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 🙂

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 for your free Time Management Purpose Pack.

After 25 years I finally changed banks

In March this year I wanted to have a fixed monthly fee on my account with the red bank and there was so much hassle but eventually they said it could be done.

Bear in mind I was with them for 25 years and had lots of accounts with them – both my savings accounts, etc.

The service was so slack that it took about two months to open the account and they needed one more thing signed before it would be sorted out.

After waiting days to get the form emailed to me, I received a snotty phone call from a staff member hounding me for the form.

“I’m still waiting for it,” I said, and they said they would re-send.

In the meanwhile, I had a brainwave.

I phoned First National Bank where I had one account and asked them if they could do this thing that I wanted and how long it would take to do.

7 minutes.

From the time I called, they asked a few questions and within 7 minutes my new account was sorted.

All this on a Friday afternoon.

I was gobsmacked at the fast, efficient service.

Of course I then sent the red bank an email to cancel my application form. They didn’t even bother to find out why.

On the Tuesday morning my new bank card was delivered to my work and I was transacting.

They switched my debit orders without any hassles (and kept me informed every step of the way).

I am PASSIONATE about customer service and FNB have not disappointed me even once in the 6 months.

Yes, I was waiting for a mistake to happen in the 6 months but … nothing.

The branding talks to me and I feel the personal touch in every interaction. If I have a request or query, I email my personal banker (usually at 10 pm at night when I have bright ideas!) and I have a reply the very next day.


Because of this switch in my banking details, SARS (South African Revenue Service) wants a whole load of documents from me to effect the change in their records.

I was dreading this whole thing (I really, REALLY hate going into any bank) but this afternoon at about 4:30 (yes, they stay open later than all the other banks), I waltzed in, a manager asked how they could help me and directed me to the correct counter.

That lady helped me in less than a minute and even made a photocopy of my ID for the manager to certify.

He certified the copy of my ID and I swear I was in and out of the shopping centre in less than 10 minutes (I was probably in the bank a total of 5 minutes).

I am amazed.

I could kick myself for not switching to FNB years ago.

Normally I don’t write such raving reviews but I swear, hand on my heart, that my experience has been 150% positive and I am a delighted customer and a raving fan.

Who do you bank with?

How long have you been with them?

PS I have not been compensated in any way for writing this blog post; I am honestly a RAVING fan!

3 ways to create an abundance of “me time”

In the last 6 weeks 90% of the women who have contacted me have said they feel like they have no time for themselves.

This is by no means unusual.

We all have many roles in life – if you’re a married woman and have children, you’re a wife, mother, homemaker, daughter, sister, friend, business owner, employee or boss, etc, etc.

What often happens is that you always tend to the more urgent roles and you and your personal time is usually the last thing on the list.

As a result, you start feeling resentful but also very soon you may burn out.

That’s the point when people usually contact me.

Which is great because I love working with people who are ready to take action and make changes in their lives.

So what do you do?

Do you just accept this as your lot in life while you have young kids in the house or what do you do?

1. Decide that you are also important

I never ever believe that we need to sacrifice the parts of us that make us feel most alive.

This is a mindshift change from mothers being the martyrs so take your time and work on this mental adjustment.

2. Identify a couple of activities that will work for you

Everybody is different so this is a personal exercise.

Some of my clients like to do pamper-type activities like a manicure, pedicure, hair appointment or massage.

Some others like to do creative things like sewing, mosaics, scrapbooking, painting and decorating.

Still others just want time, either by themselves to recharge (often the introverts) or with a couple of close girl friends to connect with their pre-mom selves again.

Are you seeing which group you fit into?

3. Choose the minimum response that will yield results

In my bestselling “break out of overwhelm” audio and handbook (sold as part of the Organise your Time system), I talk about always knowing your minimum responses.

When my twins were newborns, life was crazy. I felt like I had no time to do anything for myself as I was running around washing bottles, making bottles, feeding, burping, bathing, changing, getting the baby to sleep, and then the other one would wake!

During those crazy times, I was happy if I could have just 5 minutes to sit, drink a hot cup of tea in peace and eat breakfast. Seriously, my expectations were that low.

That was my minimum response.

