Are you stressed by unmanaged paperwork around your home and office? Searching for important documents may seem hopeless. Interest charges and late fees can pile up quickly on misplaced bills.Deadlines are easily overlooked. Getting on top of your papers and developing a good paper management system will reduce stress. Here are some tips on how to get your paperwork organized, and regain control of your home and office.
Where you manage your paperwork should be convenient. Going to a secluded area of your home may not encourage you to manage your paperwork.If it is not an area you enjoy being in, you won’t go there.
The workspace should have ample surface area, basic office supplies (envelopes, pens, address labels), computer and printer, paper recycle bin and shredder.
Remove the unnecessary, immediately
Sort your mail as soon as it comes in, with a recycle bin and shredder withinan arm’s reach. Junk mail should be recycled immediately. Refer to a document retention guideline for guidance on what documents to keep and for how long.
Create a temporary, simple filing system for the initial sorting of your paperwork.This file system could include files labeled:
File – for files to be filed
Pay – for bills to be paid
To Do – for items that require attention within the next month
Read – for documents that will required your dedicated attention
Regularly go through and pay, sort and file
Set up a weekly time to go through the temporary files. Coordinate your bill paying with your pay dates.File papers from the ‘File’ file. Review your ‘To Do’ file for items needing attention within the next week. Take some time to read through the files from your ‘Read’ file.
It is important to always be aware of what papers, documents and receipts enter your home.Receipts can be sent via email or not retained at all.Be selective of what documents are collected at trade shows, conventions and seminars.Only accept the documents that are relevant to you.Be mindful of the mailing lists, marketing emails and promotional lists you sign up for.
Once your paperwork system is set up, plan to set aside time every week to maintain and manage your paperwork.Staying on top of your system will reduce stress and ensure you keep on top of your work and bills.
If setting up a paperwork management system is overwhelming, a professional organizer can help you started or guide you through the entire process. Top Shelf Home Organizing takes pride in working with people to organize and streamline their paperwork. Reach out to Jayme if you are ready to get your paperwork organized.
Transitioning from in-person learning to remote learning can be exciting and challenging for families. Setting a plan and expectations can help this transition when it occurs. Four areas that you can help organize for your learner include the daily schedule, location of learning, learning supplies, and learning materials.
Know, print, post, and set the schedule for the day. To ensure punctual attendance to synchronous class time, the class schedule needs to be known. Schedule class times into your and your child’s calendar with a reminder. Print and post the daily schedule in your child’s workspace, your workspace, and at the family command center. This can help keep everyone on schedule.
Help your learner select a good location for learning at home. A space that is quiet, well-lit, promotes creativity and productivity. For some learners, they may focus well sitting at the kitchen table. Other learners may need a secluded place to effectively learn. You may need to consider a station in a bedroom or other less traveled space.
Doing a quick declutter of the learning space will help with focus and productivity. If learning is happening in their bedroom, have your child make their bed, place dirty laundry in the basket, and limit the toys and distractions in the space. The same concept applies to the dining room, kitchen, and learning nook. Your student may need to change locations throughout their workday. A change of scenery, lighting, and distractions is good. Maintain a consistent location where they will keep their supplies and materials.
Equip your learner with the supplies they will need to complete their work. These materials are very similar to what they have available at school. Ask your child and your child’s teacher what supplies they use daily at school. Have a simple selection of these materials at your learner’s workspace. Keep in mind their age and learning level. A young learner may need some sharp pencils, an eraser, a selection of markers, and some paper. An older learner may need a calculator, paper, charging cable, a mouse with extra batteries, and a headset to keep their day going.
A printer, stock of extra ink, and paper will also be necessary when physical documents are needed. Make sure everyone’s computers and learning devices are set up to the Wi-Fi and printer before the day begins. Remove any extra supplies that may act as a distraction to learning.
When learning transitions to at-home, learning materials will need to be prepared and available. Teachers may share the learning materials with you and/or your child.
Have the materials available and ready to go in the workspace by the start of the workday. This will help avoid frantic searching for materials or bottleneck backups at the printer throughout the day (you know this is when the ink runs out and the paper jams). Classroom learning links should be open and waiting on internet browsers to ensure timely attendance to meeting times.
Being prepared and having a plan for a shift to, or from, remote learning can help your learner succeed through the transition. Organizing these four areas, schedule, location, supplies, and materials will help with effective learning from home.
If creating a workspace is overwhelming for you and your learning, Top Shelf Home Organizing can help. Jayme would love to talk about creating a learning space in your home.
Learning and working from home are most productive when you are prepared. Here are three tips to help your home become an area of productivity and focus. These tips include the proper supplies, a thought-out workspace, and a consistent schedule. Here are some details on creating the most productive workspace your home can provide.
