3 Unexpected Places to Look for Your Important To-Dos

  3 Unexpected Places to Look for Your Important To-Dos During a virtual meeting with my team, my laptop was running loud and slow. While I struggled to share my screen over the noise of my fan, one of my virtual assistants suggested I might have too many tabs open. “Who ME????” Yes, ME. Whether Read More

 

3 Unexpected Places to Look for Your Important To-Dos

Beige desk with phone, laptop, planner. 3 Unexpected Places to Look for Your Important To-Dos

During a virtual meeting with my team, my laptop was running loud and slow. While I struggled to share my screen over the noise of my fan, one of my virtual assistants suggested I might have too many tabs open. “Who ME????” Yes, ME.

Whether or not you faithfully use a digital or paper planner, you might have some unrecorded and tasks lurking in hidden places. Here are three unexpected places to look for your important to-dos and tips for managing them.

Browsers

Although I am a professional organizer and help people organize their digital lives, that doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with tab-mania myself. A single project might require opening up multiple tabs to access programs, do some research, and keep up with email and virtual meetings. As I move through tasks, those tabs multiply and often don’t get closed in a timely manner.

On this occasion, so many tabs were open in my browser that I couldn’t even make out the favicons, those tiny branding images on browser tabs. In fact, a click of the drop-down arrow at the end of the row showed even more tabs open.

As soon as we finished our meeting, I started clicking and closing tabs. I also found myself writing in my planner. One tab reminded me I needed to finish some research. Another prompted an idea for a yet-to-be-written blog post. And yet another was a PDF of an online receipt I needed to save. Those tabs were important to-dos! Anything that took just a few minutes ago, I took care of immediately.

Perhaps neglected open tabs in your browser are unrecorded tasks for your to-do list. Like a tactful Apple store employee once told me, “Just like you need rest, so does your laptop. Turn it off at night.”

So I challenge you: Every night for a week, close all your tabs. That’s right, all of them. You can “pin” those you use daily (right-click on the tab) so they open when you restart your computer, or bookmark them so you don’t need to search. Either way, you will save time. Wait, did you catch the word, restart? Yes, shut that baby down for the night.

TIPS:
  • If you are not already doing so on a regular basis, pick one day a week to check for and run program updates, clear out cookies and caches (see the settings for your browser).
  • Check your device’s trash or recycle bin for items that can be permanently deleted. Until you do, items still take up space.
  • Check your device’s battery life and available storage. I can’t cover directions for all types here, but you can find them by searching for “how to check battery health/available storage on _____.”

Your browser is just one place your important to-do’s might be hiding. Here are two more places:

Voicemails

Occasionally my voicemail is full and I have to clear it out. Every single message is something I need to do. The car repair shop now has a part that I’ve been waiting on, so I need to schedule a an appointment. My mother sang “Happy Birthday” on another message and I want to save it to my cloud storage. Another message reminds a prescription is ready for pickup. That’s an errand to the pharmacy. All of these are tasks that need to go on my list of important to-dos.

TIPS:
  • If your phone had to be reset and you lost your voicemails, are there any you would be sad about losing? Download happy-memory messages you want to save to cloud storage. I am so happy I downloaded voicemails of my parents serenading me with “Happy Birthday” together. Since my father passed away, it is a comforting memento.
  • Check your voicemail greeting. You may wish to say something different or rerecord using a better microphone.
  • When you delete messages, they might still exist in a deleted folder. Empty the deleted folder to make room on your device.

Scraps of paper

If you frequently write on sticky notes, scraps of paper, and/or notepads, then you might be  a “paper planner” person. As much as I love technology for its efficiency, I use Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner to keep track of my important to-dos. I love the feel of pen-to-paper and checking things off with a flourish. Clicking and swiping on a to-do app just doesn’t give me the same satisfaction, no matter how nice the interface is.

Sometimes I catch myself writing on sticky notes or notepads when on calls or webinars. I make a point of checking for these hidden to-dos on my desk at least weekly, putting them in the right spot in my planner. Often I make these temporary notes because I’m not quite sure when or if I am going to tackle them. The solution for this is a “grasscatcher list,” a master list of to-dos that aren’t urgent but shouldn’t be forgotten. Mine is in the back of my quarterly planner and I do a serious list sweep monthly and quarterly to weed that list down. David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) system refers to this as a “Someday Maybe” list. 