Now, I expect hours every day to “do my thing” and I have it because I’ve set things up that way.

But I started very, very small.


So what is the minimum response for you?

Now that you have those questions sorted out, start creating the time for yourself.

If you’re not sure what to do next or you can’t see a way out of your fog, I can help you.

This is my “thing” – I will help you intentionally craft out time for you to feel valued, honoured and fulfilled.

My free time is Very Important to me and I get that yours is too.

Contact me for a f.ree no-obligation, 15-min chat to see how I can help you feel human again 🙂

Otherwise, if your style is to do things by yourself, have a look at the Organise your Time system .

In just a few minutes you could be on your way to more peace and sanity in your life.


What are some of the things that you most need to feel fulfilled and happy?

What are your organising goals for April?


So, it’s 1 April but this is not an April Fool’s joke 🙂
I want to know what your organising and time goals are for the month.


I’ll go first. Mine are

1) enjoy a lovely holiday – we’re going away for 4 days this month – so quite a bit of packing to do

2) get this blog redesigned – it’s about time, isn’t it?
3) declutter and organise the kids’ clothes as we go into the colder weather
4) get chest of drawers and other dresser painted (I’m going olive green for the one and turquoise for the other)


Last month I didn’t get the filing done but I did declutter their toys.

Sometimes you just have to ask youself, “what’s driving me more crazy right this minute?” 🙂


So, what are your organising goals this month?


PS I’m also going to blog every day this month. So I need some ideas – what questions would you like me to answer? Ask in the comments and I’ll pepper my answers throughout the month. And don’t forget to send me your inspiring space, or the link if you see some gorgeous spaces while you’re blog-hopping.

What’s your time worth?

We’ve all heard the saying, “time is money” and to a certain degree, that is true. However, today I want to challenge you by saying that time is MORE IMPORTANT than money.


Because you can always do something to make more money but you can never get time back. NEVER.

See where I’m going with this?

But what about your time?

Once you fritter away your time on unimportant things, you can never get that time back.

An email made its way around about a year ago about a man who gave his son two jars, one empty and one with marbles. There were enough marbles for the weeks he had left to live (assuming a man’s average mortality). He told his son to move one marble to the empty jar every Saturday so that he’d realise that he could never, ever get that time back.

Yes, the story is a bit hokey but it DOES have a point 😉

I’m a practical sort of person so I like to do an exercise with my clients that I’d like you to do with me too.

Divide your monthly salary by 21.67 (the number of days you work each month). If you’re self-employed, use your average earnings by the number of days you usually work.

That’s your daily rate.

Now take that number and divide it by 7.5 or the number of hours you work every day.

That’s your hourly rate.

Now, when you spend an hour surfing the internet, replying to chain letters, reading blogs when you should be working, VISUALISE yourself throwing that money in the bin.

If you’re like me, it’ll shock you and make you realise the value of your time.

This week I’m challenging you to calculate your hourly rate and next time you’re tempted to procrastinate or just mess around, STOP and ask yourself if it’s really worth it.

My guess is no.

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 for your free Time Management Purpose Pack.

15 ways I make the most of kitchen time

I have to stay in the kitchen while I cook because “out of sight, out of mind” means I burn food if I leave…

Confession – when I was pregnant I got so forgetful at one point that the food burnt a lovely black circle on my kitchen ceiling. I had to get painters in to repaint because that black circle would not come off any other way.

Anyway, moving along…

Since I hate wasting food, money and time, I try and stay in the kitchen and just make the most of my time there.

Some of the things I do include:

  1. packing my lunch for the following day
  2. putting the children’s food ready for the nanny
  3. leaving notes for the nanny or for the once-a-week cleaning lady
  4. organising a cupboard or drawer
  5. going through the recipes I keep tearing out of magazines to see if they still appeal to me
  6. packing my cereals into little containers
  7. tidying the fridge
  8. throwing out old food
  9. updating the grocery list
  10. creating our menu for the following week
  11. taking inventory of the freezer meals
  12. throwing a load of laundry on (my laundry is next to the kitchen)
  13. folding a load of dry laundry
  14. answering some emails from the laptop
  15. preparing my mug for my after-supper mug of tea 😉

How do you make the most of your kitchen time?

