re already using OneNote you’ll know exactly what I mean. If you don’t, let me show you what you can do with it.

In OneNote you create virtual notebooks. Just like a real notebook you can divide it into sections which contain pages. And that’s where the similarities with a real paper-based notebook ends. Because it’s virtual you are not limited to an existing number of sections and you can re-arrange them at your leisure. If you end up with a lot of section you can group sections together (into Section Groups) to form a higher level and you can have sub-pages to create lower levels of more detail if pages aren’t sufficient. And everything can be renamed and rearranged any way you need it.

You can easily copy/paste from any other programme including from web pages, import pictures, videos, sound clips, links, etc. You can take screen clippings which will be referenced where you got them from. You can add hyperlinks to webpages or other files or to somewhere else in the notebook.

You can mark any bit of text with tags like ‘To Do’,  ‘Contact’, ‘Remember for blog’ or whatever else you need, since the tags are also customisable. And you can also link to Outlook and schedule tasks.

That’s the how, now for the why and what for. If you ever needed something really versatile to catch all your ideas, references and random scribblings – OneNote will do the job. And here are just some ideas what you can use this programme for:

  • create a wedding planner notebook
  • use it for studying multiple topics/subjects
  • a hold all for your goal setting
  • a project planner
  • a notebook to catch your ideas for a book
  • a research project
  • a moving house log
  • the possibilities are endless …

There is a free trial version on the Microsoft website so you can have a play and see if it’s for you. The trial also comes pre-installed on lots of new computers. OneNote is also part of the Office Home & Student package and the Office Ultimate package.

Have some fun and try it out!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

A Fun Time Management Technique The Pomodoro

First of all a very Happy New Year to everyone. How did the first couple of weeks of the new decade go for you? Did you do any resolutions and set some good goals? And are you still on track? If not, don’t worry. Simply start over today. You don’t have to wait until the 1st Jan, 2011. You don’t even have to wait until the 1st February this year, not even until next Monday. Simply start over today, now. Put that cigarette down now, start using your diary now, cut down on alcohol and fatty foods from your next meal or do some exercise as soon as you finish work today. Whatever your goal is, keep working towards it. A little bit every single day.

If your goal is time management I found a great little tool on the web recently. It’s called the Pomodoro Technique. The basics are that you use a kitchen timer (the Pomodoro is exactly that, a tomato shaped kitchen timer) and set it for 25 minutes at a time and work on your to do lists.

Here is a little excerpt from their website:

The basic unit of work in the Pomodoro Technique™ can be split in five simple steps:

  1. Choose a task to be accomplished
  2. Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro is the timer)
  3. Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper
  4. Take a short break (5 minutes is OK)
  5. Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break

On the website you can download the workbook as a pdf for free and there are groups to join and Twitters to follow. You can even attend a workshop in Milan – combine a nice break in a beautiful city with some time management training!

Friday, 18 December 2009

Christmas Organising

With Christmas fast approaching I thought it would be a good idea to talk about a nice and fast way to organise the festive season. Some people start months before and once December comes around, they're done and everything is organised. Not everyone is this organised or even wants to think about Christmas before December starts.

Here is a list I found on the Style at Home website that I would like to share with you. It covers 12 days of Christmas Organising and tackles pretty much all areas. If you jump in today (8 days to go) simply leave out tasks you can do without and combine a couple of days. You can still get organised, even if you haven’t started yet.

Keep your holidays in step with 12 days of Christmas organizing ideas.

Cooking and wrapping and decorating -- oh my! With so much to do in the days leading up to Christmas it's easy to get overwhelmed with holiday tasks. This year, minimize the annual festive frenzy with Style at Home's 12-day countdown to a stress-free Christmas.
Day 12
Clean out the fridge and freezer to free up space.
Gather your holiday recipes and cross-reference the ingredients you have with the ones you'll need to buy.
Check your inventory of cookware, serving pieces, and food storage containers to see what’s missing. If you're in need of something, contact a family member or friend to see if you can borrow or share items.
Day 11
Shop for groceries and pick up everything you'll need to complete your holiday recipes. If it can be baked or cooked ahead of time, buy the ingredients now.
• Be sure to purchase plenty of frozen hors d'oeuvres and finger foods - they're a lifesaver when guests drop by unexpectedly.
If you have kids at home, hire a babysitter rather than taking them with you. Shopping alone will help you stay focused.
Day 10
Cook any dishes ahead of time that you can. Casseroles, appetizers and desserts can be frozen, thus saving you time on the big day.
• Before starting your cooking and baking, lay out all the ingredients and baking supplies you'll need. Try to clean as you go, minimizing the mess.

