Eileen Roth

Eileen Roth is a productivity expert and the author of Organizing For Dummies. She helps people be better organized in the Office, Home, Time Management and Student Organization.

Control Your Mail

It was our second Sunday meeting.  When I first saw her office, I was amazed at the banks and banks of 4-drawer lateral file cabinets on every wall.  I was used to a company having banks and banks of file cabinets, but not one person’s office.

 

I don’t know why I didn’t expect it.  After all I knew she was research scientist.

(So we will call her Marie after Marie Curie. I like to keep client names confidential.)  Marie was a Ph.D.  She already had several patents, but she was a paper warehouse.

 

Even after our third meeting, when she admitted she had stashed away 16 boxes full of mail, I didn’t flinch.  We just had to move to a conference room with a large table and dig through the boxes.

 

Hopefully you don’t have 16 banker boxes of mail, but one of the fastest ways to control your mail, is to eliminate what you don’t need in the first place – both paper and electronic mail.

 

Getting mail you either don’t want wastes your time.  So you need to get off mailing lists that you really don’t care about or aren’t reading.  Digitally, you can unsubscribe.  Just be careful not to unsubscribe from someone from whom you bought a program.  If you do, you will lose access to that program.

 

If you aren’t reading mail you’re getting, stop getting it. Most magazines or catalog companies will be happy to take you off their list — It saves them both printing and postage costs.  Just call them.  It’s worth 2 minutes of your time, and it comes off faster if you give them the information they put on your mailing label, like your customer account number.

 

Here’s some places you can go online to stop direct mail offers and get off some lists:

  1. To stop direct mail of magazine subscriptions, credit offers, catalogs, bank offers, and retail promotions– complete the form at the Direct Marketing association, dmachoice.org
  2. For unwanted credit or insurance offers, see OptOut Prescreen.com.
  3. For unwanted advertising, complete the National Do Not Mail List.at directmail.com.

Your own email service may have a spam folder as well.   (Always check- some things get marked as spam that are not.)

How’s your mail situation?

 

 

 

Fall Organizing

It’s fall.  When it cools off, it’s time to refresh.  The summer heat is gone.  The cool, crisp air of Autumn gives you a chance to think clearer.  The colorful nature of the leaves reminds you of change.  Plus you don’t have that freezing  cold feeling of winter or feel closed in.  Instead you have that open feeling  and might even notice that you move quicker than you did in the summer.  That’s why I recommend this time of year to get organized.

 

This is a time to consider organizing:

  • organizing your office,
  • organizing your home,
  • organizing your time.

I don’t recommend tackling all 3 of these at once.  Choose one at a time.

Which one is more important for you to organize?

Office Organizing

Organizing your office may be more important than organizing your home so you can leave your work at the office, and go home and relax.  You’ll be more pleasant to your family if you’re less stressed from a day at work when you arrive home. And you’ll be more refreshed to return to work the next day if you have taken time to relax at home and enjoy your family.

 

Home Organizing

Or you may be someone to whom organizing your home is more important so you can go to work without being stressed out first thing in the morning.  You can get dressed faster by organizing your closet, and feel better walking through your home if it’s not cluttered.  You will arrive happier at work rather than starting the day with stress due to your home clutter.   Plus when you arrive home after work, the state of a messy home may strain family relationships, which in turn might affect a good night’s sleep and snowball into a stressed work day.

 

Time Organizing

Or you might be someone whose stress level rises as more and more items pile on your plate and you need to organize your time.  Planning a better schedule for what you need to do both at work and at home may be more important than physical organization for you.  Learning to set priorities and focus on the important items can relieve your mental stress and make you happier.

 

Which of these areas is the most important for you to work on now?

Are you Prepared?

Sorry for your losses and speedy recovery physically and emotionally to all the people who have gone through the hurricanes recently.

Think about it.  You might not have been a hurricane victim, but are you prepared if you are ever in an emergency?

