Set Yourself Up For Success When Working From Home (Part II)

For those of you who didn’t receive or read last month’s newsletter, this is a continuation, Part II, of my article “Set Yourself Up for Success When Working From Home”.

The following are some great tips to follow to be more productive and efficient when working from home.

1. Work Center: The first thing I would highly recommend is to create a centralized work center:
• This area should contain everything you need 90% of the time.
• These items/supplies/files need to be accessible.
• It would be best if you can set this up so that what you need is within arms’ reach.
o If that’s not possible always make sure to have what you do need before starting your work to avoid unnecessary distractions, interruptions or delays.

2. Connect: While working from home, we don’t have the same opportunities to build and maintain the personal connections that we would normally have when working with the same people in person. Therefore, it is extremely important to be vigilant about staying in touch with clients, colleagues and other associates.
• Do something every day to maintain relationships and form new ones.
o You can call, text, email. Send a note via facebook or Linked-In.
• When it’s appropriate and safe to do so, meet with people face to face.
o In the meantime, use whatever works for you, i.e., zoom, facetime

3. Contact Management System: Having a way to funnel all of your contacts and other pertinent information into one place allows information to be easily tagged and retrieved.
• On-line contact management systems and CRM’s have become increasingly more popular and there’s a good reason. It works! I use a CRM in my business daily and in so many different ways that I can’t imagine running my business without this tool. The possibilities are endless. Some of the ways that it can be utilized:
o Data Bases:
 I have data base lists for: my clients, one for vendors, one for each of my networking groups.
o Reports:
 Ability to run reports for just about anything: income by day, month, year and/or client; who referred business and when.

4. Paper Processing Center: Whether your office is the kitchen table, a converted closet, or a corner suite, you need a quick and easy way to handle paper.
• Until you’re completely paper-less, it’s a good idea to have one place for paperwork, i.e., an inbox. Incoming items like meeting notes, business cards, bills and items to read should be placed in your inbox, rather than dumping them in a pile on your desk.
• It would be great if you had a trash can and shredder located at this designated “place” to avoid the build-up of unwanted paper (flyers, solicitations)
• Create and implement a simple filing system.
o The most important thing to remember is that whatever system you create should be practical to YOU.
o The key to an efficient system is your ability to find and retrieve your files quickly.
 It is imperative that you name/label your files so that you can easily find what you need when you need it.
• Keep your current project(s) and active file(s) in a vertical¬ desktop file holder or file drawer within easy reach.
• Schedule File Time:
o No one likes to file paper but, it is a necessary evil. Set a weekly appointment on your calendar to go through your inbox and process the items inside.
 Keep in mind your inbox is a holding spot that’s meant to be emptied. It’s not a file cabinet!

5. Master Calendar: Too many of us use several calendars, or sticky notes, and invariably lose information, dates, appointments and contacts in the madness.
• Decide on what calendar system best serves you and use it consistently. Remember there is no right or wrong way.
o When you find something that you like, use it for at least three weeks to see if it works for you.
 Whatever you choose, you must be willing to use it consistently.

How To Set Yourself Up For Success When Working From Home (Part I)

Working from home is most definitely not for everyone. But, right now, many of us have no choice. 

As a small business owner, I personally love working from my home office. No commuting, my schedule is more flexible and I can work in my pj’s if I want. For many, the thought of working in pajamas, not spending hours in traffic and scheduling their own time is a dream come true. 

However, when the line between home and work gets blurred, things can get a little complicated. Working from home can be more difficult than it seems and it actually requires a lot of discipline to make sure you’re staying at the top of your game. 

If you want to be successful while working from home, your home office needs to be comfortable as well as functional. You will undoubtedly spend a lot of time in your home office and, therefore, you’ll want to create an environment that you’ll enjoy.  

Here’s a few tips to help you work from home efficiently:

Treat your home office like a “real” office: 

·     One of the best ways to maximize working from home is to act “as if” you’re in a “real” office. 

·     A desk in the family room or at the kitchen table just doesn’t give you the privacy and quiet you need to focus on work. If at all possible, set yourself up in a room where you can shut the door.

 

Have The Right Supplies:

·     Office supplies should be accessible in one centralized and convenient location.

·     A well-supplied office contains: pens, pencils, post-it notes, paper clips, binder clips, a stapler, tape dispenser, file folders, mailing supplies, label maker, rubber bands, etc. 

·     Keep an inventory of supplies so you know what you have and avoid needlessly buying something you already have.

