The Small Stuff in Organizing

Posted By on January 10, 2014

© Monkey Business -

© Monkey Business –

Imagine a chocolate cake. Now how do you eat cake?

Manners dictate that you slice the cake and eat the slice bite by bite. If you keep eating the cake slice by slice and bite by bite, you eventually eat the entire cake.

You can use the same approach to organize your physical and digital space. Using 15 to 20 minutes a day can help you make headway on clearing your space. Here are a few examples of tasks you can do in 15 to 20 minutes:

  • Clean out a drawer.
  • Go through a stack of magazines or catalogues. Toss the ones you don’t want.
  • Sort your email by name and go through one letter of the alphabet to delete or file.
  • Look at your sleeveless shirts to see what you no longer wear.
  • Set up your bills – either all or a few – so you can pay them online or automatically.
  • Clean out your wallet.
  • Redeem the change you’ve collected at a coin redemption vendor or your bank.
  • Make a decision about something you’ve been putting off.
  • Unload the dishwasher and reload it.
  • Pick up any clothes off the floor.

You have a great feeling of accomplishment when you do these tiny tasks. It makes a difference and motivates you to continue.


Need an Organizing Tool? 3-D Print It!

Posted By on November 2, 2013

I first heard of 3-D printing during a webinar about The Future of Work. During the webinar, they showed a video about how they were testing 3-D printers and “living” ink to create an ear prosthetic.

Very cool stuff for a geeky, sci-fi chick like myself.

I work with clinicians and scientists who are always curious and always looking at the latest technology, and they like to see what these gadgets can do. Several researchers I know have 3-D printers at home to see what they can create.

Since our division moved to a new building, our Senior Vice President found the perfect organizing trays for his office. Since the desk trays he found didn’t have label holders, he made his own on his 3-D printer. Each label was sized to hold a slip of paper for his tray names, and he used small nails to fasten them to the trays. He also made a calendar so he can easily see today’s date when he signed paperwork.

I thought both creations were brilliant, and I am enamored by the magical world of 3-D printing. I love the idea of creating your own organizing products when you can’t find what you specifically need. Choose your design, the color, and presto – you have an original organizing tool.

Our Senior VP and other 3-D creators post their creations on the Maker Bot Thingiverse website. Visitors to the website can download the posted patterns to create their versions.

On the Thingiverse site, I found an assortment of organizing tools, including assorted boxes, organizer trays, and cable organizers. Some others that I liked:

One entry on the website was not a printable 3-D design but rather a suggested way to organize your 3-D tools.

It’s going to be exciting and fascinating to see how 3-D printing will continue to evolve in the future – in all aspects of our lives. At some point, we may go to our favorite office supply store and tell them what we need, and they will print out a customized product for us. How cool will that be?


Find Your Happy Place

Posted By on September 29, 2013

A funny thing happened while writing this post.

I decided to write about finding your happy place and started put fingers to keyboard. Then one of my friends gave her two weeks’ notice.

I wasn’t surprised. My friend has been miserable at her job for some time and had been searching for a new job in a tight job market. By quitting her job without another lined up, she chose her sanity and health over the stress.

It’s scary. It’s brave. My friend knows some may call her crazy, but life is a series of choices.

Life is too short not to be in your happy place.  I learned this the hard way, and since I didn’t learn it well enough the first time, it took a second experience for me to get it. In the two jobs I had before my current position, I stayed a year too long at each, and I was a burned out, unhappy and toxic mess by the time I left. When you’re burned out, unhappy and toxic, you are no fun to hang out with or engaged with your work.

I’m very fortunate to have been in a job for the past 13 years that keeps me engaged and makes me happy. Yes, there may be a bad day now and again, but I love my job.

Every now and again, I’ll have an organizing client who wants to talk to me about their productivity at work, but I quickly discover productivity isn’t the problem.  They’re not happy with their job, themselves, or the world in general, and no amount of help managing email and clutter is going to help.

Being the straightforward kind of chick that I am, I usually ask “Are you happy?” when I sense there is something lurking in the background.

It’s difficult to make changes in the best of times, but when you’re unhappy, making change can be paralyzing.  You can dip your toes in the water of change. So what should you do?

  • Seek help. Talking to a therapist or a life coach can be helpful in sorting out what’s going on in your head, what you want and how you can get it. I’ve used both a therapist and a life coach over the years, and I’ve found the work with them very, very helpful.
  • Make a vision board or list. Creating a vision board or drawing out your ideas, feelings and thoughts can surprise you. It helps you to realize what’s important to you and what goals you want to set.
  • Volunteer. If you’re not sure about changing jobs, particularly if it’s in a different field, try volunteering for a group doing the work you’re considering.  Many non-profits need help – especially the free kind.
  • Take classes. You can take in-person or online classes. Websites such as Khan Academy offer a variety of short videos on numerous topics. Many colleges and university also offer MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) – free classes open to everyone. Check out websites, such as Coursera.

It’s never too late to find your happy place. Trust me.


