How Clutter Affects Your Brain…

Which sides looks greener?

Which sides looks greener?

When we have finished decluttering at a clients home, I always get the same response: “I feel so much lighter now!” And it is true – decluttering your physical environment also declutters your thinking and emotions too.  Here is a great article I found on Lifehacker.com that goes into this phenomenon in a bit more detail.

How clutter happens

You collect things for a number of reasons–maybe you think you’ll need to use it later, it has sentimental value, or you spent good money on it so you feel you need to keep the item, even if you haven’t touched or used it in weeks, months, or years. You might be holding on to that book you bought a year ago that you swear you’ll read or those killer pair of shoes that you’ll bring out for just the right occasion. But the reality is, you probably made a mistake in buying those things and it literally hurts your brain to come to terms with that fact.

Researchers at Yale identified that two areas in your brain associated with pain, the anterior cingulate cortex and insula, light up in response to letting go of items you own and feel a connection towards: This is the same area of the brain that lights up when you feel physical pain from a paper cut or drinking coffee that’s too hot. Your brain views the loss of one of your valued possessions as the same as something that causes you physical pain. And the more you’ve committed emotionally or financially to an item, the more you want to keep it around.

When you introduce new items into your life, you immediately associate value with these items, making it harder for you to give them up in the future. This psychological connection to things is what leads to the accumulation of stuff.

Clutter’s Impact on Your Brain

Whether it be your closet or office desk, excess things in your surroundings can have a negative impact on your ability to focus and process information. That’s exactly what neuroscientists at Princeton University found when they looked at people’s task performance in an organized versus disorganized environment. The results of the study showed that physical clutter in your surroundings competes for your attention, resulting in decreased performance and increased stress.

A team of UCLA researchers recently observed 32 Los Angeles families and found that all of the mothers’ stress hormones spiked during the time they spent dealing with their belongings. Similar to what multitasking does to your brain, physical clutter overloads your senses, making you feel stressed, and impairs your ability to think creatively.

Clutter isn’t just physical

Files on your computer, notifications from your Twitter and Facebook accounts, and anything that goes “ping” in the night competes for your attention. This creates a digital form of clutter that erodes your ability to focus and perform creative tasks. Mark Hurst, author of Bit Literacy, a New York Times best seller on controlling the flow of information in the digital age, put it best when he said: When you have to-do items constantly floating around in your head or you hear a ping or vibrate every few minutes from your phone, your brain doesn’t get a chance to fully enter creative flow or process experiences. When your brain has too much on its plate, it splits its power up. The result? You become awful at:

  • filtering information
  • switching quickly between tasks
  • keeping a strong working memory

The overconsumption of digital stuff has the same effect on your brain as physical clutter.

Read the entire article here.

Taming Tax Time Organisation

Tax time needn’t be like this!

Are you consumed with clutter of the receipt kind?
Despaired by office disorganisation?
Or embarrassed by the enormity of facing your accountant?

Don’t feel overwhelmed any longer: there is hope of facing the tax man head on with confidence and it’s not rocket science!

Here are seven steps to ensure tax time is no longer the lowlight of your year and when June 30 looms you will be sorted (in more ways than one).

1. As the scouts say: Be prepared! The first step is to set up a filing system for your receipts that works for you. Concertina file, plastic sleeved folder or even the ole shoe box – you must make it easy for yourself to easy store receipts otherwise it won’t happen. And remember to regularly clean out your wallet.

2. Like Santa: keep a list and check it twice. What sort of things can you claim – petrol, donations, dry cleaning? And what paperwork does your accountant need – share certificates, bank statements, group certificates? Make sure you update the list each year as your situation changes.

3. Sort the paperwork into categories that works with the way your brain works so if you have to quickly find a receipt you can put your hand on it. Is it by month, type of expenditure, different projects?

4. Habit. Make sure you do this on a regular basis – either once a week or when you clean the receipts out of your wallet. The more you do it, the more it will become a habit and you will stick to it. Even keep a plastic zip lock bag in the car to empty receipts in as you get them so they don’t get lost.

5. Make it electronic. If you really wish to be organised and keep your accountant happy you could try entering your deductions into a spreadsheet once a month. This way at the end of the financial year it will be a much more simple process to calculate the year’s expenses and your accountant will be thrilled. Another idea is to check out the plethora of smart phone apps that can take photos and organise all your receipts and even record voice memos.

6. Advice. Speaking of your accountant, why don’t you ask them for advice on the best way to categorise your documents? They know all the tips and shortcuts that are allowable. For example I was entering each individual receipt for petrol into my spreadsheet when my accountant suggested I just add them all together each month and put it in as one lump sum. Hours saved!

