July, 2009

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Simple Summer Joys

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

“Slow down, you move too fast!” One of the best things about summer is we are reminded to slow down and enjoy the good weather with longer spans of sunlight. Here are ten things that are on my list of best ways to enjoy a summer’s day:

  1. Find a child to share a Popsicle with.
  2. Go to the park and wander until you find at least one butterfly.
  3. Sit in the sunshine reading a book as you eat your lunch.
  4. Walk a dog.  Borrow one if you have to.  A dog’s enthusiasm for life and little things is contagious!
  5. Invite your friends for an” ice-cream-sundae-with-all-the-trimmings” night.  Give a prize for the “most innovative” sundae.
  6. Go to the nearest body of water and watch the ripples as you think of how special you are… an important piece of God’s creation.
  7. Take a bike ride with a friend.
  8. Find an outdoor movie theater, pop a grocery bag full of popcorn, take lawn chairs and enjoy watching a movie under the stars.
  9. Gather 2-3 friends for a game of miniature golf.  No betting, or big competition, just enjoy the fun of the game.
  10. Sit on a porch and watch the sun go down as you talk to someone you care about (on the phone is OK, too!)

If you were singing the Simon and Garfunkel song with me as you read the title of the post, did you get to the line, “Life, I love you!  All is groovy…”? Yeah, it is.

Organizing in the Kitchen

Friday, July 24th, 2009

What is your favorite memory of your childhood home?  I venture to guess that it took place in the kitchen. My fond memories from our kitchen are licking bowls and beaters, decorating Easter eggs and Christmas cookies, and gobbling cornmeal pancakes as fast as Mom brought them from skillet to table.

The kitchen is the heart of a home. Company always gravitates there no matter how comfortable your living room sofa is.  Whether you cook more than once a day or only once a month – your kitchen can be a calming place, an efficient workroom, a place you want to be. The same principles that organizers apply to other spaces in your home work wonderfully in your kitchen as well.  Choose one suggestion to put into action in your kitchen first.  Then as you see the benefits (efficiency of movement, pleasing expanse of counter) you will be motivated to make other changes.

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Colorful Appointments in Outlook

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

Living with and learning from my CIO husband, Jeff,  I am well aware that I will never use all the power that is available in my computer programs.   When I discover fun things that I can actually use, I want to tell someone.  If I tell Jeff, he will say, “Didn’t you know that?”  So, this is for you, fellow blogger.  If you already knew that, just don’t tell me, OK?

This week I started color coding my appointments in Outlook.  I type the event name in my calendar and hit enter. The little four-colored button on the toolbar is then available for me to choose a color for that event.  The first time I choose that color, I am prompted to title that category.  So far, I have colors for:  family and friends, Martha’s time, speaking engagement,  organizing appt, network/assessment appt, CEU class, and writing.  I love it!  I can see my day at a glance.

Now that I wrote that list  of events, I realize that I have not scheduled two activities that I say are priorities – time with the Lord and exercising.  Another benefit of color coding… you can see where you are over-committed and under-committed.

Got Good Stuff?

Friday, July 17th, 2009

To get an estimate of the value of your things you may want to contact a professional appraiser.  Remember that value is defined as the expected sale price in an arm’s length transaction in a normal market over a reasonable period of time.  For very specific markets, the value may be a personal preference or “in the eyes of the beholder” value.  In settling large estates, it is wise to get an appraiser’s opinion whether you are selling or simply donating larger items to charity.

These are the three top appraisal organizations and their websites:

Of course, there’s always Antiques Roadshow.  I love to watch the show.  They recently found the first $1 million appraisal items!

How to Find Your Time Leak

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Do you feel like you were busy all day long, but at the end of the day can’t point to one specific task that you completed?

One way to quantify how you spend your time is to keep track of your activities for one week.  An easy way to do this is with a timer you can set for a fifteen minute interval. A kitchen timer will do.  Draw three columns on a sheet of paper and title these “Activity”, “Time Blocks”, and “Notes”.  Activities should be general categories like – eating, exercising, writing, on phone, marketing, networking, data entry, housework, playing, watching TV, etc.kitchen timer

Beginning with the time you wake up, continually set the timer, note the activity and put an X  in the next column for  each 15 minute block you spend doing that.  In the Notes column, you can remind yourself of the particular project or reason for extended period of time spent. The timer is essential because reconstructing your day after the fact is not always a true picture.  At the end of the day, add up the time spent on each activity.  After your 7 days or work week ends, evaluate where you spent the major portion of your days.

Two things happen while you are doing this exercise.  First, you are more conscious of the passage of time when you find yourself doing mindless activities.  Checking your e-mail can stretch into a three hour marathon of web surfing otherwise.  Second, you will discern how much time you are actually spending on those activities you claim as  priorities personally or on the job.  Will you readjust your priorities or purpose to honor those decisions with a time commitment?

Finding the leak is helpful only if you make an attempt to stop the leak and take preventative measures to avoid puncture scenarios in the future.

The Myth of Multitasking – 3 Tips to Increase Productivity

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

“Excellent at multitasking,” is one of the buzz phrases sure to jetison your resume to the top of the pile.  Or is it? As early as 2001, a University of Michigan study showed that workers’ productivity decreases by 20-40% every time they multitask or engage in “task switching.”
A study in the NeuroImage Journal concluded that managing two mental tasks at once reduces the brainpower available for either task.  Could this be why we hate to follow the driver who is talking on a cell phone?

Furthermore, “the process of switching back immediately to a task you’ve [recently] performed takes longer than switching back after a bit more time has passed.  The brain has to overcome ‘inhibitions’ it imposed on itself to stop doing the [original] task in the first place.” This according to findings published by researchers from the National Institute of Mental Health in the fall of 2002.

Granted, there are a few careers that by definition are “interruption rich” environments, such as retail managers, mothers of toddlers, help desk technicians, etc. Even in these extreme cases where multitasking cannot be avoided, consciously choosing to take these three steps can increase focus and productivity.
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Downsizing Tip: Donate Professional Clothing and Give Back

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

The Pareto Principal (or 80/20 Rule) as applied to our clothes closet states that we wear  20% of our clothes 80% of the time!  The pieces we love, fit well,  and make us feel great are what we choose again and again. The rest are special occasion attire, bargain mistakes, the size we wanna be, or extras “just in case”.

Cramped closet

Cramped closet

Getting real and letting go of your surplus clothing can be very freeing!  You will be able to choose what to wear twice as fast because you already know each item works.  That extra space in your closet means you have room to shop for new clothes that will complement and complete the wardrobe you can now see clearly.

Another plus is that in donating extras, you benefit from a tax break and the satisfaction of helping others.  Donate business attire to homeless women or welfare recipients who are looking for employment through Dress For Success or The Women’s Alliance.