Whether it would be due an earthquake, tornado, hurricane, forest fire or flood and you were going to have to evacuate your residence that might not be there when you returned, what would you take?  Seriously think about it.

 

In an emergency, what items would you take?

If you were in an emergency situation, what would you take?

What are the 5 most important items you would grab if you were in an immediate hurry?

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

 

What are the most important items that would fit in your car trunk if you had more time?

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

 

Are you prepared to sit out anything for any length of time?

Do you have extra canned food?

Do you have a non-electric can opener?

Do you have food that doesn’t need refrigeration or electric or gas cooking?

 

I know I’d grab my purse with IDs and credit cards and if time permitted more important documents from a safe.

I’d also want key electronics:   cell phone, laptop, hard drive and USB sticks that have some data not on the laptop and cords for all of those.

And I’d certainly grab some clothes and jackets as well as water bottles.

Our cars always have flashlights, but that’s as prepared as we are if we weren’t home.

It’s one reason my father taught me from the day I was 16 and drove a car:

  • Never go below ¼ tank of gas
  • Always keep a spare $20 in my wallet in a separate section for emergencies.

You may think it will never happen to you, but you just don’t know.

The Girl Scout and Boy Scout mottos are:     Be Prepared. 

Are you?

 

 

 

When is the Last Time you Took a Break?

“Summer time, and the living is easy”.         ( Sung by Ella Fitzgerald)

          “Summer time, and the living is slow. “       (my words)

 

Summer time.

It is hot outside in the US.  A time when we’re lazier because of the heat, and a time we considered “break time” from age 5-22.      (no school = play time)

 

With the advent of technology, you would think we would have more time.  However, our To Do Lists just keep getting longer,  and    l  o  n  g  e  r

and  ….    l      o      n     g     e      r.

 

We can’t just keep pushing and pushing.  Our minds need a mental break during the day, and our a complete break once in awhile to really recharge.  In fact studies show we can be more productive when we take breaks.  That’s why there are new “break” techniques like the Pomodoro method:  Session: Work 25 minutes, break 5 minutes.  Repeat.   After 4 of these work sessions take a longer break of 15-30 minutes. The whole point is to break up the work day by taking a break.

 

We need longer breaks to really recharge.  It’s something we rarely do.  This could be anything from a week’s vacation to a weekend getaway to just an hour bike ride.

 

 

 

Can’t get away?  So here’s some ideas for you, even if you can’t take a vacation.  And some of these you can even accomplish during your workday.  Take your pick, but recharge yourself!

 

Change Your Scenery.

If you can’t take a long vacation, at least go somewhere that isn’t a store – preferably in nature, even a park or a historic site.  Relax and enjoy the change of scenery.

 

 

Read a novel.   

You don’t have to read it all at once; you can break it up over the course of a week or two.  I often carry a paper book with me (or read an electronic  book on my cell phone) while waiting anywhere:  doctor’s offices, riding as a passenger in our car, or while my husband shops at hardware stores!!!

 

Play your favorite game.

If you don’t have someone to play with you, try a game of Solitaire or even Boggle against a timer.

 

Keep a puzzle book handy. 

I love Word Searches.  I’m not so good at Crosswords or Sudoku, but maybe you are.

I keep a Word Search book in the car at all times; I never know when a few errands with my husband turns into 3-4 hours I didn’t know about.

 

Color or Paint.

Coloring books are now for adults too.  Try one!  And if you don’t want to buy one, pick up a kid’s coloring book.  Or maybe you like to paint – even if it’s paint by numbers or water color. (The joy of being a grandma and having kid’s art activities.)

 

Go for a walk or a hike.

When’s the last time you paid attention to the birds or flowers in your area? Take a walk or hike and consciously use your 5 senses to see the world around you.

 

Be sporty.

