Archive for June, 2008

I was doing some reading over at Dumb Little Man today and came upon an article called “How to Really Become the Boss of Your Life.” It was written by Alex Shalman or Practical Personal Development.

Shalman lists seven areas/things you can free yourself from to help you gain more control over your life:

  1. Freedom from food.
  2. Freedom from money.
  3. Freedom from government.
  4. Freedom from love.
  5. Freedom from guilt.
  6. Freedom from oxygen.
  7. Freedom from ignorance.

Head over to Dumb Little Man and check out Alex’s article.

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Plan your day before you start reading emails or checking voicemails. Take 10 to 20 minutes at the start of your work day to figure out what you need to get done and by when. Set priorities and realistic goals. Make sure the things at the top of your to-do list for the day are things that absolutely need to get done today. Work your way down the list with things that can be done at a later date toward the bottom of the list.

Make sure the items you add to your list contribute to your overall project or business goals. Planning your day before you get inundated with emails and voicemails is a great way to establish some direction and lay a foundation for the day. Even better – if you can make the list the evening before, you’ll be ready to get right to work as soon as you arrive.

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Harboring an an excess of stuff can definitely be a downer. Clutter often effects people in ways they don’t realize. A cluttered environment can often deplete your energy, put a damper in your productivity, and in general, can bring on negative stress and unnecessary frustration.

The following is a suggested list of ten things you can get rid of today that will help create a little more space in your life.

  1. Trash. Empty your trash cans on a regular basis. Gather up trash that’s laying around and throw it out.
  2. Junk mail. Need I say more? Okay, I will. Get rid of your junk mail. Sale papers from stores you don’t shop at, credit card offers, and other junk that comes in the mail – get rid of it immediately to avoid a pileup.
  3. Items you no longer like. If you bought a shirt you once loved, but not it’s out of style, or you just don’t like it, there’s no reason to hold on to it. Ask a friend if they’d like it, or donate it. If you have a lot of items you no longer like, combine them with the things that fall into the next category and have a yard sale!
  4. Items you no longer need or that have become useless to you. Just like items you no longer like, if you bought something at one point because you needed it, but you know you really don’t need it any more, donate it, sell it, or if you know someone who (genuinely) needs it, you can ask if they’d like to have it.
  5. Outdated materials. Old store sales papers, catalogs, periodicals, event invitations, coupons – these are all perfect examples of irrelevant material than can become overwhelming if we let it pile up. Recycle it!
  6. Duplicates and excess “stuff”. I’ve walked into many situations with clients where we’ve come across 10 pairs of scissors, five staplers, and even a couple of irons. I’ve fallen victim to this myself – you don’t remember you have something, or you can’t find it, so you just buy another one. Well, not only is that a waste of money, but now you’re left with more stuff taking up space than is really needed. Pick the best pair or two of scissors and get rid of the rest. If you have way too many pens, just keep the ones that write the best. Only keep the stapler that doesn’t keep getting jammed.
  7. Free giveaways or tchotchkes. Just because it was free doesn’t mean you need to keep it. If you collect free stuff from festivals, meetings, conferences, or from people who just give you stuff in passing, you are in no way obligated to keep it. I must admit, there are some clever tchotchkes out there, but appreciate it, have your laugh, and let it go.
  8. Things that no longer work. If that toaster isn’t working – get rid of it. Toasters are inexpensive, you can get another one if you need to. I know an older woman, approaching her 90’s, who is of the mindset of getting things fixed. She recently paid $350 to get her TV repaired. First off, the repair man should have, in my opinion, told her that her TV wasn’t worth $350. He chose to take advantage of her instead. No one would buy that TV for $350 if you tried to sell it, and she could have purchased a much better (and lighter) television set for less money. When she moved in with her daughter a month later, she had to give the TV away. If your kid’s toy is broken, please get rid of it. Old broken cell phone? Donate or recycle it to an organization like CollectiveGood, please.
  9. Things you keep in your off-site storage unit. Why are you paying for storage? I suppose for some people out there, legitimate reasons exist. But if you rarely visit your storage unit, how important is the stuff you are keeping in there? I had a storage unit once. I was living in a studio apartment and maintaining a storage unit to the tune of $80/month. While I did go every once in a while to retrieve things, my mom pointed out that I could put that money toward a bigger place. That made sense. Did I get a bigger place? No, I just got rid of the stuff in storage because I realized it wasn’t important enough to want to move it all in with me.
  10. Items that have negative associations. I mentioned this in my 10 Minutes, 10 Days series. Keeping items that bring up negative emotions for you continue to stir those emotions whenever you encounter them. Free yourself from the negativity by letting go of these items.

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I was playing around on the internet, reading lots of different things (as usual), when I came upon Greenopolis.com . The particular article I found on there was called “Can You Live with Just 100 Things?

Do you have clutter in your home, your office or your life? Chances are you do. At one point or another we’ve all had a moment when we realized the sheer amount of stuff we have in our lives. Well, there is a growing number of people that are doing something about this, and de-cluttering their lives. It’s called the 100 Things movement, and the challenge is to reduce your possessions to 100 things (or less). Sound tough? It sure is.

