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E-Tips Archive

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E-TIP: Trim the ‘FAT’

Does the headline “Woman Buried Alive in Paper Avalanche” seem like a real possibility in your home or office? If you have piles of paper sitting around, you’ve fallen into the clutter trap of postponed decisions.

Want to trim the FAT from the paper in your life? There are three choices you can make about any piece of paper. To remember them, think F-A-T.

File — Act — Toss
As you sort your mail today, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does it require any action?
  • Does it exist in another place or form?
  • Is it recent enough to be useful?
  • Can I identify a specific use? (“Just in case” doesn’t cut it)
  • Would it be difficult to obtain again?
  • Are there tax or legal considerations?

 

If you answered “yes” to any of the questions, you can either File or Act on it. If you answered “no” to all 6 questions, and you still don’t have the guts to use the circular file, ask yourself: “What’s the worst possible thing that could happen if I don’t have this?” If you feel comfortable with the answer, Toss it; if not, File it.

Don’t let today’s mail become tomorrow’s clutter. Use the F-A-T system to stop making stacks and start making decisions.

E-TIP: The Skinny on Thinner Files

Spring is here – Are you ready for America’s favorite past time? True, FILING will never be ranked with baseball and apple pie! In fact, most people avoid filing, and one reason is that they dislike the physical discomfort of jamming theirhands into overstuffed file drawers.

Here’s the skinny on thinner files:

  • Unfold papers to minimize bulk.
  • Eliminate envelopes unless the postmark is significant.
  • Avoid using paper clips inside files. They add bulk and catch on other papers. Staple related papers, and keep a staple remover handy.
  • Thin it now. When you’re “in the neighborhood”—you have a file open—check for papers you can toss.
  • Allow about 3 inches of extra space in your file cabinet. This makes for easier filing and retrieval.
  • File most recent papers in the front of the file, making way for ease in tossing old papers.
  • Schedule a file clean out day.


E-TIP: Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

In The Tipping Point, Malcom Gladwell writes about how minor changes can produce major consequences. May’s organizing ETIP includes three small changes you can make to be more productive and change your world:

1. Peaks & Valleys
Are you aware of your natural high and low energy times of the day? With this bit of self-awareness, choose your activities accordingly. Plan to work on the hard stuff during a high energy time of your day, and work on easy, pleasant tasks during times when your energy is lower.

2. Bundle-up
Some tasks are better accomplished in a consolidated fashion; bill paying, for example. Whether you bank on line, call in a credit card number, or mail a check, each requires set-up time to get the job done. Pay bills twice a month and save on set-up time. Bundle the task of maintaining an address book or database. Collect addresses & phone numbers in one spot. Update your system once or twice a month, and stop searching for addresses or phone numbers. Errands and phone calls are other tasks that you can do in bundles. Bundle-up and watch yourself flow!

3. Take Ten
At the end of the day, take ten minutes to declutter your space. Tidy up as much as you can, returning things to their places. Apply the take ten principle to your desk or any room at home. Take ten and you’re better prepared for tomorrow.

E-TIP: Less is More Packing Tips

Getting ready for a summer vacation or your next business trip? Want to be better prepared, yet not pack the kitchen sink?

When we pack too much we cause ourselves trouble and pain. Our bags are too heavy, making them a burden to handle. Our cars are loaded from the trunk to the backseat to the overhead rack. Instead of leaving the clutter behind, we drag it along, clogging up the road to a carefree vacation. Read on for less is more packing tips:

  • Check the weather at your destination, using the Internet or calling ahead. If you know it’s hot, no need for bulky jackets or heavy jeans.
  • Color coordinate your clothes around a few basic colors. For example, bring shirts that can be worn with more than one color of shorts or pants.
  • If laundry facilities are convenient, pack less by planning to wash clothes during the trip.
  • Shoes are made for walking. Wear one pair of shoes, pack a second, and make sure they are comfortable.
  • Pack tiny toiletries. Go ahead and pack your favorite shampoo, but get a travel size or fill a smaller bottle. Keep your toiletry bag stocked and ready to go for the next trip.
  • Use the self-sufficient rule: You pack it, you carry it.
  • USE A PACKING LIST! Click here for a packing list that you can customize to your needs

 

E-TIP: What CAN’T you Live Without?

Imagine being told to gather whatever you need and evacuate your home ASAP—perhaps never to return! My friend Cindy always teased her mother about the emergency list she kept posted on the bulletin board—until the devastating firestorm of 1991 in the Oakland hills.

“When you’re in a panic, you can’t think straight. The list helped us relax about our decisions. We even added a few things that weren’t on the list.”

Have you made your list?
Begin by listing the things you can’t or don’t want to live without; things that if lost, even temporarily, would seriously threaten your quality of life, such as prescription medicines. Other things that being without would cause inconvenience: contacts/phone numbers, passport, credit cards, etc.

The list has other advantages beyond emergencies. Take your list a step further to include what you would really miss not having. What would be hard to replace? This productive exercise does the following:

  • Provides a fresh, valuable perspective about your “stuff”
  • Helps weed out the truly important from the not-so-important
  • Aids in de-cluttering your home or office
  • Reduces feelings of overwhelm about clutter—because you have a clear sense of what’s important to YOU

While it’s not necessary to pare down to barren surroundings, living with less clutter does a body good. So make your list, and see if you find it easier to shed a few leaves of clutter this fall.

