July 13, 2024

Write That Weekly Task List!

How do you plan your weekly tasks and to-do’s?  Do you work from a list? I almost always do, but during the past two weeks, I got so busy that I neglected to write my weekly task list.  I accomplished (most) of the biggies on my plate, and nothing catastrophic was overlooked.  Nevertheless, without my list I felt a bit unmoored, a bit less productive.  

As of this morning, I’m back on track.  My weekly task list (via Google calendar) is at my fingertips, and I’ve already checked off a few boxes, which can be ridiculously satisfying.

If you habitually carry your to-do’s in your head, I suggest you write them down, and make a list.  Whether on paper or electronically doesn’t matter much–whatever works for you. Options could range from a small spiral notebook or giant post-it, to an app such as Toodledo (www.toodeldo.com) or  Remember the Milk (www.rememberthemilk.com). 

So try it–make a weekly list, and give your productivity a boost

Ho Ho Ho–Just Say No

Many of us tend to over-commit ourselves, especially during the holidays.  Rather than give you pointers on how to manage your time, I’d like you to consider the Art of Saying No. In Time Management from the Inside Out, Julie Morgenstern says,

“The act of eliminating tasks involves saying no to other people.  If it’s hard for you to say no, you’ll end up doing things you really don’t want to, simply because you feel guilty declining.  We all hate to disappoint, but the larger truth is that those requests are going to keep coming your way.  Do you really want to spend your ever more precious time doing things just to please others?  You need to learn how to balance doing things for those you care about, while still honoring your own goals.” 

And finally, there’s the saying: “Stress is when your gut says no, but  your mouth says yes.”  Isn’t that the truth!

So go ahead, volunteer, help out on that special project, bake those cookies–if you really can, and if you really want to.  Sometimes it’s ok to say no.

Options for Organizing Business Cards

You’ve just returned to the office after another networking event.  You dump those freshly-acquired business cards on your desk.  You set aside a few for follow-up emails, and idly finger the rest, admiring tag lines, graphics and logos (or not.) But what should you do with all those business cards?  You’ll give it some thought later, but for now, into the desk drawer they go.

Organizing business cards can be a challenge; most of the obvious approaches have drawbacks:

  • Dumping cards in a drawer or box = an unorganized, unsearchable mess.
  • Storing cards in a business card binder = no way to organize in a sensible way without rearranging old cards as new ones are added.  Who’s got time for that?! 
  • Alphabetizing cards = How? By last name? Business name? Category?  It’s tough to stay consistent, and again, time consuming.    
  • Entering every card you receive into your database = Labor intensive, and you may be left with an address book of strangers.

There are steps you can take to better manage all the business cards that come your way.  After all, the point of taking someone’s card is to take action—to connect, not start a meaningless collection.

Here are some options for organizing business cards:

If you’re strictly interested in an old-school, non-computerized system, consider using an accordion file or binder with labeled dividers.  Organize cards by category, rather than alphabetically.  That is, arrange cards by networking groups, professional associations, geographical area, vendors—whatever categories make sense to you.  This isn’t a perfect system, but it’s better than a shoebox of cards crammed under your desk.

Enter business cards manually in your computer database, whether it be Outlook, an email address book, or a more business-oriented CRM (Customer Relationship Management) program, such as ACT!, BatchBook, or Zoho.

Even better, scan business cards to your computer.  There are several scanning options:

  • A portable scanner designed for business cards
  • A high powered scanner for all types of documents, such as Fujitsu’s ScanSnap (recommended if you really want to go paperless)
  • Shoeboxed (www.shoeboxed.com) a service in which you mail in your business cards (or receipts, or any kind of document) to be scanned and organized to your cloud-based Shoeboxed account.  You can also import contact info to Outlook, Google Contacts, or your favorite CRM.
  • A smartphone app such as CamCard or CardMinder. Snap a photo of a business card with your phone; the card’s image is saved, and data is added to your contacts and /or synced to another program you may be using, such as Evernote.
  • What are the advantages of scanning business cards? You contacts are searchable and easily accessed on your computer or mobile device, so you can throw away or recycle that box of cards with confidence.

No matter what system you choose, be selective about keeping every business card you receive.   It’s ok to discretely dispose of cards that you’re unlikely to ever need.

Finally, when you meet a promising new contact, immediately schedule a time to follow up.  After all, unless you take action, your networking efforts will go nowhere, no matter how well you organize all those cards.