TIPS:
  • If you must write on a scrap of paper in a pinch, add the date. This will give you some frame of reference for what the note was about, if it is still relevant or even needed, when you come across it.
  • Before phone calls and meetings, determine the best place to record notes. I prefer paper planners with a two-page daily spread that includes a notes page for this reason. For client consultations, I have an intake form ready. The same goes for virtual coffees. I love using forms and creating them for my clients!
  • Use traditional phone message pads with a carbon copy feature to record voicemails and take calls. Fill in all the prompts for information. This can clear up half of your random note clutter!

Summary

Open browser tabs, voicemails, and scraps of paper are just a few of the unexpected places to look for your important to-dos. This digital and paper clutter can be prompts for tasks and they can pile up if not dealt with. Take care of them immediately or record in your planning system. Better yet, if not needed, delegate or discard.

Three things to do on a regular basis (think daily, every other day, or at least weekly):
  • Check your browser for open tabs and close them. If you need to access certain sites regularly, pin them or bookmark them.
  • Check your voicemail and clean it out, or at least add them to your to-do list and delete messages as you take care of them.
  • Corral loose notes and record them where they will be most useful.

With all your browser tabs closed, your voicemails cleared, and random notes recorded, you will get a good night’s sleep, and so will your laptop.

So, how many tabs are open on your device as you read this?

Need help with organizing your digital life? Call 904-500-7678 (SORT), message me or schedule your free consult. I’d love to help you get some clarity so you can live the life you desire!

Barbara Trapp, CPO®, Certified Professional Organizer® and Productivity Coach
Zen Your Den®  and Zen Your Biz™
Professional Member, NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals)
Life Transitions Specialist, NAPO
Residential Organizing Specialist, NAPO
Workplace Productivity Specialist, NAPO

Virtual Organizing: Nonjudgmental Help From a Distance

Do you finally have time to get organized but don’t know where to start? Need guidance but are practicing social distancing? Well, get ready to Zen Your Den® or Zen Your Biz because Virtual Organizing is here! One afternoon while helping a client organize her closet, I blacked out once and fell off a shelf Read More

The Stay-at-Home Dilemma: What to Do with Donations

Note: This post is definitely not “evergreen” since it is based on the ever-changing recommendations and restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. All of this content is “as of this writing,” so please follow current government guidelines including what is available on the CDC website. Since so many are working from home or homeschooling, a mass Read More

Note: This post is definitely not “evergreen” since it is based on the ever-changing recommendations and restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. All of this content is “as of this writing,” so please follow current government guidelines including what is available on the CDC website.

Since so many are working from home or homeschooling, a mass decluttering is in the works. After clearing out all the closets, drawers and garages, what can be done with all the donations? I’ll share some safe options for dealing with your cast-offs, but first, here are the hard, cold facts:

Donations centers are closed

IMG 2579After dozens of phone calls, I finally confirmed that the larger organizations in Northeast Florida are not making pickups and are not able to accept drop-off donations. This is in spite of what you might have seen on some websites, map apps, or heard on recorded messages.

When I was finally able to speak to a real person at the Salvation Army in Jacksonville, Florida, they told me all locations were closed. In fact, the person I spoke with was unaware that the phone recording said their location was open for pick-ups Monday – Friday. He appreciated the heads up! They simply haven’t had time to update the information. The same for Goodwill. Their recorded message stated that although stores were closed, some donation centers were open for drop-off. However, several of my clients found those centers closed.

Here are a few of these local organizations. Check back with these sites later about donations, but please note they all need monetary support now:

BEAM Thrift (see their specific request for virtual donations)

Habitat for Humanity offices and ReStore locations

The Salvation Army

Goodwill Industries of North Florida

Vietnam Veterans (get notified of when pickups resume)

City Rescue Mission (requesting emergency gifts to help with their COVID-19 response)

Let it go later

Prepare it to sell it…later

In the spirit of social distancing and Stay at Home orders, we should not be leaving home to conduct sales. But if you have things of value to sell, you can certainly prepare for it by:

  • Taking photos
  • Gathering specs (measurements, etc)
  • Writing detailed descriptions
  • Partially pack (if materials are available)

Once restrictions are lifted, you will be so organized you will be ready to post immediately!

