Organization & Time Management for Entrepreneurs

The ELEN chapter of ABWA in Alpharetta recently invited me to speak about organizing and time management for entrepreneurs at their monthly luncheon. We had an excellent time networking with the members of this group and wanted to share some of the tips we gave in our presentation. In order to manage the variety of daily obligations that entrepreneurs face, we recommended focusing on four organizational areas:

Routines & Task Management:

The importance of routine in your daily, weekly, and yearly lives cannot be underestimated. We recommend, taking a look at the things your business requires of you on a regular basis and then begin to set up routines that will allow you to accomplish each task in the most efficient way. You should also schedule time to prepare for upcoming days and weeks. Sunday evening is a great time for this on a weekly basis. Below are a couple additional tips for integrating routines into your life.

  • Prioritization: Decide what the top 3 things need to happen each day and commit to getting them done.
  • Requests for info/action from others should happen in the morning
  • Batching: Group tasks into categories when making your to-do list (phone calls, emails, physical tasks, meetings, professional tasks, personal tasks, etc.)

Managing Email, Calls & Interruptions:

Dealing with the daily influx of demands for an entrepreneur can be difficult. In order to achieve the greatest efficiency, we recommend telling others what style of communication you prefer. For example, if you are best on email, tell employees and others that they should reach you in that manner. This way you will not be bombarded with phone calls or in-person drop-bys that drain you of time. A few more tips are below.

  • Email Inbox: Use for items that need current action. File all other emails in well-labeled folders immediately upon receipt. Review and clean out folders weekly.
  • Closed-Door Time: Schedule time each day when you will silence the phone, close the office door, and turn off email, so that you can finish necessary tasks

Paper Management:

This is the most common concern among entrepreneurs. Managing the necessary, and not so necessary, paper that comes into the business can quickly become unmanageable. We’ve outlined our best tips for keeping the paper under control below.

  • Filing: Use well-labeled files (physical or digital) and commit to reviewing the contents once per quarter. Shred, toss, or recycle unnecessary items or things that haven’t been needed in 1+ years. Google ‘Suze Orman what to keep documents’ for a list of must keep financial docs with timelines.
  • Expenses: Keep track of receipts for business with an app like Expensify or a desk scanner like NeatDesk.
  • Go Paperless: Attempt to eliminate all paper from your life by scanning, opting out of paper statements/mail, and not printing. Digital records are easier to search, permanent (if stored safely), and require less space.

Needing Assistance: (Personal Assistance, Professional Assistance, and/or C-Level)

A final issue that we commonly see with entrepreneurs in not knowing when to get help. Whether it’s an assistant, an employee, or even a C-level adviser it is important to bring on assistance if it will help your business grow or efficiently maintain. If you are dealing with one of the below issues, it probably means you could use some help.

1) Your work/life balance is suffering

2) You’re in over your head

3) You’re doing tasks poorly and taking more time than the job should require because it is not your expertise

4) You’re doing tasks that are below your level when you could be focusing on more important things.


We hope these tips for entrepreneurs are helpful and would love to hear your favorite organizational ideas for people with their own businesses.


14 Ways to Prepare for Fall

Fall has arrived and that means it’s time to start readying our homes for the change in season. In order to prepare you and your home for the cooler weather, we’ve put together a list of simple organizing projects.

1) Warm Season Gear: Organize and store items such as pool toys, beach towels, and outside sporting equipment.

2) Garden: Prune your perennials, add a layer of insulating mulch for plant warmth, and trim trees that could provide a threat to your home during a winter storm.

3) Reorganize the Kitchen: Relocate warm weather items, such as ice cream makers, to higher shelves and shift down things like the crockpot and soup bowls.

4) Pool: Schedule an appointment for your pool to be winterized and mark the close-up date on your calendar.

5) Weather-proofing: Determine if your windows, doors, or pipes needs weather proofing or insulating. Clear out gutters and downspouts.

6) Heater check: Have a professional firm come and inspect your heating system before turning it on. If applicable, have the chimney swept.

7) Closet Changeover: Conduct the Fall closet changeover using the process outlined here. While you’re at it, purge summer items that were not worn this year from the collection.

8) Artwork: Set up a system for displaying, temporarily storing, and keeping children’s school artwork.

9) Prep the Coat Closet: Clear out space and organize the coat closet to accommodate for regular use.

10) Reverse Ceiling Fans: Keep the warm air down by reversing your ceiling fan blades.

