FOUR QUICK TIME-SAVING TIPS YOU MAY NEVER HAVE CONSIDERED BEFORE
  1. Have only as many credit cards you need—one personal, one business. Think of all the time you’ll save when not dealing with more. The only exception would be for a store card or two where you visit at least once a month and get special offers and discounts for using that card.
  1. When preparing meals, do it near the sink to throw peelings into the disposal and put a trash can right next to you for other trash. If you can’t easily move your can, use a bowl to throw stuff in to be emptied later.
  1. Tickler file at home. If you don’t have much going on every month, just make a file folder for each month. Have a calendar in there that shows birthdays and other days you want to send out cards. Put the cards in that folder when you buy them. Stash tickets, invitations, letters you need to answer and anything else that you want to do in a particular month. I do that and keep a Google calendar on my computer for a quick glance to see what’s coming up, like doctor appointments. Using both the file and the calendar, I am usually on top of everything.
  1. Have a box (about shoe-box size) next to where you store your purses. When you want to change bags, put everything into the box and sort through it to arrange the new purse.
WHAT WOULD TINA RECOMMEND ABOUT OVERWHELMING CLUTTER?

She’d say, “Take it easy. With baby steps.”

• Pick an area that needs de-cluttering. The corner of a room. Your home office. A closet.
• Discard or put away two items. Then stop.
• Discard or put away two items every day from now on (okay, take the weekend off, or at least Sunday).
• If you’re on a roll one day and feel like doing more and have the time, go ahead until you want to stop.
• BUT, the next day, discard or put away two more items. No resting on your laurels.
• Repeat until done.

Then you can pick another area to work on.

To keep the clutter permanently gone from the areas you’ve worked on, be sure to discard or put away any items that have accumulated in that spot before you go to bed every night. After a while this will become such a habit that you won’t be able to go to bed without having everything put away.

This is how I do it. I have two hot spots. Home office and kitchen. I make sure all surfaces are clear before I head off to bed every night. The rest of the house I keep up with as I use the space—the closet, for example, or the table next to my chair.

I hope this will help anyone who has trouble with excess clutter. Let me know how it goes if you use this system. And if you have any other tips, please leave a comment.

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COLLECT LIKE TASKS TOGETHER TO SAVE TIME

You need to pay the bills. I’m pretty sure you don’t sit down at your desk, pay one bill, then go and clean the toilet. Well, maybe you do. But probably you sit down and pay all the bills all at once, writing out the checks, stamping the envelopes and filing away the invoices.

Try using this system—it is a system—for other like tasks. For example:

Telephone calls.
Replying to emails
Running errands

There are two ways to clean a house. One way is one room at a time. It’s nice to have one room completely done. Another day, you do another room. But this is not the best system for saving time. For each room, you have to gather your equipment—vacuum cleaner, dust mop, dust rag, cleaning solution(s), high mop–and take them to the room. Then you have to put them all away. Next room, another day, repeat. What I do is vacuum the whole house one day (I also wash the kitchen floor that day). On another day, I dry mop the floors and dust. Another day, I clean the bathrooms and kitchen. Done on a regular schedule, everything remains clean enough for company.

There is something called mindfulness. For me this means paying attention to what you’re doing. Take stock every so often. Then see if you can figure out a better way to do the routine things you have to do every day, week, month, and year. This is a great way to get your life streamlined, leaving you time to do the things you enjoy the most.

Have you ever done this with a particular chore? Tell us about it in the comments. I love learning new tricks.

PAPER COMMAND CENTER

One idea for corralling paper clutter is a “paper command center.” Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? After I first saw the phrase, I decided to research it. Apparently most who talk about it mean a set of files on the work surface where you handle household paperwork. Maybe five or six files—one for each family member, one labeled “to file,” one for bills, one for medical and whatever else the person using the command center finds useful.

This means you have two sets of files: This small one near where you work, and another one, probably with the same labels, somewhere else.

This makes no sense to me. I would never have more than two pieces of paper, if that, in each file folder in this command center.

Here’s why. When I get the mail, I throw out the junk, start a pile for filing, and either handle right away what’s come in or put it in my inbox for later. I infrequently have more than two or three pieces of paper in my inbox. Before leaving my desk, I file the  daily mail that needs filing and check the inbox and handle anything there, and I’m done. This rarely, rarely takes me more than about twenty minutes (usually a lot less) after dinner.

Okay, I admit, I don’t get bills in the mail. Ours are all paid automatically, except for one credit card, and that’s because I pay it off every month, so using automatic bill pay wouldn’t work. But if I had bills, they would either be paid right away, or put in the in-box and paid once a week or twice a month, or monthly. I might make a file folder for them to put in my inbox, but I wouldn’t have a file folder for anything else in there.

I have a small envelop-sized filer for receipts—they’re filed by month.

When I come home from the doctor’s office, shopping, or whatever and have some paperwork in my purse, I simply file it away during my evening stint at the desk.