Recycle electronics…later

I often take old computers, monitors, fax machines (remember those?), printers and more to Staples since they accept a large variety of electronics. Although they are considered an “essential provider for working and learning” they are not accepting items for recycling at this time. The following local businesses are still accepting items, however, consider supporting them with donations after restrictions are lifted:

Sensible Recycling

Urban Mining

Donate clothing, household goods, and the dreaded miscellaneous…later

Pack up gently used items for donation at a later date, and, as much as it pains me to say it, go ahead and stick it in the guest room. There, I said it! Most homes have a room that is the “catch-all” for excess stuff they are holding for someone else (like nearly grown offspring), things waiting for a decision, seasonal clothing, wrapping paper, etc. This room-where-things-accumulate is one of the rooms I often transform with clients.

Other temporary storage locations for weather-proof items include attics, garages, and sheds. Clothing might mildew in the elements, but plastic children’s toys will survive. For my northern friends with basements, lucky you!

But not so fast. Before your drag in 20 bags of donations, please declutter and organize what is already in the room first, including closets, dressers, trunks, and any other containers. You may end up with more for your donation pile, but at least you will have made progress with another room in your house.

Let it go now

Curb alert apps vs. bulk pickup

Ready to let go no matter where it goes? Take your stuff to the curb two days before bulk pickup. If someone wants it, they will pick it up.

What about posting curb alerts on sites like Freecycle and Nextdoor? Freecycle has requested that local moderators only allow posting of items – where permitted – which are essential/basic necessities. So, posting alerts for essentials such as paper and cleaning products, diapers, etc, would be within guidelines (again, these guidelines are moving targets) since your donations will prevent someone else from having unnecessary exposure in a grocery store. As for the non-essentials, wait to post until after restrictions have been lifted, or take them to the curb and they will be gone by garbage day. Note: some municipalities have temporarily suspended bulk pick-ups, so check with your service provider.

Donate through Amazon

As of this writing, Amazon is still offering its amazing Give Back Box program. When you receive your next shipment of “whatever,” save the box and fill it with seasonally appropriate clothing and household goods you no longer need. They’ll even provide a free label! You will have recycled a box and gained space in your closet!

You don’t have to do it alone. I can help you declutter and organize your home with Virtual Organizing! Call 904-500-7678 (SORT), message me or schedule your free consult for business or residential organizing, life and productivity coaching. I’d love to help you get some clarity so you can live the life you desire!

Barbara Trapp, CPO®, Certified Professional Organizer® and Life/Productivity Coach
Zen Your Den®  and Zen Your Biz™
Professional Member, NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals)
Life Transitions Specialist, NAPO
Residential Organizing Specialist, NAPO
Workplace Productivity Specialist, NAPO

Garage Sales: To Have or Have Not

I hate garage sales. There, I said it! The same with yard sales, tag sales and any type of sale where I have to get up at the crack of dawn to fend off strangers who arrived before the crack of dawn so that we can barter over a plastic Barbie plate. Apparently, I’m not Read More

Garage sale sign in front of homeI hate garage sales. There, I said it! The same with yard sales, tag sales and any type of sale where I have to get up at the crack of dawn to fend off strangers who arrived before the crack of dawn so that we can barter over a plastic Barbie plate.

Apparently, I’m not alone. I conducted an informal poll, asking the question, “If you have ever had a garage/yard sale, would you do it again?” Over 70% said “no.” Should you have one?

Let’s consider that Barbie plate. Years ago when my daughter was outgrowing her everything-must-be-pink phase. Her heart-shaped Barbie plates were marked for 50 cents each and someone was trying to barter me down to 10 cents each. Okay, maybe they WERE overpriced, but didn’t they realize how many creative breakfasts those plates served?!? Ugh!

The precious playpen

Then there was the playpen. Our attic was full of baby equipment just in case we had a second child. But my then-husband disappeared into the attic, pulling down playpens, highchairs, bouncy seats, etc., dragging them into the driveway. Blinking back tears, I hurriedly began to price these new additions. Almost immediately, a woman purchased the playpen.