Jog, run, swim, golf, play tennis, shoot some basketballs, ride a bike, skate, ski, play baseball or football or soccer, or go canoeing.  (What do you say for Archery – shoot an arrow?)

 

Work on a hobby.  (Somehow that sounds like an oxymoron —  Play at your hobby.)

Do you like to draw, paint, knit, sew, write poems, garden, do woodworking, build models?  When’s the last time you played at your hobby?  (The picture below is my hobby.)

 

Take a nap!!

 

Whatever you choose to do,

take a Break Today —

maybe even 2 or 3 breaks!

 

Comment and tell me what you did to Take A Break today!

And I hope you took some breaks for the 4th of July Holiday weekend!

What STUFF are you Keeping on your Desk or in your House?

Yes, some “thing” may make you smile.

You bring the item into your office or your house, and it gives you that smile maybe one or two more times.

 

Sometimes, though, it doesn’t even do that much–

  • Like that funny T-shirt you bought that sits in your closet because you wouldn’t be seen in public with it on.
  • Or some advertising gimmick with the vendor’s info printed all over it– but it does nothing at all.

    Advertising Gimmick

    Advertising Gimmick

 

Think about it –

How many “things” are wasting precious desktop space

or drawer space that aren’t useful?

How many “things” are causing clutter in your house?

 

You have all these “things” that no longer give you the same reaction you had when you first saw it.  Instead you have a bunch of “things”,  often called “stuff”, that just take up space and often end up in piles.

 

And if you collect too much “stuff”,

you have overload,

which causes overwhelm.

 

  • It’s one more thing in a pile.
  • It’s one more thing to waste space.
  • It’s one more thing in your way.
  • It’s one more thing to take care of.

 

 

Instead, collect moments in your life:

The moment your child took his/her first step.Max lost tooth

The moment your child built his or her first Lego creation.

The moment your child lost his first tooth.    (My grandson swallowed his with popcorn Friday night.)

The moment your child went to kindergarten, high school, or her first dorm room.

The moment your child graduated from middle school, high school, or college.

 

I look back at the scrapbooks I made of my children growing up, and I remember those times – the birthday parties, the Lego builds, the bicycle training, the dances, and the graduations.  And now I take pictures of my grandchildren’s moments.

 

graduating dental school

Graduating Dental School

Those are the things that really are worth saving.

And if you are lucky, you were able to capture those precious moments in a picture.  Digital storage is so much easier than paper storage, and you will always be able to re-live that moment in your life.

 

It’s the moments that make life worth living,

not the things you have.

Too many things can make you feel frustrated.

They can end up in piles never to be looked at again.

They take up valuable space that you could use for other items.

They create clutter.

 

Stop collecting things and take pictures that are precious moments–

picture

Skiers Take Picture With Cell Phone

not a zillion –

just enough to cherish the moment.

And don’t forget to take time to delete the bad or duplicate ones!  Otherwise your computer will be stuffed too!

A backup hard drive just for pictures is a great idea to keep the computer space free!

 

 

 

 

What things or stuff do you have that you can release?

Comment below.

To Read , Not to Read, or to File – Magazines

Whether you work in an office environment or you just have magazines  at home; it’s a great time to clean out your reading material.

 

Magazines

 

magazine article

Discussing magazine article

Question:     Are you going to read that magazine?

Answer:       No

 

  1. Cancel subscriptions.

    If you have a year’s worth of magazines, chances are you no longer want to read that magazine. So unsubscribe from them so you don’t receive any more.

You can usually find the address under the Table of Contents to write or call to cancel the  subscription.

You will need your address label ID # if it was mailed to you, especially if it was in a plastic wrapper.

 

  1. Donate any used magazines to libraries, hospitals, or doctor’s offices.

    People in waiting rooms always love reading material.  (donate books too)  Wherever people wait, there is time to read.

 

 

Ans:  Yes

Was it an impulse buy at the checkout lane?

If so, you probably just want to read that one article that attracted your attention. Then pull out that one article, and donate the rest of the magazine.

