The English Organizer Professional Organizing for Sorted, Stylish Spaces Mon, 06 Jun 2011 14:11:12 +0000 en hourly 1 R & R Mon, 06 Jun 2011 14:11:12 +0000 Pauline

I’m taking a break to visit family, soak up some mellow Englishness, and hopefully chill out a bit.  See you soon!

John Lewis

John Lewis

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Kings Lane to Kings Road Thu, 02 Jun 2011 14:12:59 +0000 Pauline

The little vignette below tells you exactly what’s on my mind today: I’m heading for London next week and am not sure whether I’m more excited about seeing my family, getting stuck into a bacon bap, or filling my suitcase with “essential” English purchases.

Not that I need any help getting in the mood… but here’s a bit of interior fantasizing, featuring my current Stateside obsession, One Kings Lane, with a bit of accessorizing help from British retail dream John Lewis.

If you fancy any of  the One Kings Lane goodies, you’d better move fast, as they are selling rapidly and many items are only up for grabs through tomorrow.  As for John Lewis, they promise to start shipping internationally very soon, so if you live west of Land’s End, you might want to drop them a line to egg them on a bit.

One Kings Lane heads to London

One Kings Lane heads to London,

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Fresh Eyes for Your To-Do List Tue, 31 May 2011 17:17:32 +0000 Pauline

We organized folks love our to-do lists, don’t we?  Egged on by experts like David Allen, we nod in vigorous agreement that tasks are better out of our head and down on paper, where we can review and prioritize them to our heart’s content.

But if you’re anything like me, you can soon find yourself the prisoner of a very, very long list, where everything from wash the sheets to learn Spanish is lurking. Most days, no matter how hard I work or how productive I am, there is always stuff on the list which has not been crossed off.  And since this appears to be the natural order of things, I am becoming more interested in figuring out which tasks are more important than others.

In recent weeks, I have come across a couple of really useful concepts which have transformed how I feel about my lists. Could they work for you, too?

Repeaters or Completers?

Hop Skip Jump Paper, Etsy

Hop Skip Jump Paper, Etsy

The first is an expression I heard from Margaret Lukens, a wonderful professional organizer and productivity coach who did tell me who the inventor of this concept was, and I’ve forgotten. Sorry.  Nonetheless, I suggest you divide your list into Repeaters and Completers and see if you feel differently about it.

Repeater examples: buy groceries, vacuum, floss teeth, check bank statement, pull weeds, call parents.
Completer examples: set up a file system, book a flight to London, paint the guest bedroom, buy new socks.

Repeaters are things which you can probably skip and they’ll still be there next week. Or, you can do them, and hey presto, they’ll still need to be done next week or next month.  Oh joy.  Completers, on the other hand, actually move you forward.  Once the task is done, it won’t need to be done again (until all your socks are worn out, of course).

For me, at least, I feel much more satisfaction when I cross off a completer than a repeater.  Completers are not necessarily more fun, but they have a definite sense of forward motion about them.  However, since they are one-off tasks, we may find they need a bit more thought than the Repeaters: don’t be fooled into spending all your time on Repeaters, simply because they are no-brainers.  How about skipping your Repeaters for a week and doing some Completers instead?

Short term pleasure or Long term benefit?

I’m going to attempt a very short summary of a big concept in Marshall Goldsmith’s book, Mojo. Think about each task you do and ask yourself, is it bringing you either short term pleasure or long term benefit?  For me, sitting in the garden is the former; painting my bedroom is the latter.  Going for a run is both – yay!  Yet vacuuming checks neither box, at least for me.  It’s over-simplistic to say that if a task brings neither short nor long term usefulness, you shouldn’t do it.  But Goldsmith makes a great point that the less time you spend on this category of activity, the better you’ll feel.  And you’ll be a happy camper indeed if you can spend as much time as possible on things which have both a short and long term payoff.

Be warned, most people admit that mindless web surfing does not particularly register on either scale, which is probably my cue to end this post.

These two concepts have truly helped me shift how I think about my action items and how I spend my time. Which repeaters could you skip?  Could you replace them with activities which bring you both short term thrills and long term value?

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6 Tips for Uncluttering Your Cubicle Thu, 26 May 2011 15:39:04 +0000 Pauline

I thought it was high time we heard from a male guest poster and I’m delighted that James Adams is up to the challenge! James is an editor on CartridgeSave, an online specialist supplying HP laser toner cartridges to the UK market, so he knows a thing or two about the corporate office environment. Unlike the post I wrote last year, on jazzing up your workspace, James advocates more of a back-to-basics approach. Since he is based in the UK, I have left intact a couple of British expressions, which I hope Stateside cousins will decipher and enjoy.  Over to you, James…

Having a cluttered office is the bane to many people’s working lives, but they constantly keep going on this way just because they don’t have the time to think about effective solutions for remedying this problem. There are a number of simple ways though that can be used in order to turn a workspace into a clean environment, free of all clutter.

Via Houzz

Via Houzz

Buy An Inbox
People in crowded offices know the drill. They leave their desk for a couple of minutes, only to come back to a mess of papers that has been dumped on them. Not only do these severely limit their space, but they also put a real spanner in the works when it comes to keeping everything organized.