E-TIP: Trackless Living

Are there tell-tale trails around your home or office? Can someone tell what you’ve been doing by following the trail?

It’s time to try trackless living: leave a space as if no one had been there or used it. Boy Scouts & Girl Scouts say it this way: “Leave it better than you found it.”

Pick a space and try it: your desk, bathroom, kitchen, or car. For example, in the bathroom, put away the blow dryer and hairbrush after using them, quickly wipe the sink and counter, hang towels, close drawers, throw trash in the wastebasket, and place dirty clothes in the hamper.

At your desk, gather papers. Those you haven’t looked at belong in an in-box, others that you’re keeping for reference in a to-file box. Place your projects in files. Return manuals, directories and other tools to their homes. Discard coffee cups. The benefit: When you come in tomorrow, you’re ready to be productive without visual distractions.

Trackless Living Testimonies
High school student – “I sleep better when my room is clean.”
Mortgage Banker – “My job is easier without the paper piles staring me down.”
Realtor – “My car is always ready for clients.”

You may come home weary, but after resting in your visually peaceful space, you’ll feel energized. Leave your space “at peace” and you will love the results.
E-TIP: Be a Better Shredder

According to the FBI & FTC, identity theft and fraud is the fastest growing crime in America. With an estimated 500,000 Americans robbed of their identities in 2002 (one every 79 seconds), it pays to be a better shredder.

If you don’t have a shredder in your home office, ask Santa for one. I found the Fellowes Shredder DM8C at Costco for $79. Designed for medium duty, it handles 8 sheets of paper at a time, staples, small paper clips, and credit cards. Whatever brand you get, make sure it has confetti cut and a basket for easy empty.

What to turn into confetti and when?
Always: Papers with your Social Security Number and preapproved credit card applications.

Monthly: Bank deposit and withdrawal slips, after recording them in your checkbook and reconciling them with your bank statement; credit card receipts, after checking against your statement.

Yearly: Bank and credit card statements (if you itemize deductions, save to support your tax return); monthly and quarterly brokerage statements, comparing against year-end summaries; paycheck stubs, after reconciling them with W-2 or 1099 forms.

Bonus uses for confetti: It makes great packing material, and you’ll have a handy supply for New Year’s Eve.
E-TIP: National Clean Off Your Desk Day

January 12, 2004 is National Clean Off Your Desk Day. Is your office still a jungle? Desks covered in paper are the norm these days. While it’s impossible to completely stop the flood of paper, it can be directed. Clutter on our desks–and everywhere else–happens when we postpone making decisions.

There are only three decisions that we can make about paper:

File it, Act on it, or Toss it

The F-A-T system™

However, decisions are often multi-layered, and we are unproductive when we fail to focus on one thing at a time. Determine and take the next single action needed, and you will make progress in moving paper off your desk and seeing your projects through to completion.

Clear your desk of anything you don’t need at your fingertips. Use an In Box for incoming papers. As you review your In Box contents, you’ll find papers that must be saved for reference. Place these in a To File Box. Set aside one time each week to file, or delegate it.

Designate a file, box or tray (depending on the bulk of the items) for outgoing paper and other goodies that have landed on your desk. When you need a break, take a quick walk around the house or office to distribute the contents of your Out Box.

What about papers that you need on a specific date? A tickler file with numbers 1-31 works as a holding place for papers that would otherwise be in a pile on your desk, or overflowing from your planner/calendar. For example, an agenda for the teleconference on January 19 can wait in slot 19 of your tickler file. For more information on the tickler file system, visit the It’s About Time Store.

This and much more is what you will learn in a Miracle in a Day™ consultation! Call (925) 933-9737 to take advantage of my special New Year offer.


E-TIP: Time Tips for the Shortest Month of the Year

To do or not to do…

  • Got two minutes? When the action can be completed in two minutes or less, don’t write it down–just do it.
  • Verb it: When adding a task to your Action List, use a verb. Instead of “Susan”, write “Call Susan”.
  • Most “to do” items do not need to be done today. Focus on a few tasks; instead of treating all 50 items on your list as priority, choose the top five and get to work.
  • Reality check: There will always be more to do than time to do it.

Breathing room

“Helen” told me she was often late for appointments because she packed her schedule too tightly, without recognizing the total time involved.

  • Block out time for the actual appointment, as well as travel time. This gives a clear picture of how much time may be left for other appointments or tasks, and allows a cushion for the unexpected.

What have you done for yourself lately?
You need both physical and psychological breaks to perform at your best. Stephen Covey wrote about the woodcutter who chopped away at the tree all day long, never bothering to sharpen his axe. The dull axe made his task more difficult, kept him from other important work, and sapped his energy.

  • Plan time for breaks in your day. A break as short as 5 minutes away from your desk can do wonders for your concentration. On the other hand, longer breaks for exercise, rest, reading, or watching a movie can be just what you need to avoid becoming dull. The time you enjoy ‘wasting’ may not be such a waste after all. Remember, good things happen when you’re organized!

 

E-TIP: 7 Ways to Simplify Your Life

You don’t need the luck of the Irish to get organized, but it helps to simplify your life. Here’s the lucky seven:

1. Consolidate credit cards.

Most stores take Visa, Mastercard and American Express. Get rid of the others and make your charges on one or two only. Pay fewer bills at the end of the month.

