Many of my clients suffer from what I call “mental clutter.” Mental clutter can be described as all of the thoughts, ideas, tasks, to-do’s, projects, and reminders that are swimming around in your brain taking up precious space (or matter, to be more accurate). This type of mental clutter gets in the way of you being able to be productive, stay focused, and enjoy a sense of peace and relaxation. Mental clutter can seriously affect your sleeping and cause insomnia. Many of my clients lately have shared that they feel so anxious at night when going to bed as they have all of this mental clutter taking up real estate in their brain and they can’t seem to turn it off.

What to do? A Brain Dump!
A Brain Dump is a great way to take all of the mental clutter in your head and get it out. It is the first step in an effective time management and project management action plan. People get caught up in what system should be used to record the Brain Dump. The system you use to do your Brain Dump should be tailored to you. The main difference is whether you want to physically write your Brain Dump (paper) or record it electronically (technology).

Old Fashioned Paper Method

Many people are strong tactile learners and, therefore, still love the feel of pen to paper. It is quick and easy, doesn’t require any fancy gadgets or technology, and can be implemented anywhere. I encourage my clients that are tactile to keep a pad of paper on their nightstand and dump their brain onto it at night before they go to sleep. In the morning, you can tear off the top page (do not use a spiral pad or this gets messy), and incorporate the items into your Master Project List or Daily To-Do List depending on whether they are short term or long terms tasks. The disadvantage to pa per is that it is not easily backed-up, and can be lost.

If you keep a Master Notebook where you track all of your projects and to-do’s, then consider using that for your Brain Dump so that all of your project management is in one convenient location. It’s better than a bunch of post-it notes or scraps of paper!

If you want something to keep by your bed that lights up, but is still tactile with pen and paper, check out the Nite Note Nightime Notepad by Dream Essentials. The pad “lights up” when the pen is removed and “lights off” when the pen is replaced. Nite Note features a pressurized Fisher Space pen used by U.S. astronauts because it writes at any angle, even upside down. Pretty cool, huh?

Harness the Power of Technology

So many people are now using powerful smart phones that come with all of the bells and whistles. If you are using such a device, this can be an ideal place to capture your mental clutter because it is backed-up or synched, can be accessed from almost anywhere, and has an amazing amount of storage space. You can use a task feature, your calendar (make a recurring daily item called Brain Dump and put items in there so that they get carried over everyday), a memo feature, or any other type of feature that makes it easy for you to dump the mental clutter, easily access it again, and keep it organized. If you prefer to use an “app,” then consider applications like Evernote, Toodledo, One Note, Treepad, etc. You can even just open a Word doc on your computer, and dump your brain into that, dating each entry to be able to find them again, or organizing entries by category.

The power of a Brain Dump is to be able to keep track of tasks, ideas, and information that you are afraid you would otherwise forget if you don’t write them down or record them somewhere. There is no right or wrong way to do a Brain Dump. Determine what type of Brain Dump recording system appeals to you, and then try it. I promise you it will help free up some of that precious brain matter so that you can refocus it on implementing the tasks, living your life, or relaxing your overworked brain once in awhile!

Copyright © 2011 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

Want to Use This Article in Your E-zine or Website?

You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2011. Lisa Montanaro, “The Solutions Expert,” is Principal of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC, a professional services firm created in 2002 that offers professional organizing, business and life coaching, and motivational speaking to individuals and organizations. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for the general public, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for professional organizers and entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com.  Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through LMOS, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how LMOS can improve your home or work environment, or help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

What is Clutter?

What is clutter? The answer depends on whom you ask. For many disorganized people, nothing is clutter (a definition that often leads in the extreme to hoarding). For others, clutter is anything that piles up above and beyond their normal possessions. I like to say that clutter is like a weed in a garden. It is something that doesn’t belong. Either you did not plant it, it got carried along to a new location where it shouldn’t be, or it has outgrown its space. It can even be a plant or flower that you planted and loved at one time, but now decide no longer belongs. In other words, clutter is anything that you don’t love, want, need or use.

Regardless of whether the clutter is physical or mental, it is caused by a combination of forces that creates disorganization. Your role is to assess why the clutter is in your home, office and life and then get ready to get rid of it. The best motivation for clearing clutter is not to focus on the time and energy needed to sort out your stuff, but to ask yourself, “What am I creating space for?”

The only way you can effectively declutter is to eliminate the constant chorus of “But I might need that someday.” Ask yourself what’s the worst thing that can happen if you donate, recycle or toss the item. If you can live with the answer, get rid of it!

