Volumes of information are thrown at us every day turning us into “information overload zombies.” Now WHAT do we do with all this information and HOW do we categorize it?

Here are 5 tips on how to sort and categorize the volumes of paperwork you receive everyday in what I call a “neat mess.”

  1. Make up general category names: Data Entry, Call Backs (waiting for answers), Meeting Munchies (make labeling files fun), Gotta Do or Else, Just for Me, etc.
  2. You might want to color code these files on how a color makes you feel. For instance, the color blue is calming, so you might use blue folders for the major category labeled “Just for Me.” The subfolders under “Just for Me” could be: Vacation, Things I Want to Buy, Entertainment, etc.–be creative. Color coding I find is helpful as people relate to colors first, then the look at pictures, and read words last. When we get stressed out, we don’t always remember the names, but we do remember the color of the folder we’re looking for.
  3. Decide if you really need it or can get it from another source later. If you think you might use it later, title a piece of paper called “Where Did I Put That?” Write in the date in the 1st column, the description of the item in the 2nd column, and in the 3rd column, where you can get that information if you need to retrieve it again.
  4. For papers that need follow-up now, put those items in a tickler system. Write the due date on the upper right hand corner of the paper. Put that information into the July Pendaflex hanging file foldler (for instance) or in a Desktop File folder (January- December, 1-31) placed on top of your desk in a vertical desktop file . Then write where you put that paperwork on your paper calendar or input into your electronic device (PDAs, Pocket PCs, or your cell phone).
  5. Now that’s what I call a “neat mess.” Placing your paperwork into categories so the paper can easily be reference later, is the key to finding your paperwork in 30 seconds or less.
  6. Creating a working environment based on the “kindergarten method” of activity zones in your workspace, can reduce the stress with less mess and make us far more productive. Have fun and start turning YOUR “piles into files.”

Me? Organized? Why not?

We’ll start by organizing your wallet by emptying everything out onto a cleared off surface area–do this weekly if not, monthly. You’ll be surprised what you find.

  1. Sort items into groups: change (if you carryit in your wallet or coin purse), paper money, any identification card (like library or supermarket cards), credit cards, license, notes—just dump everything out! Any unused, expired or outdated personal information, should be cut or cross-shredded to protect your identity and security.
  2. Move items like phone numbers, directions, notes, receipts, etc., to another location, but not back into your wallet. Put those items into your desk, filing cabinet or a folder for data entry or follow-up.
  3. A lesson from money guru Suze Orman, author of“Courage to Be Rich,”says that you should respect your money by arrangingit in order of denominations with all the pictures facing the same direction.
  4. Put your extra change in a jar and see how much you’ve collected at the end of the year. Putitin a savings account and watch your money accumulate Most people can usually get by with a small amount of change: about 10 quarters, 2-5 dimes, 2-4 nickels, and about 5 pennies.
  5. By using the new simplified, improved, and condensed categories that you established while sorting and purging the contents of your wallet, replace the items back into your wallet.

Now you can enjoy reaching into your wallet knowing that you’ll be able to find everything at your fingertips.

You can also expand this task to include your bag and/or briefcase using the same principles of sorting, purging, and putting the extra items into their proper place in your office or home, and replacing everything back into your bag/briefcase in an orderly fashion.

Remember, “If you can’t find it in 30 seconds, it’s in the wrong place.”

Paperwork is boring and keeps piling up all around me. How you I sort and take action on all this stuff?

  1. Set up an “In-Box.” Make sure there’s a permanent place where you can put all your paperwork when it arrives in your home or office.
  2. Then use a step file sorter (Office Depot, Staples, etc.) or a plastic, portable file box (preferably with a handle). Gather some manila file folders and a Sharpie for labeling the folders.
  3. Place a recycling bin or large trash can near the location where you will be disposing of junk mail and sorting papers into labeled folders.
  4. Next, label your folders:
    1. Gotta Do. This will hold any item you need to take action on later.
    2. Think About This. For special offers, brochures, or items you might consider buying or activities you’re considering doing.
    3. Refer to Others. This is for items you aren’t able to deal with yourself. It could be mail for your spouse or co-worker.
    4. File Pile. Any items that need filing.
    5. Read Later. Place articles and information here to read later.
    6. Awaiting Answer. This is for any item on which you are awaiting an answer from someone.
    7. Pay Up (or”Expenses”if at work). This is for bills to be paid at home or work-related expenses.
    8. Tax Info. Any tax-related items for Uncle Sam.
    9. Hold for Later. Place your concert tickets, seminar info, etc. here. (No, it’s not for holding your parking tickets.)
  5. It’s important that you “sort” all your paperwork first before you do any of it. You’ll have smiles, not piles of mystery papers. Once every item is sorted, start with your “Gotta Do” file and get to work.

