The Renegade Organizer
Office Organized. Business Systemized. Profits Maximized.

Jun
15

1.  Choose to be in control.

  1. There is so much published right now about e-organization and most of it wants to tell you exactly what to do.  Organizing e-mail is just like organizing anything else – it should come from your specific situation and personality.  Don’t let anyone, not even me, tell you what to do!  Consider the ideas below and use them as they are or alter them to fit your situation.

2.  Create folders for things that you need to keep track of.

  1. Consider creating a folder for Take Action, one for things To Read and one for things to do Today.  Use folders that make sense to you (and name the folders something meaningful).
  2. At the beginning of the day, go through the Take Action and To Read folders and move things that MUST be done today into the Today folder.  As you check e-mail throughout the day, put them in the correct folder. (That way you can make sure that you are dealing with any emergencies that come up, but you don’t HAVE to deal with non-priority e-mails right away).
  3. Consider mimicking your paper intake system (From the Paper Management book) in your e-mail for ease and consistency.

3.  Archive

  1. Find out how to archive old emails on your computer.  That way you can keep them without cluttering your e-mail program.

4.  YOU decide how often to check your e-mail.

  1. There are plenty of books that will tell you that you should only check your e-mail once a day.  Or twice a day.  Or once a week.  What do those authors know about you?
  2. Ask yourself, how important is it, to me to check my e-mail during the day.  What do I want my customers to expect from me in terms of response.  What are the upsides and downsides of checking my e-mail more often or less often.
  3. Use your actual situation to guide how often you check your e-mail and how you respond.
  4. If you suffer from “Pavlov’s E-mail” when you hear the “You’ve got Mail” noise that your e-mail makes, consider turning the noise off.
  5. Using the folders that you created in step 2 means that you can quickly check your e-mail, move items that require your attention into their proper folders and then move on with your life!

5.  Don’t be afraid to try something.

  1. Consider the information above, brainstorm your own ideas (you can use The Golden System from the Simple Systems book if you get stuck).  Decide to try something for a while.  If things get better, do more of that.  If things get worse, do something else.  It’s ok to try something and find out that it doesn’t work for you, that just gets you closer to knowing what does work.
Jun
01

Let me guess…you have a pile (or an envelope, or a box) full of receipts.  You are absolutely dreading tax time because every year it takes tons of time to figure out what to do with your receipts.  You’ve got the Receipt Blues.  Well put down the harmonica honey, we can solve this in two shakes.

What usually goes wrong?

Often I see people keep their receipts by month, or by form of payment (credit card vs. cash etc.).  So what’s the big deal?  Well, let’s start with the Golden Question of Organization – “What are you using it for?”  Typically the answer is “to write the expenses off on my taxes”.  Unfortunately, keeping receipts by date or form of payment doesn’t help with that at all.  So, what’s the alternative?

First, we categorize.  Either look at your tax return from last year or talk to your CPA and ask what categories she or he want you to use on your taxes.

Now, you have lots of options – paper, electronic, simple, complex, more work on the front end, more work on the back end…  Remember that the goal here is to store the receipts by category so that they are easy to use at tax time.

I like simple, so here are two simple ideas.  As always, feel free to tweak, or ditch these altogether for your own ideas.  The Golden System from the Simple Systems for a Complicated World book can help you if you get stuck.

Simple Paper System:

This has a little bit more work on the back end, but is an extremely simple way to support yourself at tax time.

  • Create envelopes or folders with the categories.
  • When the receipts come in, drop them in the correct file.
  • At tax time, it’s a snap to add up the receipts in each category.

Simple Electronic System:

This one has more work on the front end, but is still very simple to create and use.

  • Buy an accordion file that allows you to label it yourself.
  • Label it with your categories.
  • Label a letter sized envelope with each of the category names.
  • Paperclip it closed and put it in the accordion file in the correct category.
  • Create a spreadsheet with a column for each of the categories.
  • When receipts come in, put them in the correct category.
  • Once a week, enter the new receipts onto the spreadsheet.
  • Once they are entered, place them into the envelope.
  • When its tax time, you can simply add the numbers in the spreadsheet, and file the envelopes for tax back-up.
May
21

I hear it all the time on the radio – This weekend only , come in to our store.  Buy everything you need and be organized by Monday!

If they want to be honest they’d just say “This weekend only, waste a bunch of money, set yourself up for failure, and damage your self esteem.”

