Thanks for visiting my blog. Hope you find some helpful hints for organizing your time and space. My passions are to help you make home a refuge instead of a crisis center, and to help you function in peace rather than chaos - at home or at work. I have switched my main blog to 1-2-3 ... Get Organized on WordPress, so please visit me there.

Monday, August 31, 2009

100 Free and Essential Web Tools for the College Bound

Happy Monday! We are down to two girls now from five - it's so quiet! I actually got to go to the gym at my regular time! Now it's time to work. :) But first, an incredible resource for college bound students:

By Hannah Watson

"Heading off to college can be one of the most exciting times of a young person’s life, but it can also be one of the most stressful. Fortunately, there are some tools out there on the web that can help students stay organized, keep in touch with their families, and get on the right track for success in all aspects of this new stage in life. Here are a just a few that we think are worth the time to bookmark before heading off to class this year.


These tools will help you do everything from learning how to finance your education to getting the best deals on the books for your classes.

  1. Book Finder: Use this free tool to search through several online sites to find the best prices on the books you’ll need for classes, saving you money and making sure you’re ready for school when it starts.
  2. Bookmooch: If you really want to go cheap, use this online tool to find students to swap textbooks with.
  3. RateMyProfessors: Find out what you can expect from the professors you’re signed up with using this tool.
  4. AnswerU: Have some questions about your school? Ask them on this site and get answers from students already going there.
  5. FinAid.org: Find funding for your education on this site.
  6. Chegg: If you don’t want to buy your books you may be able to save money by renting them on this site.
  7. BigWords: Use this site to search through the biggest book retailers online for the lowest prices on your texts.
  8. BookBurro: This extension for Firefox will let you easily look up the best price of books by right clicking on any book name on a webpage.
  9. Bartleby.com: You may not even need to pay for your books if you can find them for free in this public domain collection.
  10. TuitionCoach: Get a basic education on how to pay for your college education through this site.

Note Taking

A big part of doing well in your college classes is taking notes. These applications and tools will let you easily take notes and organize, share, and store them.

  1. NoteMesh: This site allows students who are in the same classes to share notes and collaborate easily with one another.
  2. Notely: Notely can help you get all your school stuff together, with schedules, calendars, note-taking tools and even a homework planner.
  3. Notesake: Organize all of your notes with this online application.
  4. Evernote: With this app you can take your notes with you anywhere, even sync them up with your cell phone for notes on the go.
  5. MyStickies: If you’re browsing the web you can leave little notes for yourself with this helpful sticky app.
  6. NoteCentric: This social networking site lets users put up and share their notes from classes at school.
  7. University Notes: Check out this social site to share and read notes from courses at your school and those around the nation.
  8. UberNote: Not only can you take notes with this tool but add tasks into them as well.
  9. Webnote: This online tool is a pretty basic way to take notes online.
  10. ShareNotes: Use this site to find notes and share your own for study purposes.

Studying and Homework

These tools can help you study more effectively and get better grades on your homework.

  1. Cramster: This site is a great place to seek out answers to homework questions you need help with, find practice exams and a whole lot more.
  2. CollegeRuled: Here you can keep up with your courses, create class schedules and maintain to-do lists so you can remember your important assignments.
  3. Quizlet: Use this tool to make your own quizzes to study or find those that others have made.
  4. Mathway: Want to check your math skills to make sure you’re on the right track? This tool can help.
  5. CollegeCram: This site is all about social learning and is a great place to find other students to study with.
  6. Graphing Calculator: You don’t need to invest in an expensive graphing calculator– just use this free online version instead.

Writing and Research

If you want to make writing papers easier and get a leg up on researching, try out these tools.

  1. EasyBib: Make creating a bibliography much easier with this free online tool.
  2. Ottobib: Ensure that your bibliography or works cited pages are done correctly with this tool. Enter in the information about the text and the type of format you want it in and the program does the rest.
  3. GoogleDocs: Want to be able to work on your paper or project no matter where you are? Even if you don’t have a laptop, GoogleDocs gives you access to all your files right from a Gmail account, making it easy to keep homework mobile.
  4. Wikipedia: While you should never use Wikipedia as a source on your paper, it can often be a great starting point for research on a project and can point you in the direction of the books and resources you should be looking for.
  5. Google Scholar: Ensure that the sources you’re searching for on the web are reliable by using this helpful academic-only search engine from Google.
  6. BibMe: Whether you need ALA, MLA, or Chicago Manual of Style, this free bibliography tool can help you out.
  7. SparkNotes: If you’re having a tough time understanding the classic lit you’re reading, give these free study questions and notes.
  8. CiteULike: Use this tool to search for, sort and cite scholarly research sources.
  9. Footnote: Go to the source and get access to original historical documents on this site that you can use in your research.
  10. Dictionary.com: Chances are pretty good that when you’re doing your reading you’ll come across words you don’t know. Look them up on this site, find synonyms, get translations and play educational games as well.
  11. YourDraft: Here you can type and store your paper so that you can access it from anywhere with an internet connection.

Presentations and Collaboration

Inevitably, you’ll have to give a presentation and work with others on a project. These tools will make it a little easier and help you get the grade you want.