11) Clean out the Pantry: Review the contents of you pantry and toss anything that’s expired or not being eaten.

12) Roof: Inspect your roof and repair any broken shingles.

13) Lawn: Have your sprinklers winterized and prep the lawn for the cold weather.

14) Deck: Put down a fresh coat of sealer on your deck and get patio furniture covers, if needed.


Good luck with your organizing projects and have a happy Fall season.


Stop Losing Your Things with 5 Easy Tips

Between our hectic lives and sometimes hectic physical spaces it’s easy to occasionally lose things. Whether it’s your keys, cell phone, or some other important item, the loss of a belonging can cause serious difficulties in our lives. You can keep this problem from happening with a few small tricks.

1) Everything in it’s Place: The old adage is helpful when it comes to losing things. Designate homes for your belongings and commit to returning them to these locations once you are done with them. As a secondary level of organization, attempt to keep like items with like items. This will assist in at least getting you to the general area in which the item should be located.

2) Launch Pad: A launch pad is an area of your home that houses items that you consistently take with out outside, such as your purse, wallet, keys, and cell phone, etc. Ideally, it should be located near the entrance to the home and have enough space to store the items neatly. When entering the home deposit the items and do not move them again until you leave.

3) Mental Notes: Even when we have the good intention of leaving an item a place we think we’ll remember, it sometimes slips from our memory. Science tells us that if you actively chose to make a mental note when leaving the item somewhere you’ll be more likely to remember the location later. So when you are setting something down, take a moment to say to yourself ‘I’m leaving my phone on the kitchen counter’ or something similar.

4) Out & About: Experts state that the top 4 places for losing things are airports/airplanes, restaurants, public restrooms, and hotels. That being true, we need to be especially aware of our possessions when out and about. To keep from leaving things, commit to a routine of checking for your items before leaving the location. For example, before you leave a hotel room, check the closet, drawers, under the bed, in the bathroom, and around the room. Think of the process as the final step before you can check out and you’ll lessen the chances of leaving that phone charger on the wall.

5) Technology: If these tricks don’t help, resort to technological help. KeyRinger, a sound-enabled locator device, can be attached to keys, remotes, and other items. FindmyiPhone is an app that can be downloaded to an iPhone that allows GPS tracking of missing iPhones.

We hope these tricks help, but remember the most important thing to keep in mind when something has become lost is to stay calm. It’s likely you know where it is, so as long as you remain composed you should be able to locate it.


20 Ways to Get Organized in 10 Minutes or Less

Most people would love to be more organized, but have a tough time executing the steps needed to get there. Fortunately, there are quick fixes that overtime can lead to a more organized life. Check out our ideas below and add your own via comments.

  1. Put away the stacks of folded laundry currently living on a chair/floor/dresser top, etc.
  2. Remove wire dry cleaning hangers and put them in your car to return with the next dry cleaning drop off
  3. Throw out expired food
  4. Review a stack of mail and trash, shred, or file the contents
  5. Gather excess travel size personal care products and put them in a bag for donation
  6. Toss single socks whose mates have long been lost
  7. Delete 25 emails from your inbox
  8. Pick one surface to clean, remove all unnecessary items, and return them to their homes
  9. Clean out your purse or wallet
  10. Make a To-Do list
  11. Recycle magazines that are 4 months old or older. If you would like to keep it for specific info, tear out the article and place it in a dedicated magazine binder with plastic sleeves
  12. While at the gas pump, do a sweep of the car and throw out any trash
  13. Add yourself to a ‘do not mail’ list, such as
  14. Create 3 file folders on your computer and add appropriate documents from your desktop
  15. Review your kitchen gadget drawer and pick out any duplicates. Place dupes in a bag in your car for donation
  16. Look through your coupon file and recycle anything that’s expired
  17. Select 1-3 pairs of shoes that haven’t been worn in the past year and ready them for donation
  18. Pick 3 file folders that you haven’t touched in a couple of years and review the contents. Try to throw out as much as possible
  19. Throw out expired medications
  20. Add 10 minute blocks to your calendar for future organizing sessions

Good luck!


Hobby Gear & Supplies: How Much Is Too Much?