  • ·     You can literally save hundreds of dollars by not having to repurchase already-existing supplies.                                  

 

Set It Up For Success: You’ll need:

Proper Lighting:

  • ·     Take advantage of natural lighting if possible.
  • ·     However, if you’re someone who prefers to work in the evening, you’ll need good lighting.

·     Comfortable Chair: Invest in a comfortable, ergonomic chair. You’ll feel better and your back will thank you.

·     Technology: Ensure you have good working hardware and software and that your internet connection is working properly.

·     A Desk: It is important that you have an efficient work space.

  • ·     If your work is primarily done on a computer and entails very little paper, a small desk will do.
  • ·     If you like to spread out with paper reports and reference material close by, you might need a larger desk.
  • ·     If it’s more comfortable for you to stand and work, consider an adjustable or standing desk.

 

Keep Clutter to a Minimum: Clutter not only slows you down physically, but mentally as well.

·     Declutter your space.

·     The best way to maintain an organized desk is to make cleaning it a habit. 

·     Allocate some time each day to making sure it stays organized.

  • ·     Just like the other important tasks you need to complete each day you’ve got to schedule time to straighten up.

·     Before leaving your office, spend a couple of minutes throwing away obvious trash (coffee cups, food containers, random post-it notes, etc.)

·     Put supplies like pens and paper clips back where they belong.

 

Create Structure: Set-up routines that work for you and your unique situation. It will minimize distraction and force you to work efficiently.

·     Get up at a normal hour, have breakfast, get dressed, make your coffee and go to your home office.

·     Determine your office hours and stick to them.

·     Allow for breaks in your day so you can refresh and recharge.

·     Check and respond to emails at scheduled times.

·     Stay off social media and other personal sites until you have your lunch or “leave” for the day.

·     End the day like you would a normal work day and go do what you normally would have done after work (ie, meet up with a friend, exercise, prepare dinner)

 

Boundaries: Set clear boundaries!

·     Keep your work life separate from your personal life.

  • ·     Whether that requires just closing your office door or more drastic measures, be sure you have some systems in place for barring personal distractions while you are at work.
  • ·     Getting distracted by your personal to-do list can be one of the biggest obstacles to effectively working from home and your productivity will quickly go down the tubes.

·     Likewise, keep your personal life separate from your work life. One of the biggest problems for home-based workers is over-working. It’s easy to go back to the office after hours when the office is in your home. Don’t do it!

·     Boundaries while working from home can be especially difficult for people with children. However, setting boundaries and instilling certain habits will help. The sooner you start and the more consistent you are, the better.

  • ·     Place a sign on your office door that lets them know whether it’s alright for them to come in or if they shouldn’t disturb you.
  • ·     For younger kids, use colors: green for “go” and red for “stop.”

 

If you need help with setting up your home office for success, please give us a call at #310-560-5060. We can help!

Parents: It’s Back to School Time. Make Sure Your Kids Read This!

Back to school is a time for your kids to meet new challenges and take on new responsibilities. Whether they are going to school or home schooling due to the Covid Pandemic, organization is so important.

Organization is a skill that will help them not only in school but at home and in every aspect of their lives. An organized routine will lay the foundation for academic success.

The following information and tips will help them get organized & stay organized throughout the school year and hopefully throughout their lives.

There are many different ways to organize anything:
-Everyone organizes in his or her own way. You have to decide which way of organizing is easiest and best for YOU!
-The goal is be able to find what you need when you need it without spending time looking for it.

ORGANIZING BASICS:
-Always keep things in the same place so you know where to look for them. For example, put your backpack by the door where you will see it on your way out.
-To keep your space clutter free, put away your things when you finish using them.
-Make sure everything has a home that makes sense.
-Don’t rely on your parents or teachers to keep you organized.

ROUTINES:
1. Create a morning schedule:
-Set up a schedule in the morning that will help you stay organized. A sample schedule might be: Wake up at 6:45. Shower and get dressed by 7:15. Eat breakfast by 7:30 and leave at 7:50.
-Make sure you allow extra time in case something goes wrong (ie. you wake up late).
-Follow the same routine every day.

2. Mornings in most households are busy. To leave yourself enough time, make these part of your routine:
-Set out your clothes to save time the night before.
-Also set out any sports equipment for the next day’s extra-curricular activities.
-Pack your backpack the night before.
-Make sure your homework is in your backpack.
-Also make sure you have papers that need to be signed, gym clothes, etc. that you will need the following day.
-Don’t forget to grab your lunch or lunch money before you leave.

