If time seems to constantly get away from you, keeping track of it is a good idea. I love this handy little digital timer, but there are many other timers that you probably have on hand. Most cell/smart phones have alarms and timers built into them. There are timers in your kitchen, on your microwave, oven or stove. Here are some ways I like to use timers:
- Deadline timing: If I’m on a tight deadline for something, I’ll set the timer and designate a certain amount of time to each item or part of a project. Sometimes working under pressure helps to push me along and the timer keeps me from allowing distractions.
- Time the kids: The best use of a timer in my household is with the kids. We can agree on an amount of time that they can be gaming, computing or watching TV and set the timer. If I don’t set a timer, I often forget and they can be entranced for hours!
- Beat the clock: You can also use the timer to play beat the clock. If you want to get something done, but you have limited time, keep that timer out with a digital countdown.
- 30 Minute Fix: If you have a big project looming that’s wasting more energy in thought than action, set the timer for 30 minutes and take the first chunk out of it. Getting started can often get you moving in the right direction and it certainly helps to eliminate the overwhelm.
- 10 Minute Tidy: Carve out ten minutes, set the timer and do a ten minute tidy. I’m sure there are many times that you should be giving it a lot more than the ten minutes, but if it’s a busy day, ten minutes is better than no minutes!
It’s great to have a digital timer thats out and available for all to see. There are so many other ways to use a timer to make best use of your time, whether it’s pending projects, organizing a space or managing the kids, always be aware of the time, after all it is our most valuable and limited resource. What are some ways you use timers to get things done?
It’s funny how we know the holidays are coming, but once Thanksgiving arrives, we are stunned that the Christmas rush is in full swing. Plan now, before Thanksgiving to do what you can to lighten the load and make your December organized and enjoyable. Here are some tips to help you prepare:
Weed out before the deluge. We acquire excessive amounts during the holidays. Take the time to weed out now to make room for all of the “incoming” so clutter doesn’t creep in and take over.
Streamline holiday decorations. Do you pull out droves of holiday decorations that have been sitting in storage for decades? This year do some editing. If you haven’t displayed an item for a few years, maybe it’s time to pass it on. Holiday decorations are always a great tax-deductible donation.
Make a list and check it twice. Making lists can help keep all of your thoughts relating to that item, event or gift list in one place. Use them as much as you can—especially throughout the holidays.
Host a gathering. Make a plan to entertain at your place during the holidays, it’s a great motivator to finish up projects around the house and get things in order. Carve out the time to do it right so you’re not shoving things in closets just before your guests arrive.
Give gifts that don’t cause clutter. How many knick knacks and ties does one really need? Rather than giving a trinket, give an experience. There are so many unique options online, so think outside the box this year and get creative in your clutter-free gift giving. Maybe even a Chaos To Order gift certificate is in order
Admire, don’t acquire. Do you set out shopping for gifts and come home with more for yourself? There’s plenty out there in the stores to catch your eye, so set a budget for your personal spending in addition to those on your gift list.
Being organized means staying on top of all of the nagging home maintenance projects that are required as a homeowner. There once was a day when we would remember those mundane tasks like when the air filters had to be replaced or when the dryer vents needed to be cleaned. The business of life can get in the way of making sure these projects get done and often it’s not until something breaks that we realize simple maintenance would have been a much better option than the calamity of the mechanical breakdown. Brighnest is an app that can help you keep track of the never ending home maintenance jobs. You can add all the members of your household and assign tasks to them (sometimes an electronic nudge works better than a verbal nag). There’s even an area where you can store important items like paint colors, user manuals, customized tips and ideas etc… The setup of the app is interesting because it gathers all of the information it needs on your home and then, knowing that, it sets you up with a typical maintenance schedule. Of course you can also add your own tasks (I added repeating kids chores to my list). Check out Brightnest.com and keep your home humming!
If you are going or sending someone off to college, it’s time to buckle down and get ready. Here are some tips for making the transition to college an organized one.
- Take the time to sort it all out. Go through everything you have and decide if it stays home, goes with or goes out. Remember, you can’t fit 10lbs. of potatoes in a 5 lb. bag!
- Plan your space. www.designyourdorm.com is a great site to plan the space in your actual dorm room with lists and accessories of all the items you could possibly need specific to your school.
- Create a list of what you’ll need. Many stores have good checklists of all the things you might need, but remember they want you to buy as much as possible. Here’s a good comprehensive checklist which also links you directly to your school’s suggestions and where to buy things in the area.
- Coordinate with your roommate. Avoid duplicates by making decisions about ALL the items you could possibly share, and where to draw the line.
