Marcia’s annual filing

So, friends, I have a confession – I haven’t done filing in over a year!

Granted, I don’t like to do my filing more frequently than every 6 months, but this is really bad.

my stack of filing – 1 year 2.5 months

 

this is the exact same piece of paper I’ve been using since 2011!

 

I’m posting these photos as motivation so I can actually tackle that pile and do it this weekend ๐Ÿ™‚

What’s on your list for the weekend?

Get organised before you go on holiday

Do you remember what it’s like getting back from leave?

You’re all relaxed, birds are chirping, the sun is shining, there’s no tension in your shoulders and everything’s wonderful.

Then you get to your desk.

After you look at your desk, and then see the 2000-odd emails that have piled up, you’re about ready to take your bag and your car keys and go right back home!

By the way, I don’t believe in taking your work with you on holiday unless it’s critical. I’m planning to block my emails from coming through to my iphone and ipad so that I’m not distracted from lazing on the beach.

I have a few ideas to help you prepare and get organised for your holiday:

1. Advise your clients and friends that you’ll be away.

I suggest that you write separate emails because…well…the tone and content will be different for each of them.

For clients, you’ll be explaining how long you’ll be away, what to do for queries and who your stand-in is. For friends, I like to tell them to please not send me any personal emails. After all, you don’t want to return to an Inbox full of PowerPoint presentations and the friends who really want to talk to you have your cell phone number if they want to chat. Right?

If you’re on Facebook, update your status too.

2. Delegate as much as possible

You need to be motivated to delegate! Now just think how lovely it will be when you get back from your holiday and after scanning through your emails, you only have to attend to about 10% of the emails.

You can delegate to a virtual assistant or my favourite, an auto-responder. I have an auto-responder set up to manage my mailing list so that it delivers my free Time Management Purpose Pack automatically to any subscribers and removes people who want to unsubscribe. Just putting this one thing into practice saves me at least an hour a week.

In your personal life, set up some systems to help you get ready to go and return from holiday. I’ve just asked our cleaning lady to come in on the weekend before we leave and again on the weekend following our return to help me get the house sparkling clean again.

I have checklists but I also update them after each holiday. My husband usually packs some things and I pack others (kids’ clothes). It’s helped me not micromanage and also lessened the load. And worse comes to worse, we’re not holidaying in the middle of nowhere – you can always buy if you’ve forgotten something small but the peace and sanity is worth the delegating.

3. Update your website if you’re a small business owner

Go through your Sent Items to see what type of questions you get a lot. If they’re not questions you have to think about and answer fresh every time, they probably belong on your site as a Frequently Asked Questions site or on your website somewhere else.

4. Turn on your out of office assistant

Remember to give the dates you’ll be unavailable, if your clients need to route their query to someone else and a number to contact you if it’s urgent. If at all possible, leave your out of office on a day longer than you need to gain some buffer time for easing back into work.

5. Declutter and get organised

Do a good clear-out of any paper, both on your desk and in your files. While you’re feeling the lovely rush of endorphins, do a good clear out of email and document folders too.

I have two hours scheduled next week to declutter and organise at the office so I can start 2013 on a clean slate. Honestly, I can’t wait to toss paper! I also can’t wait to break open a new notebook ๐Ÿ™‚

6. Plan for when you’re back

Write down the top 3 – 5 things on your to-do list for the day you’re back at work. Jot down a maximum of 5 items because you know you’ll be catching up on email!

This will ensure that you hit the ground running and that you beat the feeling of overwhelm.

Enjoy your holiday!

Marcia Francois is a time management coach and speaker who inspires busy women to break out of overwhelm, make the most of their time and take purposeful and focussed action so they have the time and freedom to live life to the full. Visit http://www.purposefultimemanagement.com for your free Time Management Purpose Pack.

Question of the week about after-supper laziness


I had a great question from a reader about after-supper laziness.

I am honestly not the best person to ask about this since I count down the hours til I can sit after running around the whole day.

But I will say this –

I pack my lunch and the children’s food while I’m preparing supper since I can guarantee my energy will be 50% less after we eat.

I like to plan my day/ evening so that I only have low-key activities after supper, like computer work, so that I can be “lazy” with a clear conscience.