2. Let it ring. Use your answering device and/or caller ID to screen your calls. Tele-pests usually hang up. Return other calls promptly.

3. Delegate.

Don’t try to do it all. Get help from people you work or live with; hire “Leprechauns” for repairs and maintenance.

4. Cook more.

When you cook, make enough for two meals. Freeze the extra and you’ve bought time for yourself!

5. Unschedule yourself.

Practice booking less into your day, leaving breaks to either catch-up or rejuvenate.

6. If you think it, ink it.

Don’t try to remember everything. Write it down in one place: a large pad, notebook or PDA.

7. Think about tomorrow.

Set aside a few minutes at the end of the day to get your shamrocks lined up: who do you need to call, what’s due, what appointments do you have, can you run an errand en route, etc?

 

E-TIP: Mother’s Organizing Wisdom

In tribute to mothers, it’s time to revisit some of the organizing messages Mom tried to teach you. Do you remember hearing any of these expressions?

A place for everything, and everything in its place.

Mom knew about order and that homeless possessions tend to get lost in the shuffle. You may not be able to get everything back to its home pronto, but still, the advice of establishing a place for everything is sound.

Because I said so, that’s why.

Mother could say NO with ease—she had boundaries. By keeping her priorities straight, she was able to stay sane (most of the time), keeping her life on track. She knew she’d pay the price if she volunteered for every project that came down Charity Lane.

Never talk to strangers.

Mom knew danger lurked on every corner, and a child couldn’t be too careful as she rode her bike in the neighborhood. Today, she would add “Guard your personal information, and use a shredder to keep sensitive documents from thieves who would like to steal your identity.”

There’s no place like home.

To which I add, there’s “There’s no place like an organized home.” A home organized enough to support the people that live there; not in a rigid way, but one that evolves as the people grow and change.

There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

My kids hate it when I say this! The point is, there’s more than one way to be organized. The right one is the one that works for you. The question is: Is it working? If not, wrap your brain around the organizing information found at www.MaryLynneMurray.com. Check out the articles and e-tips, and put one or two into practice this month. You’ll be glad you did, because “Good things happen when you’re organized”™.
E-TIP: Opting Out of Credit Offers

Man dead 20 years—heirs still receiving credit offers.

How many pre-approved credit offers did you receive in the mail this week? Besides being a waste of resources, these offers can wreak financial havoc if they fall into the wrong hands.

There’s hope
The best way to reduce junk mail (and clutter of all forms) is to stop it before it comes to your home. It takes just two minutes and one phone call to opt out of all four credit bureaus that sell your information. The number is 888-567-8688. You will be given a choice to opt out for two years or permanently.

Secure your mail
Mailbox theft is easy for thieves, and no neighborhood is immune from it. Don’t forget about the mail when you go on vacation this summer. A locking mailbox is a wise precaution, especially if your mailbox is street-side. Check with the postal service for specifications, and be sure to provide your mail carrier with the key.

A client was victimized by someone she had asked to bring in her mail. After discovering thousands of dollars had been stolen, she called me to untangle the mess the thief made of her finances. Arrange for the post office to hold your mail (including the newspaper) while you’re away, or have a trusted person pick it up.

 

E-TIP: Focus on Your Priorities

The Pareto Principle was discovered by Vilfredo Pareto in 1906 when he observed that 80% of the wealth was owned by 20% of the people in Italy. While gardening, he later observed that 20% of the peapods in his garden yielded 80% of the peas harvested. His concept of disproportion has stood the test of time; business schools across the land refer to it as the “80/20 Rule”.

So what does this imbalance have to do with organization? Plenty! For example:

• We wear 20% of the clothes in our closet 80% of the time.
• 80% of the interruptions come from the same 20% of the people.
• 80% of the paper filed in our cabinets is rarely referred to.
• We use 20% of our business tools 80% of the time.
• 80% of our results come from 20% of our efforts.

Separating the vital few from the trivial many is essential to living a less cluttered life. Pareto’s Principle reminds us to focus on the 20% that matters. So here is my July tip and challenge:

Assuming an 8 hour work day, devote 20% of the day–96 minutes–to your top priorities. If possible, spend the first 96 minutes of the day on the 20% that produces 80% of your results.

What do you think will happen? Whether you are running a business, a household, or both, “Pareto thinking” can pave the way to a more productive and satisfying life.

 

E-TIP: Give Yourself a Chance

“I’m hopelessly disorganized. I’ve been this way forever; people at work shudder as they walk past my little desk of horrors. From my parents to my husband, they all confirm I’m disorganized. I guess this is who I am.”

You’ve heard these self-limiting remarks made by people you know and like, sometimes even from yourself, about yourself! “I’m always late” or “I procrastinate my life away.” We talk ourselves down as if we aren’t capable of being on time or being productive, as if we have a permanent genetic defect with no cure. We store up images of our “faulty” behavior over the years, and live out what we’ve chosen to believe about ourselves, a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The research on left and right brain functions are not new; we know that each of us is wired a certain way from the factory. If you use the left hemisphere of your brain predominantly, you will tend to be organized, among other things. Does this mean that if you are organized, forget about being creative? Or conversely, if you tend to utilize the right brain hemisphere, does it mean you will be artistic, but never organized enough to keep your art supplies in order?