I recalled the times my daughter pulled herself up and hung onto the sides, wobbly but determined. Someone’s new baby will enjoy it now, I thought, and that made me smile. Until I heard the woman exclaim, “My puppies are going to LOVE this!”

Theft of a little red corvette

One reason I have never worked in retail (besides having no desire to work in retail) was because I don’t want to spend half my time guarding against theft. To be honest, I’m not positive we ever had much, if anything, stolen from a garage sale, but I remember a time I prevented that from happening.

My daughter had a red child-size convertible. It was adorable! We pretended her tall Mickey Mouse sprinkler with a hose was her gas pump. She would drive up the sidewalk and let Mickey fuel up her car. Eventually, she outgrew the car and we set it out on garage sale day.

A young couple asked to buy the little hot rod and together we lifted it into the bed of their truck. They jumped in and started to back down the drive. I raced to the driver’s side window to collect payment. Fortunately, another car was blocking their truck. They forked over the cash and seemed very perturbed as they took off. But Karma was there and so was the battery they left behind (those things are expensive!). They did not return.

Stinky boots

There is a particularly sweet (if not stinky) memory too. My daughter had a favorite pair of ankle boots with a heart-shaped buckle. She wore them daily to 1st grade. I mean, EVERY SINGLE DAY. Without socks. You see, there was this stage where the seams in the toes of socks were unbearable to her (I later learned that’s a real thing) and so for a long stretch she refused to wear them. I picked my battles, as all mothers must, and sent her to school. Eventually, I sent a note to her teacher that simply said, “It’s not her, it’s the boots.”

Finally, one morning I convinced her they were more than a bit stinky, unwashable, and thereby no longer wearable. I promised her a new pair. The evening before our first family garage sale, I was in the garage pricing and sorting. She walked slowly and somberly towards me as if leading a funeral march, with tears streaming down her face. In her hands were her beloved boots, which she, with dramatic effect, set down on a sale table. After she went to bed, I thanked them for their service and dropped them in the trash can.

The last garage sale I never had

Over the school years, we had several garage sales. I remember them being very labor-intensive for me for little cash in return. My then-husband worked nights. During one memorable garage sale, he decided to sell his equipment trailer and some excess tools and carpentry equipment. He strolled out mid-morning, coffee cup in hand, rubbing his eyes. Someone immediately approached him about the trailer. He made $1,500 in five minutes (not counting a few hundred more for all the power tools) and went back to bed. I, on the other hand, put in at least twelve hours of work and made less than $300. Home improvement stuff sells!

Fast forward a few years. “Things” were building up in our home again, as they do when children outgrow toys and youthful interests. I started pulling things together for a garage sale, but then stopped. I considered the time needed, the newspaper ad I’d have to place (when that was still a thing) and calculated how much money I could possibly make. $130 tops. My time and sanity were, and still are, more valuable. Three carloads later, everything was donated to Goodwill. I enjoyed a free Saturday!

So, should you have a garage sale? Here are some points to consider:

Reasons to have a garage sale:
  • The goal of less stuff makes the process of letting go a snap.
  • You have the time and could use some cash. Yes, you can make some money, just don’t try to calculate your hourly wage! Downsizing your belongings is its own reward.
  • You have lots of stuff to get rid of in many categories. If you haven’t had a sale in several years (or never), then you might have enough cast-offs to make it worth your time and draw buyers.
  • You have children and/or other members of the household who will participate. This can be a great family activity and valuable learning experience for children. Everyone weeds out their own belongings, assists with set-up, selling, clean-up, and disposal.
  • You have, and will stick to a plan for disposal or removal of any leftovers. Schedule a pickup by a local charity or junk hauler to arrive two hours after your sale ends. You may not have the energy to haul it off yourself.
  • You live in a big neighborhood.
Reasons not to have a garage sale:
  • You need to get rid of things NOW. If you’ve struggled to start your decluttering and downsizing project, a complicated plan for disposal can kill your momentum. Most of my clients opt for scheduling a pickup and getting stuff out of the house ASAP.
  • It will be traumatic to see people picking through, and leaving with your belongings.
  • The time and effort required are not worth the money you might make.
  • You don’t have help. Let’s face it – garage sales are hard to manage on your own. From hunting and gathering items days and weeks before to set-up in the early morning and then overseeing the event with no break…it’s exhausting!
  • You don’t have enough stuff. Bulky items such furniture and large, colorful kids’ toys draw people in. This is also the time when knick-knacks and tchotchkes shine. If the majority of things consist of clothing or items you expect a high dollar for, a garage sale may not be for you.
  • Your home is isolated from others. As with trick-or-treaters, avid garage-salers will try to visit as many homes as possible. Yours may not make the cut.
  • You just don’t want to. These events are not for everyone, so skip the sale and donate instead.