Hobbies are a valuable addition to our lives. They give us something fun and recreational to focus on that isn’t work or other responsibilities. The problem is that many hobbies require significant amounts of gear or supplies. We often meet clients that while in love with the hobbies they participate in, are overwhelmed by the amount of ‘stuff’ they have collected to facilitate the hobby. In order to help limit the number of hobby items, we have several recommendations:

1)   Try Before You Buy: Often the instinct is that you cannot try a sport or hobby without first purchasing the necessary gear and supplies. For example, someone who wants to take up cycling may feel the need to get a bike, helmet, appropriate clothing, and anything else they may need before starting out. If the sport isn’t for them, however, this stuff ends up indefinitely taking up space in their garage. Instead of purchasing first, consider renting or borrowing gear to ensure that the hobby is something you’d like to continue long term.

2)   Set Your Limits: Another common hobbyist trend that we see is the personality who seems to enjoy the thrill of the supply acquisition more than the actual hobby. This seems to be particularly true of scrapbookers who often have enormous collections of supplies, with few finished scrapbooks. To keep this from happening, give yourself limits on how much you will buy, how much you will spend, and how often you will shop for hobby supplies. Make the limits firm and stick to them so that you don’t end up with excessive amounts of stuff with little time to use them.

3)   Pay it Forward: For those who fall into the category of large amounts of unused hobby supplies, there are many options for culling it from your home. Play It Again Sports will pay you for your used sports equipment. Goodwill, Salvation Army, and the other charities will accept just about anything you’ve got.  A final option is to post about the available stuff on your social media accounts. There’s a good chance someone in your network will be interested and you can rest assured that the stuff is going to good use.

In the end, the most important thing about your hobby is that you’re enjoying yourself; so have a great time!


8 Reasons to Hire a Professional Organizer

We often meet clients that are well-versed in the general principles of organizing. They understand what needs to happen to get them on the right track and yet their homes are still disorganized. When they call us they are initially skeptical about the need for an organizer, but end up extremely happy with the service and results. You may wonder why is there such a discrepancy. We’ve put together the top 8 reasons why hiring a professional organizer is better than attempting to do it by yourself or with a friend.

1. Objectivity: We have no attachment to your belongings and thus can help make difficult decisions about parting with said things a bit easier. We come prepared with lots of thoughtful questions about the frequency of use, necessity, and usefulness to assist in determining whether to keep or cull.

2. Calm & Collected: We organize people’s homes for a living, so we’ve pretty much seen it all. No matter the extent to your organizing needs, we will not become overwhelmed. We can help you achieve this peace of mind as well.

3. Efficiency & Organization: Instead of just making things fit anywhere they can, we strategize about the bigger organizational picture to ensure that your home and life is left with increased efficiency.

4. Completion: When attempting an organizing project by yourself, you can sometimes get distracted and leave things in a more disorganized state than when you started. When you hire us to organize we promise the job will be finished to your satisfaction.

5. Expertise: We are full of recommendations for products, resources, and information that will help you to achieve the organization that you’re looking for. Be it a storage solution or a way of setting up your desk to maximize productivity, we’re happy to impart our wisdom.

6. Fresh Eyes: When you are living in the disorganization for a long time it can become normal and blind you to new ways of doing things. Professional organizers can walk into your home and see patterns of disorganization, as well as potential solutions that you may overlooked.

7. Maintenance Strategies: While physical organizing is the first step, keeping things that way is the hard part. While we organize we impart strategies for how to correct behavioral habits that are contributing to the long-term disorganization, thus leaving you prepared to maintain things on your own.

8. Donations: Before we leave your home, we take the items that you are donating to charity for you. It may seem insignificant, but often times people never get around to donating the items they cull and then they eventually reintegrate themselves into the home. By removing the items immediately we can guarantee this doesn’t happen.

Obviously we’re partial to hiring a professional to help you with your organizing needs, but if you’re still unsure, feel free to give us a call and we can discuss your particular situation.


A Place for Everything: The Biltmore Estate

Earlier in the Summer my family met for a long weekend in Asheville.  Despite my general attraction to minimalist spaces I am in love with Biltmore Estate and could probably spend a week or two there touring the house and taking part in all of the amazing outdoor activities offered on the property.

On our trip we took a behind the scenes Architect’s Tour and found ourselves up on the roof and in rooms not typically available to visitors.  Combined with the self-guided tour through the rooms open to the public we got a great taste of the design, functionality, and beauty of the house.