Day 9
Go gift shopping and try to cross off everyone on your list. Pick up a few small extras for last minute hostess gifts and unexpected visitors.
Remember to include the people who make your life easier all year: the mailman, paperboy, or anyone else you can think of. Give them each a small gift and have it delivered right away in case they take time off over the holidays.
• Check and see if you need to stock up on any wrapping materials. Make sure there's enough paper, ribbon, gift tags, and the one thing everyone always runs out of – tape!
Day 8
Have a tree trimming or decorating party. Pull some hors d'oeuvres out of the freezer or serve hot chocolate and sweet treats. Have holiday music on hand and make it a fun occasion for everyone. Having friends and family over to help you decorate will save you time and help you relax.
Day 7
Run errands and pick up any extras you may have overlooked on your last shopping trip. Think about things like logs for the fireplace, batteries for toys and gadget gifts, ornament hooks, club soda for spills, extra ice, matches to light candles, and replacement bulbs for strings of lights.
Day 6
Hire a babysitter to watch the kids and devote some time to wrapping gifts. Make it enjoyable by listening to Christmas carols or watching your favorite holiday film while you do it.
If you're heading out to holiday parties over the next few days, print out the directions now. Put them all together and leave them by the front door.

Day 5
Check all the linens you'll be using such as tablecloths, placemats, and napkins, and make sure they're clean and not musty. Give them a wash and iron or treat yourself to a professional dry cleaning.
Pull out the special guest towels and decorative soaps and place them in the powder room.
Clean out the foyer closet and free up space for guests’ coats and boots.
Day 4
Go to the grocery store and stock up on anything you may have run out of or missed on your last trip. Pick up perishables like fresh vegetables and dairy products.
Purchase any flowers you might want for holiday centerpieces and displays. It's just enough time for them to open up and settle so they'll look perfect for the big day.
Day 3
Enlist the help of every member of the household and give the house a good spot cleaning. Dust, vacuum, and tidy up so you don't have to worry about it at the last minute.
Take the turkey out of the freezer and put in the fridge.
Day 2
Set the holiday table and get candles, flower arrangements and music ready. Prepare everything you can so you can relax on the big day.
Order takeout or pull a stress-free meal out of the freezer. Give the oven -- and yourself! -- a break and rest up for the following day.
Day 1
Pat yourself on the back as you enjoy a relaxing holiday with those you love the most!

Have a very Happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year 2010!

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Thursday’s Thought – Clutter Free Gifts

As it’s all about pre-christmas on the blog at the moment, and the last post was on ideas for clutter free gifts, I thought I’d add a few more thoughts on the subject.

Giving someone a voucher for something may seem like an easy option, an avoidance of thinking about what to give. But if you think about it in more detail, that doesn’t have to be the case. It could show that you have actually put more thought into a present than simply going into a shop and buying something.

Giving someone a voucher for a treat (like a pampering session) or phone top ups or downloads (such as i-tunes) means that you do care about what is important to them. You have thought about something they could really benefit from.

If you give someone a physical item as a gift, do you really always think about the following:

  • will the person actually like the item?
  • have they got the space to store it/display it?
  • have they got time to do what it takes to look after it? (if you’ve ever received a nice item of clothing that can only be hand washed or dry cleaned you’ll know what I mean)
  • does it need new batteries every week to keep it going?

You get the idea.

What I am trying to say: as long as you are really trying to put some thought into your “clutter-free” gift (such as a voucher for their favourite shop) your recipient will prefer that to the umpteenth pair of socks or the obligatory tie.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Clutter Free Gift Ideas

With Christmas approaching, some of us dread the idea that yet more clutter is going to enter our house in the form of presents. But this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. Quite often we get what we wish for, so why not put things on your wish list that are not actually “things”.

Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing: presents to wish for or to give to your loved ones (since of course you don’t want them to drown in clutter either).

  • Voucher for a “Meal Out” at your favourite restaurant
  • Cinema ticket
  • Theatre/Concert tickets
  • Voucher for “services” to offer such as
    • babysitting
    • cleaning
    • decluttering
    • walking the dog
    • house sitting
    • DIY
    • washing/valeting the car
  • Voucher for a “Girly Day Out”
  • Voucher for a “Boys’ Weekend Away”
  • A Massage
  • A Facial
  • A Spa Day
  • Any holistic treatment such as Reiki
  • Adventure Days
  • A cooking course
  • Promise to be an Exercise Buddy
  • Membership to a Club
  • Weekend Break
  • Offer a kid’s sleepover at your house so that the parents get to spend some “couple time”
  • Charity Donation for particular cause (Oxfam do “un-wrapped” presents – the recipient receives a card and a simple fridge magnet showing what was given in his/her behalf)- (Save the Children have a Wishlist programme doing the same with Children’s gifts)
  • If you’re good at cooking, offer to be the Chef for a night (maybe for a dinner party or just so, for their family)
  • Mobile phone top-up
  • I-tunes vouchers
  • Apps for i-phone
  • Music lessons
  • Driving lessons
  • Any lessons
  • or how about the ultimate present: give the gift of decluttering - Well Organised Gift Vouchers