7. Storage. Develop a storage system for your old receipts – remember you may have to keep them for up to seven years and you never know when you may be audited (as I was when I was still at university with a part time job!)

9 Tips to Tackle Your Emails When Travelling

Why won't they stop???

This recent post from Unclutterer is so relevant for me at the moment and I am sure many of my readers will find it interesting too. Here are 9 tips that may help you to stay on top of the plethora of emails that don’t stop when you are travelling:

  1. Tie yourself to a smartphone. If you want to stay on top of email, you have to keep a smartphone on you. Keep the ringer off and the message alerts set to vibrate.
  2. Enable automatic sorting and color coding in your smartphone’s email program. Have a filter that automatically routes all messages out of your inbox and into separate folders where you are copied instead of listed as the main recipient, all newsletters or read-only emails you subscribe to, and all emails from sources you know are not going to be must-respond-now messages. Have your system color code messages from your boss and/or other very important folks so these messages will catch your attention when they come into your main inbox. (If you’re on a Windows-based phone, there are macros and add-ins for Outlook you can install. If you can legally route your work email through Gmail, you can also do this. I was unable to find an app for the iPhone that enables these features.)
  3. Check messages during lulls in your schedule. As you wait in the line at the airport, switch between sessions at a conference, or grab a snack, process your priority emails then.
  4. Only check work email. If someone needs to contact you about an important personal matter, he/she will text or call you. Check your personal email account on weekends or after you get home from traveling.
  5. Only respond to items that can be handled in less than one minute. Delegate as much as possible, delete or archive anything that doesn’t need a response, and only send short messages of less than a paragraph to the priority emails you respond to.
  6. Manage expectations. Have an automated out-of-office message enabled on your account that says you will have limited access to emails and no one should expect a response until you are back in the office (be sure to list that specific date). Provide detailed contact information for someone in the office who may be able to handle emergencies, and give that person in the office your cell number so he/she can call you if there is a major event. Also, let your office contact know when you expect to be on flights and/or completely out of connection.
  7. Manage more expectations. When you reply to someone from your smartphone, have a “Sent from mobile device, please excuse typos and brevity” signature on the bottom of every message. You might also want to consider posting your return date on your out-of-office message as the day after you return so you have a full day to gather your bearings once you’re back in the office. Under promise, over deliver.
  8. Have access to cloud file storage. Not all smartphones allow you to attach documents, so you’ll need to be able to send links to documents stored online with services like Dropbox. If your employer doesn’t allow file posting online and attaching documents to emails is essential to your job, you’ll want to get the smallest, lightest laptop you can because you’re going to have to carry it with you instead of a smartphone.
  9. Work on email every night when you get to your hotel room. It will add to your workday, but taking 30 minutes or an hour every night to process the entirety of all your email inboxes and folders will guarantee you don’t have an avalanche of messages when you get back to your office.

Read more here: http://unclutterer.com/2012/04/03/how-to-manage-email-when-traveling-for-work/

Being organised in the workplace – the solution to today’s economy?

OK... synchronise calendars NOW!

Having just spent over three hours with my accountant discussing my growing business, it occured to me that being organised in my procedures and systems is such a big part of why my business can grow easily (my accountant is very happy with my extremely organised financial system – even though I hate figures!)

Being part of a large corporate organisation with many team members (like I used to be in my previous life), having organised systems in place is also an essential ingredient to a smooth flowing workplace and could mean the difference between keeping a client – or keeping your job!

Erin from Uncluttered.com wrote on this very thing back in 2008:

In today’s economy, employees can’t afford to be disorganized.

It’s no longer a matter of personality, it’s a matter of keeping one’s job and retaining or obtaining clients. If an employer is trying to decide whom to layoff and whom to keep, the most organized, profitable, and productive workers usually get to keep their jobs.

Workers who consistently miss deadlines, run projects over budget, and upset clients and vendors with their inconsiderate behavior are the people who are let go. Additionally, current and potential clients won’t do business with your company if they don’t receive the product they expect on time and on budget.

If you’re worried about the level of disorganization in your work, here are a few items that may help you:

  • Clear the paper clutter from your office
  • Start using project management and goal systems to help organize your work load
  • Set alarms in Outlook or other calendars to keep you on schedule
  • Learn how to run efficient meetings
  • Work on managing expectations for deadlines and deliverables through ongoing communication with the client or your manager

What are your favorite ways to stay organised at work?

To read more: http://unclutterer.com/2008/10/24/being-an-organized-worker-is-essential-in-todays-market/

How to deal with tasks once…and live in the moment!