  1. Zoho Show: If you need to give a presentation and don’t have Microsoft PowerPoint you can easily create one using this fully-featured and free alternative.
  2. bubbl.us: Check out this tool to make working in groups a little easier. You can map out your ideas and thoughts for the project and easily email it to anyone you choose.
  3. Thinkature: Here you’ll be able to engage in real-time collaboration, with voice, text and visual elements.
  4. MeetWithApproval: This site can help you arrange a meeting or event at a time that works for everyone in your group.
  5. ProBoards: Create a board through this site so all members of your group can post and work together easily online.
  6. TimetoMeet: Set up an account with this site to make it a little easier to meet up with those you’re working with, especially if there are several people in your group.
  7. Goplan: This app isn’t totally free, but you can use if for 30 days for free which is more than likely more than enough time for you to work with others collaboratively on a project using it.
  8. Clipmarks: This application will let you store, share and comment on the information you find on the web, making collaborative research easier.
  9. Lazybase: Check out this site to make a database where you and others you’re working with can edit and add-to information.


These helpful online tools can make sure you keep track of your assignments, fun activities, and just about everything else.

  1. MyNoteIT: This application comes with just about everything you’ll need to stay organized at school, from a calendar to a simply way to store and share notes for all your courses.
  2. Delicious: While you can bookmark just about anything you like with this tool, it can be incredibly useful for keeping track of the websites for your courses, syllabi and other important school information. Better yet, you can access it no matter where you are or what computer you’re on.
  3. Zotero: This Firefox tool makes it easy to organize, store, cite and use your research sources right from your browser.
  4. Mindomo: Help yourself get your thoughts in order with this free mind mapping tool.
  5. Diigo: Use this tool to organize your web world, with functions that let you highlight, create sticky notes and email information.
  6. MySchoolog: Get everything in your school life organized through this online tool.
  7. TracksLife: Whether you want to track what you eat, your progress in a project or your budget you can do it with this tool.
  8. Backpack: While designed for business, this tool can help you organize all of your big, semester-long projects.
  9. Presdo: If you have a busy social schedule, this application can help you track all of your outings in one place.
  10. NetVibes: Check out this site to keep all your social networking, chat and frequently visited sites in one place so you won’t have to run all over the place to use them.
  11. Shoshiku: This online tool makes it simple to keep track of all your assignments and projects so you’ll never forget something important.


Whether you need a great calendar or an easy way to keep track of what you need to get done, these tools will help you stay on top of everything when you’re at school.

  1. TaDa List: If you’re the sort of person who can memorize all the capitals of Africa but who can’t remember all the errands you’re supposed to run, this application may come in handy. You’ll be able to keep track of homework, work, projects and more from one easy list.
  2. Remember the Milk: Help yourself remember the milk or just about anything else with this to-do app.
  3. Google Calendar: One of the best free calendars out there, Google Calendar can keep you on track with all your tasks and even makes it simple to send out invites to fun events as well.
  4. 30 Boxes: This simply designed calendar will help you keep all your important events organized.
  5. Jotlet: If you want to be able to share your schedule with family and friends, sign up for this free calendar service.
  6. WhichTime: With loads of widgets available to customize it, this calendar is a totally personal way to keep track of tasks.
  7. My 50: Keep track of the big picture with this tool that lets you track and organize your life goals.
  8. Toodledo: Check out this tool to keep a to-do list that does it all, including analyzing your dates, priorities, and time estimates to create a customized schedule for your needs.
  9. bitBomb: If you want to take your to-dos on the go, try out this application. You’ll get reminders to your cell phone of what you need to get done.
  10. Nozbe: With functions that help you keep to-do lists, manage projects and tasks, get reminders, share with others, and even access from your mobile phone, this app does it all.
  11. HipCal: Created by college students, this application will let you create your own calendar or one that can be shared by a group and create to-do lists as well.
  12. LifeTango: Keep track of all your personal goals whether for the short or long term on this site, a great way to track your progress throughout the year.


Whether you’re homesick or just want to make sure you stay in touch, these tools offer you a lot of options for communicating with everyone important to you.

  1. Meebo: No matter what IM service your friends and family use you can chat with them using Meebo. With a Meebo account you’ll be able to access your accounts on everything from Gtalk to AOL at once.
  2. Gmail: This free webmail application is generally considered among the best, partly because of what a great job it does of filtering out junk mail. It is full of other features as well, and can make it easy to keep in touch with friends and relatives.
  3. Facebook: There aren’t too many college students out there today without a Facebook account, so sign up to keep in touch and share what you’re doing.
  4. Skype: While not all services from Skype are free, calls from computer to computer generally are, letting you talk with those you love without breaking your budget.
  5. Twitter: Let your friends and family read short messages about what you’re up to on this site you can update from anywhere– even your phone.
  6. ooVoo: Similar to Skype, this site offers free video conferencing and chat.
  7. WordPress: What better way to let others know what you’re up to than with a blog? With WordPress you can set up a free site and post updates and pictures to your account.
  8. CampusBug: Meet other students going to your school and find out about groups you might be interested in with this social networking site.
  9. Campfire: This site may have been created for business use, but it can also be a great way to work with others can keep in touch and share files with family members.
  10. GroupLoop: If you’re heading up a group you can keep all members in the group on the same page with this free, web-based software.


For many students, college will be the first time to manage a large part of their own finances. Since most students are on a tight budget, these tools can help make it a little easier to have fun, but live within their means.

  1. Wesabe: This tool provides a great way to track your finances and get support and help from an online community as well.
  2. Mint: Link up your accounts with this site and you’ll get weekly reports about your standings and a whole lot more.
  3. Buxfer: Get a better picture of your financial standings by using this free tool.
  4. MoneyTrackin’: Make sure you’re staying within your budget with this helpful financial site.
  5. Geezeo: You can track all of your accounts on this site and tag spending with categories so you can see where your money is going.
  6. Student Advantage: Through this site, you can find out what kind of discounts you qualify for as a student at your university.
  7. Coupons.com: Help yourself get discounts on just about everything with the coupons found on this site.
  8. iOWEYOU: Keep track of debts with friends and roommates with this helpful online tool.