The key to dealing with clutter is being able to assess your needs and motivation in order to find out why you are keeping your clutter. Once you understand your motivations, you can eliminate clutter for good — and greatly improve your sense of inner well-being.

Copyright © 2011 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.
Want to Use This Article in Your E-zine or Website?

You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2011. Lisa Montanaro, “The Solutions Expert,” is Principal of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC, a professional services firm created in 2002 that offers professional organizing, business and life coaching, and motivational speaking to individuals and organizations. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for the general public, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for professional organizers and entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through LMOS, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how LMOS can improve your home or work environment, or help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LisaMontanaro.com.

Powerful smart phones, computers, tablets, websites, software, blogs and social media. There are so many technology tools and gadgets these days that it is hard to keep up! On the other end of the spectrum are people that are glued to their devices, addicted to their “Crackberry.” Indeed, for many people, technology has become the master. However, true technology was designed to be our servant. The following tools (some are “apps,” which is short for applications for those of you that have are not as familiar with smart phone lingo) will help you harness technology to boost your productivity. You may have heard of some, while others may be new “finds.” All of them are designed to assist you in being smarter, faster, and more productive, which is why technology was created in the first place.

Google Calendar – Need a calendar that can’t be lost, can be accessed from any device, and can be shared with others when you want to? GoogleCalendar to the rescue! Google Calendar is an Internet based calendar system that you can access from your desktop computer, laptop, smart phone or tablet — basically any device with Internet service. You can share events with family members and friends, making it perfect for families to use and even small businesses. And it is absolutely free! Your content is stored “in the cloud,” which means you can never lose it, a real bonus for those of you that sometimes misplace your smart phone or forget to charge it.

Hightail – (formerly YouSendIt) Ever want to send a friend or work colleague a file but it is too large to send via your regular email system? Try Hightail next time. Hightail is secure online sharing software that allows you to easily send large files and email attachments. It is free for the basic level, and if you need to send even larger files, you can upgrade to a paid version. I use Hightail often to email video files, slides shows, and other types of files that are larger than usual. It is quick and easy. All you need is the recipient’s email and, voila, away the file goes.

Dropbox – This tool is my favorite. Dropbox is a free service that let’s you store information from your computer, smart phone or tablet on the Internet, and then access it from anywhere you have service. You can also share it with others. Just upload files, videos or photos into your Dropbox account, and they are stored there until you need them. The basic level gives you 2GB for free. Any more than that, and you must buy a paid version. But 2GB is a lot of free online storage if you are only storing documents. If you need video a nd photo storage, you will be at a higher level. To me, the beauty of Dropbox is it’s portability. It is like having your files with you wherever you go!

Evernote – Need a place to jot down notes, ideas and lists that can be accessed from anywhere, and tagged and archived so that the information is easily retrievable? You will love Evernote. Evernote is a suite of software and services designed for note taking and archiving. It allows you to make notes and lists in a handy location (better than post-it notes scattered everywhere) using your computer, smart phone or tablet, and access them when you need them. Uses are endless — shopping lists, business ideas, snap a photo of something to remember it, clip webpages, class notes, recipes, travel itineraries, images of business cards, etc. Evernote has a bigger learning curve than the other tools list ed, but once mastered, it’s power is amazing.

Toodledo – Need a place to list all of your projects, tasks and to-do’s that is portable and allows you to access it from any device? Chuck the paper and check out Toodledo. It is an Internet based software that is a powerful task manager. You can organize tasks by category, place them into folders, track due dates and access the information from anywhere. If you need a calendar system also, Toodledo does have that option. You can tag tasks to easily search them later, add notes to them, and lots of other bells and whistles. Toodledo, like Evernote, allows you to dump your brain into an electronic format so that you don’t have to remember everything yourself!

Dragon – Dragon i s voice-to-text software that allows you to dictate to your smart phone, tablet or computer, and then converts the voice recording to text. Once in text format, you can email or text it to yourself, or anyone else for that matter. Uses for Dragon are endless — shopping lists, letters, quick emails, etc. It’s not only easy and fun to use, it’s also safer to speak into your phone than type when driving!

Coaching Challenge: Harness the power of technology! Choose at least one of the above tools and try it. Technology works best when you take the time to learn how to effectively use it and integrate it into your life. So be patient, take your time and discover what works best for you.

 

You often hear that money is one of the biggest reasons why people get divorced. Likewise, in business, differences over money cause many partnerships to split up. But money itself it not the problem. The problem is the lack of communication and differences in opinion as to the role that money and finances should play in a marriage, relationship, or partnership.