Have the appropriate supplies available for completing professional and academic tasks. A basic school supply list is a great starting point. Be sure to have extras for when the crayons break, the ruler is misplaced, the printer runs out of ink and erasers fall off the pencils. Also, consider electronic supplies such as a calculator, headphones, and charging cables.
Organize Supplies by Type
Organize the supplies by type so they are easy to locate and easy to put away. Open cups or containers work great for pencils, pens, markers, etc., because you can take the entire container to your workspace and grab as you need. Label all containers, shelves, files, and areas that house school supplies. Follow the “place for everything and everything in its place” rule. Even the most obvious storage location should have a simple label.
Keep Supplies Simple
Keep the supplies simple. A fresh box of crayons, matching pencils that are freshly sharpened, a simple set of markers will make it easy for students to select the appropriate tool without overstimulation. A simple, clean file system and basic notepad will keep professional tasks organized. Store supplies in a location that is convenient for everyone to use and put away. If there are young learners, place supplies in an area that they can reach. Older learners will also need a convenient location too, that retrieval and replacement are mindless. The proper supplies will keep your home a well-supplied environment for productivity.
A well-thought-out workspace makes working and learning at home possible. Space will need to have good lighting, be well organized, have space to think, and have minimal distractions. The lighting of a workspace is very important to aid in productivity and alertness. Natural light is important for mental well-being. In the darker, winter months, lamps, and lighting with a warm light can help students feel alert while putting less stress on their eyes. Select a work area that has the best lighting for learning and working.
Organizing and Setting Up Work Space
Keeping a workspace organized will foster learning from home. Students will know where to find what they need to complete their work. The consistency of an organized workspace will also foster learning and reinforce a stable learning environment.
Work areas should have open space on the walls and on the floor to encourage creativity and thinking. While a good selection of wall art and learning posters will create a fun work area, a complete covering of the walls may create overstimulation and distractions. Limit the number of distractions in a work environment. If there are multiple people in the house, try to create smaller work areas for times when independent learning and working is necessary. The workspace should be separate from areas where there is a lot of traffic, younger children may be playing, or where adults will be on calls. Creating a productive workspace is a mix of art and science. Remember to keep it simple and clear for productivity.
Scheduling with Time Blocking
A consistent, time blocked schedule will help you stay focused and be the most productive at home. For adults and children, a consistent schedule is key. Keeping consistency day-to-day will help keep everyone focused on the tasks for the day. When creating a daily time block, you will dedicate each period of the day to a specific category.
What to Include in a Time Block
Time blocks include self-care such as sleep, grooming, exercise, fresh air, and breaks. The work and school day can be blocked out by subject or work tasks. However, meetings and face-to-face time with colleagues, teachers, and teams, may not have much flexibility, so your workday time block may be created around these meetings. There will need to be an end time for your work and school day. The end time gives everyone a time limit to their work and will encourage focus and productivity during work time. Your time block will also need an allocation for meals and meal preparation. Allowing enough time for meal preparation or planning will help keep the day on schedule. Allow for take-out and convenience meals occasionally, so this task doesn’t flood your schedule. The time block schedule should also allow for any housekeeping, yard work, and cleaning, as these are equally important tasks to keep your home a productive environment.
A general time block day that simplifies the details and includes only sleep, self-care, school/work, and family time is completely acceptable. You may personally want to include more details in your time block such as exercise, meetings, planning, etc. Keep it simple when working with the family as a whole. A consistent schedule that is communicated to everyone will promote productive work at home.
Whether your family is working from home full-time or part-time, a well-planned environment will reduce stress and encourage productive work and learning. Take time to select the proper supplies, plan out workspaces, and create a schedule. These three areas will help make working from home as productive as it can be.
If planning and organizing are a challenge for you, Top Shelf Home Organizing can work with you. Contact Jayme if you want help setting up for a productive home.
This is the time of year to get your finances organized! That
way you can have a plan for the year, and can get ready to prepare your tax
returns. This is not an article on how
to save money, or where the best place is to invest your fortunes. Before we
can think about heading in those directions, we need to know where and what our
current finances are. Here are some tips
on getting your finances organized.
Where is my Current Money? Jot down where all of your accounts are and their current balances. These accounts include savings, retirement, trusts, loans, credit cards, mortgages and medical debt. Share this information with your spouse or another responsible family member. Then if something happens to you, someone else knows where your finances stand.
What is my Monthly Income? When tallying your income, remember to account for dependent care reimbursements, child support, social security, rental income and your income from your job. I like to think about my income after benefits and tax income (the income that is available to live on). This helps to put in prospective what I have to spend.
Make a Plan Reflect on the last year or the last month. What where your expenses? Be honest. Then you can look forward to what expenses you will have in the coming year. Be honest. If medical expenses were $5,000 last year, will they be similar this year?