But if I do need to get some things done, I make a list because not much in life motivates me as much as crossing things off a list ๐Ÿ™‚

Confession – this year I actually have a “reading night” on my weekly goals list because it’s that hard for me to relax and do “nothing”.

Now over all you clever (and normal) people…

How do you combat after-supper laziness?

Confessions of a professional organiser #3 – I’ve finally joined the 21st century

No, I have not bought an iPhone or a Blackberry (I don’t think they suit my lifestyle goals… but that’s a post for another day).

It was time for my monthly back up when I noticed that I was out of discs so I popped into my local computer store when I was out doing errands.

Is it me or are those computer guys getting younger and younger?!

I asked the guy to show me where they kept discs and while I was there, I also picked up a cute little mouse for my laptop (white with pink trim, in case you were wondering) since my old one gave up the ghost.

We got talking (as I do) and when I explained my (now) complicated back-up system, he said something quite profound.

“Why don’t you just use an external hard drive?”

I was intrigued so I asked him a million questions and there and then decided this was the way to go.

Many hundreds of rands later, I left the store, very happy with my new piece of computer equipment.

The external hard drive sat on my desk taunting me for a day or two until I decided to “just do it” and …. well…

Dear Readers, I don’t know why I didn’t get one sooner.

It told me exactly what to do and after the first backup which took about 20 minutes, the next one went so quickly I barely had time to do an office task as is my usual custom while I do my monthly or weekly backups.

So that’s my confession – I am now firmly in the 21st century. Still with a phone about 4 years old but I like it and it works for me ๐Ÿ™‚

Do you have any confessions you want to share with me?

The only 4 things to do with paper

One of the most popular questions I get from blog and mailing list readers is this:

How do I control all the paper?!

I understand completely because when I get lazy, that’s the first area that goes out of control for me too.

The first thing you have to do is decide and make decisions. I like using a timer because I’m naturally competitive (anyone relate?) and that inspires me to take action, and quickly too!

Before you start, gather the following items:

1. a timer
2. wastepaper basket
3. brightly coloured pen (I like a nice thick red gel pen)
4. notebook and/ or planner
5. post-its (the originals, not the cheap stuff)

Right, now you’re set!

There are only four actions you’re allowed to do once you’ve scanned each piece of paper. Don’t take longer than 30 seconds to scan the page.

1. Dump it

Throw it in the bin. The more ruthless you are, the less you have to file! Win-win!

If you only need one piece of information, write it down straight in your notebook and throw the piece of paper away. Some of you are hyperventilating – that’s okay ๐Ÿ˜‰

2. Delegate it

If someone else has to attend to it (husband needs to phone), write the action on the paper itself or on a post-it note and put that in a separate pile.

3. File it

Please do yourself a favour and only put paper in this pile if you ABSOLUTELY need to reference it. Just a quick stat for you – only 20% of filed papers are ever referenced again.

Use your post-it pad for different categories. For example, when I’m doing my weekly paper sorting session, I use Household, Marcia, Dion and Business as my categories.

4. Do it

Here I apply the two-minute rule. If you can do it in two minutes or less, do it right there and then. When I say “do it”, I mean either action it or schedule it to action later.

For example, if you’re working on your papers at 10pm and need to make an appointment, you can’t phone right there and then, so write it on tomorrow’s to-do list. That’s within two minutes and it counts.

There you have it – the only four things to do with paper. If you stick to making decisions, your paper will be beautifully organised.

Marcia Francois is a time management coach and speaker who helps busy women break out of overwhelm, make the most of their time and take purposeful and focussed action. Visit http://marciafrancois.com for your free Organising Success Pack.

If you’d like help creating a life you absolutely love, contact me about my coaching services.

Confessions of a professional organiser (2) – photos

Be gentle with me.

I have another confession.

Of all the aspects of my life, after the library books (since I wrote that post, I’ve actually been very good about returning them on time. Who knew that airing my dirty laundry would fix my issues???), the next area that is most disorganised is my photos.

Strangely, they probably don’t seem disorganised to the majority of the population but to me, they’re desperately disorganised.

Also, I don’t seem to have a system for printing and displaying photos.

The only time I print some is if either I buy a beautiful photo frame or I’m given one as a gift.

