8 Secrets to Getting Organized This Holiday Season

stay organized this holiday season
These tricks will help you have more time for what matter this holiday season.

Almost every holiday season, I often find myself feeling less than merry.  And, I know I’m not alone. With all the extra responsibilities on our plates, both personal and professional, it’s easy to feel more like curling up on the couch than caroling with your cousins.

But after talking with my dear friend and professional organizer Lori Krolik from More Time For You, I’ve learned the secrets to solving 8 common holiday-induced problems–and they all have a common theme, organization.

As my gift to you this holiday season, I’m sharing her wisdom so you can have more time for what truly matters, especially this time of year.

Your Christmas list is freaking you out.

The list of gifts you need to get is beyond daunting. You can’t remember who you bought what and who got you something last year.

Enter, The Christmas List app.  This handy tool allows you to manage all your gift recipients. You can import contact information directly from your iOS device, plan gift ideas, create shopping lists, set budgets, share your lists, create gift lists by categories, and more.

What a great solution to ensure you don’t double buy items, overspend, or (yikes!) forget someone.

You’re out of money–and time.

Everyone has limits. Figure out what yours are NOW and stick to them. Set a predetermined amount for what you will spend on gifts and the number of people you will be buying for.

Apply limits to your time and efforts, as well.

This means, when you are looking for gifts for your kids’ teachers, ask yourself, is it really worth driving to five different stores looking for the perfect sweater?

You are ready to wrap gifts and realize you have three bags of bows but no paper.

Before you start buying, wrapping, decorating, baking, et cetera, take inventory of what you do have on hand. This includes decorations, wrapping paper, and holiday cooking supplies.

This way, before you head out to the store, you’ll know what you have on hand, and won’t make the mistake of buying more than you need.

You’d rather get a root canal than to untangle Christmas lights.

Getting in the holiday spirit often comes with a lot of stuff. It looks so festive when it’s up, but what about the rest of the year? Do yourself a favor and head to the store and buy tons of containers–and use them. They will prove invaluable when it comes to packing up all that holiday décor.

Create categories for storage–entertaining, kids’ books, or organize by room. Then store them all together in an out-of-the-way yet accessible place. This way you won’t waste time hunting for something rather than spending time with family.

And, remember when you are taking down lights or wrapping up ornaments to take a little bit of extra time now to do it right so that it’ll be easier next year.

Your holiday cards are taking over your house.

We all love receiving holiday cards from family and friends, but what do you do with them after you oogle over how big Cousin Billy has grown or how cute Susie’s family looks?

There’s lots of clever ways on Pinterest as how to display these cards or turn them into photobooks but if you don’t have the time to do that, make cuts.

Get a container for each year and apply the 80/20 rule to who makes it into your holiday card photo archive. Lori suggests keeping those from close family members and friends (especially those with personal messages or photos) and recycle the ones from your real estate agent or dentist, for example.

Unneeded gifts are cluttering up your house.

Lori has some shocking yet sage advice–Just because you receive a gift does not mean you need to keep it.

To quote Marie Kondo, “The true purpose of a present is to be received. Presents are not things, but a means for conveying someone’s feelings.” Embrace the joy you feel when you receive a gift, but don’t keep it out of obligation.

On another level, don’t be a “spreader of gift clutter.” Many of our friends and family members are fortunate to have enough stuff. Experiential gifts like trips or concert tickets can go a long way in terms of creating lasting memories.

You’re stressing over what to do for co-workers.

Speaking of being a “spreader of gift clutter,” talk in advance with your workplace team about how to handle the holidays.

Set standards for a gift exchange, a Secret Santa, or holiday cards. Or, in lieu of gifts, host a little celebration with the team, inside or outside the office.

Of course, for managers cash bonuses for individual team members are always much appreciated if a viable option.

The new year is giving your team anxiety.

There’s always high hopes for a new year. To get started off on the right foot and with a clean slate, initiate a team “clean up.”

Whether emotional, physical or both, encourage your team to purge bad feelings, hash out and resolve grudges and clean up work spaces. Give them some space and time to organize common areas, supply closets or break rooms, clean off surfaces, trash old papers, and clean up their desks.

Making it a team effort will inspire collaboration, buy-in to commit to sustaining it, and set you up for success in 2018.

*This article was originally posted on Inc.

12 Stress-Free Days of Christmas: The Secrets to Managing Stress at Work

stress free for holidays
It’s the time of year–the time to feel stressed! But a little awareness can go a long way.

Why is it that what’s supposed to be the jolliest time of year is riddled with stress and deadlines–personal and professional? Gifts to buy. Casseroles to bake. Family to see. Reviews to make. Quotas to meet. Deals to close…

The to-do lists get looooonger this time of year as the time to tackle it gets much, much shorter. It’s no wonder a lot of us feel like we have more in common with the Grinch than Tiny Tim. (In fact, studies show 70 percent of professionals are more stressed this time of year).