Stuck No More–Clutter Be Gone! by Katy Tafoya

I’ve recently returned from a twelve day family trip to Costa Rica.  We had a wonderful time, but post-vacation re-entry has been, let’s say, a work in progress.  With that in mind, I’m happy to put my feet up and share a blog post from Katy Tafoya, a Los Angeles based teacher/ coach, and founder of the awesome site Success for Solopreneurs. 
I’ve been a fan of Katy’s Facebook page for some time, and I’m super excited to hear her speak at the July meeting of  the National Association of Professional Organizers–Los Angeles Chapter (NAPO-LA.)  Though Katy isn’t a professional organizer, this post could have been lifted from many an organizer’s blog…her advice is spot-on!
Enjoy, readers…and thanks, Katy!

Stuck No More – Clutter Be Gone! – by Katy Tafoya

“Don’t own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire.”

~ Wendell Berry
Did you know that clutter is a form of stagnant energy?  It’s a blockage.  A stuckness.  An excuse.

In fact, according to Clutter Clearing and Feng Shui expert, Karen Kingston, “the word “clutter” derives from the Middle English word “clotter,” which means to coagulate.”  As in to clot and to clog….like your arteries.

Not cool.

Imagine what that means to your life and your business.  Think of how many ways you could be blocking your energy and getting in your own way.

As I write this, I look to my left and see a heaping pile of clutter on my desk.  I hate it.  Every time I turn and see it, I’m reminded of how much I hate it.  Every time I look for something important and have to shuffle through the mess, I feel my energy draining and my frustration growing.

Ugh, just thinking about it wears me down.

The good news (at least to me), is that each and every time I put aside a few minutes to clean up the clutter (I use a timer and some good music to make it easier to deal with) I find that amazing things happen.

You see, once you clean up the space, ditch the junk and make space, you’ve cleared up the energy for something new to come in. 

And like we all learned back in High School…nature abhors a vacuum and will rush in to fill that now empty space with something good…new clients, new opportunities and even new money. And who would turn their back on any of that?!?!

So I challenge you to set aside 15 minutes today (or tomorrow, or this week…just do it!) and clear your clutter.  You don’t have to tackle every room or even every piece of furniture in one room. 

But start somewhere and toss, toss, straighten, file and toss some more.

Then sit back and wait for the amazing opportunities, unexpected benefits, surprise money and even new clients that come into your life.

It almost makes it worth living through the clutter for a while.  Almost.

ACTION PLAN: So what’s the first step you’ll be taking in clearing out your clutter?

I invite you to share a little about who you are, what you do and your successes as solopreneur by joining the conversation at the Success for Solopreneurscommunity.

Katy Tafoya is teacher and a coach who finds joy in helping women claim their passion and expertise. She guides solopreneurs to make their lives and their businesses juicier, more fulfilling and more successful. She also leads the Val Gal quarterly networking dinners which are always open to the public and in the greater San Fernando Valley. If you’re ready to identify, claim and leverage your expertise and live your passion you can sign up for a a F.R.E.E. subscription to her weekly ezine at SuccessForSolpreneurs.com.

Back Up Your Calendar with Google

An unfortunate series of events recently befell my friend’s BlackBerry.

My friend is a busy, successful entrepreneur, and mom of two young ones.  Always on the go, always multi-tasking.  It’s what we mompreneurs do best, right?  

Not always.

Five minutes after starting a load in the washing machine, my friend realized that her phone was tucked away in her pocket…in a pair of pants at the bottom of the machine.  She estimated that her BlackBerry was fully submerged for a good three minutes.

Panic time? Well, sure.  But she remembered hearing about the bag of rice trick: if a cell phone gets soaked, quickly seal it in a bag of uncooked rice.  Supposedly, the rice will draw out the moisture.  Am I suggesting that you try this? I am not.  Though it just may work, as it did for my relieved friend.  All was good again.

Until two days later, when she absolutely, positively, lost her phone.  It was replaceable, of course, and she had her contacts backed up.  What put her into a tailspin, was that she didn’t have her calendar backed up.  A calendar that was booked solid for the next six months.  Uh oh.

 Is your electronic calendar backed up?  If not, I suggest you start using Google calendar asap.  It’s free and user friendly.  If you don’t already have a Google account, set one up here.  You don’t have to use gmail; you can sign in with any email account.  (This is also the source  for Google Analytics and Google Reader.)

You can set up your Google calendar so that someone else (an assistant, say) can set appointments for you from the office, which then magically sync to your phone.  You can also share your calendar with friends, family, or post it on your website. 

Best of all, Google calendar syncs with a number of  mobile devices, like the iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, and a few more.    So, you can continue to use, say, the BlackBerry calendar that you’re so fond of–the interface is the same–but it’s synced, and therefore backed up on the Google cloud.  (You can find Google sync instructions here .) 

Volia, calendar back-up problem solved.

I haven’t spoken with my friend in several days (you know, no phone.)  But if she knows what’s good for her, one of the first calls she’ll make on her new phone will be to me, so I can remind her to set up her Google calendar.  I suggest you do the same.