How do I get done what I need to and say “no” to people so I can do my stuff?

Good question. Here are 7 Tips for doing what YOU want to do:

  1. Pause and briefly analyze what is really being asked of you. Make sure you fully understand the magnitude of the job before you blurt out “yes.” Realize you always have a choice.
  2. You don’t have to do everything alone. Relieve most of the pressure you put on yourself by eliminating the need to “run” things to be sure they turn out the way you like them. Maybe some things won’t turn out as well as if you did them yourself, but they will be done, and you won’t be the one stressing about them.
  3. Be very specific about the amount of time you have to devote to the task. When you say “yes” continually to others, you say “no” to yourself and relegate yourself to second position, third, or even last.
  4. Don’t be wishy-washy about decisions that involve changes to expected rituals. Bowing out and breaking a long-standing tradition will force someone else to take over. If not, then so be it…you’re no longer responsible.
  5. How to say “no” without really saying it.
    1. “I can take care of that, but what I’m doing now, will be delayed. Is your request more important?”
    2. “I’ll be glad to handle that for you. However, I can’t get to it until I finish what I’m doing. That will be . . .”
    3. I’m sorry, I don’t have time to take on any new work. I’ll call you when my schedule frees up.”
    4. “l appreciate your vote of confidence, but just can’t t work it into my schedule at this time. Sorry.”
    5. “I’m sorry, I just can’t do it. Have you considered asking . . . “
    6. Remember, while you’re feeling guilty about saying “no,” people are busy finding someone else to do the job.
  6. Affirmations help you stick to your decisions.
    1. If you repeat something like “I will not give in, I will not give in,” to remind yourself that you deserve to be in control of your time. The most serious repercussion when people take advantage of you, is the irritation you feel with yourself for making yourself available to others 24/7.
  7. Most importantly, you can say “no” and still remain a caring individual.And, if people can’t accept “no,” do you really want them in your life? Remind yourself daily that “no” is liberating, and to say it is your right.

I have ADD. How do I stay focused?

It’s so hard for ADD people to concentrate on tasks some time, because every time something is touched, they think of something else to do. So just trying to say out loud to yourself, “Focus, focus, focus”—easier said than done, but give it a try.

Having an organized environment for ADD people is certainly recommended in keeping control of their daily activities. It’s a “Catch 22” for the classic symptoms of ADD: inattention, impulsivity, distractibility, overfocusing and hyperactivity, to name just a few. Everyone says “time management” but I like to call it “activities management.” What we actually do is manage our “activities” within the “time” we have everyday. Makes sense?

So here are 10 simple focusing strategies for ADD clients:

  1. A common characteristic of a person with ADD is that he/she likes new things to keep them interested, so it’s difficult to stay on task for very long—sometimes it ranges for 15-60 minutes. A simple strategy of using a timer to start and stop can help insure completion of the project started.
  2. Offering the client a reward for staying on task could be taking a short breaks and doing something else for 10-15 minutes. It’s important that a reward is set up that the client wants and sometimes never finds the time to do.
  3. Using your internal clock (like the feeling someone knows when something should take a certain amount of time to do), is not an effective way for an ADDer to keep track of time. Using a clock to do something within an allotted period of time that has an auditory sound from a timer or a cell phone, for instance, is a way for the mind to be interrupted, so the individual can stop, look at their calendar, and/or “to do” list to do something else. It’s a challenge for an ADD individual to calculate how long something takes and/or will take their time to do. Planning is important to keep on task and learning not to “overschedule” one’s day.
  4. Approach a project by breaking it down into little pieces. So ask yourself, “How do you eat an elephant? Answer: “One bite at a time.” If you can VISUALIZE this question and answer it each time when tackling a task and/or project, you will be able to manage your daily activities better so you can feel good at the end of each day.
  5. To control your daily activities as well as managing your time, it’s important to say “no.” Reward yourself each time to saying “no” to everyone’s request if it will keep you from doing what YOU need to get done. Always acknowledge that person who asked you by saying, “I appreciate your vote of confidence, but I just can’t work it into my schedule at this time. Sorry.”
  6. Remind the client that complex organizing projects shouldn’t be set up when he/she is not at their best. Setting up for “success” is the best. By working on a project that requires deep concentration, should be done during the time of day when the highest level of energy is felt.
  7. Staying healthy is very important to the ADD individual. Exercising helps relieve the stress for both physical and mental issues that is caused by daily activities and interruptions. By exercising and good nutrition, frees up the mind to take a much needed rest I call a “brain break,” so a person can “refocus, regroup and rejuvenate.”
  8. Sometimes letting calls go into voicemail will help insure concentration on the project at hand. By setting 2 times a day to return calls, will help put a “system” in place of creating a habit that can be a win-win situation for everyone.
  9. Keeping a notepad on a night stand, in your pocket, purse, etc., is extremely useful when ideas pop into one’s head. It clears the mental clutter out, so you can focus on the task at hand that needs to get done by a certain timeline.
  10. Studies have been conducted that chewing gum can help one focus. I like to use clear Silly Puddy with sparkles that smells really good when I’m in meetings.