This is Your Life. This is Your Life on Digital.

Posted By on July 1, 2013

On Saturday, I found myself at my phone store trading in my old iPhone 4 for an iPhone 5.

As we prepared to wipe the old one and gear up the new one, the tech Jason reminded me that I would have to connect to iTunes to download my apps again. As I played with the new phone as he did paperwork – which isn’t really paperwork when it’s on an iPad, I said, “Oh, I have to mark my favorites again in my contacts. Or do I? I may want to change who my favorites are.”

Jason laughed. “Yeah, you may want to change up things. After all, it’s your digital life.”

Digital icons = digital life“Yes. Yes, it is,” I replied, my head spinning with possibilities.

It is my digital life. We all have one.

Our digital lives are filled with work and personal email, photos, documents, clouds, social media music, movies and everything else we have floating out there on the Internet. There are now legal questions on who owns your digital content after you die.

Managing our digital lives has become so important that my organizing colleague and friend Allison Carter renamed her business Digital Life Organizing. (Check out her Pinterest board too.)

Later that night, I reloaded my apps, but I was much more deliberate about it. I have lots of apps since I play with many of them for both organizing clients and web posts to see which ones work better.

Although I always delete the duds, others that I have wound up not using were still floating around.

Apps are just like anything else you have in your life. You have to decide what to keep and what to ditch. I downloaded only the apps I use and ones my clients like so I can do show and tell. The rest remain floating out there in case I need them. My personal faves that I use frequently on my phone:

  • Dropbox.
  • Evernote.
  • Box – since we will use this at work soon.
  • Wunderlist.
  • Playlists on iTunes for my workouts.
  • Hootsuite.

I organized the rest of my apps into categories such as Food, Social Media, Shopping, Travel, Health, Entertainment and Utilities. Putting my apps into folders works out great since I can easily find what I’m looking for. I don’t always use the default folder name if it doesn’t work for me.

Photos on my iPhone and tablet are regularly backed up to Dropbox so I don’t have to worry about what happens to them. Once they’re in Dropbox, I can rename, move and edit them.

Managing your smartphone is just a drop in the bucket of your digital life, but it’s yours to manage.


How Spanx Teaches You About Productivity

Posted By on May 16, 2013

I believe in Spanx. As a curvy chick, I appreciate how Spanx smooths out those little bulges and lines to make my outfits sing.

I consider Spanx to be in the Top 10 of all-time greatest inventions that make my life easier. It’s up there with chocolate croissants (combines my two favorite food groups: bread AND chocolate!), the iPad and Prozac.

At the beginning of May, I found myself in Little Rock to speak to the doctors and staff at the University of Arkansas Medical School. I wanted to wear my new green dress, the one that makes me feel like I’m channeling Christina Hendricks from Mad Men. To make sure everything looked good, I wore my Spanx.

While doing my hair, I checked the back of it with a hand mirror and saw one of the side effects of Spanx and physics – the muffin top spillage. My back flab was pushed up so I had back boobs, and so throughout the day, I had to make sure my undergarment was pulled up to my armpits so my flab was tucked in.

During my first productivity presentation, I shared this quote from Cindy Glovinsky, who wrote “Making Peace with the Things in Your Life”:  “Any given container can hold only a volume of things equal to its own volume – without something spilling over, that is.”

In the context I was using it, I was talking about our brains and our work loads. We can only take on so much before the dam breaks and things spill over. I almost laughed out loud when I thought to myself how Spanx and productivity work the same.

Only so much flab can go into a compression garment, and only so much stuff can go on your to-do list before suddenly you have a muffin top oozing out or brain cells exploding.

This situation reminded me how we need to look at our vessels and make sure we’re doing what we need and want to do, retaining what we want to retain and squishing in the flab we want to squish in.


The best “app”? The Off Button!

Posted By on March 19, 2013

I love smartphones and tablet computers and how much they can help make our lives easier. I’m a sucker for a fab app.

But there comes a time when the best app to use is the Off button. Okay, so technically, the Off button isn’t an app, but it’s a good thing to use every now and again.

There is a time to surf the web. There is also a time to turn things off.
When people use the term “digital vacation,” you know the need to unplug is become more and more important.

We live in a crazy, over-connected, and multi-tasking world, and we need boundaries to survive the madness.

During talks I give about productivity, I talk about how to take a vacation. Yes, yes, it seems I have to tell people how to take a vacation.

When you’re on vacation, you don’t do work email, you don’t go into the office and say “I’m not really here,” and you don’t call in. If you do that and you’re a manager, you are sending the message that you don’t trust your team and you’re a micromanager – even if that’s not your intention. The office should be able to function without you for a week or two. If it can’t, something is wrong.

There are times when I get pushback about checking work email while on vacation. I call them the “Yeah, buts.” Yeah, but I’ll have a bunch of email in my inbox when I get back. Emails should never be used for emergencies as a general rule, and you need your vacation to recover from the craziness we experience on a daily basis.

So when you need to, use the Off button and disconnect. You won’t regret it.