system
Productivity Consulting and Leadership Coaching for business and nonprofits - get your most important work done. Collaborating with leaders and their teams to become more strategic, focused and productive. Leadership and Board Coaching, Strategic Planning Facilitation, Productivity Coaching and Consulting, Professional Speaker.
Productivity Coach, Productivity Consultant, Leadership Coach, Executive Coach, Business Consulting, personal productivity, time management, nonprofit, board coach, collaboration, strategic planning, facilitation, change management, leading productive teams, project planning, board development, volunteer engagement, association management, workplace productivity, executive director.
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system Tag

On the quest to minimize paper I will share with you a tip that helps me a lot.  I have a designated holding zone.  This is where I put things that I don’t need now, but am not quite ready to do something with or get rid of.

Remembering the proven statistic that “80-85% of all papers put into files are never referenced again” helps to explain the purpose of the HOLDING ZONE.  Think of it as a step on the path to the recycle bin, but with the opportunity to retrieve it if need be.  When I do my weekly office organizing session, I work to make all the paper go away.  But there are always a few things that I am not quite ready to toss and don’t want to put into my files or my action system.  My solution is to pop them right into my holding zone.

It is important to go through the holding zone ever 2 or 3 months to see what can be moved out (filed, recycled or act on) so this area remains functional, otherwise you’ll just end up with an out-of-control mess.  (To get into the habit, I recommend you calendar “process holding zone” every other month.)

The holding zone can be a file, a bin, a basket or a level of a letter tray.  I use a letter tray because that’s easy for me.  What kinds of things do I have in my holding zone? Here’s a sampling:

  • The certificate for the two hours of tech support I won at the silent auction
  • Notes from a project that I completed but want to keep around for a bit just in case
  • A sample of a marketing campaign from a local theater that I liked and might want to do something with
  • An idea for a product that I might want to do something with

Once again, remember that if the system isn’t easy, it’s too hard.  Find an out of the way, yet accessible, place and set up your holding zone today.

 

Once again Tax Day has come and gone.  For me it’s about 8 focused hours.  I sit down to prep, our CPA Steve appears at our door, we work together for a couple hours, he leaves…we are done!  We’ve had this routine for years.  Steve always chuckles and tells me I’m his most organized clients.  The secret – it’s not what I do that day, it’s the little things I do all year long.  Here are my top tips for taming tax day:

  1. The Annual Check Register – I don’t know many people that keep check registers these days.  Most everyone just counts on their on-line balance.  But I still do.  And I start a new register on January 1st each year.  That way, when it’s tax time I have many answers all in one place, my auto-pays, donation checks I may have missed, household expenses, medical bills – most of the things I pay by check I need when I pay my taxes.  On Tax Day I go through my register and it helps me to prepare my Medical, Donation and Household expense totals.
  2. Dedicated ONE Place for Tax Receipts – As you walk in the backdoor of my home I’ve created a command center.  It is the designated spot for mail, and each family member has a cubby.  There are also a couple of shelves for general use.  On one of those shelves I have a 3 drawer bin.  One of those drawers is labeled taxes.  During the course of the year any and everything I need for taxes goes in that drawer.  Goodwill receipts, on-line donation receipts, medical bill receipts, prescription receipts, and anything else relevant.  On January 1st I empty it out and put it in an envelope for totaling on tax day.
  3. Pull Records on January 1 (or 2) – Each year I start my records fresh on January 1st.  That way last year and this year are never commingled.  I put all of the prior year’s records into a Bankers Box that gets stored under my desk.  After Tax Day the box goes into storage in my basement.  I most comfortable keeping 7 years of boxes (ask your tax adviser what’s best for you).  Steve left last night at 7 pm.  My box went to the basement as he walked out the door.  I pulled the box that was 8 years old and it will go off to my towns next free shredding day.
  4. Dedicate One Spot for Year End Tax Statements – Regardless of what it is, if we need it to do our taxes it goes in one spot.  That way we have everything we need when we need it.
  5. Tell your Teenagers What a W-2 is – This is the 2nd year in a row that we couldn’t finish our taxes 100%.  We were missing one thing.  Last year it was our older son’s W-2.  This year, our younger son’s W-2.  If we don’t tell them what it is, and that they need to give it to us we don’t have it.  Bummer.