A client needed my help in clearing out her garage. It was filled with boxes from their recent move, excess furniture that wouldn’t fit in the home and much of the estate from a deceased relative. I presented numerous options for getting rid of it all, including selling on social media, donating, or having a garage sale. She unenthusiastically opted for the latter and we began digging through and sorting. Half an hour later, she changed her mind and we arranged for pick-up by a local charity. Once she made that decision, our digging and sorting kicked into overdrive!

Ultimately, the goal is to declutter and let go so you can free up space in your home and mind. As long as you procrastinate, your belongings deteriorate and others don’t get to put them to use. So, do you love or hate garage sales? Please share your thoughts and stories below.

Are you ready to downsize or clear out that packed guest room, junk room, attic or garage? I can help you dig through and determine the best way to let go of everything, whether it’s through a garage sale or thoughtful donations to the right people and charities. Call 904-500-7678 (SORT), message me, or schedule your free consult for business or residential organizing, life and productivity coaching. I’d love to help you get some clarity so you can live the life you desire!

Barbara Trapp, CPO®, Certified Professional Organizer® and Life/Productivity Coach
Zen Your Den®  and Zen Your Biz™
Professional Member, NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals)
Life Transitions Specialist, NAPO
Residential Organizing Specialist, NAPO
Workplace Productivity Specialist, NAPO

Five Questions to Ask Yourself to Tame Your Monkey Mind

Monkey Mind is a Buddhist term to describe a restless, unsettled or confused mind. Sometimes I head to bed at night wide-eyed alert, but tired. My mind is still going even though I desperately need sleep. I play a hypnosis app that usually works well to talk me down and into sleep, but there are nights Read More

Photo of two monkeys on a hill in India by Ahmed Zayan on UnsplashMonkey Mind is a Buddhist term to describe a restless, unsettled or confused mind.

Sometimes I head to bed at night wide-eyed alert, but tired. My mind is still going even though I desperately need sleep. I play a hypnosis app that usually works well to talk me down and into sleep, but there are nights my monkey mind opens the door and lets in a squirrel and a hamster for good measure to party with the monkeys. Together they work through scenarios and problems, and in general, take up where I left off before going to bed. It’s exhausting!

Who needs sleep? (I do! You do!)

This often happens when I’m avoiding something and/or my mind is a cluttered wasteland of to-do’s, pending deadlines and unclear goals. One particular week, I was behind in my planner. The long list of tasks I had assigned to each day had created a log jam, with no time carved out to actually do them. In my enthusiasm for achieving my goals, I apparently had not allotted time for sleeping and recharging, ergo the unwanted visitors now carousing in my mind each night. I had unrealistic expectations for what I could accomplish each day.

Taming my own Monkey Mind

This is probably not the scenario you’d expect from a professional organizer or productivity coach, right? No, it sounds like I desperately needed to become my own client! But really, I just needed to tame my monkey mind.

When this happens, I crawl out of bed before the alarm, make some coffee and sit for meditation. It may sound incongruous to wake up only to sit and nearly close my eyes again for 20 minutes, but meditating in the morning helps clear my mind for the day so I have better focus. Once I am done, I ask myself these questions to evict those marsupials and their noisy friends:

  • What deadlines are approaching?
  • What events are coming up and what do I need to do to prepare for them?
  • Are there any phone calls I need to make?
  • Which tasks am I avoiding?
  • What am I taking on that isn’t mine?

Deadlines:

The first thing I do is check my schedule for upcoming deadlines. If I haven’t already done this, I treat them as projects and break them down into tasks. Then I assign each to a day. If more than 30 minutes is needed, I block out time on my calendar. Whew! It’s a relief to have things scheduled!

One Chimpanzee down.