Helping clients understand their focus limitations and how to work within their abilities, will help prevent them from getting caught up in the cycle of “never finish anything” syndrome. “Making it fun until it’s done” is my strategy in helping my ADD clients feel good about themselves by keeping them inspired so they can accomplish anything if they have the right tools and the right attitude.

“If you can’t find it in 30 seconds, it’s in the wrong place”

Do you have any solutions to my paper pollution all over my desk?

Newspapers, statements, sticky notes, letters, junk mail, cards, receipts–STOP! It’s any wonder people feel overwhelmed and can’t get out from down under the avalanche of paper? Here are 10 simple tips to maintaining your sanity:

  1. Daily Attack: Sorting through papers 5 minutes each day, rather than having piles and no smiles because of clutter build up.
  2. Curtail the Mail: Handle it everyday opening it up over the trash can–get rid of anything you don’t need. Then sort the rest of your mail and place them in categories–bills, papers that need to be referred to, to be read, and papers to be distributed to family members (a colored folder for each member would be nice).
  3. Weed Out Your Filing System: You could probably reduce its contents by 50% or more. Set aside a few hours over the next week and go through each folder. Recycle what’s outdated, and toss anything that no longer interests you (recipes, old magazine articles, and anything else that no longer applies to you now).
  4. Precious Moments: Can’t get rid of those sentimental papers or objects? Put a limit on your sentimentality by designating a certain amount of space for those items. If you are bulging at the seams, it’s time to clean out again.
  5. Papers Come Lately: If you’re subscribing to magazine and newspapers and don’t have time to read them, consider bringing some reading material in a folder or brown clasped envelope with you at the doctor’s office, flying for example to catch up, or consider canceling some subscriptions. On the articles you want to keep, write on a sticky note what action needs to be taken and/or highlight some specifics in the article so you don’t have to reread why you kept the information.
  6. Clip, Read, Toss: When reading a newspaper or magazine, keep only the articles that interest you and toss the rest. File it in your filing system under a subject you’ll remember.
  7. Consolidate, Don’t Hesitate: Use “one” system that will consolidate your schedules, calendars, to do lists, notes, and other lists of information. Loose papers get easily misplaced, especially when big pieces of paper are put on top of small papers. A 3-ring binder with index dividers for the subject name, and see-thru pocket holders are great for organizing your busy life.
  8. Paper or Trees? Last count, there is 600 million miles of pages printed from computers everyday! Print what you must, but copy and paste into a word processing program under specific subjects. Another way is to keep a simple log such as the date, description, website, and very brief comment of what you found so you can retrieve the information when you need it. Simple, easy, but very effective.
  9. Are Coupons Worth It? A lot of people clip, sort and never use them. If you do keep and use them, use a coupon shorter and highlight the “expiration” date.
  10. To Keep or Not to Keep: It’s always advisable to speak with your accountant. According to the IRS, if it has to do with your taxes, keep your records for 10 years, as they can still audit you as long as your claims aren’t fraudulent. If the IRS suspects your claims are fraudulent, you may have to proof your claims beyond the 10-year mark. Otherwise, it could be a very costly and stressful venture to try to remember and/or produce the documents if the IRS should call you in for an audit. If you still own something, like property or a vehicle, keep that documentation also.