P.S.  If you have any first-hand experience with the soaking-phone-in-a-bag-of-rice trick, I’d love to hear about it.

Managing Email: 7 Tips to Tame your Inbox

Got email?

Of course you do, and probably more than you’d like.  How many emails do you currently have in your inbox?  Are you a minimalist with fewer than ten, or a high roller with thousands?

Once upon a more naive time, while looking over a friend’s shoulder, I gasped to see that she had over two thousand emails in her Hotmail account.  I didn’t even know that was possible (insert chuckle.)  As a regular deleter, it never occurred to me to keep that many messages. 

I now know that a thousands-full inbox is pretty common.  Is that bad?  Not necessarily.  If you’re comfortable with–or even comforted by–several years’ worth of emails, then carry on.  You may be forced to delete when you max out your storage, but if you’re able to stay on top of your messages, and the tasks they represent, then you don’t have to confront the number “just because you should.”      

However, if you’re stressed by that backlog, as well as the daily onslaught of new emails, it may be time to take action.  For many, especially those of us who are visual, a cluttered inbox represents just one more source of overwhelm.  “How can I possibly weed through three thousand emails?”, you may whimper.   As with any decluttering project, you must first decide to make a change, make a plan, and then get going.     

Ready to streamline your  inbox?  Here are some tips:

1)  First, make a plan for new and yet-to-be-received  emails.  While you’re working through the backlog, new messages won”t stop coming, of course.  Once you start dealing with new messages more effectively, you can work on the old ones according to your schedule.  This will help you avoid that frustrating, “I’ll-never-get-caught-up” feeling that can stop you in your tracks.

 2)  As new emails come in, act immediately.  Obvious junk? Delete.  No action required? Read and delete.  High priority, or action required? Flag and schedule the task on your calendar.  Store coupon you plan to use? Print and put it in your wallet.  Client email you should save? File in the proper email folder.  You get the idea: make immediate decisions as often as you can. 

3)  Set up email folders.  Client names, projects, upcoming events, photos, receipts, research, recipes–these are all possible folder ideas.  Folders are ideal for emails that you want to archive, or will need in the near future, but don’t need to keep in your inbox.  The trick is to file emails as quickly as possible.  As with paper files, remember to clean out your email folders every once in awhile.

4)  Set up email filters.  You can flag incoming emails by the sender or a key word (in many cases) so that messages automatically go into designated folders.  Filters are great for newsletters, blog subscriptions, and list servs.  You can check out content at your own pace.  Not sure how to set up filters?  Your email provider should have a help or tutorial section.

5)  Unsubscribe.  Virtually every time you make an online purchase, your email address gets added to a list.  You continue to receive messages from the company, even if you have no plans to buy again.  You may also be subscribed to a number of newletter and groups that are no longer relevant to you.  Set aside some time and unsubscribe from these lists.  The result? A less cluttered inbox with content you actually want to receive.

6)  As for dealing with the backlog, I propose that you purge messages that go way back.  Don’t read, just delete.  Extreme? Maybe, but chances are that you won’t ever need them.  If you want to hedge your bets, search for senders or topics that you want to keep, and file those emails in folders.

7)  Delete regularly.  I’ll say it again.

Here’s to a leaner inbox!

NAPO 2011 Conference

Last week, for the first time, I attended the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO)’s annual conference in sunny San Diego.  What an inspiring, invigorating four days!

Most of my colleagues in the organizing world are solopreneurs.  Sometimes we collaborate on projects, but most of the time we’re flying solo.  So, to be in a space where 400+ professionals “get” you, and speak the lingo? Priceless.  (And to spend three nights on my own in a hotel room, unburdened by domestic duties? Fab-u-lous.)

I came home with several Big Ideas for my business.  I also came home with a stack of business cards, product info, books, and brochures.

What did I come home to? Let’s just say that it took me three days to unpack.  But all the catch up has been worth it, without a doubt. 

Is there a conference or convention on your horizon?  Here are a couple of tips:

  • First of all, make every effort to go.  Never stop investing in yourself.
  • Don’t stay glued to your cronies.  Mix it up, introduce yourself to strangers.  You know, network.
  • As you collect business cards, make who-what-where notes on the cards to jar your memory.  You won’t remember everyone.  Trust me.
  • Make an attempt to socialize in the evening.  That’s the fun part, the bonding part! Make sure to get enough sleep, though.  And no hangovers.
  • Each night, before you go to sleep, write down the one or two significant “take-aways” that you learned that day.   
  • If possible, schedule the day after you return as an admin day.  (Or it may take you three days to unpack, too.)
  • Follow up, follow up, follow up.  Reach out to your new contacts within a week of your return.  Email is the norm, but Facebook and Twitter can be a great way to build relationships.