So many emails...so little time

This is such a common habit that we all have – looking at something, putting it down to deal with later, picking it up again, putting it down… you get the picture!

Zen Habits wrote an article called The Little Productivity Tip of a Zen Master which I thought my clients would really resonate with – and I know my readers will too:

Deal with something once.

Do it now.

Then it’s off your mind, and you can fully focus on the next matter.

Do most of us do this? We might read a bunch of emails, and say, “I’ll reply to those later. I’ll decide later.” We might see a bill or other piece of mail, and put it aside for later.

We put off small decisions and tasks for later, and they pile up, weighing on us at the back of our minds, pulling on us until we collapse under the weight of “later”.

Try dealing with it immediately.

If you open an email, make a decision on it immediately. Schedule the appointment in your calendar, reply, do a small task it requires, or if it takes too long, then you can put it on a to-do list — but avoid this if possible. David Allen suggests a two-minute rule: if the task can be done in less than two minutes, do it now. I suggest five minutes, even up to 10, as that means you have one less thing to worry about.

At any rate, archive the email once you’ve dealt with it, or delete it. You’re done with that. Move to the next, and repeat.

This applies to everything else: mail, paperwork, phone calls, requests from others. Deal with them immediately, or schedule a date to deal with it later if necessary.

When you are finished using something, put it away immediately and avoid a mess later. This is also how I keep clutter at bay. When you’re cooking, wash the items as you go to avoid a huge kitchen mess.

When your child asks for attention, give it to her now.

When your wife starts talking to you, put away the laptop, iPad or mobile device, and talk to her now.

What this means is that you deal with each thing in the moment, and then move to the next. Your mind isn’t pulled in a million directions at once.

To read the entire article go here: http://zenhabits.net/once/

8 tips to break down those tough tasks

Yahoo, I finally finished!

Today I have had one of those days. A “To Do” list of various marketing projects that needed to get started and no motivation to do so. Now as a professional organiser who helps others with time management you would think I would have this down pat. But no, I too am only human and sometimes I can think of a 1,000 other things I could be doing such as popping a load in the washing machine, making a cup of tea, the dog needs walking…

Then magically into my inbox pops another gem from Zen Habits. It’s like he is reading my mind. It go me up and raring to go so I thought it may also help my loyal readers – so I thought I would share:

Before you can achieve something in life, you need to decide precisely what it is you want. It could be you intend to stop smoking; improve your fitness; give up gambling; get a new job, or whatever.

Once you have a clearly defined idea of the what, why and how long of your end result, you can break down the entire process. Here are a few tips to do this:

1. Pinpoint the steps involved. Let’s say, for example, that your end result is to get a job as a teacher in 5 years time. Ask yourself what individual steps are needed to get there. Are specific qualifications and experience required? How can you gain these skills? What can you do to study or re-train? Come up with all the steps you can think of. The purpose of this exercise is to flesh out what is still a large aim into smaller, detailed steps. Each one represents a stepping stone towards achieving your end result.

2. Create a pint-sized action plan. Think of the steps as actions. Once you understand what actions are needed to achieve your end result, you can pull these together into a plan.

3. Set mini targets and daily/ weekly tasks. When you create your action plan, work out a series of targets you believe it’s possible to reach on the way to your end result. Decide what you need to have done in six, three and one months’ time to achieve your end result. Then break it down into monthly and weekly chunks, and from here you can set yourself simple daily and weekly tasks that are easily reached.

4. Keep on track. If the mini target for a given week isn’t achieved, don’t despair. The small-scale approach is so flexible that it allows you to make instant changes. On a weekly basis, ask yourself what happened and whether you could do anything differently? Carry over the shortfall to the following week and tweak your daily and weekly tasks accordingly. Keep on completing these small-scale tasks and meeting the mini targets, and the end result will be well within your grasp.

5. Forget the long-term. Get into the habit of ignoring the end date, and try to stop dwelling on what’s to come in the future. Don’t worry – you already considered the overall task and how long it would take when you set the mini targets and the daily/ weekly tasks. Now you can put the long-term view to one side, and really pay attention to achieving these smaller, shorter-term targets and tasks.

6. Adjust your steps. Along the way, you might find that what you’re trying isn’t as effective as you hoped. Or, other factors – such as job and family commitments – could affect your focus. Be ready to tweak your targets and tasks, when necessary. It’s perfectly ok to revisit and revise them to ease the load. Better to pace yourself than be stressed out.