 

If you have a collection of magazines that are sitting in a pile, here’s a great trick to make that pile disappear quickly:

  1. Go through the Table of Contents of ever magazine you want to keep.
  2. Highlight the article you really want to read.
  3. Remove the article, including all “continued on pg. ___” and staple it together.
  4. Put the articles in a To Read file that you can carry with you when you have to wait.
  5. Or – File the article in a subject area and read it when you open that subject’s file.  (paper or computer)

Waiting for a meeting to start, read at lunch, read on the train, read at appointments.  Read anywhere you wait 

 

Email Magazines/Newsletter

If you get magazines, or newsletters from people you don’t read, look for the “Unsubscribe link”  at the bottom of their newsletter.

Just DON’T UNSUBSCRIBE if you also bought a program from them or you won’t be able to access your program.

 

Other Reading Material – Reports, Charts, Statistics,

You may have something lengthy like Meeting Minutes, reports, charts, statistics, etc. that you want to read or even re-read to understand all of the material.  Put these items in your To Read file too!

 

Which of these techniques will you implement?  Comment below.

 

 

Do you know your Why?

 

Your goals may fail because you have no reason to accomplish them.

Ask yourself, “Why?”  

Goals and your why?

 

Why do you want to do this?

 

The reason, your Why?, could be to do something:

  • for you
  • for your family
  • for a relative
  • for a friend

 

It could also be:

  • for your business or career
  • for your finances (to make money)
  • for your health
  • for your personal development
  • for relaxation or entertainment
  • for your spiritual growth

If you want to lose weight, you need a reason, a WHY?

  • Do you want to look stunning for a wedding?
  • Do you want to look good for your HS reunion?
  • Do you want to look great this summer in your bathing suit?
  • Do you have health issues that suggest a diet like diabetes, heart, or kidney problems?
  • Do you want to be healthier to prevent health issues, especially hereditary ones?

If there’s no reason to achieve something, you won’t do it.

If there’s no reason to achieve something, you won’t do it.  A compelling reason gives you more motivation to achieve the goal.  It may be as simple as “My boss asked for it.”  (The compelling reason being that you want to keep your job or hope for a promotion!) or it may be as simple as  “I can’t stand looking at that pile.”

 

 

The answer to WHY? will also tell you

that some items on your To Do List do not need to be done.

 

 

Chunk your Goals

Last month we discussed the fact that New Year’s, or even winter time, may not be the right time for you to set goals   (see Have Your Goals Already Derailed Off Track?)  Yes, it still may really be right for you, especially if you love the quiet of winter, but for most people winter time is not an energetic time to set goals.

If you do tend to set goals in January, why are they not working?

 

Person walking in snow –  Copyright Stock Unlimited

  1. We already discussed that you may not have been in a serious frame of mind (especially if you made your goals during a New Year’s Eve party)
  2. We also said winter may not be the right season for you to create goals.
  3. Another reason is that you didn’t break them down into bite sized pieces – chunks.

Most goals are too super-sized.  That’s what a goal is – something big to strive for.   Therefore it needs to be broken down into pieces you can truly handle – chunks.  You don’t eat a whole cake at once.  You take a chunk of it – one slice at a time.

Do you remember the Chunky candy bar?  It is small –  1.4 oz   I did a google search and was surprised to see that it is currently sold at Walmart, at least online.  I don’t know if it is in the store.  They even have a King size version.  To me that is just a total oxymoron–a King size bar of a Chunky candy!

Anyhow, each of your goals can usually be broken down into smaller parts or chunks. If you look at your goal as a series of steps forward, they are easier to achieve.  When my daughters started training for their first marathons, they had to run a block first, then a mile, then a couple of miles, 5 miles, 10 miles, etc.  They didn’t suddenly run a marathon, which is 26 miles. In the same respect you have to chunk down your goals into bite-sized (whatever size works for you) steps until you can achieve your big goal.