In my role as a productivity consultant and business coach, I work with people and businesses on a very deep and intimate level. I see the lack of systems, which are often the cause of financial problems. But the biggest issue, by far, that contributes to financial differences is the lack of communication.

For example, in many households, one spouse or significant other is in charge of paying the bills. Seems innocent enough. However, the bill paying system is set up the way th e person that created it thinks, and the other partner/spouse is not even privy to the system. This is unwise in the best of circumstances and downright dangerous in the extreme. If something were to happen to the spouse/partner that created the system, the other person would be at a loss to figure out the system. This could lead to some annoying results, such as late fees, lots of phone calls to track down payments, etc. In the extreme, it can lead to financial set-backs that are more damaging in nature.

So, what to do? In a word, communicate!

Create a System that is User-Friendly: Yes, the system can be mostly designed around the person that will be maintaining it, but make sure it is fairly user-friendly overall. That way, if something happens to the creator of the system, the other party involved can access the system with some ease. Or even a third party outside the relationship can easily access the system if that was determined to be the best course of action.

Share the System: It is vitally important when dealing with matters of finance to share the process or system used. This includes making sure that your spouse/partner knows where the system is located, what form it is in, what passwords are needed, who has access to the system, etc. Be sure to capture the details of the system in a permanent form (written or electronic) so that the non-primary financial spouse/partner knows where and how to access it if necessary. Taking the time to communicate the details of the system will prove to be of the utmost importance if the spouse/partner ever needs to take over the system temporarily or permanently.

Go Electronic: With all of the powerful technology available today, there is no reason to have a system that is in da nger of being lost, deleted or destroyed. You can use software or “the cloud” to maintain your financial systems. There are many options available, some supported by third parties and some available from your own financial institutions. Consider Quick Books, Mint.com, or online bill paying offered by your bank. Research and review all options as a team so that you find the best system for all involved. Again, even if there is a primary financial contact or worker-bee, the other spouse/partner needs to be given access and know about the system “just in case.”

Back-Up the System: Whatever form your financial system is in, back it up! Assume that something will be deleted, lost or ruined at some point down the line, and plan for that event long before it occurs. That way, when and if it does, you are prepared with a back-up. The back-up can be on your computer, server, on a CD-Rom, external hard drive, or “cloud-based.” Make sure to commu nicate to your spouse/partner where the back-up system is maintained and how to retrieve it in the event it is needed. Then, assume that Murphy’s Law will be on your side, and because you took these extra measures, you and your spouse/partner will never need the back up.

Coaching Challenge: Make an appointment with your spouse, significant other, or business partner to discuss the financial system in your lives or business, and take the steps above to create, access, and protect the system. Not only will you be safeguarding your financial wellness, you could also be helping to save your relationship!

Copyright © 2011 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

Want to Use This Article in Your E-zine or Website?

You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2011. Lisa Montanaro, “The Solutions Expert,” is Principal of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC, a professional services firm created in 2002 that offers professional organizing, business and life coaching, and motivational speaking to individuals and organizations. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for the general public, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for professional organizers and entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com.  Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through LMOS, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how LMOS can improve your home or work environment, or help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

Overwhelmed just thinking about the upcoming holiday season? Relax. If you take a little time to plan your holiday season, it will be more enjoyable for you and your family! Focus on practicing good organizational techniques and time management principles.

Here are some tips to make the holidays enjoyable and the New Year start off in a positive manner.

Set Goals

We are pulled in so many different directions during the holidays: travel, family gatherings, parties and social events, shopping, baking, decorating, etc. Ask yourself: What do I want? This question is an invaluable guide for the holiday season. Think about what you want to do, as opposed to what you think others expect of you. Decide on your goals for the holiday season. Do you want to spend quality time with family? Do you want to try your hand at hosting or baking? Or, do you want to relax and enjoy quiet time? Achieving your goals and creating a meaningful holiday season requires that you have smart plans in place, especially if you want to enjoy the season without overindulging or stressing out.

It is difficult to keep all of the mental clutter associated with the holidays in our head! Keep a ‘holiday central’ notebook or create a memo in your handheld device. List items you want to do (notice I didn’t say need to do!), gifts to be purchased, people to send cards to, etc. Create a holiday budget so you know what you want to spend and stick to it.

