Unsubscribe For Summer

The weather is getting warmer. I’m not sure about where you are but here we had an especially warm weekend. It almost felt like summer. And what happens in summer is that we migrate outside, away from the computer and toward the pool. So when you do take a few minutes to return to your email wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to go through 30 emails that you are just going to delete?

Take some time this week to unsubscribe from a few of those emails you find yourself deleting without opening.  Maybe it’s a store that used to be your favorite. Or an organization you gave a donation to once, three years ago. Or a newsletter you aren’t sure how you got subscribed on.  Before you hit DELETE next time you open your email, go through those emails and click the unsubscribe link at the bottom.  Clear your inbox just a little bit for summer.

Remember… if an email is from an unknown source (i.e. SPAM) please DO NOT click any links on those. Simply mark as spam and delete. But if you know where it’s from the unsubscribe link should be legitimate.

Now get outside!

Information Clutter

Organizers talk a lot about physical clutter.  The stuff that fills up the space in your home, car, desk, etc.  But there is something else we talk about that doesn’t get as much notice most of the time… information clutter.

One source of information clutter is your email.  Buy something online and the next thing you know you’re on 6 mailing lists for sister sites.  I get “helpful” emails from my bank, retailers, alumni clubs, the church, etc, etc, etc.  It’s a lot.  I try to unsubscribe from those I don’t truly want to read.

In fact, if you are looking to save a little money then removing the temptation of the “HUGE SALE 50% OFF EVERYTHING” email from all your favorite online retailers is a great place to start.

But my current source of information clutter is on my smart phone.

Today I got a Twitter direct message. Here’s a list of all the ways I was notified of the message:
1. a text message from Twitter
2. a text message from Twitter through my “handsent” application
3. an email from Twitter to my gmail app
4. an email from Twitter via my “universal inbox”
5. a notification from my Twitter app
6. a notification from my TweetDeck app
7. a notification from my HootSuite app

Um, yeah… the message was not that important.  One of those would have been sufficient.  Two at most.  

So this afternoon I’ll be updating my twitter settings to remove a few of those. I’ll start with email & text notification since on my phone twitter can notify me directly I don’t need those additional outlets. 

The point is, clearing all those notifications from my phone took me probably 1 minute.  Not much time.  But if I get 10 messages a day, that’s 10 minutes of time just spent clearing something I’ve already read.  What clutter!

Where can you cut information clutter from your life?

Preparing for Someday

Sara over at Saving for Someday had an awesome post today that I just couldn’t resist sharing with you.

So much of our lives are online these days, our bills, our networks, our blogs.  Would your spouse or family know what accounts you have and what action needs to be taken to access, close or otherwise deal with them?  At this point, I’m not sure mine would.  Mr. Brown would know where I keep my information but there’s a lot that he just doesn’t know, not because it’s a secret but because on a daily basis he doesn’t need to.  We have all the legal stuff done – wills, power of attorney, medical power of attorney & living will.  But it’s time for both of us to make sure we have a plan for the rest of it. 

If you have already made some kind of kit to help your family, let us know!  I’d love to learn from all of you.

My Life In One Place

My newest favorite organizational tool is my Spring Pad account.  I’ve been using it for almost 2 months and I can’t get enough of it.  The reason it took me so long to let you all in on it is because I wanted to make sure I really loved it before I raved about it.  But I do.  I really, really love it.

What is Spring Pad, you ask?  Only a totally awesome web tool and mobile app that you can use to track every thing you need for all sorts of different projects.

Here’s a brief description from their company website:

Things I love About Spring Pad:

  • I can add items while at my computer and pull them up later on my phone.  This is amazing for shopping lists (make at home, use at the store).
  • I can add items from my phone and pull them up later at my computer.  This is perfect for when I see inspiration at the store and want to blog about it later.
  • There are only a few background choices – I don’t feel compelled to waste spend hours designing a cool background for something that no one will ever see but me.  The designs they offer are simple, modern and attractive.
  • I can type in the name of a product or book and it will find an exact match for me.
  • It gives me alerts when I have deadlines coming up.
  • I can keep all of the areas of my life in one place – my family, my job, my blog, my other organizations.
  • I don’t make notes in 10 different spots and lose the notes later. 
  • It’s free!

***Note – Suzanne has not been compensated in any way, monitarily or otherwise, for this review.  This is my personal opinion of a product that I personally use. 

Plan to Plan

For some of you, this may be organizing overkill.  And if that’s the case, feel free to skip on down to Friday’s post.  But for the rest of you, this could be a great way to get started thinking about what you want to accomplish for the year.

This may sound crazy but I want you to plan the things you need to plan for the year. 

Wait, plan to plan?  Yep.  That’s what I said!

