Be Productive With Attitude: Got Gumption?

Posted By on February 21, 2011

One of my favorite movies is The Holiday, and in it, Kate Winslet’s character learns all about gumption from watching heroines in old movies.

Gumption, in her case, was the fearless determination to dump the philandering boyfriend and leap forward into her new life.

Gumption is a necessary tool in your productivity arsenal.

When in doubt, ask questions

I’ve seen a lack of gumption in the workplace time and time again, and it holds back productivity and the ability to move forward on projects and tasks.

There was the case of the assistant who merely returned tasks back to her pile when a question arose. Instead of asking someone, the task sat there uncompleted until someone asked her for it maybe a week or two later. Imagine the manager’s ire when the assistant pulled out the piece of paper and said, “Oh, yes, I had a question.”

If I had been the manager in that situation, I would have to stop myself from screaming, “Then why didn’t you ASK the bloody question two weeks ago?”

In my work as an in-house organizer, I’ve heard of this sort of thing in various departments and in other companies. The accounting person who doesn’t understand a bill for reimbursement or payment and just puts it to the side until the account is in arrears.

The lab manager entering an online report for his doctor receives a message that the doctor herself has to enter the report, not the lab manager. Instead of alerting the doctor, he simply closed the online program, and when asked by the doctor, said he had completed the report. A month later, the doctor receives nasty e-mails and phone calls asking why she hadn’t turned the report in.

Take responsibility, take action

Speaking up is only one part of gumption. The other component of gumption is taking initiative. If you see a problem up ahead, take some action, do some detective work and come up with a creative solution.

When working with managers and faculty, I see a lack of gumption just by looking at their calendars. If the person keeping their calendar is just scheduling meeting after meeting without thought or feedback, that shows a lack of gumption. Gumption means asking if the boss wants time between meetings. Do they want all of these meetings seemingly “at once,” or would they like they to schedule some down time or office time to work on a deadline.

Having boundaries increases productivity

Gumption gives you the strength to say no. We have a saying in the organizing world that saying no to someone else, is saying yes to yourself.

When you have gumption, you can say no without fear, guilt or shame. Gumption gives you boundaries, and those boundaries give you peace of mind.

So let me hear from you. How did you use gumption this week?


Organizing Your Mortgage Papers

Posted By on February 18, 2011

Containers like this 21-pocket file box by Divoga (Catherine Collection) are great for storing legal-size documents like mortgage papers.

When I bought my house in the fall of 2009, I wound up with a large stack of legal-size mortgage papers and another stack of papers left by the previous homeowner.

The problem was the papers didn’t fit in my file cabinet. I’m not a big fan of folding legal-size papers to fit into regular folders because it creates bulky files. So how to organize your mortgage papers?

The right container makes a difference

A friend had given me a pretty, legal-size accordion file box, and I realized that it would be a good place to store the house papers.

You can find these file boxes at Office Max and Office Depot, but they actually go by the name “Fashion Portable Case Files.” Guess Accordian File Box was already taken.

The boxes come in a plain Jane version in a basic color, OR you can find some cute ones in the filing section of your office supply store. Remember, cute is the same price as the regular.

Let the organizing begin

First, I went through the stack of papers from the previous homeowner. I wound up recycling about 80 percent of it since most of it turned out to be booklets from old appliances replaced long ago.

Some of the papers I did find: the foundation warranty and current paperwork for the heater, garage door opener and air conditioner.

Second, I made labels for my file box. I decided to add some other papers that formerly would have been in my regular file drawer. Since I had other house-related papers in the box, I decided to make sure everything related to the house was in the box.

Here are the labels I created for my file box:

  • Closing Papers
  • Chase Mortgage (since they bought my mortgage)
  • Home Insurance
  • Survey (the one they did when I bought the house)
  • Alarm
  • Home Warranty
  • Taxes and Appraisals
  • Furniture
  • Electronics
  • Art
  • Renovation and Service
  • Foundation
  • Former Owner Information

In the “electronics” file I included all of my instruction books for the TV and DVD player because my file box still had room. In the “art” file I parked receipts for art work I had framed. In the “renovation and service” file I put papers for the kitchen renovation, plus electrical and plumbing services.

I still have a few empty slots in my file box, and that’s good since I’m sure the home file will continue to grow.