     Any other tips to add?  Let’s hear them!

Back Up Your Business

Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami has left the world reeling. 

The disaster gave me a much needed wake up call, since I live in earthquake prone Southern California.  Prior to this weekend, my family had only a rudimentary disaster preparedness kit, and our emergency plan was hazy at best.  There was no excuse for this, given where we live (not to mention my profession.)  We are now better prepared.

In the event of a natural disaster, the personal safety of our loved ones is paramount.  But what about your business?  If your office or work space were obliterated, would you be able to salvage your vital documents and data?

You probably already back up your computer, but if you’re exclusively using an external hard drive, it would most likely be lost in a flood, fire, or other disaster.  That’s why I now recommend using an online backup service, such as Carbonite (www.carbonite.com) or Mozy (www.mozy.com).   I’ve been using Carbonite for a while, and it’s a great reassurance.  It automatically backs up any new files (though you can set your preferences.)  Carbonite is currently $54.95 per computer / per year, and worth every penny for the peace of mind.

How about your paper files, documents, and receipts?  To what degree would your business be impacted if they all went up in smoke?  Consider going (almost) paperless.  There are some powerful scanners on the market that can scan multiple pages, receipts, business cards and photos in seconds.  Check out Neat Receipts (www.neatco.com) and the ScanSnap (www.fujitsu.com).  If you do decide to digitize your business files, remember to back them up—preferably on the cloud. 

What else are you doing to protect your business from a disaster?  Has Japan’s recent tragedy spurred you to take action, either in your office or at home?

Do One Big Thing This Month

Excuse me, do you happen to know what happened to January?

I don’t know about you, but for me, last month passed at a frighteningly brisk clip.  Here we are, four days into February.

Have you written down your goals for 2011?  If you haven’t, it’s not too late to start.  Decide what you want to accomplish in terms of your business, social life, family life, fitness, education, plus any category I’ve missed–and work backwards.  That is, write your yearly goals (by category, if you have a bunch of them,) and then break them down into:

  • quarterly goals
  • monthly goals
  • weekly goals
  • daily goals  

That’s a whole lot of goal-writing, and a lot of to-do’s.  But if you really want to make things happen this year, this is the process.

I’m all about goal setting, obviously, but I’m also about setting reasonable deadlines.  With this in mind, I’d like to encourage you to choose One Big Thing to accomplish this month.  It doesn’t need to be huge, but it should be something that you’ve been putting off for awhile, or even better, a goal that will move your business or personal life forward in a significant way.

So what’s it going to be?  I’m going to put some new content on this site, something I meant to do before New Year’s.  Does that sound like a good goal? It’s ok, but this is even better: 

  • I’m going to detail my Productivity Coaching services on this site, and
  • I’m going to (finally) add my free, download-able offering for those who sign up for my newsletter / list.

Do you get the idea? The more specific the goal, the better your chances of actually doing it.  And finally, declare what you’re going to do, as I just did.  This will keep you accountable.

You better believe I’m going to get my One Big Thing done, since I just said I would.  And if I don’t, please call me out.

So, who’s in? Declare your One Big Thing for February, and make it happen!

5 Tips to Reduce Those Paper Piles

A solid desktop filing system will reduce paper clutter

January (aka G.O. Month) is almost over.  How have you been doing on those organizing resolutions you set? 

I’ve done a lot of paper-related work with clients this month.  Are papers  a sore spot for you, too?  Do you engage in “filing by piling,” or dumping everything on your desk?  Help is on the way!  With these five steps, you’ll soon have your paper piles whipped into shape.

1.  Sort papers and mail over the trash / recycling bin.  Feed generously.

 When deciding whether to toss something, ask yourself:

  • Do I really need this information?
  • What’s the worst that would happen if I didn’t have this information?
  • Can I find this information elsewhere? 

 2.  Sort papers and mail with your planner / calendar in hand.

  • Write to-dos in your calendar with a deadline.
  • For events that require a decision or RSVP, pencil the date in your calendar.  Next, select a “decide-by” date and write it down.  When you reach that date in your calendar, it’s time to make a decision.  File or toss any related paperwork. 
  • With this method, you can confidently file pending projects in a “Pending” or “Action Required” file on your desk top.       
  • This technique works with both paper and electronic calendars.

3.  Remove your name and address from mailing lists.

  • This requires a time investment, but will eventually reduce junk mail.
  • Visit the Direct Marketing Association’s website, www.DMAChoice.org, and register for Mail Preference Services.

4.  Set up an effective filing system 

  • Schedule time for weekly filing

5.  Invest in a paper shredder

  • If you have a lot of paper to shred, consider using a shredding service, such as Shred Ex www.goshredex.com.

Remember—you’ll never get organized if you continually add, but never subtract.

…consider this your math problem of the day.