October, 2011

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Are You Competent, Capable, and Efficient?

Monday, October 31st, 2011

If I had to name the most important consideration in setting up an organized workspace, or work flow, it would be efficiency.

When a system is efficient, that means the least amount of resources will be used to get the job done.


The resources you save can be:

  • Time
  • Money
  • Raw materials
  • Equipment life
  • Energy – physical or fuel
  • Range of motion
  • Manufactured supplies
  • Number of steps to completion

When you work efficiently, you are considered well-organized, good at your job, not wasteful, economical, proficient, competent, capable, professional, and ecologically aware. You sound pretty good, huh?

In the corporate world, efficiency equates to higher profit margins.
At home, efficiency means having more time and money to do the things you love.
Let me give you an example of efficiency from my adolescent years. As the oldest daughter, I was stuck doing dishes by hand for a family of 6. I soon learned there was an art to washing and stacking those dishes into a single dish drainer.

  1. First, scrape and rinse off the worst of the leftover food particles.
  2. Then, wash plates & bowls and stack compactly in drying rack slots.
  3. Next, wash glasses and utensils, finding nooks and crannies to stand them vertically to dry.
  4. Last, wash larger bowls and greasier pots and pans by size from smallest to largest in order to nest in succession. Then pray it all stays on top!

You see, I wanted to be done with dishes as soon as possible, with the least amount of energy expended. That meant no stopping to replenish dish water and no drying by hand to make room for more.

Only a person who never was the sole dishwasher, stacker, and putter-awayer (this person shall remain nameless) would wash greasy pots and pans first, then wonder why the drinking glasses felt greasy to the touch. Contrary to popular opinion, NO, Dawn does not take grease out of the way that well! Needless to say, the glasses have to be rewashed… a waste of time and resources.

I often say that organizing is not an end in itself, but a means of getting something else you want. That may be finding more time to do something fun, saving money to spend on a vacation or shopping spree, or simply eliminating the frustration of always searching for things.

When you develop an organizing system that is efficient, you will be saving precious resources that you can use in another way. Soon you will be rewarding yourself with the very thing you most desire, and looking doggone good at the same time!

Product Review: My Favorite Weapon

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Those of you who have been in my small group Clutter Management Program, or have been a Simple Changes reader for a while know that I LOVE the Freedom Filer paper management system.

I have helped quite a few clients set up this system in their home to corral paper so they can find what they are looking for in 10 seconds or less. It’s kind of a “no brainer”. You purchase, set it up like in the picture, and it is so easy to use you don’t have to think. Love saving those little grey cells…

The best part is the “maintenance free” or as I like to call it “self-purging” aspect of this system. The color-coded categories not only tell you when to purge, but practically force you to do it!

What I usually do with clients is have them purchase the system online. I put the basic system together, then show up ready to customize and train on how to best use all the additional features. The client hands me the copy he/she ordered and pays only for materials and the training time.

The benefit of ordering directly from Freedom Filer is that the company will then email you reminders on when to update and purge. Love it!

Make the decision today to break free!

7 Mistakes that Lead to Paper Piles, Part 2

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

In the first part, you met 3 personalities who struggle with paper piling issues: The Visualizer who wants to keep everything in sight, The Generous Shopper who is now the best friend of charities and catalog vendors, and The Librarian who feels compelled to gather information.

The ethics of my profession require that I keep all client identities and foibles confidential. If that were not so, I would be able to describe the clients I have worked with who match these descriptions. I am not making this stuff up!

Perhaps you have already said to yourself, “How did Martha know to describe me so well?” The reason I can do that is you are not alone in your struggle with paper, or the underlying causes. If you haven’t recognized yourself, you may be one of the remaining 4 personalities.

    1. The Go Getter has many projects going on simultaneously. He doesn’t want to put away the projects he is working on because he “will just have to drag it all out again anyway!” Supporting documents become lost in the shuffle. Many times work is delayed because a vital piece has gone missing. Duplicated effort is required to get the project back on track.
      Remedy: First, ask the question – are you able to do an excellent job on all the projects, or are some slipping through the cracks? Which projects are you the best at and will generate the most value? Keep those, delegate others to the person who is better suited, and let the rest go entirely.Second, to keep current projects separated [a project is an activity that has a definite beginning, middle, and en end] use colorful, distinctive and roomy file jackets. Scoop all supporting documents for each project into its file each time you take a break for more than 20 minutes. Use an incline sorter on your desktop so you can find any project file at one glance.
    2. Scarlet O’Hara says “Tomorrow is another day.” She puts off deciding what to do with mail offers, when to pay the bills, what to do with important papers. Because she has no system, there are no homes for paper to land, and she can never find what she needs when she needs it.
      Remedy:A paper management system is simply making decisions ahead of time about homes for the three categories of paper that arrive in your mail/inbox:

      • Action – you have to do something with the information.
      • Finished – all action is done and you NEED this info in the future, so is reference material to be filed.
      • Shred/Toss – done, don’t need it, get rid of it.

When you don’t have a system for paper flow in place, you will essentially be asking yourself this same question over and over, “Where should I put this so I will know where it is?

  1. The Seeker wants to keep on top of the latest breaking news. He has too many subscriptions, no time to read all of the information that pours in, so it piles up. He intends to read each magazines, newspaper, or professional journal, but finds himself 2-4 months behind (or more!)
    Remedy:For non-professional material, decide on a set number of months of magazines, days of newspapers you may keep. I suggest two months per magazine and no more than a week of newspapers. On the first of every month go through your stash and recycle old periodicals. Better yet, if you never get around to reading that magazine, cancel the subscription.Professional material is a must-read, but contains advertising and reiteration. Scan each periodical when it arrives, remove the articles (with small exacto knife) that are key to keeping current. Make a “To Read” folder that you can put in a briefcase, or grab on your way out the door on a slow day.
  2. The Bottom Line Watcher refuses to take the time to deal with paper since there is no money or distinct benefit attached.
    Remedy:Take the time to calculate how much time you waste daily looking for papers you can’t find. (In a survey, executives admitted to wasting 6 weeks per year looking for documents.) Now multiply the time you waste by your hourly rate. Does that make solving your paper clutter problem a higher priority?If you can afford it, hire someone else to set up the system and come in regularly do the filing/follow-up. If you are IT, schedule appointments with yourself to do 30 minutes of filing 3x/week. Start with the current piles – on desk or counter – until they are gone. You can be much more productive on other tasks when that visual clutter no longer effects your concentration!

Paper is ubiquitous – it’s everywhere! You can win, with the right tools and mindset.

Drop me an email to let me know what your paper personality is and how you have cut your piles down to size. I love hearing the success stories!