I believe everyone can get better organized at home and work, regardless of brain dominant tendencies, or the habit of putting yourself down. There are no hopeless cases in organizing. Organization is something that can be learned by doing.

So when you hear yourself saying, “I’m not good at organizing”, purge the thought and ask yourself why not. You can get better at anything you choose to focus your time and effort on. While your favorite organizing consultant can help you become better organized, ultimately the key to being better organized is you.

 

E-TIP: The Heart of the Matter

How does thinking or speaking negatively affect your organizing efforts? Thoughts become feelings; feelings become beliefs; and beliefs become action–or lack of it.

“This is too hard” or “I’m no good at this” produce a life of struggle in which you feel depleted, incapable, and burdened. Is this where you want to be? We must evaluate and affirm what we desire in our lives. Donald Trump says, “As long as you’re going to be thinking anyway, think big.” Let’s choose to think, speak, and be positive about ourselves. If you’re thinking “Hopelessly cluttered,” think again. We are what we repeat.

Let’s get to the heart of the matter with Sweethearts®, the classic candy hearts made by NECCO since 1866. While you’re thinking, you might as well think of something positive to inscribe on your heart. Check out our Top 10 positive organizing mottos below. Humor me—they surpass the standard of no more than 9 letters!

Lose it (perfectionism, procrastination)
Love it (order, simplicity)
Wide open (spaces, possibilities)
(You have) Enough
Think (organized)
Brain (your best organizing tool)
Good thing (s happen when you’re organized™)
Walk away (from clutter)
Say no (to limiting thoughts)
Progress (make some)

 

E-TIP: Taming Your Papers for the Tax Man

Getting ready for April 15 will be a piece of cake if you had a system in place last year. What system you say? “Today’s mail is tomorrow’s pile™” is a reality check. While you can’t undo the disarray piled up from last year, you can begin to practice dealing with paper in a more effective way for 2005.

• Designate a specific, accessible place to collect tax related information. Make sure others in your household or business are aware of this location.

• Take advantage of electronic bill payments. This means less check writing, and the transaction will be reflected in your monthly bank statement—an important document to support your tax return.

• Use software to manage your financial information, such as Quicken (for personal and small businesses) or Quickbooks, which has additional applications for business. If the road to the tax man was paved with good intentions, but your software has become shelfware, contact your CPA who may have a staff person who can set up the system for you. Having all the latest and greatest tools is one thing; putting them to use will make the difference.

• Keep bills to pay in one spot. A tickler file works great for this.

• Store paid bills that relate to your taxes in an accordion file by month.

• If you use a professional tax person and don’t have an appointment scheduled, do it as soon as you finish reading this email. Need a referral? Call 925.933.9737 for the names of several CPA’s that I recommend.
Credit cards: This is such a neglected aspect of many people’s tax information, that it warrants special mention.

• Use one credit card for personal transactions, and another for business.

• Mingling is great at social events, but not with your finances. Maintain separate bank accounts for personal and business.

• Designate one place to dump credit card receipts for each credit card. As charges are incurred, make it a practice to drop receipts in one consistent spot. Cancelled check files make great receipt catchers.

• When the monthly charge statement arrives, open it and match receipts with the statement. Staple the receipts to the statement and file in the monthly paid file. Bonus: Reviewing your statements each month is one way to protect yourself from identity theft.

• At the end of the year, simply move the monthly records to a box or envelope (I like plastic envelopes for durability) keeping all supporting tax documents with your return.

With a few disciplined habits, you can make tax time less stressful. Plus, you’ll save money by being able to take more deductions.

 

E-TIP: The Turn Around

You’re driving in a large, unfamiliar city. Suddenly, horns are honking and you realize you’re about to have a head-on collision. You’re driving the wrong way on a one-way street! What now? Do you continue to travel the wrong way, or do you turn around? Of course you turn around, to find a better way, to reach your destination.

When it comes to organizing our homes and workspaces, sometimes we don’t act on the turn around; we continue heading for that collision. Yet, if we desire a different result—more productive places in which to live and work—we must take action and change our direction. In the novel The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, a central character notes that “The whole problem with people is…they know what matters, but they don’t choose it.”

One of the Good Things that happens when you get organized is that you get closer to what’s important, what matters. With the help of a professional organizer, you unearth your dreams out from under the clutter.

Clutter begins inside the mind; then manifests itself in our lives, and finally takes hold in spaces in which we live and work. Simply put, Clutter is postponed decisions™.

Where should I start?
Let’s keep it simple: What do you see every time as you enter your space? For one woman, it was her dining room. Whenever she walked in the house, the cluttered oak table and crowded room stared her down. Her posture would droop as she faced the wall of clutter that was draining her life’s energy. So begin your organizing process at the spot you face as you come and go from your home or office. First impressions count–not just other people’s first impressions, but your first impression, as you step into your domain. Choose to give yourself a lift by focused action.

Life after April 15
Was tax-time torturous? Gathering receipts and records months after the fact is much, much harder than keeping them up as you go. It doesn’t have to be this way.

In 1985 Jay and I participated in an outdoor education program that involved hiking and rock climbing in the Sierra National Forest. One of the life lessons that I took home from that week was “keep up rather than catch up”. Mentally, it was easier to keep moving, albeit slowly, instead of coming to a complete stop, getting farther and farther behind. The results were better as I maintained a steady pace, not allowing inertia to derail me.