HOMEWORK:
1. Always do your homework!
-Keep phone numbers of two people in each class so you can call them to get information about homework assignments if you are absent.
-Visit your teachers’ websites to check homework assignments.

2. Set a designated time to do all of your homework.
-Limit distractions until study time is over
-Close the door, turn off the TV, cell phone, etc. so you can concentrate.
-Prioritize your assignments
-Some assignments are given a day or two before they are due. But, be sure if time allows, that you do everything on the first night assigned. For instance, if on Monday, one assignment is given in math that is due Tuesday and a short composition in English due Wednesday, do both. Because, on Tuesday, you could get several more assignments due Wednesday- Monday was a light day, and there would have been time. If you wait another day, you face the possibility of being inundated with more work.
-If you have sports or other extra-curricular activities that might conflict with your homework schedule, plan accordingly.

3. Do your most difficult homework assignment first so you can get the hard stuff out of the way.

4. Designate a study space, preferably a clean and well lit area.

5. When you’re done with your homework:
-Place it in your backpack in an area by the door.
-Keep completed homework assignments in the inside front pocket of the binder for that subject so you will always know where to find it.
-You don’t want to lose homework and possibly suffer a lower grade because you can’t find the work to submit to your teachers.

The bottom line is, everything will be MUCH EASIER when you are organized.

Top Tips For Preparing Your House For Sale

When preparing your house for sale, your ultimate goal is to have potential buyers fall in love with your house. In order for this to happen, your home needs to be appealing, clean and free of clutter. You’ll want prospective buyers to be able to envision themselves living in your house.

Clutter is distracting. You want potential buyers to admire your home rather than the things in your home. Further, clutter can make your home appear small so make sure you tidy up and make your property, inside and out, appealing.

One of the main things that prospective buyers will be looking out for is square footage and storage. They won’t show up with a tape measure ready to go through each inch of your house, but, they will let their eyes do the calculating. With furniture in the “right” place(s) and appealing decorations, you can help prospective buyers get a sense of what it would be like to live there.

A clean and organized house can show potential buyers the value of your property. There’s nothing that says a property is worth its asking price more than the care that went into the property. Show potential buyers that your property is worth every penny by cleaning thoroughly, organizing efficiently and reducing clutter.

Before you put your house on the market, there are things that you should do before your first open house. Implement these easy, do-it-yourself suggestions to get the most money for your home in the shortest amount of time:
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1. Go through your entire house and reduce the visible clutter in each room.
· Declutter all surfaces
· Remove personal pictures
· Remove excess furnishings and décor
Remember…less is more!

2. Declutter your closets and cabinets: Potential home-buyers will be looking in your closets, kitchen drawers and cabinets to see if there is enough storage for their needs.
· You can showcase what your house has to offer in terms of storage by decluttering your closets, cabinets and drawers to show off the potential those spaces have to offer.

3. Think about the small, but important, details:
· Add some plants or flowers
· Make a room look larger by adding a mirror
· Make sure to have the right lighting
• Remember to turn on all of the lights, open the blinds and shades before your open house

We can facilitate and coordinate your entire move. From downsizing and de-cluttering to packing to unpacking we are a one-stop shop. We will make sure that your move is as stress free as possible.

If you’re in need of assistance with any or all aspects of your relocation, give us call. We’d love to help!

Top Tips For Setting Up A Home Office

Crazy times! Welcome to the new normal, whatever that means. I guess we all have our own definition of what that means. It seems that everyone is doing what feels comfortable to them. There are, however, some things that we will all be seeing and experiencing at least for the near future. We will be all be wearing masks and/or face shields especially while shopping. Things that we never thought about, but did on a daily basis without thinking about, are no longer acceptable, ie. shaking hands. Elbow bumps or some other greeting like the “Vulcan Salute” (See Star Trek) will now be the new normal.

Many people will no longer be returning to an outside office, even if you were lucky enough to keep your job. Or, you may have an office to go to but may not be required to go there as often as you used to. As such, during the pandemic, many of us have had to set up a home office or at least a space in our home to get work done. Many of us will continue working from home permanently and will now have to create a space where we can work.

Wherever you live, no matter the size, I’m thinking it would be a great idea to create a space in your home so that you can get your work done efficiently. That can mean anything from paying your bills to writing a newsletter or working on a client project. Work comes in all shapes and sizes. But, I think we can all agree that a dedicated work space will make all the difference in the world.