Hear me out on this.  It shouldn’t take you more than 5-10 minutes.  It’s a really simple exercise but will get your brain moving.  This year you need to accomplish a few things and you want to accomplish a few things.  Well, I want you to accomplish both the needs and the wants.  And I want you to do it without stress.  For me, having a good checklist & plan for the things I am going to accomplish helps alleviate the stress.

So take the next few minutes and jot down a list of everything you need or want to accomplish this year that needs some additional planning.  It doesn’t need to be a fancy list but put it somewhere that you can refer to it easily.  Here’s my list:

  • Daughter’s birthday party
  • Middle son’s birthday party
  • Baby’s 1st birthday party
  • Gifts to buy (& budget!) for babies on the way (several of my friends are expecting this year)
  • Mini-baby shower for friend
  • Trip to niece’s graduation (along with gift)
  • Needed home improvements (items, possible vendors, prices, budgets)
  • Blog plan
  • Christmas gift ideas

That’s it.  Those are the major events I need to have some kind of game plan for in 2011.  To come up with my list I looked at my calendar and noticed which things I had marked down that would require more than just an hour or two in which to prepare.

Now I can take those 9 things and start a notebook for them in Springpad (my current favorite application for organizing my ideas).  Then when I get a brainstorm I have a place to put it so the information is together.  And when I have a chunk of time to sit an plan, the information I’ve already thought of is there waiting for me.

28 Days To Living Organized – Day 15 – Email: Clear The Backlog

28 days to Living Organized

Email: Clear The Backlog

You’ve set out on a good course of tackling new messages as they come in and not letting them sit as a to-do list in your Inbox. 

Now it’s time to deal with those many months (or years) of email you have to catch up on.  There are several ways to do this and anyway that gets your Inbox to Zero is appropriate.

One option (not my favorite) is to move all the old stuff to a “Old Stuff” file that you will defer until you have time to go through it.  This is not my favorite because I know that personally I would just leave that file there forever and never go through it.

A better option (in my opinion) is to simply tackle it with a few easy steps.

1. Sort by the “FROM” column.  This will make it easy to see ones that be quickly deleted.
2. Follow the 6 rules – Delete/Archive, Delegate, Respond, Defer, Do
3. Delete/Archive – this should be the easiest category.  If you’ve had them this long do you really need them anymore?  Probably not.  I expect most things will fall into this category
4. Delegate & Respond – Unless these emails are only a few days or weeks old it is probably well past the time to make any kind of response.  But there may be a few in there that still require you do respond or ask someone else to respond.
5. Defer – Um…. haven’t you already done this long enough?  Forget this category and do one of the others
6. Do – A favorite here, right after Delete

It may take you awhile depending on how much backlog you have.  I suggest setting a timer or putting a few songs on a playlist and challenging yourself to get through as much as possible (all?) in 15-30 minutes.  If you don’t get through all of it you can set aside another time later in the week.

Happy deleting!

28 Days To Living Organized – Day 14 – Email: Do

28 days to Living Organized

Email: Do
“Do” email?  How is that different from Respond?
It’s different in that you get off your rear-end and DO something.  Maybe you walk to a coworker’s desk and have a conversation.  Maybe you fill out some paperwork and file/fax/mail it.  Maybe you make a phone call.
There are times (hard to believe, I know!) that our email requires us to do something other than sit at our computer.  If you receive an email that requires some action on your part and you can do it quickly and easily then simply get it done.
At this point, if you’ve taken one of the 6 actions on each item in your inbox that was newly received your inbox should be EMPTY!  But…. you still have the backlog to deal with.  We’ll get to that tomorrow.

28 Days To Living Organized – Day 13 – Email: Defer

28 Days to Living Organized

Email: Defer
Sometimes you get an email that you just can’t respond to right now.  Maybe you don’t know the answer.  Maybe it requires some kind of research or collaboration with others.  Maybe it’s a non-urgent request that you need to get to sometime in the next 14 days.
It does happen sometimes.  Although it’s usually better to respond right away there are times it’s just not possible.  When that is the case, you can defer things. 
How do you defer?
* Make sure you make a tickler for yourself that you do need to do it!
     – put a task on your to-do list for the follow up steps you need to take or phone calls to make
     – move the email to a “Defer” folder that you check at the end of each day (or each week).  Set aside time each day (or week) to spend an hour working through the things in your “Defer” folder.
I firmly believe that this step is the that makes most of our inboxes so large.  We leave things there that we need to do something about but don’t want to do it right now.
Two simple steps:
1. Defer as little as possible. 
2. What you must defer, set aside time to come back to. This is critical if you don’t want to have a “defer” folder that is just as large as your inbox used to be.  You can’t defer forever.  And if you are going to defer forever then go back up to step one and DELETE!