- Information share. Realize that college information goes directly to the student, so make sure the lines of communication are open as to how bills will be paid and deadlines will be met.
- Plan your time wisely. Your time is pulled in many directions at college, so make a weekly plan of how you will best manage your time and schedule accordingly.
- The countdown has begun. Planning, sorting, purging and packing can’t start soon enough. Carve out time daily to check things off your list.
In order to be successful in college, organization is imperative. Starting college can be a fresh start to a better organized life.
I’ve mentioned in the past that I am a huge fan of Apple and how their computers and devices help to keep not only Chaos To Order, but also the Friel family organized. One feature I’ve recently taken to is the App “Reminders” with Siri (who is the talking personal assistant on the iPhone). At first I wasn’t a huge fan of Siri because she would stall, take too long or not understand me. Recent updates must have changed that because she gets me now! Juggling business and family often make my brain so filled with unrelated things that I become forgetful. Recently I started using Siri to remind me of just about everything. The feature I love the best is that I can ask her to remind me when at a particular location. For example, if the car gets close to Dominick’s she can remind me that I need milk, or when I pull into the driveway at home she can remind me to give the flowers some water. Little reminders like this can be so helpful in keeping you organized and efficient. If you have an iPhone 4, make sure you give it a try and start relying on your phone to do some of the things that your brain has a hard time holding on to!
The beginning of a new year is a great time to make a fresh start. What can you do to make 2012 your most organized yet? Here are a few tips to start the year off right…
- Set goals and write them down. You are 10 times more likely to make a change by physically writing down your goals.
- Structure your day. When you spend time scattered about, you end up feeling unaccomplished. Manage your time with a plan.
- Take baby steps. We can only change about 10% at a time, so start small and take it slow. Don’t set your expectations too high.
- Edit where you can. Delegate and determine what you can eliminate from your tasks, putting your priorities in place.
- Create a routine. Set up a schedule with regular times to work on specific projects.
- Finish what you start. Clutter is often related to unfinished tasks. Make it a point to finish projects and put away related items each and every time.
- Establish good habits. Read our blog post: Organization: It All Boils Down to Creating Good Habits.
- Schedule an appointment. Start off 2012 organized with a personal visit from our professional organizers. Call us at (847) 825-8400.
Christmas is only three days away, so making the most of the time that remains is crucial. Here are 5 tips to help you finish your holiday shopping quickly and efficiently:
- Think before you shop. Don’t head to the mall to gather ideas, plan your strategy. Make lists and put any ideas you can down on paper or digital. Work from your lists and know what you’re getting.
- Shop when crowds are down. Many stores are open round-the-clock until Christmas, so sneak away at an off hour to get that shopping done without the long lines.
- Order ahead. Many stores have online ordering and pickup available. Find what you need and put it on hold. If you can pay for it, that too will lessen the hassle at the store.
- Give an experience rather than an item. Of course we think organizing services make a great gift, but meals, show tickets, gift cards etc. will always work.
- When all else fails, give a re-gift. As long as the gift is tasteful and something you really would consider buying, go with a recycled gift of something you already have.
Ok, no time to waste. If you haven’t finished yet, get out there and wrap it up!
Are you weighed down by clutter? Do you get overwhelmed thinking about all of the excess stuff you have? This fourth of July, why not declare independence from your clutter. Here are some tips for ridding yourself of the stuff that weighs you down:
- Carve out the time: We are always busy trying to get things done, but how much of your time is dedicated to clearing out and organizing systems? Plan to take time this week to clear out a closet or venture into a forgotten storage area and organize.
- Weed out regularly: Keep a container in your closet, or any heavily used area with an “outgoing” box for items you plan to donate or sell. Arrange for a regular charitable donation pickup to keep the flow outgoing.
- Enlist the whole family: Delegate tasks to all family members. It may not get done exactly as you’d like, but getting something done is better than getting nothing done. It’s also a good way to teach little ones.
- Chart out a plan: Set goals and hang a chart in a visible area. List all the steps it will take to get you to that goal. Work in chunks of time to avoid getting overwhelmed.
- Plan a summer yard sale: Have you been saying you’re going to have a yard sale for the past three years? Set a date and use that as your deadline to tackle projects that will support your sale.
- Create good systems: In order to be organized, every item you own needs a home. When you have time to tidy up, you want to make good use of that time. You can’t get much done if you don’t have proper systems in place.
- Form Good Habits: Start right now, putting away each thing you take out rather than just setting it down. It’s amazing how living and organizing in the moment will help that overwhelming feeling of needing to “some day” get organized.
