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Neatness Counts KC

Articles, Blogs, Helpful Hints, and Book Reviews

An ongoing series of informational entries

Oh, those decorations!!! 

How to declutter your decorations while putting them up and taking them down.

December 15, 2018

My Quick Win solutions for packing away the holidays:

Use clear plastic boxes or cardboard boxes.  Cardboard are more ecologically friendly but  the clear plastic boxes are more durable and are not single use items, and are therefore slightly better in the world of trying to live without plastic.

Throw away any decoration that is worn or broken and you know you aren't going to repair.  Wash any items before packing. Consider donating any decorations that you didn't put up this year.  Chances are, you won't put those decorations up next year either.  Why waste the storage room on items your don't absolutely love?  Make your shopping list for replacement items so you can hit the after holiday sales with purpose.

Clearly Label each box as you seal it closed. 

Stack them in the reverse order in which you took the decorations down.  For example, I put stockings up last and therefore, the box of stockings should contain other items that are put up in the final decorating moments.  That box should be the first one in my attic and positioned at the back of the attic.  My artificial tree is the last box I put into my attic so that it is the first one out next Thanksgiving.

Happy New Year.

Where to start when you want to organize for productivity.

15 November 2018 

Start with a list of what you think your boss would write down if he or she was told to prioritize your work.  If you can't guess what he or she would write as your priorities, then go ask him or her for a list.

Post this list where you can easily see it from your most frequent position during your day.  For some, the best location is on your computer screen wall paper, or on your phone, or on a white board, or in their day planner.

At the end of each day make a plan for tomorrow which put's your bosses priorities first and your priorities second, and everyone else's requests or priorities third.  Sometimes, your priorities will be the same as others, that is to be expected. Make sure that this plan includes any email requests sent to you before the close of your day.

Don't open your email the next day, until the boss's priorities are accomplished.  If the boss's priorities are going to take several days, then break each one down into steps to accomplish that day.  Be reasonable in your expectations of how long each step will take.  If one step will take all day, then check email just before your lunch break and again before you leave for the day.

You may want to send out a notification telling others when you will check email so they don't have unreasonable expectations on your response time.

Get Organized Month

January 2019

January is Get Organized Month!

Get Organized and Be More Productive this year.

Many people make this resolution, but then have a hard time getting started. That is where a professional organizer comes in.

Whether you need just an hour to make a plan that you can execute on your own, or you want more personalized and hands on guidance, calling a professional organizer can help you make this resolution happen. From the quick wins to the long-term changes, we are here to assist you achieve your goals with minimal stress.

Some people just need to set an appointment with an organizer to insure they keep their scheduled time to get organized and avoid putting it off. Others need someone who will take the time to observe them, create suggestions which turns to a plan with an accountability coach, and modifications as needed.

Let's start with a quick win.

What is on your desk? Turn off your computer screen and focus on the other items.

As you look at each item, pick it up. Ask yourself three questions for each item.

What is the priority for this item?

How often do I need this item?

If it can't stay on my desk, where should I put it?

Priorities are set by your boss and you. Put the things that your boss thinks are most important to be done in the center of your desk closest to you. Move your key board if necessary. The things are usually those that produce income for the business.

The next priority are the remaining items that you think are important. Put your hands on your desk, one on each side of the boss' priority area. Place the items you deem important to you, next to your dominant hand on your desk.

As you pick up items that are not in the right place on your desk, put them in the correct place. These items might be papers ready for filing, or distracting items like your mobile phone.

Everything else that doesn't have a better home than your desk, goes in an area next to your non-dominant hand.

Leave your computer screen off, or at a minimum close your email and any social media pages. 

Tackle what is in the center of your desk, and work until you have handled every item in that area. Then move to the area of your dominant hand and work to clear that area. Then work to clear that last remaining area on your desk.

If you don't clear all three areas, don't worry. You prioritized your work and got the most important things done Today.

Plan your remaining work for tomorrow adding in items found in your email using the same prioritization you used for items on your desk.