The other day at work someone suggested I get a digital photo frame to display pics of my gorgeous babies (yes, I’m biased).

Immediately I jumped to conclusions and said, “oh, that’s way too expensive” until I heard what it cost – between R500 and R700.

My word, that’s almost nothing when you consider the cost of printing!

I felt like such an idiot though for simply assuming it was out of my budget.

I am now the very proud owner of a digital photo frame and I’m pleased that I (almost) never have to print photos again ๐Ÿ™‚

How often do you print photos? What do you do with them?

Back to basics

We eat quite a bit of rice at home – in stir-fries, with curries, with chicken a la King, etc.

And lately I haven’t been enjoying the rice one bit.

Not because it’s rice but because somehow (can I blame this one on the twin pregnancy??) I’d forgotten how to cook rice properly.

And now I have to confess…

Hi, I’m Marcia and I can’t follow a recipe.

I promise I set out with really good intentions but before I’m three steps in, I somehow think I can do it better and before you know it, I’ve done a “version” of whatever the recipe is.

I will say that when I bake, I do follow the recipe exactly as I once heard Nigella say, “baking is like chemistry and you have to do things exactly so”. Or words to that effect ๐Ÿ˜‰

Anyway, back to the rice.

So last week, I literally had to steel myself to follow the directions on the pack to cook the rice I’d bought.

Do you know what happened?

The rice turned out PERFECTLY!

And I thoroughly enjoyed my chicken curry.

As I was cooking I thought about how this is so much like life.

We think we know everything and yet our lives run so much more smoothly when we get back to basics. Even though it’s a bit boring.

  • making a menu plan
  • planning our weeks and days
  • making to-do lists
  • going to gym (!)
  • taking vitamins and eating healthy
  • setting out our clothes the night before
  • etc, etc.

How good are you at getting back to basics? Or at following a recipe? ๐Ÿ™‚

How to make BIG leaps with just a step a day

What if you took just ONE tiny step closer to your goals every single day?

Just one.

It sounds harder than it is.

Honestly.

Letโ€™s say your goal is to write a book.

Many people have this on their โ€œthings to do before I dieโ€ lists so I know this resonates with a lot of you.

It’s on my list too ๐Ÿ™‚

What is the absolute first step?

Decide what to write about. This step looks simple but you need to see if people would read it, if publishing houses would buy it, if thereโ€™s a market so it will actually sell.

So maybe the first two weeks is spent checking all that out.

The rest of the month might be outlining the whole book โ€“ what do you need to cover, how many chapters? Etc, etc.

And then comes the writing. If I were coaching you, Iโ€™d make you write at least 5 minutes a day because writers WRITE.

To some, that seems like nothing much but 5 mins a day is 35 mins a week which is over 2 hours a month, at the very least.

And of course, some days just getting those 5 minutes done will be a miracle ๐Ÿ˜‰ but other days, youโ€™d spend 30 minutes or more easily writing.

Thatโ€™s exactly what I mean when I say you can make big leaps with just a step a day.

People ask me how I get so many things done and itโ€™s because I do exactly this.

Now I will confess I donโ€™t always feel like writing or recording audio or _______ (fill in whatever you donโ€™t like doing) but I do know that it will move me towards my goals.

So I have a rule.

EVERY WEEK, come hell or high water, I need to do AT LEAST one thing to move me towards my goals.

This helps me focus on outcomes even when Iโ€™m really busy. Busy with “stuff” means goals not achieved.

Think about one of your goals. Letโ€™s say you want to go on a holiday to Ireland ๐Ÿ˜‰

Letโ€™s break it down.

1. Decide exactly where in Ireland you want to visit.
2. Investigate prices of airfare, hotels, B&Bโ€™s, tourism, food, etc.
3. Check your savings account to see what you have available.
4. Based on the shortfall, decide on the amount of money you need to save every month.
5. Decide length of holiday and itinerary while there.
6. Book flights and check if you need a visa.
7. Book accommodation.
8. Book car rental/ decide on method of transport.
9. Pack your bags
10. Go!

Grab a piece of paper and write your own steps for your goal.

Your challenge this week is to take at least ONE step towards your goal this week.