Fun Stuff

Don’t be all work and no fun– these sites allow you to listen to music, read blogs, share photos and more.

  1. Google Reader: Whether you read the latest news or keep up with celebrity gossip, this tool will let you do so quickly and efficiently.
  2. FoxyTunes: If you like to listen to music while browsing or studying, this Firefox tool lets you control just about any media player right from your browser.
  3. last.fm: Find new music and share the music you love with this site, popular with college students and adults alike.
  4. College Mailer: This site can help make it easy to send out mail and memos to all the people in your clubs and organizations.
  5. Flickr: Store and share your photos with both family and friends using this site.
  6. MeetUp: If you’re trying to make friends in a new place, this site can help you find organizations, clubs and fun things to do no matter your interests.

Miscellaneous Tools

This assortment of tools offer students a variety of options from free courses to supplement your learning to the ability to store and access files online.

  1. Schoolr: This search engine combines several of the most useful searches, Wikipedia, Google, Dictionary.com, and more, into one page.
  2. Craigslist: Whether you want to sell your books or find cheap furniture for your dorm room, you can find deals on this classifieds site.
  3. DivShare: Through this site you can share your videos, photos and more– up to 5 GB for free.
  4. GPA Calculator: Curious about what your GPA is going to be this semester? This tool can help.
  5. Adrive: This site will let you store up to 50GB of information online for a 14 day free period.
  6. Box: Use Box’s online storage to back up your files or provide access to important information from anywhere.
  7. MIT Open Courseware: You don’t have to be enrolled at MIT to take courses from there. Here you can find information and videos about hundreds of MIT courses, a great way to learn even more about subjects you’re interested in."

Isn't this a fabulous list? I applaud all the work Hannah did to pull this together!

Have you or your children found other helpful sites? Comment on the original blog by clicking here if you're a subscriber.

More help for the college student:

Getting Organized for School/College - Software Tools

More Resources for Present and Future College Students

Three Steps to Time Management for the College Student

Friday, August 28, 2009

Organizing Your To-Do List

Overwhelmed by all you need to do? Write it down! Make a list of everything you need to do.

Next, assign a day to each task. Those things that are most important and urgent should be assigned to an earlier day. Beside those items you will do on Monday, write an M. Put a T beside the things you will do on Tuesday, and so on.

Then, look at the items you have on your list for today. Prioritize them by putting a 1 beside the most important and urgent item on the list, 2 on the next, etc.

By tackling #1 on your list, you know you are doing the most critical task on your list. Even if that’s the only thing you accomplish today, you know you have spent your time on the highest priority item on your list.

Transfer today's prioritized list to today's page on your calendar. Transfer your lists for each day to the corresponding day on your calendar

At the end of today, compare undone tasks on today’s list with those items on tomorrow’s list. If necessary, reprioritize your list for tomorrow. By doing this tonight, this allows you to get started quickly on your day tomorrow with your most critical task.

As a result of creating and prioritizing your to-do list, you may realize that it is humanly impossible to do all the tasks on your to-do list. You will need to delegate, ask for help, or lower your expectations.

As things came to mind, add them to your list so everything is in one place. If you write things down, you won’t have them rambling around in your mind, and you won’t forget them!

By creating and prioritizing your to-do list, you stay focused on what you need to do, you're motivated to use your time well, and you are forced to live in reality as far as what you are humanly able to accomplish.

More on priorities:
Your Priorities, Passions, and Gifts Create Context for Your Clutter
Announcing My New Coaching Package - Rethinking Life
The Effects of Disorganization at the Office
Get Organized Month - Declutter Your Schedule - Take Some Time Off!

Comments? Subscribers, click here to comment at the end of the original blog.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Better Homes and Gardens - Inexpensive Storage and Organizing Solutions

Sergei Fyodorov over at Better Homes and Gardens wanted me to let you know that they've come up with some creative and economical ways to help you live a clutter-free lifestyle.

He said, "We've updated BHG.com to include the latest storage trends that are simple and inexpensive to implement. Because of today's economy, our content emphasizes being creative without breaking the bank."

Take a look at BHG's storage suggestions - I've included pictures of a couple of my favorites:

Bathroom storage ideas: photos presenting low-budget, innovative ideas for storing towels and toiletries to make life more convenient for the family and guests

Bathroom Storage

Closet storage - closet storage ideas for children's rooms, laundry rooms, the mudroom, and the family catch-all closet

Design-a-closet templates - offering the chance to select the type of storage closet you want and try out different variations to see what works best

Garage organization - photos of helpful storage ideas, everything from an old fashioned pegboard with hooks to storing family's sporting goods so they are visible and easy to reach

garage overall

I love that garage! You can also follow BHG on Twitter@bhg.

Which idea or product is your favorite?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

5-Minute Stress Relievers - Taking a Mental Break

Speaking of stress, we have five teenagers starting four schools this week. One started Monday, two started Tuesday and two start Thursday. We don't usually have this many foster daughters in our home at one time ... but the first week of school?!