Divide Your Money
into these Four Categories:
Fixed –These are the monthly expenses that are probably not going to change. They may include housing, utilities, medical, food, tuition, etc.
Philanthropy – This is the money you plan to give each month. This can include religious contributions, charitable giving, capital campaign commitments and pop up fundraisers (think neighbor kid raising money for the class trip to Washington DC, or the Scout selling wreaths).
Future – This is where you plan for your and your family’s future. This may include retirement, savings, college savings, etc.
Fun – This is the category that we all live for. This could include traveling, movies, sporting events, dinner out, golfing, gym memberships, a photography class, and so on.
Simplify Your Spending Consider using a cash only system or using one standard credit card for your purchases. This makes tracking your spending (and debt) simplified by having one platform to review your spending. Knowing where all your money is and where your money will go, will help you to get a grasp on getting your money organized. There are great apps available to assist you with budgeting and tracking where your money goes. Mint, Wally and NYAB are popular apps that are user friendly.
Organizing your money will help you to make better decisions when unexpended expenses or fun opportunities are presented to you.
An organizer can help you determine where your money is and detail where your money will go. See if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you on your journey. Contact Jayme to schedule a consult or chat about organizing.
Productivity is all about being efficient and accomplishing more in less time. Schedule your day to be the most efficient you can be by having a plan for every day.
Here are a few tips to make the most of your day whether you work in your home, run a business, or work for a large company.
Difficult Tasks Schedule your most difficult, undesirable tasks for the time of day when you are most focused. For many, this time is first thing in the morning. And doesn’t if feel good to get it out of the way?
Meetings Prepare, review and stick to a meeting agenda to ensure everyone stays on topic. Issues that may come up during a meeting can wait to be discussed at a later time with only the people involved. Set up video conferencing equipment ahead of the meeting so you can tackle the agenda on time and save everyone valuable minutes with each meeting.
Communication Schedule a couple times in your day where you devote time to checking and responding to emails, voicemails and messages. Having a set time to do this will help you avoid being interrupted throughout the day, and keep you focused on the project you intend to accomplish. Also, use the phone to communicate more often versus the never ending back and forth of email and other messaging communications.
Breaks Schedule blocks of breaks throughout your day to keep your mind fresh.
Me Time Schedule me time every day. Taking time first thing in the morning to focus on your health and faith will get your day off to a good start.
Checklists Use a checklist for daily repetitive tasks. This will keep you focused and help minimize errors in the tasks you do everyday. Also, create a weekly checklist to help keep your week on task, so you can accomplish your goals. Create your weekly checklist at the end of the previous work week so your week is off to a strong, focused start.
Work Space Keep your work space neat and organized to ensure focus. Keep only the current project on your desk. If it makes sense, plan certain tasks to be completed offsite or at home. Offsite work allows for focus without the office interruptions and can save commute time.
If scheduling and organizing are challenging, a professional organizer can help. See if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you on your journey. Contact Jayme to schedule a consult or chat about organizing.
The goal was to bring my home office from cluttered to focused in two weeks. I did it. My office is now a place where I can work without distraction from physical clutter or from mental over-stimulation.
Last week I worked through the process of making things worse before better by pulling every item out. And due to this, all the randomness is now either out of the house, or in an appropriate place. That clears a lot off my mind.
The work done at home is split between reading and writing, and I have an appropriate space to do each. For reading, I settle into the bean bag chair, with my Moroccan rug sticking out just enough to keep my feet off the cold tile. For writing, my desk is clear of excess clutter. (A longer-term goal is to get rid of the PC and monitor, but for now, I’m still using both computers.)
Hanging on the walls are simple reminders to keep me both calm and focused: an inspirational message above my desk, my grandma’s old Hummel pictures on the wall, ceramic angel statues throughout. There’s also a white board with my work-to-do list (our home to-do list is in the kitchen), and a larger board where I can scribble out my work while thinking – just like Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory.
As for noise distractions, I have great success listening to music in alpha-wave frequency. This type of music does more than block out noise; with headphones, it helps stimulate the brain’s ability to think. There are many free tracks out there, up to 6 hours long.
The process of getting the office organized was simpler than I’d expected. And because I focused on just one room, it was manageable. Even when I feel the rest of the house is in chaos, I have a space to go where everything is in its place. In this environment, I can feel calm, and I can get work accomplished. The cats are happy, too!
While I met my two-week goal, the task going forward will be maintenance. For me, this will mean clearing my food dishes and coffee mug out; folding up the blankets after reading; putting away books, pens, and highlighters – every day. See Top Shelf Home OrganizingProcess for simple steps for organization and upkeep.
By: Laurel Schenkoske
Laurel is a busy college instructor, Ph. D. student and wife. She is also writer for Top Shelf Home Organizing. Follow Laurel as she discovers efficiencies in her own home, office and busy routine.