Ugh! Paperwork

It’s the time of year when we need to start getting our tax documents together.  We’re all, or most of us are, getting ready to either prepare our taxes or meet with a CPA to have them prepare them for us.  Fun times!  

April 15th, the deadline to file taxes, is only two months away.  Even though that sounds like a lot of time, it goes quickly.  Also, remember that if you’re using an accountant, they are probably wanting you to get your appointment on the calendar now as they’re getting booked up.

I know NOBODY looks forward to preparing or paying taxes but, we all have to do it.     Good thing is, tax time does not have to be stressful!  If you have your financial documents together things will be soooo much easier.  So, if you’re not organized this year and you’re stressing over it, why not get your sh*t together now.  This would be the time!

As a quick reminder, paperwork is one of my specialties. Having spent 30 years in the legal industry as a Legal Assistant/Paralegal before starting OCD, I can implement a filing system tailored to your needs.  I can go through your files or piles and make sense of them.  I can gather up the information/documentation needed for your CPA to file your taxes.   I know the IRS retention guidelines and know what to keep, what to shred, what to archive and what to toss.   If you need help, please give me a call.

While you’re dealing with paperwork, this is also a great time to review your important documents to make sure everything is up to date. Think of it as Financial Spring Cleaning. This is the perfect opportunity to make sure that your legal and financial documents are in order.

 

Insurance:

When was the last time you looked at your insurance policies?  Do you understand your coverage?  When was the last time you had your insurance policies reviewed?

It’s a good idea to have all of your insurance policies reviewed annually.  Get quotes to make sure you’re properly covered and that your rates are competitive.

More importantly, if you’ve gotten married, divorced or had children you might want to consider changing/updating your beneficiaries.

 

Estate Plan:

Do you have an Estate Plan?  When was the last time you updated your Trust and/or Will?

If you already have a Trust or Will in place, talk to your attorney every few years to make sure that everything is up to date.  Laws change and your estate needs to be updated accordingly. 

Further, if you’ve married, divorced, had children since you initially had your Estate Plan done, these documents need to be updated.  I’m sure you wouldn’t want your ex to inherit your assets or make important decisions about your healthcare if and when necessary.  These big life events are emotionally charged and making changes can slip through the cracks.  This is a gentle reminder.

If you don’t have an Estate Plan and have property and/or children, you might want to consider meeting with an Estate Planning Attorney.  Otherwise, your heirs will have to go through probate which is both costly and time consuming. 

Further, most people don’t know this BUT, if you have a child that is 18 or over, they SHOULD have a Health Care Directive in place.  Even if your child still lives with you or is in college and you support them, you do NOT have the right to make decisions about their healthcare unless you are the designated person on their Health Care Directive once they attain the age of 18.

 

Retirement Plan:

Do you have a 401K or other Retirement Plan in place?  Perhaps you forgot to roll over your Retirement Plan from a prior employer. 

Do you have any investments? Consider meeting with a financial planner to make sure that your investments are sound.  Again, things change and your portfolio may need to be re-allocated.   

If you’ve gotten married or divorced or had children you might want to consider changing your beneficiaries or the amount allocated to your beneficiaries.

I know paperwork is tedious. I also know that many people avoid it because they don’t really know what to do with it all.   If you need assistance, please give us a call.  We would love to help! 

Finally, if you need a referral to an Insurance Agent, CPA, Estate Planning Attorney or Financial Advisor, we would be happy to refer you to the right professional.

Organizing Is A Necessary Evil

need help get organized San Fernando Valley Los AngelesWhen it comes to organizing, most of us will hit a brick wall at some point with something that needs to be organized.  For whatever reason, that particular organizing chore is just too daunting and, therefore, probably won’t get done.  For some people it’s the paperwork, for others it’s the random files on their desk.  For some it’s the garage and for others it’s the craft room or mudroom. 

Of course, there’s also countless reasons as to why that particular organizing chore isn’t getting done.  Maybe it’s lack of time or maybe it’s lack of skill.  However, when the clutter or disorganization gets out of hand, most people will feel overwhelmed and may be unsure as to how to get it together or, back together as the case may be.

In the world of Professional Organizers, January is “Go” month.  It’s the beginning of a new year and it’s a great time to get organized to start the new year on the right foot.  In fact, it’s one of the top ten New Years’ resolutions year after year after year.  So, obviously, organizing is a constant and very necessary part of our lives.

That said, you can’t just get organized at the beginning of the year and expect things to stay that way. Organizing is something you need to do all year round. Maintenance is sooo important to keep things from spiraling out-of-control.  If it looks good and feels good, you’ll be more inclined to keep it that way.  All it takes is a few minutes a day! 