Even small changes can have profound effects and make your life easier. For example, if you use a file system that works, you’re able to lay your hands on the information you need, when you need it. The April 15th deadline will still come and go, but you can face it with ease because you’ve been hiking with your system–you’ve been keeping up, at a steady pace, throughout the year. Sprinting is for the finish line; what most people need on a daily basis is a marathon approach.

Toll free phone number
Now you can call It’s About Time toll free @ 877-933-9737. We wanted to make it easy and painless for you to ask questions, order products, and provide phone consultations. For those located within the San Francisco Bay Area, we remain ready for your calls @ 925-933-9737.

New on the website
Would you like to find out just how organized you are? In March we added a quiz, The Productive Environment Scorecard™, to the website. You can download it at www.marylynnemurray.com by clicking on Take Our Organizing Quiz. Get a free phone consultation to discuss your results. It’s all about you! Good things happen when you’re organized™.

 

E-TIP: Shaping Your Environment

Pruning the rosebush was the last thing I did before leaving my client’s home for the day. When I grabbed the clippers, I was thinking first only of leaving a reminder of the transformation we made in her home that day: A single yellow bloom on the entry table. Taking a closer look, I saw the rosebush needed help. To develop to its full potential and optimum production, that bush required rescue pruning.

The same benefits that the rosebush gains from pruning–maintaining health, encouraging and directing new growth, and increasing both quality and production—occur when we get organized.

Yes, you can be more productive when the dead wood is removed from your desktop. You can sleep better when clutter is eliminated from your bedroom. You can lighten up mentally when you get rid of excess. You can grow as you simplify the structure of your surroundings.

Fall Actions

Thin your files by using the “I was in the neighborhood” approach. When you open a file, make a habit of tossing outdated information.

Prune your closet. Remove and donate clothes not worn this past spring or summer.

Cut back on your subscriptions.

Attack one thorny project this month.

Stake out the support you need. Sometimes our branches are so tangled that we don’t see a way out. More and more, I see that people are able to organize when it becomes a social experience. For some, a family member or friend provides that stake of support. Others may need more detached support, and that’s where a professional organizer can help shape your environment for optimum quality and production.

Like pruning, organizing is both a skill and an art. The skill is in making proper cuts—cuts that promote healthy living. The art is making cuts in the right places that produce the desired results.

Are you prepared?

With heightened awareness of disasters in recent news, having a game plan is timely. It’s About Time can assist you in organizing and compiling personal and estate information into one comprehensive document. We accomplish this with “Exit Strategies: A Plan and a Place for your Estate Information™.” Available in workbook or CD format, the program adapts to your individual situation, with over 130 categories of estate, medical and personal information such as:

Location of wills, trusts, deeds and safe deposit keys and boxes
Contact information for lawyers, clergy, and financial advisors
Financial and personal provisions for family members
Final resting place wishes

The final document provides families with the information they need to handle the practical and administrative issues surrounding loss, whether from disaster, incapacity, or death. For more information, call Mary Lynne Murray @ 925-933-9737.

Did you say “charge it”?
For your convenience and money management, It’s About Time accepts Visa & MasterCard payments.
E-TIP: Get Organized Month Shred-A-Thon

Getting organized is a perennial topic, especially with the New Year. In fact, January is known nationally as ‘Get Organized Month’.

As a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers, I’ve been involved in different types of ‘GO Month’ projects since 2001. For this year, we’ve joined with shredding companies and industry partners for a Shred-A-Thon in the Bay and Sacramento Areas.

Why shred? Shredding is one way of protecting yourself from the fasting growing crime in America–identity theft and fraud. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center in San Diego, a victim of identity theft spends an average of 600 hours restoring his reputation. Since the contents of just one banker’s box* can be commercially shred in about a minute, shredding is a very good investment of time.

The customary fee for shredding is approximately $10.00 per box, but during the Shred-A-Thon, it’s our gift to you! Check out the list below for the date and location (there are twelve) of FREE shredding services in your area. I will be volunteering on January 28 at the Shred-It Corporate Offices at 5159 Commercial Circle in Concord. Hope to see you there!

Remember, you can shred your supporting tax documents after 7 years; I recommend holding the actual tax return forever. For a complete list of what to keep and what to toss, consult your CPA. If you need a CPA, email Mary Lynne and I’ll send you several names.

A free Identity Theft booklet written by the Federal Trade Commission is available from my website. Go to http://www.marylynnemurray.com/, click on Newsletter & E-tips. Scroll halfway down the page for your free ID Theft booklet. I’ll have these on hand at the Concord Shred-It location on January 28 as well.

Thank you for allowing me to be your trusted organizer, as well as your personal and business resource.

Shred-A-Thon locations, dates and times:

Campbell
Thursday, Jan 26, 11 am – 2 pm, Staples Parking Lot, 500 East Campbell Ave.

Concord
Saturday, Jan 28, 11 am – 2 pm, Shred-it Corporate Offices Parking Lot, 5159 Commercial Circle.

East Palo Alto
Saturday, Jan 28, 11 am – 2 pm, Office Depot Parking Lot, 1761 East Bayshore Rd, Ravenswood 101 Shopping Center.