Most striking to me, as a person with organization and efficient planning often on her mind, is the care taken by George Vanderbilt and his architect, Richard Morris Hunt, to address every possible need for a home this size used for constant entertaining and with an eye toward complete self-sustainability.  Biltmore is the ultimate example of the classic adage, “A place for everything and everything in its place!”

The basement of Biltmore house is one the best examples of a place for everything I’ve ever seen!  In the food preparation and storage areas in particular you will find a canned goods storage room, a produce storage room, a rotisserie cooking room(!), cold storage, a pastry preparation and keeping room, and a beautiful general kitchen area with sinks and prep counters with views out to the gorgeous countryside behind the house. The incredible upstairs living spaces include a breathtaking library, great hall for gathering and dining, reception rooms, storage rooms, and a multitude of guest rooms.

Despite the difference in the size and purpose of our homes and this great manor house, we can reflect and take a cue from this well-planned home in designing our own calm retreats.

-Take a look at each room in your house and evaluate, moving from left to right through the room, if each area of the room is serving its purpose well.

- Identify the areas where too much is happening in one place: do you have books overflowing your bookshelves, is your living room overrun by dvds, magazines, toys, or stacks of paper? Analyze what can be culled down and what is truly meaningful or actually used.

- Use the space you have as a guide to what you can keep: We have a tendency to want to find the perfect organizing item to create more space to keep things. We usually cannot make more space so living well in the space we have often requires some intense analyzing and a little creativity.

-Make tough choices: If you have 50-60 hair care products (and we have seen this many and more!) and nowhere to put them, really ask yourself what you are using daily and at this stage of your life.  If 30 of the 50 are never touched, give to a friend or donate to a women’s shelter.

- Use Peter Walsh’s best organizing principle and envision the lifestyle you want to be living.  Does your physical space and the belongings that reside there support that vision? It can be a  joyful existence to live with less, but in an environment that is calm and well-planned!

For inspiration on living well with less check out The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life

‘The Power of Habit’ by Charles Duhigg

I’m currently reading a book called ‘The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business’. The book discusses the science behind habits and how we can use this knowledge to alter various routines in our lives. Whether it be poor eating, smoking, or the collecting of excess belongings, much of what we do stems from the process of habits.

If you would like to change a habit in your life, the author suggests you start by figuring out the three things that form what is called a ‘Habit Loop’. First is the ‘Cue’. This is a signal, a feeling, or anything else that triggers the desire for habit action. Second is the ‘Routine’, which refers to the actual act. Finally, there is the ‘Reward’, which is obtained by completing the routine. The reward can come in many forms, but essentially is anything that provides satisfaction. Determining each of these items can be difficult as they are not always obvious. For example, if someone wanted to stop eating a sugary snack in the afternoon, they might realize that the cue is a lull in work and the reward is actually a distraction from boredom, not necessarily the snack itself.

Once you have identified the elements of the Habit Loop, you must then attempt to replace either the routine or the reward with something you feel is more appropriate. To expand on the example, if the sugary snack is causing weight gain, but the real reward is a break from boredom, the person may consider taking a walk with a colleague instead of eating. The cue and reward will remain, but the new routine will provide a healthy alternative.

The reason I mention this book is that the understanding of how habit’s work can help us to change the way we manage organization, time management, and general control in our lives. We often see clients that are overwhelmed by disorganization. I suspect that if they closely examined the habits that form the basis for the problem they could make edits to the loop that result in drastic overall routine changes. I highly recommend this book for anyone looking to make changes in how they operate and what they do.

Happy Reading!

Paper Clutter Strategies & Maintenance

Paper clutter is typically the most common issue we see in organizing consultations. Between personal information, mail, work documents, and other incoming paper the stacks can quickly become overwhelming. We’ve devised a couple of simple strategies for reducing the amount of paper coming in and living in your home.

Junk Mail: Eliminate junk mail from ever making its way into your home by enlisting a service, such as The service takes your name off of junk mail lists and can even minimize catalog delivery.

Mail System: We have discussed in previous posts, the handiness of maintaining a mail processing system. Get a basic file folder container and insert 3 files. The first can be labeled ‘Action Needed’ for important items that need service soon. The second is labeled ‘Upcoming’ and should contain items that may need handling in the coming weeks. The third is ‘Interest’ which may contain coupons or information received for things you may want to consider in the future. Each week, select a day to evaluate the contents of the files and move, file, or trash items as necessary.