Events and be-there’s

Years ago I attended a Frankin-Covey What Matters Most seminar where calendar events were referred to as “be-there’s.” The main difference between be-there’s and project time on the calendar is that be-there’s involve more preparation. So, I consider what I need to do to be ready and engaged in this event. Do I need to drive somewhere? What do I need to take? What do I need to do beforehand (order supplies, pack car, charge up my headset, etc.)? Anything I need to do to be prepared goes into my planner.

The squirrel scampers away.

Reminders

Uncertain schedules really keep my monkey mind going, so I set reminders. For webinars I attend online, I set one-hour and 15-minute reminders. For client coaching calls, I set one-hour and 30-minute reminders so that I have time to review notes. For be-there’s I need to travel to, I set two-hour and 30-minute prior to travel time reminders. This way, nothing sneaks up on me!

A Rhesus monkey swings away through the trees (hopefully away from north Florida).

Phone calls

When a client is overwhelmed with either how many things they need to do or not knowing where to start, I suggest they ask themselves three questions:

  • What will reduce my stress if I take care of it today?
  • What will have a big impact on the future (could be as simple as making doctor’s appt or searching for a new one)?
  • Which completed task will make my significant other/friend/family member happy?

It could be something as simple as a phone call, and those don’t take very long! So pick up the phone and make the appointment, order the prescription, or get an answer to your question. Then you can move on with the rest of your day and get the wheels turning.

A Howler monkey quiets down and disappears (seriously, I think all the monkeys in my mind are Howlers!).

What am I avoiding?

One weekend I bought two potted herb plants from the grocery store. I set them down on the porch for repotting later. Every day as I walked passed them, I remembered I needed to plant them before they died. But the thought of putting on gloves, filling pots with dirt, planting and watering just made me procrastinate more.

Because they were in little peat pots I had to water them frequently. No, they didn’t die, but two weeks later they were definitely unhappy. So, out of curiosity, I set a timer. Then I grabbed my gloves and less than five minutes later, they were repotted and I was done, including scrubbing under my nails. Just FIVE minutes!

I’ve timed a few normal household tasks and found I could make my bed in less than two minutes, put away dishes in three, and unload a laundry basket (actually hanging and folding, not dumping) in less than five.

So what are you putting off? Unloading the dishwasher? Putting away clean clothes? Opening mail? Set a timer and get it done, and you’ll have a better awareness of how long tasks really take.  Then perhaps you won’t avoid them in the future. Have a bigger task to tackle, like cleaning out the garage, filing taxes, or filing anything? ? Try the Pomodoro technique and set a timer for 25 minutes. You can stick with just about any task for 25 minutes!

The hamster gets off the wheel and curls up to sleep.

What am I worrying about that isn’t mine?

One of my favorite sayings is “Not my circus, not my monkeys!” Sometimes, when working at warp speed, we add things to our list of things to do that really shouldn’t be there. Although I try not to ask my clients a question starting with “why” (it can sound a little judgmental), it’s okay for you to ask yourself this key question:

"Not my circus, not my monkeys" quote with little monkeys falling through a circus background

“Why am I doing this?”

For full impact, ask it out loud! If your answer is a little unconvincing, follow-up with these:

  • Is this going to help me reach my goals?
  • If I don’t do this, what will happen/not happen?
  • Am I the right person to do this?

Hopefully, you’ll trim that list just a little more. And with that, the three remaining little spider monkeys traipse off together. I’ve always wanted to use the word traipse in a blog post so here it is! #lifegoals

Am I recommending that if you can’t sleep you get up and do all these things? Absolutely not! But writing it down will clear your mind and ease any anxiety about what you need to get done the next day, and absent a monkey mind, you might just get some sleep!

Need help getting organized, whether with physical or mental clutter? Call 904-500-7678 (SORT), message me, or schedule your free consult for business or residential organizing, life and productivity coaching. I’d love to help you get some clarity so you can live the life you desire!

Barbara Trapp, CPO®, Certified Professional Organizer® and Life/Productivity Coach
Zen Your Den®  and Zen Your Biz™
Professional Member, NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals)
Life Transitions Specialist, NAPO
Residential Organizing Specialist, NAPO
Workplace Productivity Specialist, NAPO