How long will it take to get myself organized?

There is no one way to answer this question, as each situation varies. You may want to ask yourself some of these questions:

  1. How large is the area to be organized? (number of rooms, type of systems needed, etc.)
  2. How deeply do I want to organize this area? Just get the junk off the floor? Create systems to keep the order in place? A fancy and visually beautiful filing system? Just anything to get the papers off your desk?
  3. Am I willing to work on the project in between sessions, or do I find I focus better with the Consultant’s support and presence?
  4. How long did it take me to get this way?
  5. How quick am I at making decisions?
  6. How emotionally attached am I to what needs to be organized?
  7. How large is the space to be organized?
  8. Am I doing this for myself or because someone else wants me to be organized?
  9. Am I willing to change?
  10. Have I been disorganized all my life, a short time, or since a major life event (a birth, a death, a marriage, a home purchase)?
  11. How quickly can I make decisions?
  12. How much clutter is in my rooms (visible and invisible)?
  13. Am I committed to change and investing in this project?
  14. Am I willing to plan/schedule “tune-up” appointments—keep positive momentum flowing?

Remember: “Organizing is a process. It’s not a one day project.”

Is multitasking good or bad?

We have so many hours in the day, and we tend to think we can get everything done that we planned to do, right? Not always, so we multitask some things in order to catch up. But can it be a costly mistake to multitask most of the time? So let’s discuss some things.

Multitasking is a symptom of prioritizing things in the wrong order–going back and forth between tasks trying to complete a little bit at a time, instead of fully concentrating and completing one task at a time in the order of importance–for instance, meeting a deadline and you decide to do filing. You lose your focus and could miss something very important if you’re multitasking because you’re not focusing to make sure the right things get done.

Then–think how long it’s going to correct your mistake if you miss something important like taking down notes when someone is giving you verbal instructions to do something, and you decide to answer the phone at the same time? It might cost you time and money if you write down the wrong thing? It takes more processing for the brain to go back and forth to refigure out what you were trying to accomplish in the first place when handling multiple items, and that may cause longer lists of “uncompleted” tasks and projects stacking higher and higher. Think of the stress level that is being created.

The key to having more time, yet being more productive so we don’t have to multitask all the time, is doing “less”–yes doing less . . . You ask why? Basically, because you only have so many hours in the day, and you can’t say “yes” to everything you’re confronted with. You need to ask Townsend’s question several times to yourself everyday. “Is what I’m doing or about to do, moving me toward my objectives?” If it’s not and you’re not going to be reducing your stress and increasing your income level, then it’s time to re-evaluate your commitments. Let’s briefly discuss the reasons why: 1. Define a short “To Do” list everyday (remember, a “Master List” is a long list of “to do’s” or “want to dos”, and 2. Define a short “Not to Do” list Here’s why. If you make a “Not to Do” list, it will get all the mental/emotional clutter out of your head so you can focus on the task and/or project at hand with a clear head equals more clarity + more productivity = making more money in less time with less stress. Now isn’t that what you want?

Sometimes we take on things thinking we have enough time to do in a day, but we don’t always take into account interruptions. What are interruptions? Unexpected events that can change our day sometimes into chaos and confusion. So what do we do? In order to catch up from our interruptions and perhaps extra things we took on that day because we couldn’t say “no,” we try multitasking things we normally don’t multitask–like trying to write a note about a project you’re working on while you’re talking on the phone with someone on a completely different subject. Does this sound familiar? And when we finish the day, sometimes we remembered we forgot to do something, didn’t write something down so you could remember it later because you “thought” you’d remember it later. That has happened to me a couple of times, and has caused me a lot more work to try to correct the situation. So now I handle things one at a time. It takes too much time to rethink everything to see if I left anything out when completing a task and/or project.

If you’re multitasking all the time, you get all this mental/emotional clutter in your head and is “distracting” to the task in front of you. Therefore, you up your stress level, you lose your clarity and your productivity level, and the bottom line is, you put in longer hours and make less money. Not only that, sometimes your stacks and “to do” lists get longer and longer because you have to redo something because you made a mistake.

So think of simple things like putting in a load of laundry, closing a file drawer, or putting a book on a shelf requires very little “thinking power.”

“If you can’t find it in 30 seconds, it’s in the wrong place”