Business Cards: Business cards are a big problem for many professionals. The contact information is important, but the storage or entry can be a pain. Try an app such as ScanBizCards which uses OCR technology to digitize the information from a photo taken of any card.

Digital Docs: For more traditional business documents, consider using an online doc development and storage suite, such as Google Docs. Anything you produce or need will be stored online for easy access and updating.

Personal Docs: A simple trick for keeping personal documents under control is to immediately upon opening, shred or trash anything that is not necessary to keep. When deciding what to keep and what to shred, consider if the document could be obtained easily online if needed. Utility, credit card, and even medical bills are all stored online and thus physical copies are rarely needed.

Paperless Billing: Take advantage of online billpay, paperless statements, and email communications as much as possible to further curb paper in your home.

Tax Docs: For documents pertaining to taxes, use a well-labeled storage system, such as the ones recommended here. Only save items in category labeled folders for the first year and then move everything into a single folder labeled by the year following your tax filing. All tax documents can be shredded or trashed after 7 years, but for a list of what to keep and what to toss, check out Suze Orman’s recommendations.

Upside Down Sorting: When attempting a paper sort, flip the pile upside down to start with the oldest, and likely most unnecessary, documents first.

To File or Not to File: Before filing something, ask yourself when was the last time you accessed something similar from the filing cabinet. If the answer is never, you probably don’t need to file it.

We know that paper can be a hassle, but if you stay on top of it soon after it enters your home it will never become unmanageable.

Good Luck!

Hoarders: Strategies for Clearing, Organizing, & Maintaining

A recent study came out detailing the biochemical differences between the brains of hoarders and those of normal functioning people. Brain scans of those diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder with hoarding tendencies showed abnormally high levels of activity in the region of the brain tied to decision-making processes. When OCD participants were presented with objects that belonged to them and were asked to consider giving them away brain activity spiked. This important research shows that for some people there truly are physiological barriers to purging and collecting personal belongings.

In our work we often come across clients who are likely borderline hoarders if not clinically diagnosed. Many times, these people are referred by friends and family of the client when their own efforts at controlling the ever-growing collection fail. Their homes are generally rendered unusable by the amount of stuff and often the lives of those living in the environment are suffering because of it. The approach to working with these types of clients is different than with most. If you are someone helping a loved one deal with the effects of hoarding we recommend several strategies.

1) Like-with-Like: Gather all similar items throughout the house and count the total number. For example, if there are 100 boxes of soap, discuss with the hoarder how many they think they can part with and still have enough. Perhaps 50 can be culled. The resulting number may still seem excessive, but for them it is a crucial step in the process of downsizing the collection.

2) Start with the Easy: It may seem to you that everything is trash, but to the hoarder each item has meaning and need. There are usually, however, certain items that they are more willing to give up than others. Identifying things like clothing that will never fit again, expired medications or food, and dead plants will help them to get in the mood for purging.

3) Timing: Although hoarding TV shows often depict large amounts of stuff being thrown away in one day, the reality is this type of strategy can be physically and mentally debilitating for a hoarder. Instead, plan to work slowly through the collection letting go of things in a gradual process. It may take weeks or months to get to a point of liveability, but the long-term sustainability of this strategy is greater.

4) Everything Has It’s Place: Often hoarders will acquire so many things that the belongings start to live in odd places, such as laundry detergents in the hallway. Once you clear much of the stuff out of the home, label appropriate ‘homes’ for items. Discuss with the hoarder that if a certain type of item lives in a certain drawer that if the drawer is full, they must not purchase another until there is space.

5) Maintenance: As a strategy for long-term maintenance of the clean and organized home, work with the hoarder to commit to a goal of one-in, one-out. Every time a new item comes into the home, they must donate, trash, gift, or otherwise cull something already in the home. For the first few donation experiences, it’s best to leave the hoarder at home. After the process is more fully underway consider bringing them with and discussing with donation staff what the items will do for those receive them. The understanding that their stuff is going to a much more needed situation can lessen the stress of the process for hoarders.

6) Therapy: The physical process of getting rid of things is important, but the best thing you can do to maintain the new order to to encourage the hoarder to get therapeutic help. A trained mental health specialist, experienced in hoarder compulsions, can do much to work through the underlying reasons for hoarding and stop further collections from developing.

We know that having a Compulsive Hoarder in your life can be difficult, but just remember that they are not a lost cause. And if you need help, professional organizers and therapists can be a good place to start.

Good Luck!

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