They've managed to get out the door on time today and yesterday. Monday was a different story, which necessitated a down-to-the minute bathroom schedule. But I digress ... we're talking about taking a mental break to relieve stress. (Maybe I should do a blog about blogging as a stress reliever! I sure feel better now. Thanks for listening. LOL)

When you're working on an intense project, have a packed schedule, or are otherwise stressed, take a mental break. Even if you can't change your physical location, taking a mental break will provide rest and refreshment. The key here is to do a mental activity that is totally different from your current task. Some ideas:
  • Read a magazine article.
  • Close your eyes and picture a calming scene.
  • Examine the meaning and rhythm of a poem, noting the mental pictures you're making as you read it.
  • Watch a short, funny video.
  • Read a chapter in a good book.
  • Tell jokes.
  • Get a book of short stories or Reader’s Digest and read a story.
  • Do a crossword puzzle, sudoku, computer game, etc.
  • Get a book of five-minute mysteries and try to solve it with your family, friends, coworkers.
  • Examine a piece of art.
  • Read or listen to the news.
  • Have a friendly debate.
  • Dream.
By switching to a different mental activity, you're utilizing a different part of your brain, giving the area you've been using a rest. After a short break, you're ready to get back to the task at hand with renewed energy and vigor.

What do you do to take a mental break? Subscribers, click here to comment at the end of the original blog.

More on stress relievers:
5-Minute Stress Relievers - Organizing and Cleaning
5-Minute Stress Relievers - Relaxation
Reduce Your Stress - Say No
Three Steps to Planning Dinner

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cubicle Sanity

Are you a cubicle dweller by day? Here's an
article by Jack Wallen about keeping your sanity while doing so:

"So you work in a cube farm, and every day you spend there sucks more and more of your sanity away. You're pretty sure that any day now you will be taken off in a straightjacket to work in your new padded cell. How can you avoid this? How can you hang on to a semblance of sanity when day in and day out, you spend eight hours sitting in the center of three industrial walls? It's not as hard as you might think. Here are some suggestions to help you preserve your sanity.

1: Change it up

When your surroundings do not change, the best way to keep your cool is to change them yourself. A friend of mine has been in the same cube farm for nearly 10 years. During that time, she has made a point to randomly change the decorations in her cubicle. But she doesn’t just add a photo here and a knick-knack there. My chum is a serious Trekkie and makes a point to focus on one character (or race of characters) at a time. So one month will be Cardassian month and the next will be all about Dr. Bashir or Jean-Luc Picard. Not only has this helped her sanity, it has given her quite the reputation around the company and provided plenty to chat about.

2: Take breaklets

Most people work like this:

  • Work four hours
  • Take a lunch break
  • Work four hours

This works for a while, but eventually it will catch up with you. Instead of sticking only to this schedule, you should mix it up. If your company allows it, split your break up into smaller breaks throughout the day. Or better yet, just randomly get up and take a stroll around the company. If you have to, grab a folder or a handful of papers and make like you’re heading for the printer. Just get up and get out of that cubicle throughout the day. Taking strolls around the company won’t just get you out of your cubicle; it will give you a bit of exercise you desperately need. If you’re feeling really daring, skip the elevator and hit the stairs!

3: Crank up the tunes

Music is the food of life. But you will be best served (as will your fellow employees) if you keep that music to yourself. Back when I had an office at TechRepublic, I was notorious for cranking up techno very loud. It didn’t dawn on me that maybe it would have been better if I’d left the volume at a respectable level. And that was with an office — not a cubicle. When you are working in a cubicle, your best bet is headphones. I also recommend that you don’t just bring in your favorite CDs and listen to them over and over. You might as well stare at the same gray-brown walls and listen to the voices developing in your head. Instead, point your PC to a nice Internet radio station. If you use Linux, you may want to open up Streamtuner, as I do, and take in a whole world of music.

4: Turn to Facebook/Youtube/Twitter

I know, it sounds horrible — but I am advocating the use of social networking sites at work. However, I suggest you use them with moderation. Do not plant yourself on Facebook and stay there at the expense of your work. Instead, give yourself social breaks between tasks. Complete a task, update your status. Reconfigure that router, tweet! Or create a social networking site for your fellow workers. With this in place, your social networking will be work related. If you can’t create the site yourself, propose this to your IT staff.

5: Move your office

I don’t mean literally. But if you use a laptop, take it away from your cubicle and move to the break room or a meeting room. Do this once a week or so, and you’ll find that cubicle not nearly as life-stealing. Just make sure you are not breaking any company policies by doing so. And if the weather is nice enough (and your signal strength will reach) take that laptop outside for an al fresco workday. Just remember to have a full battery or an outlet nearby.

6: Socialize

We’ve all done it before — worked in places where we just… couldn’t… stand… the… people… we… worked… with. You can’t get along with everyone, but there should be someone you can at least form some sort of social bond with. Find someone who shares similar interests (like Star Trek, Linux, or mountain biking) so you will at least have SOMETHING to talk about (other than complaining about how you hate your fellow workers).

7: Do an anonymous act of kindness every day

This is all about karma. Do something good for a coworker every day. It doesn’t have to be big. You could pick up someone’s print job for them and deliver it to their cubicle (see number 2) or clean up an area around the office. Just make sure the act is random and anonymous. The anonymity will give you a certain pleasure as you watch others trying to figure out who did the deed.

8: Play hooky

Remember how good it made you feel back in college to skip a day of class? That feeling can be enough to get you through until the next vacation day. Find a special event or just a perfect day outdoors and call in sick. Yes, it can backfire on you if your boss takes a break and catches you playing Frisbee golf in the park. But then, if your boss catches you in the park, what exactly is he doing there?