I don’t have children’s stuff from school to contend with anymore, but if I did, I’d go through what they bring home each day, either file it, put it on the fridge (art work), or handle any forms that need filling out and stick them right back in the backpack. Or make a note on a calendar or planner if it’s about an upcoming event. This could also wait for after dinner and shouldn’t add more than five or ten minutes to the whole enterprise.

Before you have two of anything, ask yourself, will it save me time? In this case, in my opinion, it won’t.

COSTS OF BEING DISORGANIZED

Do you ever think about the many costs of being disorganized? Here are quite a few. There are probably some I’ve missed.

FINANCIAL:

  • Uncashed checks.
  • Unclaimed insurance payments.
  • Unused coupons.
  • Late fees on bills.
  • Late fees for conference registrations.
  • Missed errors on your bank statements you forgot to look over.
  • Rebates not sent for on time.
  • Business expenses not claimed for company reimbursement.
  • Business expenses not reimbursed by company not taken as a tax deduction.
  • Money spent for a storage unit.
  • Losing track of items and having to buy replacements.

TIME:

  • Looking for lost items.
  • Being interrupted and then getting back on task.
  • No systems for handling mail and email.
  • Sifting through items to find the one you want—too much clutter.

EMOTIONAL:

  • Stress when you can’t find something while searching.
  • Time lost for inability to find things after you find it (if you do).
  • A feeling of being overwhelmed.
  • A feeling that others will judge you for being disorganized.
  • Uneasiness when people drop in on you.
  • Depression.

SOCIAL:

  • Old friends drop off when you miss one too many meetups or are continuously late.
  • You don’t invite people into your office or over to your house because of the clutter.
  • Your loved ones complain.
  • A loved one stops interacting with you through divorce or just distancing him or herself.

Now flip all the above to see how correcting the behavior will benefit you. You can have more time to relax and enjoy life, and you can feel better about yourself if you’re organized.

HOW MANY IS TOO MANY?

How many activities are you trying to balance every day in your life?

I once listed what I think are the most important ones we need to tend to or work on every day. Here they are:

Personal—health, grooming, education, just taking good care of ourselves.

Family—same here—take care of their health, education, and their other needs that they need you for. These will differ depending on each person—spouse, children, parents, even friends.

Career or other Main Interest—this is self-explanatory, except if you’re retired. Then you should think about doing something fulfilling with your time, not just fritter it away. Travel, volunteering, part-time work, engrossing hobbies can all be considered.

Financial—tend to your finances every day, and you’ll be in good shape financially!

Spiritual needs—again, self-explanatory.

These are not in any particular order, except the first one should be top priority because if you aren’t at your best, whatever that can be, then the rest is much harder to do. After that, they are, I believe, all of equal importance. All are connected. If your career is going well, you’ll be a happier person for your family to live with. If your finances are a mess, it impacts everything else. If your family doesn’t receive enough of your time, everyone, including you, losses. And if you don’t have a strong moral code, have beliefs that sustain you, then you will run into trouble when the going gets rough, and it will. We all know, it will.

When you break it down to these five important aspects of everyone’s life, it’s easier to see what needs to be done each and every day. Some days you’ll need to spend more time on one thing than another. And other days, it will reverse. But it wouldn’t hurt to spend a few minutes at the beginning of your day to consider each one and decide the most important thing you can do that day to tend to those needs. And at the end of the day, do a mental recap, or write in your journal what you accomplished. Then you can nod your head and say you had a good day, or you can decide how you can make tomorrow even better.

HOW TO LIVE A HAPPIER LIFE WITH YOUR BELOVED COMPUTER

Okay, the title had to be a bit amusing because the rest is so serious. But oh, so important.

1.     Get Properly Trained. You’ll get more work done in less time and with a lot less hassle. Also learn how to find help using the help buttons on your programs and on-line when you run into difficulties after you get trained. Learn the language and acronyms. There are oodles of courses on-line, at community centers and colleges, and even individual tutors. If all else fails, ask your grandchild for help. Okay, I’m only half-way serious about that.

2.     Back It Up. I only put this second because you need to know how to do effective backups before you can follow this advice. But it’s a major, major priority.

3.     Be secure. Know how to protect yourself from computer viruses and other malware. Don’t open questionable emails, don’t go to questionable websites, use good passwords, etc.

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4.     Fix Problems Immediately. Small problems can become major in the blink of an eye. Pay attention to that warning message. Get a new keyboard when the one you’re using is sticking, or get it repaired. Screen flickering? That might mean it’s going to die any minute. The potential for losing your day’s work or worse if you don’t back-up regularly is very real. Don’t let it happen to you.

5.     Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute. When you’re working on something that’s due soon, get it done, get it saved, get it printed, if necessary. Technology always fails at the wrong moment. Actually, there’s never a right moment.