Chunks don’t have to relate to each other and they don’t have to always increase, but they often do.  For example, a typical New Year’s goal is “to lose weight.”  If you want to lose 30 lbs. you won’t lose it in one day and maybe not in one year.   You want to chunk it into sub-goals and then chunk the sub-goals into smaller action items which are also chunks. Two major chunks of losing weight, sub-goals, are diet and exercise.

Diet Goal

Cakes – Copyright Stock Unlimited

If your first sub-goal is to adjust your diet, you might begin by cutting out eating cakes.  Then you might cut out ice cream.  Next you might cut out cookies.  Those are chunks- pieces of a larger item – in this case diet.  And diet is a piece of losing weight.

Exercise goal

Exercise – Copyright Stock Unlimited

Another sub-goal might be to exercise:  first 5 minutes a day, then 10 minutes, then 20 minutes, then 30 minutes, and then an hour a day.  Those are all chunks of the sub-goal exercise, which in itself is a chunk to the big goal of losing weight.

Diet and exercise may or may not be done together.  While you might focus on one and not the other, both diet and exercise are sub-goals of losing weight, and each of them could be broken down into smaller chunks to help you achieve the big goal of losing weight.

So the next time you have a goal, chunk it!

What’s your goal that you’re working on and what chunks did you create?

Comment below.

 

Eileen

PS I have foot surgery on Tuesday, so I may take a little longer to respond to comments this week.

 

Have your Goals Already Derailed Off the Track?

Have your Goals derailed off track?

Have your Goals derailed off Track?                                                (Yes, it’s my village train.)

 

If you have already fallen off track, don’t be surprised.  It may be because it’s not the right time of year for you.  In fact I don’t really recommend you set goals at this time of year.  Why?

Why NOT to set goals in January

The main reason is because most goals are set at a New Year’s Eve party. So they aren’t really thought out. Instead they are a quick answer to someone’s question – “What’s Your New Year’s Goal?”  Answers like “Lose Weight” or “Make more money” or “Stop smoking” are typical.  Most of the time it’s not even a new goal; it’s a repeat of last year’s goal.

 Why is it often a repeat of last year’s goal?

  1. Chances are it’s repeated because it wasn’t accomplished last year.  So it’s the same goal.   …    In fact it’s probably been the same goal  for the past 10 years!   
  2. The other reason is because it’s the easiest response to give.  No thinking is necessary –and that’s the problem with New Year’s Eve goals. No thinking is necessary.  Being at a party is not the time to plan your goals.  You want to do this by yourself, when you are serious about what you really want to achieve and can set aside planning time to set realistic goals.

No Thinking is Necessary.

The second reason to not set goals in January is the weather.  Let’s think about January.  For most of the nation, it’s a very cold — think below freezing temps. It is also a very  dreary time of year.  That doesn’t conjure up a good time to sit and reflect about goals.  Goals should be something you desire and really want to achieve.  It’s hard to be energetic about achieving something when all you really want to do is sit by the fire, stay warm, and see the sun again!

Goals should be something you desire and really want to achieve.

So When is the best time for you to set goals?

The best time to set goals is not winter time for most people.   It is spring or fall, whichever makes you feel better.  Some people like spring because things are changing.  Birds are back and singing.  Red and yellow tulips reminds us that spring is here.  There may even be a spring to your step as you shed your winter coat and enjoy the beautiful colors of spring flowers.

Other people prefer Fall when the summer heat has disappeared and the cool air makes them feel more energized.  For them the changing colors of the leaves add splendor to the world and the cool, crisp air energizes their thoughts.

Winter Goals

Now there are people who do like to set winter goals.  For them it is a time to be alone with their thoughts.  They do some really serious thinking about their goals and their life because of the fact that they are indoors.  They find this time of year slower-paced and since they aren’t as busy, they can reflect on the past year and decide how they want this year to progress.