9: Employ the Les Nessman cubicle strategy

Who can forget Les Nessman, the award-winning news director from WKRP? One of his many quirks was his belief that a news director should have his own office. Well, he didn’t — so he made do. Les lay down masking tape on the floor to create the outline of the walls of his “office.” He even included a “door” that he mimed opening and closing every time he entered or exited. So what is keeping you from going “Les” on your cubicle? Tape down that fourth wall, include a door, and insist that people “knock” and use the “door” when they need to meet with you.

10: Have a sense of humor

Humor will get you through just about every situation — including cube life. Become a practical jokester, laugh at silly mistakes, let everyone see that you can take just about anything that life throws at you. But as you’re laughing it up and plotting the demise-by-joke of your next victim, always remember your company policies. Make sure your master plan does not go against any company rules, or the HR department will have the last laugh. Above all, have fun, enjoy your workday, and make it more pleasant for everyone around you."

Several of these ideas can be used regardless of where you work. What do you do to maintain your sanity at work? Subscribers, click here to comment at the end of this original 1-2-3...Get Organized blog post.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Getting Organized for School - Start the Night Before

Wouldn’t you love to have a peaceful, stress-free morning tomorrow? Starting the night before can help eliminate the rush and push, getting your day off to a pleasant and calm start.

Getting Your Child Organized

Knowing how much sleep your child needs is essential to his/her well-being and success at school. Trying to function well in a sleep-deprived stupor is impossible.

I feel strongly that a huge role of mine as a mom and foster mom is to create an atmosphere where my child can succeed. In order to insure that my children get enough sleep, I work backwards:

- I figure out when my child needs to be in bed with the lights out in order to get the sleep she requires. We have five foster daughters in our house this week. One starts school today, two tomorrow and two on Thursday. We are reining in bedtime so everyone can get enough sleep.

- We determine how much time is needed for nightly routines – shower/bath, brushing teeth, room decluttering, prayers, reading, etc. – and start the routine that much earlier than bedtime. With five girls and one bathroom between them, we are starting at 7 to get them all in their rooms by 9!

- Next, we figure out how much time is needed for morning routines - shower/bath, brushing teeth, breakfast, etc. Each child sets the alarm to allow enough time for her morning routine to be accomplished without rush. We have one child who is younger than the rest, and has trouble judging time. When she first came, we wrote out a timed schedule of what she needs to do in the morning and how much time it should take.

- We encourage each child to choose her clothes for tomorrow and lay them out.

- Before choosing her clothes, she should have packed her backpack – homework assignments, permission slips, gym clothes, etc., checking her backpack checklist (see post on July 30, 2008).

- Before packing her backpack, she can pack her lunch and put it in the fridge. If she doesn't want to make a sandwich the night before because it will get soggy, at least she can pack everything else and know which kind of sandwich she will make in the morning. (I must confess, I made my girls’ lunches throughout high school. For some reason it stressed them out, and I didn't mind doing it.)

Getting Yourself Organized

If I am running behind in the morning, it makes life stressful for everyone! So I try to create the same type of routine for myself. If I am sleep deprived, I get crabby and little things that shouldn't bother me trigger inappropriate responses.

- I need to know how much sleep I need and determine when I need to be in bed with the lights out in order to get it.

- Working backwards again, I calculate how much time I need for my nightly routine and start the routine that much earlier than bedtime.

- During my routine, I think through what my morning routine will be and how much time it will take, including fixing breakfast and making sure everyone else gets out the door on time. I set my alarm to allow for that to happen without panic. Ten minutes can change panic to calm, so I try not to cut my morning routine too short.

- Before I start my evening routine or during my routine, I think through what I'm going to wear tomorrow and make sure it's clean, ironed, etc.

- Before that, I think through my schedule for tomorrow and pack my briefcase and/or purse and/or gym bag (backpack or diaper bag for some of you) with what I need for the day tomorrow. I'm much less likely to forget something if I can think it through calmly.

- If I'm going to need a lunch, I'll prepare it before I pack my bag and stick it in the fridge. If I take leftovers from dinner, I try to package them while putting the food away after dinner.

- While I'm packing my lunch or while preparing dinner, I look to see what I have planned for breakfast. When I plan my meals for the week, I also plan breakfasts so I can get what I need when I do my weekly grocery shopping.

- After dinner is a good time to set the table for breakfast. If you have two tables - one in the kitchen and one in the dining room, you can set both whenever you empty the dishwasher - one for breakfast and one for dinner.

It’s a lot to think about, isn’t it? It’s easy to see why time slips away without even realizing it. But by being intentional about your evening schedule, you’re creating an atmosphere of success for both your child and yourself which will hopefully result in a peaceful and productive day tomorrow!

What do you do to get your day off to a good start? Subscribers click here to comment on the original blog.

More on Organizing for School:
Getting Organized for School - Family Calendar
Getting Organized for School (and life!) - Getting Enough Sleep
Getting Organized for School - Creating a Hub

Three Steps to Time Management for the Working Mom

Friday, August 21, 2009

Six Ways to Maintain Peak Energy at Work

There are a number of ways to maintain your peak energy level during your work day. Experiment with the following:

- Get organized the night before. By getting your clothes, lunch, and briefcase ready the night before, you're less likely to be rushed and/or late. A calm and controlled start to your day allows you to focus readily and lucidly when you get to work.

- Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation results in irritability, stress and slow reaction time similar to being drunk, not to mention many other health risks. Your body keeps track of the sleep you've lost. Falling asleep when sitting quietly is an indicator that you may be sleep deprived.