Dealing with Holiday Schedule Overload

All the things you want to do over the holiday season can bring pressure if you don’t bring your wants and needs into alignment and into a manageable schedule. Holiday joy comes from balance and choosing the activities that are fulfilling for you. Avoid taking on too much at this time of year. If you’re feeling too pressured, look for activities that you can reschedule until after the holidays, delegate, or say no to. Recognize that you can’t do everything, especially if you want to enjoy your holiday season! Ask yourself: What is the worst thing that will happen if I don’t do this?

Identify and avoid triggers. If going to certain events or seeing certain family or friends stresses you out and always ruins your holiday experience, avoid that activity. If you must attend, shorten your visit. If you are watching what you eat, plan ahead by eating a small healthy meal at home, so you won’t be as hungry at the event. Or plan out what yo u will eat at the event, allowing yourself a few treats that you only get to have once per year and stick to your plan.

If you regularly exercise, don’t stop over the holidays! Carve out time for exercise, even if it is not as much time as you usually do. The holidays are stressful enough — don’t miss out on a great form of natural stress relief!

The payoff to all of this planning: You won’t have post-holiday regret syndrome! You’ll be calmer and more available to enjoy the company of your family and friends, and you’ll start the New Year feeling empowered.

Coach’s challenge

Pick one thing you can say “No” to this holiday season and do it. Let me know how it turns out.

 

Copyright © 2011 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

Want to Use This Article in Your E-zine or Website?

You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2011. Lisa Montanaro, “The Solutions Expert,” is Principal of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC, a professional services firm created in 2002 that offers professional organizing, business and life coaching, and motivational speaking to individuals and organizations. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for the general public, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for professional organizers and entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com.  Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through LMOS, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how LMOS can improve your home or work environment, or help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

As a productivity consultant whose business is founded on the idea of making people’s lives easier and more manageable, I spend nearly every day thinking about control in some sense. Control is strange when you stop to really think about it. Is it a concept? An idea? Or a goal? And is it inherently good or bad? My answer is… it depends.

To me, control is a dichotomy. When you think of physical organizing, control translates into having a place for everything and being able to maintain organizing systems. To one person, there is nothing more satisfying than an impeccably organized environment. Yet to others, the phrase “control freak” comes to mind when they see a person maintaining such orderly surroundings. Some people take great pride in practicing successful time or project management. While others view this strict enforcement of time and project management as “controlling”. Therefore, I like to look at control as a coin, with the positive aspects on one side and the negative aspects on the other. This is quite common really. Many things, when flipped on their head, can become negative, even if the initial intention is indeed positive. If we take almost anything to the extreme, it takes on an ugly quality.

You also hear people use the phrases, “out of control” or “losing control”. No doubt many of us feel that way at times: capable individuals who are just having an off day or get behind in our tasks or responsibilities. We all have days like this when it feels like we shouldn’t have gotten out of bed and the world is spiraling out of control. The key is to accept, and sometimes even embrace, this loss of control. This is easier said than done, of course. But it is sometimes when we hold on too tightly that we, in fact, lose control.

You can control some things for sure — the messy desk , the pile of papers, the clothes piling up on the treadmill — and there is great satisfaction in the process and the result. I see it every time I assist a client in getting better organized and becoming more productive. It is gratifying to take control in this manner. But we can’t control everything, and we will make ourselves crazy if we try!

I am not advocating for a complete surrender of control, just a relaxing of it. For example, it is still a worthwhile and reachable goal to get organized and become more productive — to take control of your surroundings and your life in a way that helps you function better within this out-of-control world. But I am recommending that you identify the difference between “good” control and “bad” control, so that you don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself, or worse, go to the extreme in either direction. When it comes to control, somewhere in the middle seems to be the best compromise for living a productive — and healthy and realistic — life.

Copyright © 2011 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

Want to Use This Article in Your E-zine or Website?

You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2011. Lisa Montanaro, “The Solutions Expert,” is Principal of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC, a professional services firm created in 2002 that offers professional organizing, business and life coaching, and motivational speaking to individuals and organizations. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for the general public, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for professional organizers and entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through LMOS, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how LMOS can improve your home or work environment, or help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

Do you have what it takes to be a professional organizer?

Want to add organizing services to your existing service-based business? You can!