Marcia Francois is a time management and business organising coach who helps small business owners break out of overwhelm, make the most of their time and get important projects done. Visit http://organiseyourbusiness.com/ for your free 7-part audio series, 7 tips for time-strapped business owners.

Organising a children’s party

My babies turned 1 on Wednesday.

My husband and I were very undecided as to whether we wanted to have a party or not (him, because he doesn’t like crowds and me, because I don’t like mess :)) but then we decided to do it because, well, we survived the first year!

As a friend wrote on my Facebook status update, that’s the worse of the sleep deprivation behind you. And I said, “amen to that!” ๐Ÿ™‚

Anyway, I thought I’d share some things that worked well, and also those that didn’t, in the hope that this list will help someone out there.

Decide on exactly what you want and stick to your plan

Not only is there less stress when you know what you want (and more importantly, what you don’t want) but the focus helps you “see” your theme everywhere.

We knew that we wanted a small and intimate party and that made it easy to decide on a small number of people. We also decided on a polka dot theme and I saw suitable foods, etc. everywhere – marshmallows, cupcakes, Salticrax with toppings, etc.

Decide on a budget

This is the part I did very well. And I still could have done better (see food story below).

I planned everything beforehand and was not swayed when I got to the party store as I had my list and knew I only needed x, y and z ๐Ÿ™‚

I normally don’t like the “waste” of paper plates and polystyrene cups but felt it was a necessity to save me time and energy later.

Get creative

Google is my best friend!

I googled ideas and found beautiful, beautiful parties by much more creative people than I am, or ever will be.

But they inspired me to get a little bit more creative than I would normally be.

Also, ask your friends for ideas – you’ll be surprised at what pops up.

Make a gift list

We didn’t have one initially because we really didn’t want people to feel obliged to buy two of everything or even one bigger item but after about 3 – 4 requests within hours of my email invitation going out, we got cracking.

Even so we only had about 4 items on the list – clothes and the sizes they currently wear, baby hot water bottles and some age appropriate toys.

Yes, a gift list can seem a bit mercenary but it seems my friends are super-practical and the babies were blessed with some fantastic gifts that are SO useful.

Don’t over cater

I sucked big time at this. I love food and I hate to run out so I had STACKS. Literally. Only 4 people were not able to come at the last minute but still, STACKS of food left over. Yes, I handed out food parcels but my freezer and fridge are still full of food.

(I have a thing against throwing away perfectly good food when there are so many needy people so that is not an option).

Accept help – don’t feel the need to be Super woman

Asking for help is not my strong suit at all.

But I soon realised that just running around after my two would mean I wouldn’t be able to socialise with my friends or be as hospitable as I’d have liked.

I got our nanny in to help us with the babies and in between running around, she also helped with washing dishes!

My MIL baked a yummy pudding and my SIL baked cupcakes so that I could focus on baking the small cakes for the babies.

Confession – I did microwave cakes as I didn’t see the need to do a proper baked cake for kids who would eat maybe a fistful or two ๐Ÿ™‚

My children don’t ever eat sugar and this was the first time they were allowed some – individual chocolate cakes with a caramel topping. They didn’t know what came over them but (Connor especially) just DOVE into the cake. Too funny!

One of the best things we did was

Put up a Happy Birthday banner and balloons on the gate. It helped guests find our house easily once they were in the street.

While party planning is still fresh in my mind…

Please share your best things to do and not to do so I can be well prepared for next year ๐Ÿ™‚

Confessions of a professional organiser #1 – library fines

Be gentle… I have a big confession.

I’ve probably paid more in library fines this year than my annual membership is worth.

And it’s only the beginning of June!

Yes, I’m organised but somehow not so much with my library books.

Why, oh, why???

I actually said to the librarian this last time, “I don’t know WHY I can’t seem to remember when my books are due” and as I was walking to my car, I figured it out.

It’s because I never write the due date down.

I’m depending on a very-defective memory (since my pregnancy last year, my brain is mush) instead of a system.

So this time, I made a note in my cell phone AND in my (new) week-at-a-glance diary.

Hopefully this will be the last of it because this really was getting ridiculous!

Tell me I’m not alone – do you have any organising confessions to share?

Otherwise, in which area of your life are you least organised?

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