No matter how much money you spend, if you started this Friday could you become fluent in another language by Monday?  Probably not.  So, does it make sense that you could become organized in a weekend even though it’s eluded you your entire life?  Probably not.

The truth is, you just can’t buy organization with a credit card.  Not even with cash.  Organization is about creating systems and processes that allow you to find your stuff easily and use it effectively.

Let’s be honest. Organization is simple and easy, it’s just a set of skills.  That doesn’t mean that it ‘s fast.  You learn the skills, you apply the skills, you make adjustments and you learn more, just like learning anything.

You don’t have to use my system, but I do recommend that if you want to get organized you follow three simple steps.

Think

What am I trying to accomplish?  What do I want to be able to do?
How can I accomplish what  I want to do?  What are the options?  What do I want to try?

Plan

How can I accomplish what  I want to do?  What are the options?  What do I want to try?

Act

How can I implement my plan?  What do I need to buy.

The trick is that you don’t shop until you know exactly what you need. That way, you don’t get emotionally tricked into buying a ton of stuff that you don’t need just to set yourself up for an expensive failure.  When it comes to organization, Renegade Organizers will take cheap success any day!

May
04

If you’ve read the books, you already know that I will not work with a client who won’t promise to spend one hour a week on administrative tasks.  Many people tell me that they don’t understand why.

It’s simple, really.  I can help someone put systems and processes in place.  Whether they are the most simple or the most complicated, all systems and processes have one thing in common:  They require time to maintain.  Not a lot of time, but time nonetheless.

Any time a former client tells me that they are struggling, the first question that I always ask is “Are you doing your Admin Hour?”. To a person, they sheepishly answer “no”.  Now, I’m not one to say I told you so, but…

Creating systems and processes without putting the time in to maintain them is a little like hiring an administrative assistant and telling him not to ever show up, then being shocked when none of the work gets done.

What you do during your admin hour depends entirely upon your situation and what systems and processes you have in place.  Even if you don’t have your processes in place, you can probably save a few hours a week by collecting all of your filing and then dedicating an hour a week to filing and entering receipts int eh computer.  It’s so much faster than filing one piece of paper at a time all day every day, and it’s certainly more effective than piling up the paper and never filing it at all.

So, in the interest of my motto – Making Organization Fun and Easy, Seriously, – I seriously want you to make your life easier by have some fun during your Admin Hour.

It will change your life!

May
04

Everywhere you turn you hear the same things:

Clear the Clutter!

Clutter is the Enemy!

Be Organized- get rid of Clutter!

Lies, lies and more lies.

I’ll tell you a secret:  Clutter speaks to me, whispers really. It says “Hey, Ragen, there’s no system in place to keep me from piling up!  My owner cleans and cleans and I pile right back up again.  I want a system!”  Clutter is never the problem.  Clutter is just a symptom of the problem.  The problem is a lack of simple systems to deal with all of the things that come into your space.

Stop trying to clear the clutter and start looking at it.  Really look at your clutter.  What’s is made of?  Is it business cards?  Catalogs?  Junk mail?  Knick knacks?

Try dividing your clutter into some broad categories, think of 3 or 4 categories that would encompass all of the stuff and then group it into those categories.  Then use The Golden Question – “What am I using this for?”.  Based on your answer to that questions, create simple step by step systems for these things to come into your space, get taken care of (whatever that means in each specific case), and get stored, recycled or thrown away.

If you get stuck, try using the intake, flow and filing system from The Renegade Organizer’s Easy Guide to Paper Management . It applies to way more than paper.

While it can be a good feeling to clean up clutter (over, and over, and over again), trust me that you’ll feel positively triumphant when you turn around and see the systems and processes that you created working for you to keep the clutter away for good!

May
04

I try to be a good little organizer, I do!  I try to do research in my field by watching all of the organizing shows on TV.  But you know what happens?  I just really, really angry.

I sit on my sofa and throw popcorn at the screen and yell “YOU’RE JUST CLEANING!  YOU’RE NOT ORGANIZING AT ALL.  AAAARRRRGGGGHHH!”.

Ok, you caught me, that’s not true.  I don’t actually eat popcorn while I watch the shows.  But the yelling part is true.

Here’s the deal.  Who couldn’t get their house cleaned up if a whole crew of people showed up to help?  That’s not organization.  Where are the systems that will empower the person to keep the space clean?  I guess they got sold in the garage sale with the ugly chicken lamp.

