Using Found Time


I am a professional organizer. My weekly schedule is all over the place. Some weeks I work long days with clients and end up way too tired at the end of the week. Some weeks I spend most of my time at my desk and go stir crazy. My ideal week is a nice mix of working with clients and taking care of admin work. I can not really control when I will get new clients or when my existing ones want extra time. I can, of course, always say no to jobs when I am overbooked or exhausted, but find that I rarely do.

On Sundays I set out my intended schedule for the week. I have a plan for every day. It is pretty rare if my schedule ends up the way it was planned. I may have someone new call in for an appointment. More often I have clients who need to reschedule, move the time a bit, or cancel for the week.

So, what to do when I get a cancellation or postponement and now have some found time?

  • It it’s an entire day, like a snow day, the best way to use the time might be just to relax. Read a book. Spend some quality time with my husband.
  • It it’s a half day, I might use part of it on a project that has been on the burner too long and then reward that work with reading or doing something in my home just for family.
  • If it is 15 minutes to 30 minutes then the time is more likely to be frittered away if there is no plan. I have a saying by my desk that says, “Savor or Squander”. So rather than spend that time scrolling through Facebook, I have a list of things I can do without any thought.
    1. Work on clearing out my email inbox
    2. File
    3. Follow up with potential clients via a quick email or call
    4. Clear off my desk and tidy my office
    5. Meditate
    6. Work on an upcoming blog
    7. Work on a presentation
    8. Exercise in the office
    9. Walk around my yard
    10. Update my timeline for a project
The idea is that you stay in control of how your time is used. How you use found time depends on you, your working style, and what is pressing on your to do list. But do make a conscious decision what to do with the gift of found time. Put those chunks of time to their most productive use for you.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Priorities




Your life is very busy. You don’t know how you’ll get it all done. Your calendar is booked months out. And then you get the phone call from a close friend’s daughter. She wants to give a surprise birthday party for her mother – in a few weeks and in a town 5 hours away!

What do you say? You say, “Wonderful! How can I help?”.

Friends are one of the most important resources that we have. I got together with other friends from my area who were invited, and we put together a delightful scheme. I invited myself to my friend’s home for the weekend. She was delighted that I wanted to come for a visit. The daughter reserved a villa for the other out of town guests and a restaurant for Friday night. The gang from my area planned on bringing in food for 2 brunches and a dinner. A cake was ordered and was going to be delivered by another friend who lived near the town of the party. We all pulled it off! It was a delightful surprise and meant a great deal to our friend.

And you know what? I came away from that long weekend happy and relaxed and even more ready to tackle all the tasks and chores that awaited my back home.

It’s important to remember our priorities and friends should always have a top billing.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

To Tree or Not to Tree – That is the Question

Putting up a Christmas tree is a lot of work. Taking it down and carefully putting away all of the ornaments seem like even more work. Is it worth it?

That depends on you and your vision of what this Christmas season looks and feels like. For me, it is totally worth the effort. I love coming out each morning to  my living room, turning on the lights of my tree, and enjoying that first cup of coffee. It centers me and helps me get ready for the day ahead. There was only one Christmas that I was just not going to mess with the tree and that was a year of deep depression. Fortunately others intervened and the tree went up. Almost every ornament on that tree has meaning and memories for me. I know though as I continue to age, it is getting harder. At some point I may need to look at options like hiring someone to help or downsizing the tree.

I have one client who is in the midst of decluttering her home. She has decided that this year she does not want to bring out all her holiday trimmings because she feels it will just set her back on her progress. I have another client who has several artificial trees. She has decided to go with just one of her smaller ones and concentrate on her yard ornaments. Some people are traveling most of the holiday season and plan to put out just a few ornaments around the house and a wreath on the door.

The important thing is to know your vision and your reasons. Don’t do things just because you always have done it or because others think you should. Do what gives you happiness and plan your time accordingly.

Happy Holidays!

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Backward Planning for Stress Free Projects

I frequently use and recommend backward planning as a time management tool when working on any project. Backward planning works equally well on smaller projects like planning a party or preparing a presentation, or on larger projects like moving or house renovation. Once you have developed your plan, you just follow the plan and relax knowing that everything is covered.

It works like this:

  • Start with the end in mind. What does the end product look like and how are you going to feel? Using a party as an example, I would envision that my home is filled with friends, there is an abundance of good food, and that I am enjoying this party as well as my guests.
  • Plan an end date. When does all this have to come together? When is the party? When is the move?
  • Do a brain dump of all the things that must happen in order for your vision of a perfect project to come true. For the party some items on my list are: make up a guest list, decide on a theme, send out save the date emails, choose invitations to mail, plan a menu, schedule extra yard maintenance, schedule extra house cleaning, decide what foods I am going to order and what ones I plan on preparing, make shopping lists, prepare the food, and set up seating areas.
  • Put your “do” list in a sequential order. For the party I started with who I was going to invite and ended with lighting candles and making cozy seating areas.
  • Give each item on the list a “do it” date. Several items can be done on one day but make sure each item has a time attached to it. Allow some wiggle room. Sometimes things happen so you can’t do an item on your intended date so have a fall back time available. Also, start early. For a party I start the process two months out.
  • Now, just follow your plan.
The real advantage of using this system is that you won’t have all these thoughts about the project squirreling around in your head and you won’t worry about how you will get this accomplished. You just make your plan and then work your plan.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Time Management and Health


This morning another client wanted to change his appointment for an organizing session. This happens fairly frequently with clients and often the reason is illness, exhaustion, or overwhelm. I’d like to explore how not just reducing clutter and organizing your space but also developing some good time management techniques could actually improve your health.