Pleasant Hill
Saturday, Jan 28, 11 am – 2 pm, Pleasant Hill City Offices Parking Lot, 100 Gregory Lane, (Farmer’s Market Lot).

Sacramento
Saturday, Jan 28, 10 am – 2 pm, Rite Aid Parking Lot, 1730 Watt Ave, corner of Watt and Arden.

San Francisco

Saturday, Jan 28, 10 am – 2 pm, Presidio Main Post Entrance, Lincoln Blvd between Graham St and Montgomery Ave.

San Jose
Friday, Jan 27, 11 am – 2 pm, Staples Parking Lot, 121 Bernal Rd.

San Rafael

Saturday, Jan 28, 10 am – 2 pm, Marin Resource Recovery Center, 565 Jacoby St.

San Ramon

Saturday, Jan 28, 11 am – 2 pm, Staples Parking Lot, 2710 Crow Canyon Rd.

Santa Cruz

Saturday, Jan 28, 10 am – 2 pm, Staples Parking Lot, 2460 17th Ave.

Santa Rosa
Saturday, Jan 28, 11 am – 2 pm, Office Depot Parking Lot, 1960 Santa Rosa Ave, Santa Rosa Marketplace.

Tracy

Saturday, Jan 28, 10 am – 2 pm, Staples Parking Lot, 2960 West Grant Line Rd.

*Because the Shred-A-Thon is a new project with unpredictable demand, a three (3) box limit per person is suggested.

 

E-TIP: Spring Fling

1. Spring clean-out
2. FREE source for E-Waste
3. Got Books? Help New Orleans with your book donations
4. New productivity tools: Send Out Cards

Spring Cleaning
Spring cleaning is as old as spring itself, yet the process will invigorate and renew your soul! Our grandmas did spring cleaning by airing out blankets and inventorying their canning jars, among other things. Whether your space is large or small, your spring clean-out is a little different than Grandma’s. Grandma never dreamed of getting the loads of mail, both electronic and postal, that you do! To be effective, start by sorting what you have, then weed or purge, and finally, organize what is left. Here are nine nifty tips to get you going on your own spring cleaning:

1. Crank it up. Play instrumental music that uplifts and energizes you.

2. Keep yourself hydrated and nourished with water and snacks.

3. Open windows for fresh air and window coverings for natural light.

4. Have trash/recycle bags handy. Move the bags to the trash area before they are too heavy to lift.

5. Have boxes on hand to contain items for donation that you no longer use.

6. Practice the Art of Wastebasketry® by asking these questions:
a. Does this require action?
b. Can I identify a specific use?
c. It is difficult to obtain again?
d. Is it recent enough to be useful?
e. Are their tax or legal implications?

If the answer is “no”, ask: “What’s the worst thing that will happen is I toss this?
If you can live with your answer, toss or recycle, and enjoy your freedom!

7. Leave time for clean up at the end to put things back in order.

8. Take your donations to a local charity or arrange to have them picked up. Prepare an itemized list if you want to claim a tax deduction.

Get Rid of E-Waste…Free!
Do you have computers, TVs and other electronic trash that you’re no longer using, taking up valuable space at your home or office? Electronic Waste Management will accept your unwanted items free of charge in Sacramento, San Francisco, and Bethel Island. Check the link for dates and times: http://www.noewaste.com/.

Got Books?
The New Orleans Public Library is asking for hardcover and paperback books for people of all ages in an effort to restock the shelves after Katrina. The staff will assess which titles will be designated for its collections. The rest will be distributed to destitute families or sold for library fund raising. Tell the post office that your package is for the library in New Orleans, and you’ll get the library rate, which is slightly less than the book rate. Send your books to:

Rica A. Trigs, Public Relations
New Orleans Public Library
219 Loyola Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70112

Productivity Tool – Send Out Cards
How would you like to send a real card in the mail for less than a dollar, without leaving your desk? With the click of a mouse, you can select from more than 5,000 greeting cards, write a message using your own handwriting font and signature, and Send Out Cards will print, address, stuff, stamp, and send the card in the mail for you on whatever date you want it mailed.

Send Out Cards also has a reminder service so you won’t forget important dates such as birthdays and anniversaries. You can import your contact addresses into the Contact Manager. Then send one card or send the same personalized card to multiple people at one time. Imagine the ease of sending holiday cards to clients, friends, and family by using the campaign set-up and mail merge capabilities! Each ‘handwritten’ card can be personalized with the recipient’s name in the salutation and include your own signature.

I tried it, and liked it, so I became an authorized Send Out Cards distributor. Check this out at http://www.marylynnemurray.com/organizing_tools.html or call me at 925-933-9737. I’ll send you a card and provide you with a free gift account to try it yourself. If you’d like to share this productivity tool with your friends and business contacts, I’ll also share information about Send Out Cards’ income-earning opportunities.

Your time is valuable; thank you for taking the time to read Etips.

E-TIP: Dude…Delete!

1. Guest Article – Hoarders vs. Deleters
2. The Email Solution: One of Five Decisions
3. What You Sow Is What You Reap
4. Your Organizer Quoted in Woman’s Day Magazine
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“Hoarders vs. Deleters –You are Your Inbox” by Jeff Zaslow appeared in the Wall Street Journal August 10, 2006. This is such a good article about email and multitasking that I’ve included it in full below:
Take a clear-eyed look at how you answer or file each email. Notice what you choose to keep or delete. Consider your anxiety when your inbox is jammed with unanswered messages. The makeup and tidiness of your inbox is a reflection of your habits, your mental health and, yes, even the way Mom and Dad raised you.