Join us for a Half-Day Live Workshop in Denver, Colorado

Professional Organizer Intensive: Become a Professional Organizer or Add Organizing Services to Your Business

Presented by Lisa Montanaro
Certified Professional Organizer®, Business & Life Coach,
Motivational Speaker, Author

Date: Saturday, June 18, 2011
Time: 1:00 – 4:30 pm
Location: Homewood Suites by Hilton, Littleton, Colorado (right outside Denver)
Investment: $159 (0r $299 for full day program, which includes Next Level Business Success: Ready, Set, Go from 8:30 am – 12:00 pm)
Details and Registration

Your investment includes:

  • A half day of education, interaction, and networking
  • Workshop handouts, including a customizable Action Plan that will help you implement what you learn
  • The DECIDE™to be Organized e-book
  • Subscription to the DECIDE®to be Organized and Next Level Business Success ezines
  • A follow-up group coaching call within 60 days of workshop completion
  • 30 minute laser coaching session with Lisa to be used within 6 months of workshop
  • Unlimited email access to Lisa after the workshop ends
  • Certificate of Attendance for continuing education credit

Bonus: Networking lunch served from 12:00-1:00 prior to workshop (exclusively for those that register for full day program, which includes Next Level Business Success from 8:30 am – 12:00 pm)

Topics Covered: This interactive, entertaining, and intensive workshop will cover a wide range of topics, including:

  • Getting started as a professional organizer
  • The professional organizing industry
  • Working with clients
  • Choosing your target market and service offerings
  • Marketing your organizing services
  • Organizing methodology
  • Basic principles of organizing
  • Tried-and-true organizing systems
  • Concrete solutions to room-by-room organizing challenges
  • Tips and tools of the trade
  • Valuable lessons learned based on years of experience in the field

Who Should Attend: Organizing is a growing industry! To combat the recession, many people are becoming self-employed. Come find out if you have what it takes to succeed as a professional organizer.

Whether you’re totally new to the field of professional organizing, are a budding organizer in the beginning stages of your career, or have an existing service-based business and want to add organizing services to the mix, this workshop will equip you with the content and insights you need to succeed.

Some business owners are adding new offerings that are natural extensions of their existing services. Increasing your service offerings is an effective way to add multiple streams of income. For example, organizing is a natural complement to interior design or redesign/staging services. Help clients clear the clutter before you work your magic. Teach clients how to maintain organizing systems so that their homes stay beautiful long after you leave.

You will come away with an action plan for becoming a professional organizer, or adding organizing services to your existing menu of services. You will leave the workshop motivated and prepared to act. If you’ve never seen Lisa in action, come join us for a workshop that promises to deliver great results!

See the details and register.

The DECIDE to be Organized Group Coaching Program starts in 2 days! So, if you are still on the fence, this is your last chance to join us. We begin Tuesday night, Feb. 9th, at 7:30 pm with the first of 6 teleclasses. We have a great group of participants already registered. I am very excited to lead this group through the entire DECIDE process over the next 6 weeks, and watch them make positive changes in their homes, offices, and lives!

There will be 6 (six) 90-minute calls in a row on Tuesday evenings from February 9th to March 16th, each starting at 7:30 pm EST. (If you miss a class, no worries! All classes are recorded for your convenience.)

If you have always wanted to get organized, but could not afford one-on-one professional organizing services, this is your chance to get the help and support you need! There are only a few spots left, so if you know this program is for you, act now. You have nothing to lose – except maybe some clutter, overwhelm, and stress! Click here for details and registration.

Want to learn more about the DECIDE process? Click here to listen to a 10 minute audio interview about it! (Scroll down to play bar towards end of the page.)

So join us for DECIDE. I promise it will be the best decision you’ve made toward your goal of getting organized in 2010!

Getting Organized Has Never Been Easier! I am teaming up with Calahan Solutions, Inc. and other professional organizers and virtual assistants to make the most of National Get Organized Month, which is January 2010. Announcing “Get Organized Month January 2010 – The Great Organizing Giveaway!”

Starting January 25, 2010, seekers of organization and productivity wisdom can go to www.AskTheOrganizingExperts.com and sign up free resources such as ebooks, tip sheets, audio programs and more, as well as enter into drawings for amazing prizes.  Information will be categorized into three main categories: your office, your time, and your home.  Business professionals, parents and students will all find expert material that fits their personal productivity and organization needs.

I decided to participate in the Great Organizing Giveaway by providing an MP3 recording of a teleclass called “Conquering Paper Clutter” to everyone that participates.  “Conquering Paper Clutter” offers tips and advice on how to conquer the paper in your home, office, and life once and for all! It is also entertaining as it is in the style of an interview and features real questions by participants on how to deal with paper clutter, my trademarked approach to organizing, DECIDE, and many other useful tips and advice about how to get and stay organized. 

My fantastic colleagues in the professional organizing and virtual assistant industry have contributed tons of great information and resources, so be sure to check out the page. And get ready to be “wowed” with all of the great content!

To your success – Lisa