(In New Jersey where I live the % deductible for medical is substantially less than the Federal %.  Ask your tax preparer about your states limit.  It is definitely worth it for me to track this.  It may or may not be or you.)

Evernote

Imagine 1000 sticky notes that are organized and available at the click of a mouse.  Meet Evernote.  Evernote is a cloud based application that can be accessed from just about anywhere – your PC, your Mac, your iPhone, your iPad and/or your Android phone.  And it’s FREE!  Go to www.evernote.com and download it.  Play with it.  Basically, all you need to know to get started is that you make a note – give it a title and Evernote saves it.  Then when you want to find it you can search on any word in the note and it will pull it up for you.  Later, when you get more comfortable with it, you can take pictures into your notes, cut and paste links and photos into your notes, and even do voice to text input.  Here are some ideas about how I use mine:

  • Favorite lists:  books to read, restaurants to go to (each city has its own note), wines to try, nail polish colors I like
  • Numbers: Frequent Flyer Numbers, Insurance numbers, Clothing/Shoe sizes
  • Maps: Pictures of how to get from point to point
  • Things to Buy: Pictures of my odd size light bulb for my desk or the humidifier filter I only have to buy once a year
  • Lists of names: friend’s kids/ grand kids/ husbands names, etc.
  • Notes from meetings
  • Summary notes from articles or books
  • Absolutely anything that is on scrap of paper that can now be placed into a sortable manageable system

Evernote is really a simple system to use.  Do yourself a favor and try it today.

Many people use their email signature as a way to communicate credentials, contact information and marketing links. Sometimes people include an inspirational message. These are all great uses…but there is more you can do.

Most email programs provide an option for multiple signatures. Some people use this feature to change between business and personal signatures. This of course is helpful. But imagine the possibilities if you used these signatures to communicate information you use all the time.

The best way for me to explain this is to share what I do. If I find that I’m sending the same information in emails over and over again, it is worthwhile to turn it into a signature (I actually put the body of the letter into the signature.) Then when I need to send that email, all I need to do is change to that particular signature, add the salutation (Dear Jane), make a few personalization tweaks, and hit send.

Here are the signatures I use:

  • Coaching – is used when replying to a client interested in coaching
  • Ellen – is for when I just want my name
  • Ellen Faye Organization – is my full blown signature with all the bells and whistles
  • Ellen Personal – is for personal correspondence with my home phone #, etc.
  • Ellen Short – is essential information used for business
  • Mom – is for my kids… (says…Love, Mom)

This super useful tool saves me a great deal of time. Check out the signatures feature in your email program to see how you can benefit. Questions – post them as a comment on my blog and I’ll get back to you right away.

Every once in a while I come across a product that is perfect.

I’ve been carrying the Incipio STOWAWAY® for about the past 6 months. I have had more people comment and get excited about this phone case than anything I’ve owned (that I can remember.) Practically everyone who sees it asks about it and says they want one.

This is a wallet case for my iPhone that holds 3 credit cards (Business Credit Card, Family Credit Card, and Personal Credit Card). It does add a bit of thickness to the case, but that doesn’t bother me. I typically carry my cell phone in my jeans back pocket or in my handbag. The thickness doesn’t affect either of these situations. It is great to have what I need when I need it.

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The goal of getting organized is not to be perfect; it’s to make life easier. Do you want to get your mail under control? File your paperwork? Find your summer shoes? Once I give clients permission to not be perfect their progress takes off. Ask yourself – “what is good enough?” Good enough doesn’t have to mean Pinterest perfect visuals or complex systems.

It’s always best to begin with the end in mind. If your goal is to be able to find things when you need them than that’s the type of system you should create – Consider:    (more…)