There is a great sense of relief in declaring independence from your clutter. Take some time this summer to clean out, clear up and feel the freedom of a more simplified life.
As the owner of Chaos To Order you may assume that every aspect of my life is organized—Wrong-O! I have come to realize one of the reasons I’m so passionate about organization and how to better achieve a more organized space is because I struggle with what I call, “Organizing ADD”.
As I’ve become more involved in the creative aspects of Chaos To Order, I find that my brain flits from one creative idea to the next leaving in its wake scattered thoughts, papers, to-do’s, etc… It’s gotten to the point that it becomes a real distraction for me. So knowing this about myself, and quite frankly, loving the innovative, idea churning aspect of this business— I wouldn’t want to stop those creative juices from flowing. So knowing that I have them and how they distract me, I plan accordingly. I plan ahead for the distraction of fleeting thoughts. I keep a notepad handy and know that the space around me is going to become cluttered. That’s where having good systems come into play. I have my “Dirty Little Secret Drawer”, my filing cabinet and beloved laptop, with folders to store every document, task, meeting and idea.
It’s not that I want to go thru life with everything remaining in perfect order— I’m not sure how much fun that would be anyway. I want to go thru life with systems in place so that when the creativity and chaos of life happen, I have a roadmap to reclaim the order that brings me peace.
Working from home certainly has its benefits, but it is not without its fair share of pitfalls. The average person only focuses on work for 11 minutes before being distracted. So how do we combat the never-ending call of household projects, screaming children, visiting neighbors, etc.? There is no way to avoid all of the interruptions that occur, but here are a few tips to help minimize and manage the distraction deluge:
- Create a routine. Having a set schedule in place will help you move more quickly and efficiently throughout your day. Set regular working hours, break times and set time to deal with household matters.
- Work from a list. Keep a running to-do list. Decide what your tasks are for the day and prioritize them. With a list, you will not waste any time wondering what to cross off next.
- Work during “off” hours. Early morning is the best time to dive into big projects and do work that requires extra concentration. If you’re a night owl, late nights may be your best bet.
- Minimize technology distractions. Your computer doesn’t need 32 windows and 25 browser tabs open. Out of sight–out of mind. Turn off incoming mail alerts and set email filters with priorities. Go on a social-networking diet and limit the number of times you check those sites.
- Create a distraction-free workspace. Set up office space in your home that can minimize distractions. Is your office on the main floor? Can you move it to another level? Having an off-the-beaten-path office will encourage productivity. Also, make sure your office has a door, so that you can close yourself in to the working environment you need.
- Plan for distractions. We often cram so much into a day that if distractions occur, it can cause a complete derail. Knowing that most tasks take longer than we think, plan for the inevitable. Remember, office workers have their share of distractions to deal with as well!
This blog was written for NBC Chicago’s new Inc. Well blog. A how-to blog for Chicago business for which I am a contributor.
Do you set out to straighten up the entire house and get stuck in one drawer that needs perfecting before moving on to the next? If you tend to organize in this way, you may be inhibiting yourself from ever getting to that place of order that you desire. Here are some tips to help you accomplish what you set out to do:
- Use a timer. Decide how much time you have to organize a particular area.
- Set a goal. In that amount of time, decide how much of the space you can realistically get through, and commit to getting through all of it.
- Don’t get caught in the “Chaos Circle”. If the things you are making decisions about and putting away when you organize don’t have a “home” you will get caught in the chaos circle, meaning that you’ll just put it back down into another pile! Everything you organize needs a place to belong.
- Keep moving. Don’t get caught in the details of perfect organization. When organizing a kitchen for example, you may not be able to alphabetize all of the spices (nor should you for that matter). Good enough organizing is better than no organizing at all.
Remember, organization is about efficiency, not perfection. Keep your eye on the big picture to maintain basic order, when time allows focus in on the details to bring your systems to a higher level.
Are you spending the 4th of July weekend around the house? This could be the perfect long weekend to carve out some time to declutter. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Find that pile that’s been bugging you, dig in to the hardest area when you’re motivated.
- Set the timer and work without distraction for the entire time you’ve allowed.
- Have a plan for what you donate. Having someone or some cause to donate your unwanted items to will make you more likely to pass them along.
- Don’t waste time moving things from one pile to the next. Put each item you plan to save in it’s proper place as you go.
- Earn some cash. Sell your stuff on eBay Classifieds. It’s an easy, local and safe way to turn your clutter into cash.
- Feel great at the end when you see how much progress you’ve made!
My favorite video on time management. Don’t waste a second…