The best way to solve this is through using an inbox, which is simply a plastic tray that can be placed on the desk. This is clearly marked so that all those delivering documents will place them there, leaving the rest of the desk untouched.

Use The Computer
Although many people detest the thought of using a computer for many of their daily tasks, there is no denying the fact that it saves a lot of space. This is because there is no need for huge stacks of paper all around the place, as all of what would be on the desk is stored compactly within the computer itself.

Setting up a computer for use is an easy step and one that any work IT department can advise on. If there is no IT department then there are plenty of sites that can go through this simple process step by step.

NOA Architecture, via Houzz

NOA Architecture, via Houzz

Buy A Bin
Although this seems like an obvious solution, it is unbelievable how many people are devoid of a waste paper bin under their desk. This leads to workers simply discarding their waste over their workspace or even on the floor – something that is not conducive to a good working environment.

A bin will only cost a couple of dollars from most stores and will be an invaluable purchase. The space it takes up on the floor will be more than compensated for by the extra workspace it creates.

Don’t Eat At The Desk
Eating at the desk is bad for any employee, as it doesn’t allow them the time away from work that they need. On top of this though it also leads to waste being left lying around, such as fast food wrappers and coffee cups.

Eating away from the desk will mean that these don’t ever get the chance to find their way on to the desk, as they can be discarded before getting back into the office.

Dufner Heiges, via Houzz

Dufner Heiges, via Houzz

Get Rid Of Personal Items
Having a couple of pictures of friends and family on the desk is certainly not a bad thing, but everyone knows someone who has dedicated half their desk to personal paraphernalia. This not only distracts the worker, but it obviously seriously limits how much room they have to work in.

The best idea is to take all of the photos and transfer them to the hard drive of the computer. This way the person can still look at them, but not have them restricting their space at the same time.

Have A System
A lot of mess comes from people simply being disorganized and therefore leaving various tasks laying on their desk ready to be completed. Working through tasks systematically means that this won’t happen, as they can be put away when they are finished with.

Marilyn G Russell, via Houzz

Marilyn G Russell, via Houzz

Thank you, James!  I enjoyed your perspective on cutting back to the productive essentials of life, although, I’m not sure I’ll ever achieve your recommendation of not eating at my desk!  And I’m sure you won’t mind if I use a non-plastic inbox. :)

How about you?  Do you consider eating at your desk a route to clutter, or a necessary comfort?  What serves as your inbox?

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Links to Make Life Easier Fri, 20 May 2011 19:48:29 +0000 Pauline

Recently, I was talking to a group about organizing and we devoted a few minutes to sharing websites and resources which can make life a little easier.

I was surprised how many attendees had not heard of these sites, which I tend to take for granted.  If by chance they’re new to you too, they’re definitely worth a look.
(With apologies to international readers, many of these are US-only).

Save paper:

Catalog Choice
Catalog Choice
~ Wonderful free service where you join once, and then simply select the catalogs you no longer love to get; they take care of the rest for you.

Yellow Pages Opt Out ~ This is a multi-step process, but well worth doing if endless directories are landing on your doorstep.

Save time:

Task Rabbit

Task Rabbit ~ Currently only in San Francisco and Boston, but hopefully, expanding soon.  You list the tasks, errands or chores which you need completed, and ‘runners’ bid on them.  Great examples include grocery shopping and Ikea pickups – and any “to-do” which is simply not getting crossed off your list.

Virtual Assistant ~ If you are buried by administrative or office tasks, consider working with a virtual assistant on a project basis.  This frees you up to earn money doing things you’re good at and enjoy.

Remember, you don’t have to do everything yourself, and it’s getting increasingly viable for even middle-income earners to outsource certain tasks.  If you don’t believe me, take a dip into A Housekeeper is Cheaper than a Divorce.

Google Maps ~ Everyone knows you can look places up on Google maps.  But if you’re driving somewhere unfamiliar, I find their Directions feature gives the most accurate guide to how long it will take, especially if you take the “in traffic” time.  While you’re there, ask the map to show you current traffic conditions, too, which can literally save you hours.

Yelp ~ You can subscribe to a review service, like Angie’s List, but increasingly, comments and information on Yelp is a free and accurate guide to what you’ll get from a restaurant, store or other supplier. This is a great way to balance the time you spend researching something, with the reliability of information you’ll get.

Save your stuff from landfill:


Freecycle ~ You’ll need to join a group in order to give and get free stuff in your neighborhood. This is great if your town is easy to define, but hard if you live within 5 miles of 5 towns, like me.

Donation Town ~ Great service to schedule a charity to come and pick up your things.

Gazelle ~ Ship off your gadgets and electronics items and get cash in return.

Craigslist ~ Unless you are very patient and have lots of free time, people I talk with are increasingly saying that selling things on Craigslist is simply not worth it, due to low prices and no-show buyers. You can, however, list things in the free section and simply put them outside your house.

Whether or not these sites are new to you, consider building your own toolkit of links and resources to draw upon and make life easier.

What other essential websites would you add? And for smartphone users, what are your favorite sanity-saving apps?

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