When I don’t need the box, it’s closed and placed on a shelf. If I need it (which is rarely), I can pull it down and find what I need. In case of hurricane evacuation, I can easily throw it in the car. 


Organizing Product Review: Avery Note Tabs

Posted By on February 16, 2011

If you want to write or highlight in a book but want to keep the pages clean, try out the Avery Note Tabs.

What it is: Avery Note Tabs is a cross between a flag and a sticky note. Place them on an article or book you’re reading and make notes or highlight passages. The perforated versions are longer and give you more room to write. The tabs are removable.

Why it’s awesome: They’re handy study guides, and my older nieces and nephews have liked them. They do come in different colors. You can choose from the standard sticky note size or the perforated size – which come in larger packages.

Drawbacks: Uh, let’s see. I can’t think of any downsides. There is one. Note Tabs will not do your homework. Sorry, kids. That’s on you.


Guest Post: I Love Technology!

Posted By on February 14, 2011

Guest post by: Professional Organizer Brandie Kajino

On Valentine’s Day last year, my husband took me to a Big Box store. He led me to the laptop section, and said, “Pick out a netbook you like.”

I love that man! You see, I’m a geek and a professional organizer, and I love a useful techie gadget, whether it’s something I can log in to or just touch.

So, allow me to sing the praises of the techie things I love:

  1. Tablets (i.e., iPad). Ok, so let’s face it, this year it will be an iSomething. These little electronic tablets come in a few different sizes, but generally the size of a medium- to large-sized paperback book. What I like most about them is the portability. You can take them anywhere!It’s also pretty easy to find an app for almost any need (organizing or otherwise).Tablets are also feeling so “space movie-ish” to me, as well. Who knew years ago that we would one day have these devices that we would simply touch to check e-mail, edit photos, read a book or manage calendars. Love it!
  2. e-Readers (Nook, Kindle). My mother had e-mail (and a computer) before I did. Now, she has an e-reader. Yes, I’m jealous. While you may not need an e-reader if you have a tablet (see above), this little device is really good for people who: a) are bookworms and b) are on the go or travel a lot.E-readers give you immediate access to thousands of books in one little device that’s  as small as one thin book. Increasingly, you can lend (or borrow) books from libraries or friends and also retrieve many classics free of charge. Portability, enlightenment, and who doesn’t love a good book?
  3. Smartphones (iPhone, Samsung and too many to count…). I got my first smartphone more than five years ago. I don’t know what I would do without it. Two years ago I got an iPhone. I felt like I had stepped into another dimension of awesome future-ness.Why do I love it? Here are a few reasons:
    • I can find coffee just by asking: I have an app that will find the nearest coffee shop with wifi, using a simple voice command.
    • I find directions on the go: I no longer have to print directions. I just pull them up, and the satellite shows me where to go and how close I am in real time.
    • I always know when it’s going to rain: I can check the weather 40 times a day, wherever I am. (It rains a lot where I am, so I need to know when the downpour starts.)
    • Shopping is a breeze: My shopping list is always with me.

    My smartphone is my personal assistant and my brain, on a 3G network. I don’t know what I did without it.

  4. Evernote. Even though I love paper (ironic, since I am a die-hard techie), I don’t like it to be disorganized. I am a professional organizer, and I know the value of finding things when I need them.Evernote helps me put bits and pieces of information in one place, and I can search (with a search box) for this information in many different ways. I have Evernote on my laptop, my smartphone, and I can access it online.

    I keep all kinds of things like recipes, client notes, code for Web sites, project notes, things I need to ask my accountant about and pictures of my printer ink cartridges so I know what to look for in the store. This is just a fraction of what this product can do. The more I use it, the more uses I find for it. My love grows every day for Evernote!

  5. Google. I had a Gmail account when they were only inviting people, before you could just go and sign up for an account.I loved it so much that when I started my business, I decided to use Google Apps for business. I manage all my e-mail in one inbox. I share documents and collaborate with other people in other cities on projects we create together.I survey my customers, create presentations and manage my entire contact database in conjunction with Google. I also have a business line that rings when I tell it to, where I tell it to, and it sends me a transcribed e-mail of my voice-mail messages.