Why wait for things to spiral out-of-control?  Start organizing an area that’s making you crazy.  Start small!  Tackle one drawer, one closet or one cupboard at a time.  It’s better to organize one small area at a time so you can concentrate and finish the task.    I suggest staying in the same room until you’ve finished all areas in that room.  Then, move on to the next area when you’re ready.

Although there may not be a deadline, it’s easy to get side-tracked so make sure you put time on the calendar each day for a few minutes to organize.  That’s right…make an appointment with yourself to set aside time to get whatever organizing task you want to get done. 

There’s always something to organize.  We organize all the time, every day, without even thinking about it.  Putting the dishes away, filing a document into a folder, folding the clean laundry to put it away.  It’s part of our everyday life or, at least it should be.  

Think about it, people vow to get “better” organized in January to start the new year off on the right foot.   In February we start getting our papers organized to prepare our taxes or get them ready for our accountant.  At the end of March, we begin the Spring-cleaning craze.   Then, April starts moving season, which goes on through to mid-summer.  Those people that are moving will probably want to downsize and get rid of the excess so that they are organized and ready for their upcoming move.  Mid-Summer parents are getting things ready for their children to start school or planning a vacation.  Then Fall starts off the holiday season which has its own organizing challenges, i.e. hosting guests or planning events, purging to make room for all the Christmas décor, gifts and company. 

All of this requires some degree of organizing!

So, what’s it gonna be?   Are you going to start the year off on the right foot?  Will you implement a badly needed filing system?  Purge old papers?  Get the boxes of photos in the garage scanned or made into a beautiful album so that you can get rid of all those boxes from too many generations?  Purge the garage so you can park you car in there? Go thru the bins and bins of your grown children’s memorabilia to determine what they actually want or need? Organize your closet and get rid of the clothes that no longer fit or suit your current lifestyle?

Whatever you decide to do, I can guarantee that if you’re organized or even better organized than you are right now, you’ll be more productive and efficient.  Inevitably you’ll wind up having more time and, you know what “they” say…Time is money! 

GO FORTH AND CONQUER!  If you need help, give us a call.  We’re ready when you are. 

Are You Ready for 2021?

We’re finally at the end of the year.   2020 is almost done.  Yay!   I know we are all hoping for a better 2021.  I mean, it’s gotta be better right?

It’s been a long hard year on so many levels but, there have also been so many silver linings.  I know for me it gave me time to pause and think about what I was doing and why both personally and professionally.  Personally, I realized how much I love and need my friends and family. Even though I wasn’t able to see them in person as much as I’d like, or at all, I made it a point to stay in touch more than before.  Professionally, I stopped working 24/7 and I am getting the same, if not better, results.  I am more efficient, more focused and using my time wisely.  

I hope that you too realize that there was some good that came from this unprecedented year and that you can move into 2021 with a positive outlook.

Different times require different actions.  So, I thought I’d write about something different for this newsletter.  Instead of organizing tips, I want to share some statistics about organizing instead.  You will probably relate to one or more of them.  If you do, perhaps this might be a good time to turn some things around.  

STATISTICS:

-The average office employee spends 1.5 hours a day (6 weeks per year) looking for things (Courtesy of organizedworld.com) 

-A 2008 survey of 400 consumers nationwide showed that 27% said they feel disorganized at work, and of those, 91% said they would be more effective and efficient if their workspace was better organized. (Courtesy of NAPO-National Association of Professional Organizers)

-The typical executive wastes 150 hours a year, almost an entire month, searching for lost information. For someone earning $50,000 a year, this loss is equivalent to $3,842 annually. (Courtesy of Forbes ASAP)

-A startling 25% of people with 2-car garages couldn’t put a car in it because they use it to store other things. (Courtesy of The US Department of Energy)

-80% of the items we keep are never used. (Courtesy of NAPO).

-80% of what we file never gets looked at again. (Courtesy of NAPO)

-Getting rid of clutter eliminates 40% of housework in the average home. It also reduces the stress associated with a disorganized living space. In other words, purging is a passageway for feeling more calm and clear-headed. (The National Soap and Detergent Association)

-On average we spend one year of our lives looking for lost items. (Courtesy of NAPO)

– 23% of adults admit to paying bills late because they lose them. (Courtesy of Consumer Agencies and Harris Interactive)

-We wear 20% of the clothes we own 80% of the time. The rest hangs there, just in case. (Courtesy of NAPO)

 

The New Year is upon us so set your New Years’ resolutions to change those things that aren’t working both personally and professionally. 

Organizing is one of those things that can only help. There is no downside so why not do something to get “better” organized. 

If you need help with organizing, downsizing (or rightsizing as the case may be) or moving, give us a call.  We’ll be working through the holidays!

In closing I’d like to wish you and yours a very Happy Holiday Season and a Happy New Year. 

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.