The article eventually linked back to a Time Magazine article called “How to Live With Just 100 Things.” Apparently, this 100 Things challenge is a movement – and a great one at that if you ask me! Slowly ridding myself of more and more possessions is something I’ve been working on for a while. I never had a specific number of items in mind to keep, and I don’t know if I’ll get down to 100, but maybe I could get down to 100 and am just making excuses as to why I can’t (I have two business. If each book I own counts, that’s a real drag. I have what? Hundreds?), but it’d definitely something to strive for.

The guy who sparked this movement is named Dave Bruno. This movement is a great example of what can happen when you put a great idea in your blog, people see it, and then it spreads like wildfire. On his blog, Dave explains his personal challenge and how the challenge got started and what it’s all about.

I personally plan to take part, and keep track of my challenge. I know this will be tough for me, so I am definitely on the look out for an accountability partner!

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Six Ways to Simplify

I’ve noticed, through my work with numerous clients, and various companies and organizations, that we tend to make things more complicated by adding a lot of extra unnecessary steps to the things we do every day. The following are a few things you can do to “cut the fat” and simplify your life.

Sign up for automatic bill pay (at at least pay bills online).Most bills can be paid online – including land line and cell phone bills, utilities, and credit card payments. Most of these companies and others will also allow you to elect the “automatic debit” option, so your bills are deducted automatically (just make sure you have enough money in your bank account to cover the bills!). Paying bills online and/or signing up for auto pay saves you from having to write checks, use stamps, and remember to put the bill mail.

Focus on one area or project at a time. Don’t worry about everything big thing you have to tackle – because most likely, it’s probably a lot. Make note of your responsibilities and projects, keep the note(s) handy for reference, but save yourself from becoming overwhelmed by focusing on one issue at a time. Perhaps the most time sensitive?

Pick out your priorities. If you have a to-do list that is a mile long, pick out your top two or three priorities, and focus on those. You’ll feel a greater sense of accomplishment once you’ve gotten the most important things out of the way.

Don’t wear shoes in your house. This is something I was introduced to way back in my elementary school days. I grew up in a city where many of my Asian friends were first generation Americans. When visiting their homes, I (along with everyone else) had to leave our shoes outside. A few years down the line, my mother implemented this in our own home, mainly because it cut back on how often she/we had to clean the floors. All of this probably goes out the window if you have pets, but I never have. By not tracking what’s outside inside, you can definitely cut back on the amount of vacuuming and sweeping you have to do. You’ll probably be able to go longer between deep carpet cleanings as well.

Stop dry cleaning.Dry cleaning isn’t cheap. And when you factor in having to drop it off and pick it up, it becomes more expensive. Buy more machine washable clothing. The only things I currently own that supposedly need to be dry cleaned are a couple of winter coats – and since one is a few years old, I figured I’d throw it in the wash and see what happened – and it came out just fine. Also, you can use products like Dryel, and use your own dryer to handle some of those Dry Clean Only garments.

Use what you have. I have a client who is a perfect example of this. She is a big time crafter. She has so many crafting goodies, she could probably open her own store. It took a while for her to realize it, but she finally came to see that she had more than enough to do almost any project she could think of. We came across so many pairs of scissors, glue guns, craft paper, and embellishments during our project that there’s no need for her to buy anything more for a long time. If you have plenty of notebooks, stamps, office supplies, etc – use what you have before you fill up your space with more.

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Post-it notes are great for jotting down quick notes to use as reminders for things that need to be taken care of. I love post-it notes and use them often, but the important thing to keep in mind is not to let those post-it notes turn into clutter.

Set aside some time to gather all your post-its into one neat stack. Go through each note one-by-one and take care of what’s on it. If you have a name and number on a post-it – add that person to your address book and toss the note. Did you jot down an event date and time on a post-it? Add the event to your calendar and, again, toss the note. If something written on the note can’t be taken care of in the moment, add it to your calendar for a set date and time so you can get it taken care of.

Don’t let your post-its become clutter. Make sure you go through them at the end of each day, or if you don’t write very many, once a week should be fine.

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(Published in the CAM Green Solutions Newsletter, June 18, 2008.)

Dealing with work related emails (as well as personal ones) can become less frustrating if you make sure to make these tips part of your email reading routine:

Answer email promptly. Avoid allowing your email inbox to get cluttered. In many ways, dealing with email is like dealing with papers and other physical things – you save time by handling it as few times as possible. When reading emails, go ahead and take a moment to respond to the sender while information is fresh in your mind.

Flag things to follow up on. If you can’t respond right away to an email for a particular reason (you need to do further research, you need to talk to someone else, etc), flag the email for follow up. Gmail let’s you “star” emails, which is a method I use for personal emails to highlight things I need to follow up on. When using Outlook, you can flag an email and assign a follow up date to it – a reminder will be placed on your calendar, which makes it less likely you’ll forget to respond to the email.

Delete messages instead of storing them. As mentioned above – keep your emails from becoming clutter. If you’ve responded to an email and the issue is resolved, go ahead and delete the emails. If you think you might need a paper trail, create folders to store the emails in. One thing I love about Gmail is their archive feature. When I am finished with an email, I archive it, clearing up my inbox. But, if I ever need to search for an email, or any content within it (like a phone number, address, or something else), I just use the search box to enter what I am looking for. Folders and archiving are best used for emails you might have to reference again. If the email really isn’t important (old newsletters, invites for meetings that have already passed, etc) – go ahead and delete it!

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