Monday, February 23, 2009

20% off at The Container Store!

Click here to get your coupon for 20% off everything now through March 1st courtesy of The Oprah Winfrey Show. This is a great, rarely-offered discount! A good time to get a jump on some organizing products to help with spring cleaning.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Addicted to Facebook?

For those of you who are enjoying the numerous social networking sites available, you know that it can be extremely addicting and difficult to curb your usage once you get on a roll. The sites are a lot of fun, and it's a great way to stay connected to your friends and business colleagues. Under normal circumstances, this activity isn't a big deal. But like email, many of these sites and programs can be a real productivity and time-sucker. If you have a real deadline or an in-depth project to work on that requires your full attention, it can become easy to slip into procrastination mode and check out your friends' status updates and wall posts instead. Or if you are out to dinner with friends or family, maybe you are tempted to pull out the Blackberry and update twitter with your current status, thereby missing out on the time with the ones you love.

I always recommend to clients that they set aside specific time for web surfing and personal email as much as possible. If they have a big project and shouldn't be interrupted, I recommend closing the email program for at least an hour at a time so that there are no distractions. The same holds true for the social networking sites. If your daily responsibilities involve answering short emails and phone calls throughout the day, and you don't have a significant project ahead of you, there's less harm in multiple visits to your favorite site. But if you really need to focus, turn it off. Try giving yourself a time limit - of say, 15 minutes. Set a timer or alarm on your cell phone if necessary. When the time is up, close the browser and focus on your task at hand. You can always check back in during a break later in the day.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Benefit of the Weekly Business Meeting

Any successful family relationship revolves around good communication.

In the case of me and The BB, we are both self-employed and that creates an extra set of challenges for us as we grow our businesses, juggle the household budget and finances, and plan for long-term investments. In addition, we need someone to bounce ideas off of and to be an accountability partner so that we stay on track for our own personal and business goals. So we set up a weekly business meeting.

At first, I thought these would be short - 30 minutes max - but we're finding that it takes us two hours to go through everything on our list. We cover it all, from budgeting/bill paying and scheduling to business ideas and marketing plans. We always feel a little goofy starting the meeting, but once we get on a roll, there's no stopping us.

I share this with you because I think a family meeting is an often-overlooked communications tool that can make running a busy household much easier. You can meet with your significant other only, or you can involve the children if it's age appropriate. Set a "standing" agenda and leave time for everyone to bring up issues that impact the family. You can cover topics like:
- Everyone's schedule for the week (use this time to update the family calendar)
- Upcoming big expenses (kids can share in the decision making and learn valuable lessons about saving for luxury items, vacations, or household necessities)
- Travel plans/family vacations
- Household projects (let everyone know the expectations and their roles)

Set the meeting for a standard time every week so that you can plan around it, and everyone can plan to be there. And for the typical family, I think 30 minutes is more than enough time.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Financial Benefits of Getting Organized

I read an article in The New York Times last fall about the trend of consumers focusing on home repair projects, rather than discretionary spending, in a down economy. Judging from what I have seen, this is definitely true. While we aren't out spending money on vacations and luxury items, this becomes a good time to evaluate our home environments.

Couple that with the cold, snowy winter we are having in the Northeast, and I think the time is right for taking a hard look at how well your living space is functioning. You can add value to your home and environment without spending a lot of money. In fact, organizing can have many financial benefits that will directly impact your wallet:
  • Spend less on items you don't really need by figuring out what you already have. Take stock of your wardrobe, kitchen pantry items, and more, and be better informed when you head out shopping.
  • Find those missing gift cards, gift certificates, and cash. I can't tell you how often we turn up real money when I am organizing with a client.
  • Donate unwanted/unnecessary items for a tax deduction, or sell your stuff online or through a consignment shop.
  • Avoid late fees by getting your bill paying center set up and paying bills on time.
  • Clean out your storage unit and avoid the monthly storage fees.
  • Get more out of the things that you already have and love.
With February vacation around the corner, why not set aside a day or two to tackle some trouble spots around your home?