P.S. Don’t forget the giveaway

Using your natural flow

The other day on Facebook a friend updated her status and wrote about how she only seemed to be able to write her newsletter at night.

I commented and said something like, “at least you’re using your flow”.
Which brings me to the point of this post.

When you’re in the flow, see how long you can go if at all possible.

Let me give you an example that happened to me just last week.

I schedule my time throughout the week so that I focus on different tasks on different days.

On this particular day I was scheduled to write a blog post.

I wrote that one post but felt that things were flowing so beautifully that I extended the time to write another two posts.

All that in just under an hour.

So here’s the thing – no, the time wasn’t scheduled for the extra posts but I was in my natural flow.

It is purposeful time management to use the flow so that ultimately I get the tasks done quicker and much, much easier.

My question for you – think about things you do regularly.

Are there certain times of the day they feel easier? Could you incorporate this task into your weekly plan to capitalise on the flow?

P.S. My flow happened after I’d got back from the gym so maybe all that exercise was good for my writing muscles 🙂

7 Secrets of the Super Organised

We all know people that seem to be Super Organised.

They never forget birthdays, can find an email within seconds and know exactly where to find anything in their homes.

The actual definition of organised is being able to find anything within a minute or two.

This is from items in your home to an email, document or photo on your computer.

Shhhh – I have a confession. Some people say this about me too 😉 so I’m going to let you in on some of my own secrets and also those I’ve observed from watching other Born Organised people.

Super organised people:

1. Plan their lives

Set aside time every weekend to plan your activities, events and meals for the week ahead. Before you finish up your work for the day, take 5 minutes to quickly plan your main priority tasks for the next day.

2. Have a place for everything and everything in its place

Everything in your house should have a specific home. The goal should be that if anyone asks, “where do I find the _____?” you should be able to tell them immediately. I’m talking about paper too!

3. Have effective systems, and are willing to change systems if necessary

A system tells you what to do when something happens. For instance, as you run low or finish foods, they immediately go on your shopping list. That’s a system. If you have morning and evening routines, those are also example of systems.

4. Write things down

My pastor always says, “a blunt pencil is better than a sharp mind.” The truth is when you write things down, it clears your mind so you can focus on more productive and creative thoughts.

5. Declutter regularly

Make time to go through your clothes and other possessions and then get rid of anything you don’t love or use regularly. Make a regular date to also declutter your documents and emails.

6. Put things away

If you take just a few minutes to put things back where they belong (see number 2) every day, you always have a home that’s comfortable and ready for company. In the office, take two extra seconds to file or delete an email immediately.

7. Do regular maintenance

Preserve your organising systems by doing a quick touch-up when you see things start to go awry. It’s like touching up your roots every 6 weeks 😉 Don’t wait and let it get so bad that you have to totally rehaul your system.

Start building just ONE of these secrets into your daily routine every week until you create a habit and you too will be Super Organised 😉

Marcia Francois is a time management coach and professional organiser who teaches busy women how to purposefully have more time, less stress and a more organised and fulfilled life. Visit for your free Organising Success Pack.

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 😉

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 for your free Organising Success Pack.

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

How I used my travel time productively on my recent trips

Two weeks ago I flew to Cape Town and Durban to speak at some Discovery award functions.

I flew in and out the same day which meant lots of time in airports and lots of time on aeroplanes.

Even though my main goal for the day was simply to show up and do an inspiring talk, I found that I actually had exceptionally productive days aside from the talks.

Let me show you what I got done:

On flight

  1. Wrote out thank-you cards for the babies’ birthday presents
  2. Read 3 ebooks I’d downloaded
  3. Reviewed my notes for the talks
  4. Planned out my How to say no without feeling guilty teleseminar (If you missed it, I now coach on this topic in 30 and 60-minute segments)

At the airport

  1. Responded to all emails
  2. Completed this expert interview
  3. Returned and made telephone calls
  4. Chatted to fellow passengers and tourists still in the country from the Soccer World Cup

The one thing which saved me such a lot of time and energy was using Platinum Parking at OR Tambo airport. Their service truly was fantastic and I will definitely be using them again. No question!

P.S. I’m not being paid to write about Platinum Parking 🙂

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