    Google makes things easier for me. Are they perfect? No. But using their products has made managing my business a lot less stressful for me. What’s not to love about that?

Brandie Kajino, is a small business technology expert, consultant, author, dynamic speaker and owner of SOHO Solutionist. Empowering and educating women entrepreneurs with information, technology and simple solutions is her specialty.


Be Productive: Take Care of Your Spirit (Find Your Passion at Work)

Posted By on February 11, 2011

This is the fifth in a five-part series on productivity and health

I work in a place where people are filled with passion for their mission of beating cancer, and, as an in-house professional organizer here, I have a job that fulfills my passion of organizing work and writing.

In his book “The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working,” author Tony Schwartz discusses people’s passion for their work.

Spirit/passion is what he refers to as the fourth quadrant for finding happiness and balance in work and life. (You can read about all the quadrants and the individual ones here: physical, mental and emotional).

As Tony points out, you can run on passion for your work for a while, but you can’t run on it for long without the other areas (quadrants) of your life being in order.

In January, I celebrated my 11th year anniversary at MD Anderson, and I was stunned that it had been that long. Time flies when you’re having fun.

But what about those people who don’t have passion for their work? I’ve been there myself, and I know what it’s like to get up, drag yourself to a place you strongly dislike, and muddle through the day. You’re not really doing your best work and being productive.

Dreading work is painful, passionless

Before coming to MD Anderson, I stayed a year too long at my previous two jobs. You think I would have learned the second time, but I was finishing up grad school and didn’t want to change jobs.

When I meet people who are unhappy with their jobs, I ask them what they want to do about it. After all, no one should stay in a place that sucks out their life and soul. I tell them about my experience and assure them that they can find their happy place. Some look at me like a three-headed alien.

Take action: Find your passion

The brave will venture forth, and either change jobs or make their current one better, if that’s possible. A few others are the chronic complainers. No matter what happens, they’re going to complain about it. Sadly, most will stay where they’re at and become more and more bitter and unhappy. A bitter person is like cancer, and that bitterness can spread if you’re not careful.

With the economy, jobs are scarce, and some people have been scrambling for a job, any job. When the concern is for a paycheck, how long can you forego passion? In my experience, you need to find something to spark your interests again sooner rather than later.

Suggestions for finding your spark:

Look outside of work. If you’re in a passionless job, pursue your passion elsewhere. You can do that by volunteer work (non-profits have all kinds of needs and openings), attend networking or special-interest groups (check out and entrepreneurial groups), or finding a hobby.

Let yourself dream. If you’re not sure what will make you happy or what passion is, create a Vision Board and see what bubbles up for you.

Get inspired. I also recommend Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. Her book and website have great tips and suggestions on how to find your own personal happiness. An oldie but goodie is “What Color is Your Parachute.” This book is updated every couple of years and helps you discover yourself. There’s even a workbook you can buy to go with it.

Get help. If you need extra help, you can always find a life and business coach. I know several, and I’ve used several. Most of their work is done via e-mail and phone so it doesn’t matter where either of you live.

Life is too short not to have passion. You may think your life is mere ordinary, but we are each extraordinary in our own ways.

See also:

Be Productive: Take Care of Yourself (Part 1)
Be Productive: Take Care of Your Body (Part 2)
Be Productive: Take Care of Your Emotions (Part 3)
Be Productive: Take Care of Your Mind (Part 4)


Organizing Product Review: Post-It Pockets

Posted By on February 9, 2011

The maker of those lovely Post-It Notes, 3M, has used their original creation as a jumping off point for a bigger, more diverse product called Post-It Pockets.

What it is: Plastic pockets that have adhesive on the back and can be fastened pretty much anywhere. The pockets, which come in three sizes, are tear-resistant and removable.

Why It’s Awesome: Use the pockets to store paper bills that need to be paid, coupons, RSVPs, tickets, or for school papers. You can label the outside with a label maker if you want. They’re plastic so they’re sturdier than paper pockets. A big plus is you can remove them and attach them somewhere else.

Drawbacks: The pockets are on the thin side, and there is only so much you can slip inside which forces you to clean out papers on a regular basis. I would like to see more variety in colors other than the beige and the pastel blue and purple. What can I say? I just love color. Another problem is that they’re not made of see-through plastic so you have to physically pull papers out to see what you have.