- Take breaks! Take those your employer offers or create your own breaks if you are your own boss. Go for a walk, go outside, climb a few flights of stairs - move! Just a few minutes of change refreshes your mind and your body.

- If you are in a noisy area, close your door or wear headphones to reduce sound, if acceptable at your workplace. Go to a quiet location to work, if possible.

- Eat. If you are running low on fuel, you will not be able to function properly. Have a healthy snack during your breaks.

- Drink. Keep yourself hydrated. Coffee from our well-known coffee cafes is three to four times stronger than regular coffee. And if you get a specialty coffee, it's loaded with sugar. Stop for one on the way to work, and expect your energy to crash in a couple of hours as the caffeine and sugar wear off. Better to have some green tea or water.

Be intentional about maintaining your energy level, and you'll find your productivity will increase. As your productivity increases maybe your paycheck will too!

What do you do to you maintain your energy at work? Subscribers click here to comment on the original blog.

More on effectiveness at work:

A Dozen Tips for Efficient Appointments

Delegation - A Key Ingredient for Efficiency

How Efficient is Multitasking?

Three Steps to Time Management at the Office

Thursday, August 20, 2009

We have a winner!

The winner of my Back-to-School giveaway is Crystal Arcand from


Study Tips

Today's the day when our two houses of foster girls come together at our house for ten days - five girls, three bedrooms, one bathroom, four schools. :)

Speaking of school, let's talk about studying, shall we?

I came upon this article from Disney Family Parenting on studying and thought those of your with kids returning to school might enjoy it.

"Many parents automatically assume that students who are doing poorly in school simply need to study harder or longer when in fact they really need to study smarter. This means being well organized and staying focused, despite temptations like television, the Internet and other distractions of modern life. Many students will also find the following 7 tips useful for retaining more of what they read and study in both homework and class work assignments.

Preview textbook lessons.

Many students find it helpful to preview textbook lessons before reading through them. Introductions will generally outline the scope of the information and give advance notice of some of the most important points. Chapter headings and subheadings will often define key principles or ideas. And summaries will often provide a concise overview of the information students are expected to retain. By reading the introductions, headings and summaries, the student can construct a mental map of the content complete with guideposts to some of the most important points.

Pause to think about the material during the reading and studying process.

As students read through material, it can be helpful to pause on occasion and summarize what they've read. After reading a few paragraphs, for example, restating the main idea and key points in their own words can help students retain and organize the information.

Take notes effectively.

Students can also make more strategic use of their study time by learning how to focus on the most important information in a lecture or textbook lesson. Taking notes on the main points that are outlined in textbook chapter headings and subheadings (which are often in capital letters, bold face type or italic) is an effective strategy for maximizing the value of homework. Listening carefully for distinct or subtle verbal cues from an instructor (i.e. "One of the key points to remember from today's lesson" or "Now I'd like each of you to think about the passage we just read") can help students retain the most important information from classroom lessons.

Pay special attention to textbook graphics.

Students should also remember that diagrams and tables in textbooks are often used to clarify main ideas - and are also good indicators of information that the author (and a teacher) may consider important.

Engage in self-testing.

Many students find tests a nerve-wracking experience. Self-testing, on the other hand, can be a low-stress way for students to ascertain how well they understand the material and pinpoint areas that need additional time and effort. The process is generally simple. By taking a look at the points of a lecture or the headings of a textbook chapter, the student can often determine what types of questions might be asked on a test. Going the the process can therefore help the student define the most important information to remember, and prepare effectively for the real tests to come.

Establish a consistent study schedule.

Physical fitness experts often encourage those embarking on exercise programs to "establish a routine and stick to it." This is equally good advice for the mental exercise of studying. Setting aside a time and place for studying every day of the week is important for "getting into the study habit" and the right frame of mind. And the usual advice about the time and place always bears repeating: Students should avoid the distractions of television, telephones and recreational Web surfing, and they should work in a well-lit, organized environment.

Take on the most difficult assignments first.

Most students have one or more subjects that they find especially difficult. Because homework in these subjects tends to demand sharper concentration skills, students should try and take them on when they're most alert. Getting the harder work out of the way before going on to easier assignments alleviates anxiety and helps students avoid being caught in a late-night trap in which the work becomes more difficult because of fatigue and frustration.

While it's always important to establish good study habits from the earliest grades, it becomes even more important as students reach middle and secondary school, where assignments tend to require more critical thinking and independent work by the students. And while it's only natural to occasionally feel a bit overwhelmed, these strategies can make that work much more manageable and academically rewarding as the year goes on."

We'll talk more about homework next week.

In the meantime, do you have some homework tips that work well with your child? Subscribers, click here to comment on the original blog.

More on studying:
Homework battles
Your Child's School Disorganization May Be Caused by Something Else
Getting Organized for School - Learning Styles

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

FREE Shred Day!

Free Shred Day

Free document shredding every Saturday 8am - 12pm! 131 N. Summit Street (driveway next to The Ice House). Paper recycling, confidential shredding, no limit! Please remove & reuse: Binder clips, rubber bands, binders, paperclips, report covers & hanging files. Staples are OK!

5-Minute Stress Relievers - Spiritual Refocusing

Ok - I'm stressed. As you may know, my husband and I are Shelter Care relief house parents for our two houses of teenage girls. That means each house of girls comes to our house for eight days a month to give their regular house parents a break. And I run my businesses in the spare moments.