Here’s some tips to set up your home office for maximum efficiency, productivity and success:

1. Make sure:
• It’s comfortable
• It’s functional
• Supplies are accessible

2. Use Technology:
• Make sure your computer has a good internet connection
• Set yourself up for virtual meetings
• Make sure your computer has a camera
• Adjust your background
• Use a phone that has good reception

3. Create a Workspace:
• If possible, utilize the door or partition to close yourself off from others in the house
• Set up a desk and filing cabinet
• Use a desktop file organizer so that whatever you’re working on is vertical (instead of in piles)
• Whenever possible, try to keep anything not work/office related out of that space.
• Your kids toys do not need to be in your work space

4. Keep a Schedule:
• Get up in the morning when you normally do (or did)
• Get to your “office” the same time each day
• Get dressed (not just from the waist up)
• When you look good, you feel good and it changes your mindset and confidence
• Take meal breaks
• Get out of your “office” and don’t eat at your desk

5. Set boundaries:
• Let others know that you are working.
• If necessary, put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door
• Start work at a specified time and end work, whenever possible, at a specified time
• Don’t get distracted by social media
• Check social media 3 x per day and set a limit for 5-10 minutes

6. Create systems:
• Filing
• Virtual and physical
• The two should mirror one another
• Follow up
• This is sooo important!
• To Do’s
• To keep yourself accountable

7. Communicate:
• Stay connected with colleagues
• Join or attend virtual networking groups
• Take time for education
• There are so many webinars, seminars and on-line training available

Organizing and COVID-19

I do hope that you and yours are staying safe, healthy and practicing social distancing.

I wanted to write a newsletter about something relevant but didn’t want to send yet another newsletter about “The Virus”.  I guess I just need to address it, like everyone else, so here goes BUT, as it relates to organizing.

I’m sure by now everyone is antsy, stressed out and wondering how and when will we go back to work and back to our normal lives. Will we go back to the way things were? If not, what will the changes look like, feel like, be like? I’m guessing handshaking will be a thing of the past but will we continue to wear masks and gloves? If so, for how long? There’s so many questions and nobody really has the answers yet. Hopefully it won’t be much longer before we all find out.

One thing I do know, is that no matter what happens there will always be things to organize. That will not change. Like Covid-19 (see how I manged to sneak that in?), organizing is something that is universal. Organizing is something that everyone will do at one point or another in their life for some reason or another. Organizing is something we do either because we want to or need to and we do so throughout our lives.

At this point in time, all over the world, people are looking for things to do to keep busy while we’re at home social distancing. A large percentage of articles that I’m reading now suggest some form of organization as part of the recommended “To Do” list both personally and professionally, while we have the time.      

FYI, it’s also time for Spring Cleaning as well so you might as well do something, anything, to get organized or better organized as the case may be. Check that off your list!

So, I hope these basic rules of thumb will help you when you decide to organize whatever it is that you want to or need to get organized:

1.Before you start, make sure to have all of your supplies ready. Make sure to have a trash can nearby and a box for donations. While there are so many great organizing products on the market, I like to at least try to use items that I already have. For example, you can use a lazy-Susan to make it easier to reach items stored under the sink. Use baskets for larger items. Small boxes or tupperware containers are great for containing small things. Of course, bins are always a good option as well but, if you do need to buy them, make sure they’re clear so you can see the contents. 

2.The first step is “always” to empty everything out completely. Yes, completely.  Everything out! This is important as it allows you to see everything. It also provides the opportunity to wipe it down. 

3.Now go through everything and purge! Toss out all true trash: anything that is ripped, soiled stained, expired, missing a piece. Of course, anything that you no longer need or use can be donated if it’s in good enough condition.

4.The next step is to sort everything into categories. Keep like items together. All lotions together, all hair products together, all grooming supplies together, paper clips, post-it notes. You get the idea.

5.Utilize your organizing supplies (bins, small boxes, baskets, etc.) to contain the items that are similar.

6.Let the fun begin: The fun part, at least for me, is putting everything back in an organized way. Make sure the things you use the most are accessible. The other, less used items, can go up higher or perhaps somewhere else. Things should be organized in a way that makes sense to you. Everyone has a different way so do what works for you.

7.Wherever possible, label the bins or other containers so that staying organized is easy for you and anyone else in the house. Most people use labels for words, however, consider using photos for the little ones so they can help maintain the systems you put in place.

For those of you who are do-it-yourselfers, I am offering virtual organizing consultations or sessions, if you are so inclined.