Hack Your Workspace – Up Your Game

neat workspaceDoes your workspace help you focus and get things done or does it just add more challenge to your task? Since we can’t add more time to our day, we have to find ways to be more effective and/or productive with the time we do have. Wouldn’t you agree? We can start with making sure our workspace (whether it is a counter, desk or small table) works for us and our needs.

Impact of Clutter

Did you know that clutter on your desk can affect your stress level? If your desk is covered in papers and other clutter, it makes it difficult to stay focused on the task at hand, because your attention will keep shifting to the visual clutter. That shift can then interfere with your working memory – you forget what you were doing or that brilliant idea you had, because you were distracted and your working memory lost its focus. Or worse, that pile of unknowns makes you think you have forgotten something important but you can’t stop and look now because you are already feeling behind. That would definitely increase my stress level.

Hack Your Space

  • Clear the clutter – anything you don’t need to do the job
  • Contain the papers in a basket or bin and move them out of your line of sight (don’t hide them especially if you are a piler)
  • Make sure you have good lighting without casting shadows on your work
  • Does the chair fit you and is it comfortable? (Feet reach the floor?)
  • Is there an analog clock in sight or maybe you prefer a time timer?
  • Add something that makes you smile – a picture, photo, plant or your favorite fidget

Brain Hacks

  • Pick one task – think of it as having a beginning, middle and ending. If you typically stop working before the task is completed or you leave all the supporting documents out after it is completed then you are not working until the end. The end means nothing is left to do or take care of for that task or project.
  • Start a master task list by categories. This is where you keep track of the things you don’t want to forget to do, but it is not your to-do list! (I’ll get to that in a minute) Categories such as work, at home, at computer, away from home, etc.
  • Create a close out the day routine. Each day before you leave your workspace, wrap up what you are doing and if you need to continue it tomorrow, make a note of the next step. Take a look at your master list and decide the top 3 priorities for tomorrow, keeping in mind the beginning, middle and end of each task. Put away what you can and set yourself up for a fast start in the morning.
  • Check your calendar and your master list – your to-do list should have 3-5 tasks that you want to complete for the next day. Sure, you can do more, but only if you get those things you think are important done first. It’s called a REASONABLE LIST.
  • A weekly reset is an opportunity to clear the clutter, file or recycle those papers, sharpen your pencils, put paper in the printer and blow the dust off your keyboard. Maybe even reboot your computer if it has been a while. Whatever it takes to prevent you from taking last week’s problems into next week. You want to start the week off knowing your priorities, your appointments, your kid’s schedules and having your week planned out and your desk cleaned up and ready for action.

These strategies can help your children handle their homework more effectively too. Make sure their study space works for them and is not distracting them. For middle schoolers that are using their computers more, you may want to find a way to add another screen for them to avoid having to switch back and forth – saves on working memory and time. Help them use their agendas to keep their extra-curricular activity schedules, appointments and special events as well as, their homework in there each week. That way they can better plan when to study for those upcoming tests and there will be fewer surprises.

The biggest changes may come from just knowing what to do first when you sit down at your workspace. It doesn’t matter if you are going to work, working from home or just working on home “work”, using your time wisely, reducing distractions and having a plan, will save you time, improve your focus, save working memory space, improve decision making and reduce your stress according to Jim Kwik. Even if you try just one hack, I think you will be surprised at its benefits.

 

Calm or Chaotic…What is Your Choice?

Bedroom calm or chaotic?As soon as you wake up, what do you see? Is your bedroom space a sanctuary from the stress of daily life where you can easily and calmly start your day or is it a cluttered reminder of all you’re not taking care of and making you feel overwhelmed and frustrated each and every morning?

Now, think about how you would like your master bedroom to function. Do you need it to be a “home office” space as well? Is it a TV room where your kids can go or do you pile the clean laundry on the bed with the hopes of folding it and putting it away? Or is it a place to “hold” your clutter so it is not in the rest of the house? What do you want it to be?

Clutter and Disorganization can:

  • Make getting dressed a hassle
  • Impact your sleep
  • Interfere with romance
  • Waste time
  • Increase your stress
  • Make things harder and/or take longer

What is the impact?