7. Celebrate the little wins. One success leads to another, so use all your wins to spur you on. As each milestone is passed triumphantly, it’ll boost your motivation and you’ll gain a renewed confidence in your abilities. Reward yourself with something which makes you feel amazing – a new pair of jeans, a trip to the park with your kids, a relaxing homemade spa day. Treat yourself to anything which reinforces your resolve to reach the end. It needn’t cost a penny.

8. Resist the urge to supersize. It’s human nature to want results fast. At times, you might be tempted to rush at things and bite off more than you can chew, ending up back at square one. If you’re tempted to give up, refer to your ‘motivation bank’ of reasons why you want the end result. Be determined and concentrate on only the current stage of your journey, and not on what’s next. Reflect on how far you’ve come and what a waste it would be to throw in the towel.

Read more of the article here: http://zenhabits.net/small-scale/

17 time wasting habits you need to stop

Let's Go - time's a wastin!

Here are some good ideas from another great time management blog: Productivity 501.  This is a list of 17 things you should not be doing any more because they waste time. Old habits die hard and it can be difficult to shift yourself from an old familiar way of doing something to a new, better way.

Take a look at the list and see if there is anything you can change to help make you more productive. If you have any suggestions please add them in the comments:

  1. Manually Depositing a Paycheck — That is what direct deposit is for.  If you spend 15 minutes every two weeks dealing with depositing your paycheck that is 65 hours over the next 10 years. Put this time to better use.
  2. Writing Cheques for Bills – That is what online banking is for. Use this time for something worthwhile.
  3. Partially Filling Up with Petrol — Yes it might go down 3 cents next week, but how much is your time really worth.
  4. Looking for your Keys or Mobile phone — Always put them in the same place (hook by the door, etc).
  5. Unpacking your Laptop or Mobile phone Power Adaptor — If you go from work to home with your laptop, get an extra adaptor for each work area so you don’t have to unpack and crawl under the desk each time.
  6. Check Multiple Email Boxes — Get a program that will show you all your email in one place or filter by individual accounts. iphones have this cabability.
  7. Watching Commercials — Tape shows on your planner if you have one or just skip television all together.  Buy the shows you want to watch off iTunes.
  8. Losing Telephone Numbers — Your mobile phone should sync with your computer.  We are past the days where a phone only held 25 numbers.  If someone calls, take the few seconds to record their name in your phone, so it will be transferred next time you sync your computer.
  9. Commuting to seminars — Take your classes online or via webinars.  Spend your commute time studying instead of driving.
  10. Commuting Through Heavy Traffic — Talk to your boss about working from home–even for just a few days a week.  Shift your schedule to miss rush hour.

6 online tools to manage your time

Even a baby can do it!

It is as easy as child’s play! To keep your digital life under control, try these fabulous online tools:

  • 1Password: A quick and easy way to organize passwords that keep your physical self safe in the digital world
  • RescueTime: Works as training wheels to stay focused on what’s important when distractions are everywhere
  • DropBox: One place in the digital world where I can keep everything my physical self needs, no matter where I am. I use this to back up my computer every week.
  • Google Docs: Simplify your workspace and create from anywhere
  • Tungle.me: Easily manage appointments for your digital and physical self
  • Google Alerts: Don’t waste time searching the web; let the information come to you

For more ideas simplifying your digital life go to http://zenhabits.net/digital/

 

International Women’s Day competition

Organise Me is supporting a competition that will be launched on International Women’s Day, March 8th to celebrate women and the launch of the ground breaking eBook Pink Shoe Power, Discover Your Time Management Style for Success in Business & Life.

The thousands of $ worth of prizes include a beautiful Swarovski  crystal necklace, a busy woman’s weekly planner pack , a virtual home organizing pack, pretty and fun bling stationery, natural skin care, a social media starter pack, psychic business coaching, a medical intuitive consultation, a sensational pool design consultation and a book of inspiring business women.

PLUS, as a special gift to celebrate the launch, you have access to a fantastic tool – the Pink Shoe Power Profiler. You will discover your Time Management Style so you can understand why you manage your time the way you do and get some great tips to help you.   It’s simple, fun and free to you!

Once you have completed the Pink Shoe Power Profiler you will be automatically entered into the prize draw.

The competition will be launched on International Women’s Day, March 8th, with the winners announced on 31st March.  You can enter now so you don’t miss out. http://pinkshoepower.com/prizedraw/?id=dd

Plus we have some special bonuses and discounts for you which are exclusive to those who register for the competition.

To enter, go to http://pinkshoepower.com/prizedraw/?id=dd and get your Time Management Style and your name will be automatically entered.

Good luck! Kerri