“If you keep your inbox full rather than empty, it may mean you keep your life cluttered in other ways,” says psychologist Dave Greenfield, who founded the Center for Internet Behavior in West Hartford, Conn. “Do you cling to the past? Do you have a lot of unfinished business in your life?”

On the other hand, if you obsessively clean your inbox every 10 minutes, you may be so quick to move on that you miss opportunities and ignore nuances. Or your compulsion for order may be sapping your energy from other endeavors, such as your family.

Email addiction, of course, is now a cultural given. But a less-noticed byproduct of that is the impulse of the inbox. Some of us are obsessed with moving every email to an appropriate folder while killing junk “spam” on arrival and making sure Mom knows that we got her email and still love her. Meanwhile, others among us are e-procrastinators — modern-day Scarlett O’Haras who figure we’ll deal with old email tomorrow. We’re discovering that the disorder in our inboxes mirrors the disorder in our homes, marriages and checkbooks.

A few months ago, Scott Stratten was suffering from what he terms “inbox paralysis.” A marketing consultant in Oakville, Ontario, he had 500 old messages in his inbox, all needing responses. “I felt so guilty, I couldn’t even bring myself to open my email,” he says.

In desperation, he decided to delete all his messages. He then sent an email blast to 400 people on his contact list, telling them a lie. He made up a story that his Internet service provider had informed him that some emails weren’t getting through — and that was why friends and clients never heard back from him. “People were very empathetic,” he says, “and it allowed me to start fresh.”

Mr. Stratten describes what he did as “pure evil,” but he also calls it a turning point. He realized he had to find a better way to ease his guilt over not coming through for people. He is now hiring an assistant who will handle his email.

Those who are too nice in other areas of their lives may be more likely to struggle with unwieldy inboxes, says Merlin Mann, creator of 43folders.com, a Web site about personal productivity. Polite people (or those who want to be liked) feel obliged to participate in ping-pong correspondences with chatty friends. They haven’t the heart to give anyone the no-response brush-off. But Mr. Mann says such ruthlessness is necessary.

He says he uses a few dozen “templates” to answer email — prewritten form letters in which he inserts a person’s name or a personalized comment. He also empties his inbox hourly. “You have to treat your inbox like you treat your mailbox at home,” he says. “You wouldn’t store your bills inside your mailbox. And leaving spam in your inbox is like leaving garbage in your kitchen.”

On the work front, you’re most at risk for inbox clutter if you’re the type who can’t say “no,” warns Nancy Flynn, executive director of the ePolicy Institute, a consulting firm. When you’re quick to respond with offers of help, “people use email to turn their crisis into your emergency,” she says.

In Greensboro, N.C., Internet consultant Wally Bock keeps his inbox down to a manageable few dozen messages. He credits his sense of order to “having disciplined parents who made that a value.” Still, he recognizes the downside. Many “Inbox Zero” zealots interrupt their work every time they hear a ping announcing incoming email.

“Multitasking is a misnomer,” says Mr. Bock. “What you’re really doing is switching rapidly between tasks. And every time you switch, you have to start up again. Over the course of a day, you lose a chunk of efficiency.”

A saner way to pare down an inbox is to move email into folders — by subject or need for follow-up — and once a week set aside time for inbox housekeeping. That’s advice from Marilyn Paul, author of “It’s Hard to Make a Difference When You Can’t Find Your Keys,” a book for the chronically disorganized. She also suggests using the inbox alphabetizing feature, which organizes all email by sender. “That allows you to delete 1,000 emails an hour,” she says.

University of Toronto instructor Christina Cavanagh studied hundreds of office workers for her book “Managing Your Email: Thinking Outside the Inbox.” One of her subjects, a finance executive, had 10,000 emails in his inbox. She advised him to simply delete the oldest 9,000. Busy people, drowning in email, may have no choice but to kill old messages and suffer the consequences. (Mr. Mann calls this “euthanasia.”)

Because “inboxes are metaphors for our lives,” Dr. Greenfield says, there’s no cure-all solution to inbox management. We’re all too different. But he believes an awareness of our inbox behavior can help us better understand other areas of our lives.

“If you have 1,000 emails in your inbox, it may mean you don’t want to miss an opportunity, but there are things you can’t pull the trigger on,” Dr. Greenfield says. “If you have only 10 emails in your inbox, you may be pulling the trigger too fast and missing the richness of life.”

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Solution to Stop Inbox Overflow: Make One of Five Decisions

1. Delete. This choice will be applicable to a good portion (50% or more would be a conservative estimate) of email.

2. Forward. Applies when you can delegate the action needed. Often, someone else can do the task just as well, if not better, than you.

3. Reply Now. If you can answer in 2 or 3 minutes, respond right now. I recommend you silence your email bell so you won’t be interrupted constantly. Train yourself to review and respond to email at regular intervals in your day.

4. Move to a folder for reference. This clears your inbox of information that is valuable but is not needed right now. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the weight this removes from your psyche.