The truth is we cannot expand our spaces to fit all of our things so we need to either reduce how much we own or redefine what is really important to us. By removing those things that you no longer want, need or use or that do not belong, you can begin to free up some space. In the master bedroom, both parties need to share their hopes for the space. In a child’s room, they need to have input as well.

Biggest impact in a master bedroom….electronics! The TV, the ipad and even the phones all impact your sleep cycles and serve to distract you from the true priorities of that room. A new study from Brigham Young University examined how technology interferes with relationships. The researchers concluded that “technoference” can be damaging not just to a relationship but to your psychological health as well.

Clutter and disorganization can also interfere with your morning and evening routines. Those routines that are supposed to help you calmly end your day and prepare yourself for sleep can be totally thrown off if you happen to step on a lego. (You know what I mean)

Various studies also mention the effects of clutter on children. Everything from scoring lower on tests of cognitive ability and self-regulation to learned helplessness and withdrawing from academic challenges. Also, being overwhelmed by the number of options can prevent kids from using their time creatively.

Ideas to Help

  • Declutter – seriously….declutter
  • Reduce your clothing so that it fits in your storage spaces when all the laundry is done (dressers and closets)
  • Organize by grouping like things together
  • Hooks for tomorrow’s outfit and things that can be worn again
  • Bins inside drawers to hold things you don’t need to fold (pjs, socks, etc.)
  • Clear off all flat surfaces so only the necessities are there
  • Remove extra pillows and décor
  • Label clear bins in kids’ rooms to help with organization
  • Make the master bedroom inviting (and not kid friendly????)

And lastly, when you get up in the morning, make your bed. It changes the way you think about your room and gives you an automatic win for the day. So, calm or chaotic – the choice is yours.

Photo by Steven Ungermann on Unsplash

Reduce the Stress in Your Home TODAY!

Monthly vlogs and blogs on what to declutter seem to be “trending” these days so let’s talk about what you can do in September. Now that the kids are back in school it is important to put structure and routines in place to reduce the stress of this transition. No matter what your “pandemic” situation has been, this is a chance to get back some normalcy. That often starts with decluttering.

Where did this clutter come from? Was it impulsive buying for that quick shot of dopamine – felt good in the moment and now you trip over it every day? Was that what you wanted? Or was it to quiet the kids you had to take to the grocery store? Look around – what is this costing you? And I don’t mean moneywise, but emotionally, socially, psychologically, physically and in your relationships with your loved ones. Clutter makes you grumpy.

WebMD says, “Researchers have found that being around disorganization makes it harder for your brain to focus. It can be especially tough for people with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).” “Some people who live in cluttered homes have a poorer “working memory,” according to research. Your brain is wired to be able to keep track of only a few details at once for a short period, so it can get overloaded when there’s too much going on.”

Clutter causes stress and conflict and undermines the lessons you want to be teaching your children and worst of all it takes up your time and mental bandwidth even if you do nothing about it. Constant stress reduces your lifespan according to researchers at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare by 2.8 years.

More research: Children who live in homes that are “chaotic,” that are noisy, overcrowded and have a lack of order, have significantly more challenges than kids who don’t.  Research has found that kids who had homes like this, “tend to score lower on tests of cognitive ability and self-regulatory capabilities, have poorer language abilities, and score higher on measures of problem behaviors and learned helplessness than do children raised in less chaotic environments” (Jaffee, S., Hanscombe, K., Haworth, A., Davis, P., and Plomin, R., 2012).  They also have, “lower expectations, a lack of persistence and a tendency to withdraw from academic challenge” (Hanscombe, K., Haworth, C., Davis, O., Jaffee, S., and Plomin, R., 2011).

So, can we agree clutter is bad?

Let’s start by clearing one category of toys – baby toys. By baby toys I mean all those toys, books and games that are no longer age appropriate for your children. Electronic toys that make sounds or have lights but otherwise don’t do much were meant to help stimulate a baby’s brain while it was in its early developmental stage.  It is through play that children learn, explore, use their imagination and problem solve. (If you don’t have kids, then look around at your own “toys” and hobbies – what have you outgrown?)