One set of house parents quit abruptly yesterday, so we now have their girls permanently until we hire a new set of house parents. And tomorrow the other house is joining this house during their regular time of relief. One girl is going to college, but that still leaves five teenage girls in our home.

I had had some major business goals I wanted to accomplish during our time-off-that-is-no-longer-happening, and we were looking forward to just having time to ourselves.

When I'm stressed, I like to get a spiritual perspective - remind myself that I'm not in control of the universe or even my universe. I believe that God is in control, has a reason for everything, loves me, and will provide all I need. This helps me rely on Him and not feel so overwhelmed. If this is something that resonates with you, here are some other ways to gain a spiritual perspective to combat overwhelm:
  • Meditate on a verse.
  • Pray.
  • Write a thank-you note to God - for who He is, for your blessings, etc.
  • Read a Psalm and pray it back to God.
  • Enjoy nature and the God who made it.
  • Journal to God.
  • Picture putting your concerns in a box and putting it in the lap of God.
  • Say the Serenity Prayer.
  • Picture yourself sitting on God's lap and enjoying His protection and care.
  • Keep a thankful journal.
  • Sing, play, or listen to music that gives you hope and peace.
  • Pray with a friend.
I can't imagine how stressful and hopeless life would be without this spiritual compass!

More on stress relievers:
5-Minute Stress Relievers - Being Generous
5-Minute Stress Relievers - Physical Activity
Five Health Benefits of Laughter

What do you do to relieve stress? Subscribers click here to comment on the original blog.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Effects of Disorganization at the Office

I came across this article by Denise Landers of ProductivityToday.com and thought you might enjoy it. It details the impact of disorganized workers:

"Disorganization is a major cause of job dissatisfaction.

If the disorganization is your own, then you can choose to make changes. However, whether you are the disorganized one or the organized one working with a disorganized colleague, that lack of organization has an impact on you.

Who does the disorganized person interrupt when they need something? Who do they count on to have a copy of the contract or to know what time the meeting begins? For every interruption that the more organized person has to field, it can take 20 minutes or more to get back into the flow of the work again.

Who gets more stressed during the work day? What are the typical characteristics of the stressed person–irritability, anger, negativity? Have you ever had to “tiptoe” around someone, wondering what mood they are in today? It does not lead to a comfortable working environment.

Who would your customers prefer to deal with? Negativity and irritability do not usually equate with great customer service. It either affects the bottom line or piles more work on the organized individual whose help is preferred.

Who misses more days of work? Stress leads to absenteeism and illness. Who gets to cover for the stressed, disorganized person when they do not show up for work? And of course it is also harder to cover for the individual whose work is scattered everywhere and who has not set priorities before leaving the previous night.

When you are organized and in control, your attitude is more likely to be positive. 9 out of 10 people say they are more productive when they are around positive people (Gallup, 2004). Wouldn’t it be a great day if you only had to deal with positive people?

Comments? Subscribers click here to comment on the original blog post.

Similar topics:
10 Ways to Double Your Time
Get Organized Month 2009 - Rethink Your Desk
How Efficient is Multitasking?

If you need help with organization at the office, consider Three Steps to Organizing Your Office or Three Steps to Time Management at the Office.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Getting Organized for School - Learning Styles

I was really looking forward to having this week off to work on some high-priority goals for my business. However, some things came up that changed our time off, and we're having to be flexible. Isn't that so part of parenting - putting the needs of our kids first? I'll work on my goals, but in bits and pieces rather than in a concentrated time.

Speaking of meeting the needs of our children, knowing your child's learning style is so important! As you may know, I'm passionate about being a student of my children so I can create an atmosphere for them to succeed. I posted the following blog last year, but feel it's worth repeating ...

Getting Organized for School - Learning Styles

One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is understanding her learning style. This greatly increased my ability to help my children learn - knowing whether she was an auditory, visual, or kinesthetic learner. I didn't force my learning style on her.

Cynthia Tobias has written several books on learning styles and learning in general. I'll recommend two that I found very enlightening: The Way They Learn and Every Child Can Succeed: Making the Most of Your Child's Learning Style. She gives numerous ideas for implementing each type of learning style.

As you talk these concepts over with your child, knowing his learning style gives your child confidence, the ability to adapt his learning accordingly, and the freedom from comparison. You may find it helpful to discuss this information with your child's teacher, especially if he is a kinesthetic learner and must be moving in order to learn.

What have you done to help your child learn? What books do you recommend? Subscribers click here to comment on the original blog.

Related Posts:

Getting Organized for School - Determining the Legacy You Want to Leave
Getting Organized for School - Family Calendar
Getting Organized for School (and life!) - Getting Enough Sleep

Friday, August 14, 2009

Creating Routines and Systems

Routines and systems promote consistency, efficiency, and focus. For example, if you start each work day with a routine that includes your most important and urgent priorities, you will start the day with clarity and direction. If not, it may take a while to get down to work because you don’t know where to start.

When you document the steps in your routine or system, it allows you to evaluate your efficiency and fine-tune your process. This also allows you to delegate effectively because your system is repeatable and transferrable.

Routines promote peace and security, whether at work or at home. When everyone knows what to expect, it provides a sense of well-being. If activities and schedules are erratic and unpredictable, there is a higher sense of stress because of the unknown.

For example, when a child has a nightly bedtime routine, it becomes familiar and prepares him for bedtime. It is known and expected - he knows that after he takes a bath, brushes his teeth, has a story and cuddle time, it’s time to go to bed. Consistency is comforting.