28 Days To Living Organized – Day 12 – Email: Respond

28 Days to Living Organized

Email: Respond

Scenario: You receive the following email on Sunday night.

To: You@Yourmail.com
From: Friendwithaquestion@theirmail.com
Re: Friday night

Hey You! I hope you are getting over that cold you had last week. How do you feel about getting together this Friday for drinks after work and then a movie?  It’s been too long since we’ve seen each other.

~ Friend.

Multiple choice:
After reading this email you immediately:
a) respond with “Yes, that sounds great.” or “Sorry, I’m busy Friday but can you do Saturday afternoon?”
b) Think “That sounds great but I need to check my calendar” and then proceed to check your calendar and respond on Monday
c) Think “That sounds great but I’m not sure if my spouse wants to go out to dinner on Friday so I need to check with them.” Then ask your spouse, wait for a response until Wednesday and get back to your friend then
d) Think “Sounds good but I need to get to bed.  I’ll respond tomorrow.” and then send a response on Thursday apologizing for your late response and hoping your friend is still free.
e) Go to the next email in your inbox with plans to come back but don’t respond until Saturday with a blushing “Sorry!”

If you do anything but a) or b) you need to rethink your habits.  I’m guilty of it.  Sometimes I “check” my email when I have no intention of actually “working” my email.  I’ll read a note like this, plan to respond tomorrow and then get back to the person too late.  There are a few problems with this.
1. It is rude.  If this person is your friend, and even if they are not, they still deserve a response.
2. You might miss out on some great opportunities by procrastinating.
3. It’s rude.  That was worth saying twice.

Even a quick response of “I need to check my calendar and I’ll get back to you by Tuesday” is a good one.  And then… get back to them by Tuesday!  Wouldn’t you be annoyed if you put a question out there and got no response? 

Emails like this fall into the easy Do It Now category.  Just respond.  Simple as that.  If you have to do more research or fact finding, that’s fine.  But then put it on your to-do list and let the person know you got their message and are not ignoring them.

28 Days To Living Organized – Day 11 – Email: Delegate

28 Days to Living Organized

Email: Delegate

I love the idea of delegating.  Doesn’t everyone?  Giving something to someone else to take care of and taking work off of my own shoulders sounds wonderful.

But how many of us love the reality of it?  How many of us can really let go and entrust this sacred responsibility (or menial task) to another person over whom we have no control.

We worry: will they do it right?  will it get done on time?  maybe I should just walk them through how to do it first?

In some cases these concerns may be reasonable.  And if you really have reason to question if something will be done right or on time by someone else and it’s important it be done right and on time then hesitate to delegate. 

But delegating can be a wonderful tool in the arsenal of all of us – whether in the workplace or at home.  In both situations allowing someone else to help us carry our burden will do two things – 1. it will free up some of our time and energy for things that are a better use of those resources and 2. it will allow the other person some experience in the process.

What should I delegate?
Routine activities that anyone can do.  In the home environment, maybe your children can take over some tasks, like having your teenager research vacation destination options or asking your elementary school aged children to respond to party invitations for themselves by calling their friend.

Anything that someone else is better at.  You love balancing the budget and filling out the tax forms (wierd, yes but some people are good at it).  Then don’t delegate it.  But you are not so good at lawn maintenance.  Ask your spouse to make the follow-up arrangements with the lawn-care service.

Don’t Delegate….
* Anything you can delete.  If something doesn’t need to be done by you, it probably doesn’t need to be done by anyone else.
* Anything for which you are critically invested in the outcome.  You are planning your daughter’s 1st birthday party and want everything “just so.”  This is not a good time to ask your spouse to pick out invitations or party favors.

How do I delegate?
We’re talking about email here so the first and most obvious step is to forward the item to the appropriate person.  But don’t just hit forward and send.  You need to lay the ground work:

* Ask the person to take care of this for you.  It sounds simple, but asking can go at lot farther in getting things done than instructing – unless you are that person’s boss.
* Be very clear what you are asking.  Instead of “Bob, can you take care of this for me” say “Bob, Maryann needs a response on this by Thursday.  Can you review our timeline and get back to her with whether or not we’ll be able to meet her needs?  Please copy me on your response.”
* Delegate the task, not the method.  By giving something away you letting go of the idea that it will be done exactly as you would have done it.  Everyone has their own way.  Let the process go.
* If it’s highly important or time sensitive, make yourself a tickler to follow-up.  This may be as simple as moving the email into a “waiting” folder or putting a reminder on your calendar to follow up with the person you delegated to.
* Delegate necessary decision-making power along with the task.  If you want your husband to be the person to take care of the lawn, let him be the one to decide how often things get done.
* Say Thank You!  Another simple thing that makes all the difference in the world.

Don’t be afraid to delegate.  It can be very freeing.