I’ve noticed they never go back and follow up with anyone. They don’t say why, but my money’s on the fact that it doesn’t stick. These shows are 100% form, 0% function.  A recipe for frustration and getting caught in a cycle of yo-yo organizing – you get the space “organized” and then a couple months later it’s back where it was (or worse).

Organization is about creating systems and processes that support the  kind of space you want to have.  If you truly want organization, you need to put function first.  Once you plan out your systems and processes (the function), you can give them any kind of form that you want.  If you start with form and then try to get function, you’re just shooting yourself in the clutter…I mean, in the foot.  Now excuse me while I go pop some popcorn, turn on the TV and work on my anger management.

May
04

I dragged my poor boyfriend to Mama Mia a few weeks ago.  I really liked it.  My boyfriend…well, he forgives me.

One of the main characters is talking to some of her lifelong friends.  She starts talking about obligation and how you’re supposed to act. Her friend interjects “Don’t you remember?  Screw ’em if they can’t take a joke”.

That really stayed with me.  From the moment I started working with small businesses on their organization I’ve been told that I need to wear more suits, be more traditional, be more serious about what I’m doing, like other professional organizers.

But look, everybody’s doing that and there are still tons of people who aren’t able to get organized, no matter how many traditional books they’ve read or how many serious seminars they’ve attended.  I think that half of our problem is that we are taking ourselves, and our organization, way too seriously.  There are plenty of things in this life that are serious, organization does not have to be one of them.  One of the things that I hear most often from people who I work with is that they didn’t expect it to be so much fun.

So, how about you stop being so hard on yourself?  Smile a little.  Relax a lot.  Start asking questions.  What am I using this for?  What way of filing makes the most sense to me?  What would I call this folder?  How can I make this more fun?  (I am aware that organization might not be the most fun you’ll ever have, all I’m suggesting is that you try to make it MORE fun than it is now.)

And if anyone tells you that you’re not being serious enough, remember Mama Mia and you’ll know what to say…

May
04

I played lots of sports growing up – stick with me here, I do have a point.  Many of you who were athletes will remember that coaches had platitudes that seemed to work for every occasion and sport.  One of my favorites was always “You’ve got to put yourself in a position to be lucky!”  What the coaches were trying to convey was that there’s plenty about sports that’s pure luck.  Someone is always making a lucky shot at the buzzer to win the basketball game.  But before they made that lucky shot, they had to run down to the end of the court and be ready to get the wild pass. They had to put themselves in a position to be lucky.

It’s the same in life.  There’s plenty of luck involved in getting great opportunities – but you have to put yourself in a position to take advantage of them. Do you dream about your small business getting that big order that will make you a millionaire?  Do you dream of winning a month long vacation and getting the heck out of dodge?

Ask yourself this, if those dreams came true, do you have the systems, processes and procedures in place to handle them?  If you got a huge order tomorrow could you get it done?  Plenty of companies have gone under because they got big orders, couldn’t handle them, and lost all credibility. Plenty of people have missed out on vacations and other opportunities because they didn’t have the systems in place to take care of things while they were gone.

Organization the Renegade Organizer way is all about putting yourself in a position to be lucky.  If you have systems and processes to fall back on that are designed to expand with you, then you can be confident that when that opportunity comes along, you can jump on it, hit the lucky shot, and win the games of business and life.  Now that I’ve pounded this metaphor into the ground, I’m out of here – wishing you the best of self-made luck!

May
04

Ok, so you have a box (or grocery bag, or briefcase…) full of business cards that you collected over time.  Maybe you had a plan for them and maybe you didn’t, but you seem to be stuck with them now.  What to do?

Well, let’s start with The Golden Question of Organization…”What am I using these for?”.  Let the answer to that question guide how you organize them:

“I want to give them to people to help with referrals”

Consider creating a binder.  You can buy 3-hole punched business card pages at any office supply store.  Keep them in the binder in a order that makes sense to you.  (I suggest that you do NOT keep them alphabetically since a new addition willl mean a drastic re-shuffle every time.  Try deciding on a few categories and tab diving the binder bassed on those.)  Put the binder in your briefcase and it’s always handy.

“I want to have them for newsletters and possible future contact:

Consider entering them into a spreadsheet or your contact management software (Outlook, ACT!, etc.)  When you are done entering them, either recycle them or throw them in a container for emergency backup.  For a few bucks you can even get an administrative assistant to help you with this.

“Nothing, I just feel bad if I don’t take one when offered”

No problem.  Recycle them.  Shred Them.  Burn Them.  Laugh maniacally while you do it.  Just get them out of the way!