But it doesn’t have to be that way. A little awareness can go a long way.

In the spirit of the 12 days of Christmas, here are 12 unique ways to keep stress at bay this holiday season.

Sleep.

If there’s only one thing you can do to manage stress—it’s sleep. If you aren’t well rested, everything else is likely to go haywire–your mood, your diet, your exercise, your work quality.

So, prioritize it.

Don’t stay up late wrapping gifts for your co-workers. People would much rather have a happy, healthy officemate than a grump with a beautifully wrapped candle in hand.

Forgo that second cookie.

Sure, sweets are a part of the season. But there’s something you need to remember–sugar can be your enemy.

There’s really nothing good about sugar except for the taste. It’s bad for your body. It can wreak havoc on your sleep. And, it can even cause depression. Oh, and it’s addictive, too.

If you have too much sugar in a day, you’ll have a high and then crash–leaving you little energy to accomplish anything and causing your stress levels to sky rocket.

So, when you find yourself reaching for another frosted reindeer, go for a walk and wait until that dopamine level drops.

Match water with cocktails.

While on the topic of the evil of sugar, it’s worth mentioning that alcohol has sugar in it.

Too many cocktails can not only lead to bad decisions, but it can mess with your sleep and cause anxiety, stress, and depression.

While at the holiday party, think before you drink–and, drink water in between each cocktail. This will help fill you up and cushion the blow of a potential hangover.

Get moving.

Yes, you have a lot to get done. But news flash, taking time to exercise may actually energize you to get more accomplished.

If you must go shopping during your lunch break, take the full hour and walk some laps around the mall, or take a few flights of stairs each time you need to hit the restroom.

Work in a little movement in here and there, and feel some big spikes in your energy level.

Create white space.

Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, wrote a really great blog post on the importance of scheduling nothing. “Use that buffer time to think big, catch up on the latest industry news, get out from under that pile of unread emails, or just take a walk,” he said.

Creating white space on your calendar for yourself is a way to seize your day back, rather than let it be beholden to to-do lists, emails, and phone calls.

This time of year, use that time to reflect on the past and what you’d like to accomplish in 2018. This will help you prepare for those end-of-year performance reviews lurking around the corner.

Resist the frenzy.

People are in a rush more this time of year than ever. The hot topic of conversation is how everyone doesn’t have time to have a conversation because they are so busy.

Don’t buy the hype. Buck it. Slow down and prioritize. Look at everything you have to get done and aim to get rid of 20 percent of it by delegating, pushing it off to next year, or simply not doing it at all. You may be surprised by how rewarding that feels.

Create a helpful culture.

If you feel like you’re drowning, chances are your team feels that way, too. Talk to them about how you recognize that everyone has a lot on their plate and tell them to speak up if they need help.

Emphasize the importance of leaning on one another, and the art and magic of true collaboration.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Don’t wait until you’re totally freaking out to start trying to calm yourself down.

Controlled breathing has been shown to reduce blood pressure, promote feelings of relaxation, and help you de-stress.

Try this simple exercise–inhale for the count of four. Then slowly exhale for a count of four. Work up to inhaling and exhaling for a count of six. Do it for five minutes a day and see how much more relaxed you are.

Manage expectations.

You have a lot to do and not as much time to do it–don’t keep that a secret. Tell your co-workers, clients, and family members about your limited availability and the potential for slower response times so they know what to expect from you.

This way you hopefully won’t be caught in a situation where everyone is making you feel like you’re disappointing them.

Tell them what’s up.

You know that saying that communication is key–well, it really is key this time of year–especially if you are working globally or in dispersed teams where colleagues and clients may not understand what holidays in the U.S. entail.

Be upfront about your schedule and capacity so they aren’t expecting to hear from you when you’re huddled by the tree feverishly trying to put together a kitchen set for your child.

Compartmentalize.

The holidays can be emotional times–the intensity of family, work, and partner interactions can be heightened. And, it is tough to leave that awful fight you had with your sibling behind as you walk into your office.

Do your best to let that friction go. People are extra sensitive this time of year so don’t take what they say personally. And, understand that you can handle whatever is on your mind later once everyone cools down.

Don’t overcommit.

Best laid plans are, well, that. Know that things will pop up or not work out, and it’s okay. Be flexible. Do only what must absolutely be done–and try to enjoy yourself.

*This article was originally posted on Inc.

5 Secrets to Getting (and Staying) Organized

Personal Organization

In my last post, I shared five things you’ll never see organized people do. I learned this from observing highly organized friends and colleagues–and the help of a productivity specialist, Lori Krolik, president of More Time for You. Lori taught me five secrets to getting and staying organized.

Lori opened up a Pandora’s box of organization for me when she shared the secret of making checklists. It helped get my work/travel life in order along with my personal life.