When you come in tomorrow morning, work your plan before opening your email.

Pandemic - Now what?

March 2020

Stay at Home Orders mean we are working from home and have to create a home office that will let us be as productive as we were in our brick and mortar offices.

Living during a pandemic means living with uncertainty and fear.

First a bit on pandemic preparedness:  As a strategist for the U.S. Army, I read, updated and complied with several pandemic preparedness plans.  Most of the Army's plans focused on keeping Soldiers safe and healthy, while protecting national assets to protect our nation's interests.  Most of the plans I read assumed that the disease would be active for at least 18 months with the most likely scenarios of the diseases circling the earth about three times with the virus mutating with each spin around the globe.  The estimate for a vaccine ranged widely with a minimum time period before a viable vaccine was available being two years.  So this, COVID 19 virus could be with us for much longer than most of us have ventured to imagine.  How will we conduct ourselves and manage to be productive in the interim may be our legacy and our gift to others.  Staying calm, being cautious, and taking action to safeguard our loved ones will help reduce our own feelings of uncertainty and helplessness.  Making the most of today's technology and staying in touch with video calls, is a very positive way of encouraging one another through this period of threat to our health.  Setting up your home office is another positive step toward securing your future during this time. 

Here are my top five tips on how to set up a home office to help you be more productive and successful.

1. Think about your body.

       Ergonomic solutions will help you feel comfortable in your new office.  First think about you chair and where you set your computer.  Your chair should adjust so that your forearms are parallel or slightly angled down to the keyboard and the arms of the chair should be level with your elbow when your arms natural hang down from relaxed shoulders.  You should have an angled foot rest to take pressure off your back while sitting.  You should get up and move around every 50 minutes for a minimum of ten minutes.  You should get fresh air during lunch at a minimum, but three breaks outside is preferred. Stretching or exercising during each break will refresh you and improve your stamina and reduce your stress. If you need an adjustable platform for your keyboard and monitor so that you can work sitting and standing, some fairly inexpensive ones are available for online order.

2. Routines and Rules.

     Routines are the key to staying productive while at home.  Keep your routine as close as possible to you routine when you traveled to the office.  Wake up and get dressed for the office at the same time you normally would before your daily commute.  Your exercise, personal hygiene, and meal routines should remain the same or as similar as possible to before the stay at home order.  You are working from home to protect your health and you don't want to give up you workout routine now, in fact you might take those minutes you spent commuting to add a new item to your workout to boost your energy level and strength. Consider the privacy you need in order to conduct your business.  If you are easily distracted or have other family members working and studying at home, consider setting up your office in a room with a door, or setting a few work hour rules for when to disturb and when not to disturb.  You may need white noise making devices to create sound barriers.  You may need an area where pets are not allowed or the TV does not interfere with your thought process.  You may need to move your office away from the laundry room or kitchen if you are tempted to do household chores before working.

3. Security and Privacy.

     Your home internet network might need a boost in speed, reach, and security now that you are working from home.  Make sure that the protocols the IT folks had at your office are duplicated in your home (within reasonable expense) to secure client and proprietary information.  Purchase a file cabinet with a lock if necessary, or consider items that are so sensitive to your business that may need to be behind two locks. Consider privacy screens for your monitors if you have to share an office with another family member.  You may have to improve your backup routines, which the IT department ran automatically for you from the office.  Remember the 3,2,1 of storage when backing up your digital information.  # copies of things, 2 different media, and 1 stored offsite.

4.  Your Image.

     Take a few minutes and review some of the videos on You tube that educate you on how to improve your look and sound during a video conference call.  Use a green screen, a white board, or a sheet to boost the virtual back grounds available in some video conferencing platforms.  Dress for every conference call as though you were meeting an important client or your boss in the office.  Check you lighting in your office and consider raising your camera to eye level or slightly higher.  You might need a second monitor to improve your participation in video conferences.  One for pulling up data or documents being discussed or presented, and one for monitoring reactions of attendees.  If you have a cluttered office, or you are in a room used for other purposes, hang a sheet to block the view of the unprofessional areas. 