You may need to create several routines or systems. I have one for those high-priority activities I do at the beginning of each day. I’ve determined which is most important to accomplish and in what order. I also have a routine for the week - certain things I do on Monday, others I do on Tuesday, etc. I transferred this list to my calendar in order to keep them in front of me.

You may have several areas where a routine or system might improve your efficiency.
The following steps can help you create productive systems:

1. List areas in your work life and home life that can be enhanced by creating intentional routines or systems.

2. Write down the steps for each routine.

3. Evaluate each system for efficiency.

4. If appropriate, delegate the system.

By creating systems, your routine becomes habit, resulting in consistency, efficiency and a sense of well-being.

How have systems or routines enhanced your life? Subscribers click here to comment on the original blog.

More on systems and routines:
Getting Organized for School - A Successful Day Starts the Night Before
Why Throw Shallow New Years' Resolutions at Yourself When You Really Need to Rethink Life?
Schedule Daily Clean Up Times

1-2-3...Get Organized series was written to help you determine your priorities and manage your time and space effectively.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Organizing Your Dorm Room

Lately I’ve been hearing about spacious and luxurious dorm rooms - how nice if you're lucky enough to have one! But this is the exception rather than the rule. Dorm rooms are notoriously small and cramped. So it is essential that you use your space extremely well in order to function at your peak in college.

If you have the chance after you have gotten your room assignment, measure your room, noting where built-ins, plugs, sinks, windows, doors (and which way they open) and other non-movable items are located. There's usually not much room for additional items, but your measurements allow you to purchase additional storage, for example, with accuracy.

One of the keys in organizing a dorm room is using the vertical space. Many schools have a loft option for the beds, which allows you to utilize the space below the bed efficiently. Adding additional storage options in this area or purchasing tall storage units will maximize your vertical space. Adhesive hooks also add storage for hats, keys, and other such items without using premium storage real estate.

Utilize hanging storage units in your closet, on the back of the door, etc. Don't forget those spaces at the bottom of your closet and under your bed (if you don't choose the loft option) for extra storage containers, drawers or cubbies. All these cute storage options multiply your storage capacity while using normally non-usable space.

Be realistic about the space you have! Only bring to school that which can fit in your dorm room. A sure-fire way to guarantee a mess is not having a home for everything. If you will be traveling back home before winter sets in, only bring summer and fall clothing with a few transitional items. Swap out seasonal items each time you go home.

There's nothing that gets out of hand quicker than paper! Have a place for files and paperwork, whether it's in a desk file drawer, hanging files in a crate, or a rolling file unit. This eliminates lost papers and wasted time looking for them. Don't forget to use your wall space for bulletin boards and message boards - another great way to coral paper, important messages and reminders.

Make use of small containers with lids for school supplies, food, and toiletries. Crates turned on their sides make great stackable shelves. Rolling drawer units are space-conscious, as well.

Figure out a few minutes each day or each week to declutter, and your room will be a cozy haven! Declutter while you're on the phone, watching a movie, or talking with your roommate, and you'll be doubling your time.

Speaking of doubling your time, to get the most out of college check out Three Steps to Time Management for the College Student.

More on college:
Packing for College, Round 1
Organizing for College - Guest Blogger Sarah Scrafford
Organizing For College - Dorm Room

Comments? Subscribers click here to comment on the original blog.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

5-Minute Stress Relievers - Relaxation

Yesterday we took our foster daughters to a water park. It wasn't your typical water park - it was very family friendly with picnic tables and chairs, lots of grass and trees, and a variety of fun activities included in the ticket price . It was relaxing - beautiful views, pleasant music, very little cement.

As you may know, my skin cancer issues normally keep me out of the sun. So I parked myself under a tree as the "keeper of the stuff." I almost always bring things to do because I start to twitch (not literally!) when I have nothing to do. I made a few phone calls and looked over some stuff, but I deliberately chose to relax, too.

My body was giving me indications that I needed to relax - I didn't really want to be very productive, I was tired, and I didn't mind just sitting and watching people and the scenery. So I listened to my body.

We may not always have the opportunity to get away for a day when we are stressed. But we can take a few moments to be refreshed by intentional relaxing, whether at home or at work. If you are at work, turn off your light and put a sign on your door: "I'll be back in 5 minutes." Then go back inside your office and take five. If you are in a cubicle or open office, you'll have to get a little more creative. :)

Here are a few ideas:
  • Close your eyes and picture your favorite nature scene - mountains, the beach, flowers, a sunset, etc.
  • Sit in a swing or rocking chair and let your mind wander.
  • Close your eyes and listen to a CD of nature sounds.
  • Breathe slowly and deeply.
  • Go outside and enjoy nature.
  • Star-gaze.
  • Go into a dark room, put your feet up, close your eyes and enjoy the quiet.
  • Lie on your back in the grass and watch the clouds.
  • Make yourself a cup of tea or hot chocolate and sip slowly.
  • Remember pleasant times or places in your life.
  • Look at an old photo album.
  • Put cucumber slices on your eyes.
  • Lie on the floor and put your legs up.
  • Listen to, play or sing a favorite song or piece of music.
  • Force yourself to do nothing.
Make it a goal to intentionally relax two or three times a day. Even though it doesn't seem like much, you are relieving stress!

What do you do to relax? Subcribers click here to comment on the original blog.

More Stress Relievers:
5-Minute Stress Relievers - Physical Activity
5-Minute Stress Relievers - Organizing and Cleaning
5-Minute Stress Relievers - Being Generous