Here’s what she told me:

“Create checklists for the places you travel to, especially globally, when you might need special medicines or articles of clothing. For example, you might need Malaria medicine in certain humid, remote, climates. Or that easily packable down coat when traveling to cold weather. Pull the checklist out each time when you’re getting ready to go to make sure you aren’t forgetting anything.”

It was a simple trick but it meant not having to think things through from the beginning each time. So, now that I have a pretty good system, I want to share these five secrets for getting and staying organized with you.

1. Create a plan.

First, prioritize what you need to organize. The way to do this is to hone in on what needs to be organized. Don’t be daunted. Think, what areas are the most disorganized? What areas are stressing you out and making it difficult for you to achieve certain tasks like scheduling meetings or fixing supper? Start that checklist and tackle one before moving onto the next.

2. Master the calendar.

My productivity guru, Lori, shared some important advice when it comes to scheduling meetings–be sure to use the notes section in your calendar. Don’t rely on your memory when it comes to recalling who is calling who, or what is on the agenda, or for me, what time zone the call is meant to take place. Auto-conversion doesn’t work sometimes, so she advised me to put all relevant times and time-zones manually in the body of the invitation.

3. Give everything a home.

Label makers can be a powerful weapon when it comes to getting organized. Pick one up, head to the Container Store and get a host of bins, boxes, and folders–then go crazy. Give everything in your life its designated place. If everything has a home, you’ll lessen your chances of losing anything. This goes for email, too. Create folders and send those emails “home.”

4. Get rid of junk regularly.

Spend time on a regular basis, whether it be every week or every month, to go through and de-clutter. Get rid of things you don’t need. A rule I have for clothes and personal items is, if I haven’t used it in a year, I bring it to Good Will or a consignment shop. Also, if I purchase something new, like a new sweater or pair of shoes, that means I must get rid of something. This also helps fight the clutter war.

5. Put things back where they belong.

Now that everything has a “home”, make sure it stays that way. Don’t use that flashlight and then stick it in a nearby cupboard. Take a moment and place it back in the neatly labeled container you got it from. That way when you need it next, you’ll know where to look.

Since I discovered these secrets of getting and staying organized in my life and my work, I’ve been much more productive while being less stressed. It seems contradictory but by investing a little bit of time into organizing every day, I’ve been able to have more time to do the things I want–and do them well.

 

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo: Pixabay

 

5 Habits Highly Organized People Don’t Have

highly-organized-people

Part of the secret to success for a global business consultant is to be organized. Different countries, multiple time zones, and a myriad of clients and cultures mean it can be pretty easy to get mixed up and miss important appointments. And, admittedly, I did so once in a while at the beginning of my career. But I have learned some of the things highly organized people don’t do, and, after some practice and some help, I have become a pro at balancing time zones and diverse cultures and climates. It’s been a game changer for me personally and professionally. It feels good to be organized and know that wherever I am in the world, things will run smoothly.

So, in the spirit of spring-cleaning, I’m doing a two-part post on the secrets of getting your life organized.

First, I want to share five things you’ll never see highly organized people do:

1. Highly organized people don’t wear pajamas all day.

There’s a trend among organized people. They start every morning the same way–no matter if they’re going to work or staying home. They get up, eat a good breakfast, shower, and get dressed. The act of getting ready for the day–no matter where it might take you–can change your perspective and help you be more productive. It’s the simple knowledge that you’re prepared for anything–inside or outside the house.

2. Highly organized people don’t rely on their memories.

Sure, we live in an age where pen and paper are becoming perceived as antiquated, but writing is a great way to remember things. Write out checklists, and savor the triumphant feeling you have when you get to mark things off. For important dates and errands, feel free to use your smartphone. But no matter what, write (or type) a to-do list somewhere. It does no good floating around in your head.

3. Highly organized people don’t procrastinate.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but procrastination only adds to stress–and disorganization. The longer you wait to do something, the harder it will be to get the task done (plus, you’ll likely do a worse job because of the pressure and time constraints). Getting things done as soon as you can nixes the feeling of having something hanging over your head. Try it! It can be liberating!

4. Highly organized people aren’t perfectionists.

Organized people have the image of being perfectionists, but the truth is, they aren’t. It’s just the illusion they’ve created because they have the space and time to do what’s essential well. If you feel like you must do everything perfectly, you’re not going to get anything done. So try to do the best you can for the most important stuff, and be OK with “good enough” for the others–or ask for help. This will help you combat procrastination and free up your time.

5. Highly organized people don’t take on too much.

One of the perks of being really organized is freedom from being stressed and overwhelmed. And freedom from being stressed and overwhelmed demands that you not have too much on your plate. Really organized people know how to delegate. If you find that your plate is overflowing, prioritize and consider dropping or delegating the less important tasks. It’s OK to cancel plans, so you have time to think. Or even just to breathe.

Start with these five actions, and you’re already on your way to getting yourself organized. In my next post, I’ll share the top five secrets of the highly organized.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Image: Pexels.com