6.     Know When to Get an Expert. Give yourself just so much time to fix a problem whether it’s a machine or software one. After that, find an expert—live or on-line. Your time is valuable, and stress doesn’t help the situation.

7.    Don’t be the very first to upgrade to anything. Wait for others to try it out and see how it goes. This is for major upgrades, not those small updates programs and computers need every so often. It’s always wise to check on-line before upgrading or updating. Look for trusted sites that warn of bogus or questionable ways to change something on your computer. Look for cautions about security holes. Wait to see if the new phone or operating systems works well for others. At first there are usually a few bugs that have to be worked out even after they go to market. 

All these suggestions can save your career and your sanity. Have I left out anything you consider mandatory? Please leave a comment if you can think of something.

RANDOM THOUGHTS ABOUT MANAGING YOUR LIFE

Some basic ideas that will help you live your best life:

Eat at the same time every day, and eat healthy.

picnic 01 by Anonymous - A picnic laid out ready to eat! Originally uploaded by Daniel Delay for OCAL 0.18

Move around more. Go to different places to do different activities on your computer if you use a laptop or tablet. For example, take it to your bedroom to do serious work when you don’t want to be interrupted, or to your home office, if you have one. Put it up on a high counter or bar to do your email and stand while using it. Stretch out on the couch to surf the net. You get the idea.

Do sit-down work in fifty-minute-to-one-hour increments. Then get up and move around. Studies have shown that our attention tends to lag at about the hour mark. Plus your body needs a change of position at least this often.

Schedule your breaks. Yes, schedule them.

Get plenty of sleep. Your work will go easier, your fun will be more fun, and you’ll be healthier, too.

Exercise for at least twenty minutes a day—thirty minutes is better. You can easily fit this in if you break the time into two parts. Do a lot of stretching, some jogging in place, some basic core exercises, and have some hand weights to strengthen your upper body. Purchase an exercise mat, and you can do all of this anywhere there’s enough room for you and the mat.

And finally, do work you love to do, or at least enjoy most of the time. If you’re not, go out and find it.

OBSESSED OR BALANCED?

There are currently at least two ideas about living a good life by accomplishing all your goals.

Probably the most common is aiming for a “balanced life.” With this plan, you set out your goals and you work on each one, or most of them, every day. Like the steady drip of water, you wear away all obstacles and achieve all your goals, as long as you stick to them long enough.

Another, maybe newer, idea is to alternate your obsessions—pick one to concentrate on for several weeks or months at a time, then go on to something else. For example, writers might write as much and quickly as we can on a novel to get the first draft done, cutting way down or eliminating marketing, editing other work, and certain things in private life (your pick) to get that draft done. Then we might obsess about editing that book. Then marketing it.

Which is more appealing to you? I suggest you try both, if you haven’t so far. I’ve been doing the balanced life idea for many years now. How’s it working out for me? I’m not so sure. I feel I’ve accomplished a lot, but I’m wondering if I’d been more obsessive about certain projects I might not have done them better and even quicker. And had more enjoyment, as well.

It’s like when you move into a new house. Generally, your focus in on getting everything set up as fast as you can. And then, in six months to a year, it’s pretty much done. But you could stretch it out over several years if you also tried to write a new novel and edit an old one plus do some marketing every day. Or if you decided to start a new business, train for a marathon, and take a college course or two.

My final thought is that the best of all worlds is to combine these ideas. Use a period of obsession to get something that is vitally important to you done. Then take some down time to catch up with the rest of the people and things in your life. During that downtime, have a more varied schedule. But I do need to try out the obsessive idea because I’ve rarely, if ever, done it. Unless we moved into a new house or I decided to only edit a whole novel as fast as I could. Those are the only two things I can think of that I ever did obsessively. The rest of the time I was a drip.

Slow and steady or fast and furious, that is the question. Here are a couple of links with more information about both ways to live your life:

Balanced: At MOM MD a pretty complete overview here: http://www.mommd.com/canyouhaveitall.shtml

Obsessed: Scott H. Young’s idea at http://www.scotthyoung.com/blog/2011/07/13/obsession/

Now I’m off to obsess about something or other.

TOP TEN DAILY WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR LIFE

Just do these, and your life will be fantastic!

  1. Eat well, and if needed, figure out what you’re not getting from food and take supplements. And be sure to drink enough fluids.
  2.  Exercise every day, at least by stretching. Twenty minutes is ideal, more if you need to lose weight.
  3. Have a plan. Then use it. Put the top three items you want to do at the top of your daily to-do list, and do them first.
  4.  Spend time with your family and friends.
  5. Have a job you love. If you don’t love it, find one you will.
  6. Take breaks. Don’t work while eating meals, and if you’ve been sitting for an hour, stand up and move around for several minutes.
  7. Spend some time in nature.
  8. Laugh.
  9. Hug someone.
  10. Count your blessings every night before bed. And be sure to get enough sleep.