5.  When you sit at you new work space, consider those things that you need immediately or that should be within arms reach.  Pens, paperclips, scissors, (your list should be customized for your needs). Then consider what you need that can be outside of your reach, but needs to be in the room where you work, like the printer, your stapler, a white board, etc.  Then consider what needs to be in the room, but can be put away in a drawer or behind a cabinet door.  If you like your stuff out where you can see it then consider open shelving and open file boxes.  If you prefer your stuff tuck away, then consider purchasing filing cabinets and shelves behind cabinet doors.  There is no right or wrong here, it is just how you prefer to work so that you can reach what you need when you need it.  Then think of items that do not need to be in the same room with you, things like the shredding machine might be shared, or the recycle bin, or the WiFi hub.  Then consider those items that can be stored offsite or in another building.  things stored offsite might be last week's back up files, or client files older than 3 years, etc.

I hope this helps you think through your conversion and constant improvement of you new home office.


Getting into the groove

April 2020

April showers bring May Flowers.

My husband and I are walking a lot more in the evenings now that spring is here.

Thees evening walks are a boost to our mood and they help bring us back together after a day of working in our separate offices.  It is also our alone time for our romantic lives as our nephew is living with us for the duration of the semester.  I highly encourage you to get out and smell the roses.  

Many of you are cleaning out closets reducing clutter and going minimalist.  But no charity is open yet to take donations.  The recycling and shredding centers are also closed.  What should you do?  

Consider creating collection points in your garage or basement. seal things in bins or boxes or bags to prevent water damage or rodent damage.  Then keep up with this website for weekly updates to charities and centers as they begin to open.  One of the last donation location to close was Goodwill, and they will most likely be one of the first to open. The great news is that Goodwill accepts a wider variety of items than most charities.  Stay tuned. Need help with your organization endeavors?  Let us help you virtually.  Check out our Virtual organizing page here.

May 2020:  Opening UP

May 2020

As we begin to open up and maybe leave our home offices, we must consider the health of our clients, customers, and friends.

You might have heard about the new plexi-glass barriers recommended, you might wear a mask during your full day at work, and you might need a different routine in preparing for work and returning home from work.

We still don't know how the virus spreads, exactly. Nor do we know for sure who is at more risk than others. So let's be cautious and error on the side of too much protection. Your brick and mortar place of work may look different with social distance circles or lines on the floor, desks might be spread out and cubicles might have additional height or barriers going to the ceiling. The traffic flow in the office or shop might be directional and one-way. The water cooler, and coffee pot might be removed. All of this is for your safety, even if it brings you frustration.

Remember it is up to you to protect the health of your clients and customers as well as your fellow employees. Without them, you could loose your business altogether.

Protect your business and your job by protecting those around you.

A change in your routine before and after work might reduce your frustration with all the new protocols. Give yourself more time than you used to to exercise, conduct personal hygiene, dress, eat and pack up before heading to the car. Have several masks ready to go each day. You might want them to match your suit like a scarf or a tie. You may want to spritz the mask with something that smells good and boosts your energy level, like an essential oil (lemon and peppermint are good choices). Pack your lunch since eating at the local canteen might not be an option for a while. Consider the mason jar meals that can be packed a week at a time. Pack some hand sanitizer and a few cleaning supplies in case the office or shop runs out before your shift is over.

While at work, set a time to push yourself to focus and do more in the time you are at the office or shop. If you are not familiar with this game to boost your productivity, use your search engine to find out more on pomodoro time keeping.

Once you are home, consider creating a place for changing and cleaning before you greet your loved ones. We have seen several news expose' where health care workers, bag their scrubs, and shower before hugging their children when they get home. How long you keep your suits or clothes in bags before washing is up to you, but current guidance suggests a minimum of three days. Guidance changes all the time based on new information we learn each day about this virus and it's impact.

Do those things that boost your mood and add them to your before and after work routines. Music, smell goods, dancing, small treats to help you perk up and reduce the day's frustration.