Start collecting the baby toys and those odd little things that have been randomly picked up while out or only served their purpose for a short time. Anything that your children played with before kindergarten and no longer play with REGULARLY. Things that are not really toys but mementos from events. Really how many foam fingers and blown-up superheroes do you need? Push or beginner ride on toys, chubby crayons, finger paints and stuffed animals are in this category as well. Legos and building blocks are not.

Are all the pieces together? (Puzzles, games, stacking rings, etc.)
Is it in good shape to donate? (Cradles to Crayons, Big Brother Big Sister)
Was it a gift? (No obligation to keep it)
Is it sentimental? (Create a time capsule to save it out of the mainstream)
Is it broken?
Can it be recycled?
Is it really just trash?

Once you have collected all of these and decided what you are going to do with them – get them out of the house. Not in a closet or in your trunk but delivered to their final destination. According to Joshua Becker of becomingminimalist.com, with fewer toys your kids may ” learn to be more creative, develop longer attention spans, establish better social skills, learn to take better care of things, become more resourceful, and less selfish. He also says, “True joy and contentment will never be found in the aisles of a toy store. Kids who have been raised to think the answer to their desires can be bought with money have believed the same lie as their parents.”

Wouldn’t you rather spend time playing a game, then clearing a space to play?

  • Collect and remove all age-inappropriate toys
  • Trash, recycle, repurpose or pass on
  • STOP the inflow of new toys and trinkets
  • Spend more time with your children
  • Help children put toys away before bed
  • Make a space for storing like toys together
  • Contain what you can

 

Pandemic Paper Purge Part 1

Paper file holderLast week we gathered together all the papers needed to fill out the tax organizer we received from our tax accountant for filing our Income taxes. You know the property tax receipts, the charitable giving receipts, the tax documents that come in the mail, etc. All of it pretty well categorized and easily accessible. Then it happened….I needed one receipt from a purchase two years ago that I hoped was in the supporting documents from that year-but it wasn’t.

The Search Begins

Being somewhat organized I first searched Quicken. If it had been charged, it would have shown up there – but it didn’t. Not in the receipt file either and that got me thinking (and fuming) about all the places I tend to keep “important papers.” How about you; do you keep papers “just in case” or “to read later?” Take a look around, how many different places do you have for those papers? Often, we tend to hold onto papers just in case we might need them later. I don’t believe we will ever be totally paperless but I am sure if you took a look at the papers you are saving – you may find some that can go.

What to Look For

Only you know where you have been “storing” paper so look around and check for:

  1. Warranty and Instruction manuals (still own it? Is the manual online?)
  2. Recipes you will never try (If you haven’t made them this year, what are the odds?)
  3. Helpful articles (health, organizational, inspirational, etc.)
  4. Bill receipts (the last year or more is available online – once it’s paid let it go)
  5. Tax records and supporting documentation from 2012 or earlier (CPA told me keep for 7 years)
  6. Kids’ artwork (can’t save it all be selective)
  7. Coupons – be serious will you use them?
  8. Junk Mail and Flyers (immediately into the recycle or shred)

Once you get rid of the backlog of papers you no longer need, you will want to focus on what to do with the important papers. Any system should follow the KISS philosophy of Keep it Super Simple. The first step is to consolidate those papers into categories. Some possible categories might be: taxes, reference, memorabilia, long term storage (birth certs, SS cards, titles, etc.) and of course your “might want this later” pile too. You’ll need to do the same thing with your digital files. Set up folders with specific names so there is no question what belongs in each folder. What can be scanned and kept rather than physically kept?

Look at all the places that you keep paper and try to decide the fewest number of possible places to store them. Just because you have a file cabinet, doesn’t mean it needs to be full. All the important (difficult to replace) papers need to be in one place – just in case you need them in a hurry. So, spend some time purging and grouping and then next month we will discuss how to retrieve this info you are saving.

As for me, I am still searching for that receipt – stay tuned.