5. File for Follow-up. Print the email to remind yourself to place a call, and file in a tickler/date file, or a permanent action file labeled ‘Call.’ For ezines, you can move to a ‘Read’ folder. Print and place the ezine in a ‘grab and go’ reading file.

There is always more than one way to look at solving problems. But start here and let me know how it’s working for you. And guess what? These same five decisions work with paper too. Just change the action words, i.e. delete becomes discard or toss.


What We Sow Is What We Reap.
No, I did not think this up. This is a universal law that I first learned about in The Bible. Another way to say it is “You get what you send out.” You may have heard of it as The Law of Attraction. Let me tell you a little story:

While growing up in Vacaville, California, my mother encouraged me to write letters. With my mother’s example, it was easy to learn the art of letter writing. I liked writing and riding my bike to the corner mailbox, where I would deposit our letter to Grandma with a five cent stamp affixed. Letter writing became a part of my life. Over the years, letter writing took a back seat to the telephone. Nowadays, it’s a rare day when we receive a real letter in the mail with a real stamp.

When I started It’s About Time in 2000, I continued to practice communicating with notes to express thanks, offer congratulations, and remember birthdays. As my business grew, it became harder to have the supplies on hand, to remember important dates. My intentions were good, but I often fell short on my lifelong practice.

Enter “Send Out Cards.” This winter I received an unexpected card after being involved in serious car accident. Thankfully, I walked away from the accident, but the aftershock was great. So was the chest pain from the impact of the airbag. I was touched that my friend took the time to extend wishes of full recovery in a personal message, in her handwriting and signature. Email is convenient, but it doesn’t carry the impact of a sincere note. Everyone sends email. Few separate themselves from the pack with real greeting cards.

Now that I’ve started using Send Out Cards, I’m getting back on track. The convenience and card selection (7,500) can’t be beat. Type a personal message from your desk, and the card goes out the next morning, in your handwriting! When you send out positive energy, you make others feel good. Because of the universal law of giving and receiving, the giver gains as well.

But I need your help. I’d like to remember your birthday. You can tell me very quickly by typing your birthday in the reply line. No need to include the year.

You can learn about Send Out Cards on my website. Visit www.marylynnemurray.com and click on the button for ‘Send Out Cards.’ Complete the online form, or call me @ 925-933-9737 and we’ll set up your gift account on the phone.

Your Organizer Quoted in Woman’s Day Magazine.
I was recently quoted in the September 2006 issue. The article, called Clutter Control 101 by Diane Benson Harrington, is located on page 81. Sorry, it’s not available online at this time.

Your time is valuable; thank you very much for taking the time to read Etips.

E-TIP: Simplfied Holidays

1. Simplified Holidays
2. New Book Release
3. One Warm Coat
4. Good Intentions in the Mail

Simplified Holidays
The first 20 or so years of one’s life, we genuinely love the holidays, approaching the season with childlike excitement. We tend to live in the moment. Over the years, we begin to shoulder more responsibility, and our childlike view gets lost in the holiday hustle. While picking out the Christmas tree, we’re thinking about what to wear to the party. While talking on the phone, we’re thinking about what to take to the potluck, and so on. We tend to live in the future, always planning ahead, seldom enjoying the moment. We end up doing too much, enjoying too little.

An essential ingredient to being organized–at any time of the year–is planning. But when it comes to the holidays, too much planning and doing can turn you into Scrooge. A typical organized person will manage the busyness of the holidays by spreading out the work. One will start baking earlier, using the freezer to distribute the heavy workload. Another may shop all year, setting aside gifts. However wise and charitable this ambitious plan may sound, it exacts a price. Doing too much may lead to over-exhaustion, irritability, depression and illness; certainly not the joyful spirit we aspire to.

If you haven’t already simplified your holidays, maybe this is the year to start. The basic premise of a simplified holiday is: Do less to enjoy more. Two books that I recommend on this subject are No More Holiday Blues by Dr. Wayne Dyer and Simplify Your Christmas by Elaine St. James.

Consider what it is you really enjoy doing, and do it! Rethink all traditions. What you do is your choice. If you are going to do it, be cheerful about it. Make it your best holiday season ever.

New Book Release!
I am proud to be a co-author of Exploring Productivity: Ideas from Industry Professionals on Getting More Done in the Workplace. The book is a collection of simple ideas to improve productivity. To learn more about the book or to order your copy, click here.
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Got Coats?
One Warm Coat is a national program whose mission is to ensure that anyone who needs a coat has one. Coats are given freely and directly to men, women and children in need. Go to www.onewarmcoat.com and click on Donate a Coat. Check the U.S. map to learn where local coat drives are happening. Search further by area code or city.

Good Intentions in the Mail
We say it every year, “I really should send holiday cards.” But somehow, it just seems to be too much work. Sending cards is easy now! Here’s how simple it can be:

1. Enter names in your database. (Or upload from ACT!, Outlook, Excel)
2. Upload your unique photo on the front of the card. Add a cool holiday border, thought/voice bubble or caption. (Or choose from over 7,000 card fronts)
3. Type your personal message inside the card with your own handwriting and signature.
4. Send to friends, family and business associates with the click of the mouse. Stamped, sealed, mailed via the U.S. Postal Service and delivered anywhere in the world.

Want to know how to do it? Just call, write or click here. I’ll show you how you can send your holiday cards, including postage, for $1.01 a card. Now, that’s putting your good intentions in the mail!