Samuel  (name changed) is one such person. He sells greeting cards.  His big season is the end of the year with holiday cards.  So once his sales are done, he has some time to kick back and seriously map out his goals for the coming year based on the past year’s performance. He is the perfect example of someone who relishes the quiet, indoor time of January and can set real goals now.  If you’re like Samuel, go ahead and set your goals in January.

 

So what time of year do you think would be best for you to set goals?  Are you truly a Winter goal setter?  Or should you be a Spring or Fall goal setter? I prefer Spring when I feel more energized and Fall as a second time for new goals.

 

 

 

 

How to Handle Gifts You Don’t Really Like

holiday gifts

Gifts can be all types of surprises!

The holidays, especially in December, usually involve gifting.  You take a gift to a relative’s house for them having you over for a holiday dinner.  Or you have a holiday dinner and you receive a bunch of gifts. And on Chanukah or Christmas, or whatever holiday you celebrate, you give and receive gifts.

Gifts are probably one of the hardest items to discard.  You feel like this gift was special – maybe it came from your Dear Uncle John who is no longer with us.  Or maybe it came from your child who made it when she was in kindergarten.  The fact that it no longer is “whole” because it has broken or fallen apart seems irrelevant.  Your child made it – you have to keep it no matter how it looks.

The question here is – “Do you?”   

The issue really came home for me when Aunt Babe made me a needlepoint tissue box.  It was designed for a square tissue box, which we did use in the small guest bathroom.   Since I didn’t have one, I know she thought she was being “really sweet” to make one for me.  And I know she probably spent a lot of time needlepointing it.  While I truly appreciated the thought and the work that went into making it;, I still didn’t like it.

One reason I didn’t like it was that it wasn’t easy to clean.  In fact it was impossible. And people with colds would keep the virus hanging onto the tissue box since I couldn’t exactly clean it with Lysol.  But the main reason I didn’t like it was the colors.  At the time our guest bathroom was brown and cream wallpaper.  The tissue box was pink and white.   It absolutely didn’t fit with the décor. In fact you could say it certainly did stand out — just in the wrong way.

What to do? ….  What to do??

If I didn’t use it, I knew my great aunt would be hurt.  She came over for holidays and birthday parties, but otherwise she didn’t just drop in because we lived on the other side of the city in the far northwest suburbs of Chicago.  Aunt Babe lived “in the city.”  We were probably a good hour drive apart.  Normally I would have donated something like this.  But I didn’t want to hurt her feelings.  So on every birthday or holiday that Aunt Babe and Uncle Abe joined us; I took the tissue box out.  I displayed it in the bathroom during those times, and I put it under the sink, hidden in the cabinet, when they weren’t there.

When Aunt Babe passed on, I did donate it.  Just like I had donated the foam fruit stuck with needles and beads from my grandmother.  Some “decorating ideas” from those years just weren’t my taste.  I’m sure at some time, somewhere, someone used them, but they were not for me.

Toss It Rules

My usual rules are:

If the sentiment isn’t worth it, or you dislike cleaning it; let it go.  

My second rule is:  If it isn’t whole, let it go.  (read broken).

The third rule is:  If you can take a picture and enjoy that; let it go.

However, in the case of special items, sometimes you want to  compromise and find a way to not hurt feelings.  Taking it out for special occasions when the person visits was worth sparing Aunt Babe’s feelings.

If you really can’t stand it, there’s always the “dog ate it” or the “kids broke it” excuse.  Hopefully you don’t have to “fib” and can just discard those things that don’t give you pleasure.  If you don’t enjoy it, why keep it?  I hope your holidays give you the gifts you really like.  (PS  Cash is always great for kids, especially since we rarely understand what they w ant.)

 

Leave a comment below.  What gift did you receive that you should discard but still have?

What are you going to do about it?

 

Happy Holidays,

 

Eileen

 

 

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