Here are some practices that help a person stay healthy.

  •  Healthy eating
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Exercise
  • Keeping mentally active
  • Maintaining strong relationships
  • Taking vacations
All of the above practices take time and at best should become routine. If we push ourselves all day long at work and then squander what free time we have on social media or grabbing a snack, we will deplete ourselves and illness, exhaustion, and overwhelm will become a mainstay in our lives.
To allow time to develop these health practices we need to:
  • Develop schedules that are realistic – block off times for self as well as for work and then honor those times.
  • Prioritize – choose the 3 most important things you want to accomplish in a day and start your day with exercise and a good breakfast. Then end your day in time to get enough sleep.
  • Stop multitasking – do one thing and do it well. Aim to complete a task before moving on to another. When you take breaks from a task, make it a meaningful break not just a scroll through twitter or facebook. Instead, read an article or work on a puzzle or take a walk.
  • Schedule times to do things with friends and family. Schedule lunch dates. Schedule vacations. People who take annual vacations are less likely to die from heart disease. They are also less likely to suffer from stress and depression.
I struggle with some of this misuse of time myself and I know lifestyle shifts are not easy but our future selves will surely thank us if we start working on a couple of these practices.


Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Flexibility and Time Management


Nothing seems to happen exactly as planned. Well, rarely. Life happens.

You just can’t control the universe. Bad weather happens. Overpasses collapse. Illness happens. Other people have changes in their schedules that affect your plans. There seems to be daily obstacles to overcome so remaining flexible is key to survival.

Setting up a daily/weekly schedule certainly helps you manage your time. Routines are great! With daily/weekly routines you don’t have to think about every single task you do.

Each morning, as you start your day, look at the big 3 things you want to accomplish and any other tasks that are floating around. Then prioritize and pin actual times down to these tasks. This helps you focus on the important and high priority tasks first. This sets your intention for the day.

Keeping a balance between work, home, and personal health and well being is vital. Times for all these facets of your life should be scheduled and honored.

But at any given moment something might happen that throws that plan right out the window. Someone cancels an appointment with you or someone badly needs your help right now! The cat gets sick and needs to go to the vet. The computer crashes. You get the idea.

When these life events happen, step back and evaluate what just happened. Take a few moments to just breathe into this new reality. Don’t do an immediate knee jerk reaction. What is your priority now? How can you adjust your schedule? How can you keep a positive attitude? Here is where the ability to be flexible can keep your day or week from crashing down around you.

Take another look at your calendar. What can be dropped or moved to another day? If a cancelled appointment opens up time for you, what upcoming project can you work on now that will save you time and stress down the road? Breathe and move into your new reality for today. It’s all going to be OK and another day and opportunity will come tomorrow.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

February is Time Management Month

Good time management is really good choice management. We can’t save time. We can’t speed up or slow down time. We all have the same 24 hours or 1,440 minutes a day. It’s up to us to spend it wisely.

Easy to say – harder to do.

Below are 9 tips to help you stay in control of your day:

  1. Know how you are using your time now. Track how you are using your time for a couple of weeks. The first week you might track Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The second week you might track Tuesday and Thursday. Add in weekend days if that is also an issue. Use a timer and every 1/2 hour make a quick note of what you are working on. No cheating! (Wow, the timer is about to go off, I’d better log off Facebook and pay some bills!)
  2. Notice what interrupts your time and pulls you off task. Do you answer every phone call? Do you really need to? Do you have an audible alert when emails come in? Do you check them when they come in? Do friends or colleagues feel they can drop in at any time? Anytime you are pulled away from a task, make a written note of what you were doing just before answering the phone or talking to the person in your doorway. That simple task locks in the importance of your task and makes it easier to return to it.
  3. Never multitask. Having said that, you can fold laundry and talk to your husband. You can go for a walk and mentally put together a plan for tomorrow. What you can’t do is write a report and talk on the phone or pay your bills while checking emails. Neither task will get your full attention. It is exhausting for your brain to keep switching back and forth. The adrenaline rush will hurt your concentration. There is no way you can get into the zone where work flows easily. Do one thing and do it well.
  4. Know your priorities. What is important to you today? What 3 big tasks need to be worked on or completed? Are you keeping in mind other priorities besides work? Is exercise and a time to eat a healthy meal a priority? Is family time a priority? Keep in mind that some priorities are not urgent things to do today but tasks that will help you down the road.
  5. Use your calendar. The calendar is your friend. I like calendars where I can see the whole month. Every appointment, every obligation, every birthday/anniversary is seen at a glance. As soon as I have a known date for a commitment I put it into my calendar. Long term projects are put on the notes side of the calendar of the months that I intend to devote the time on.
  6. Use a daily schedule. My calendar holds the big things, but my daily schedule has the details. This is where I not only have down what I plan to do for the day but also when I plan to do it and how long I have allowed for the task. I work in transition times between tasks. When life happens – and it does – and I know I will not get through everything on my schedule, I pause and do triage. I pick out what must get done and move the rest to later in the week.
  7. Know your peak production times. These are the times you schedule the tasks that are more difficult and require concentration. For me, I kick in about 9:00 am and need to stop the morning by about 11:30. In the afternoon I can get into heavy lifting around 1:00 and am getting weary by 5:00. Anything I do after that is mostly automatic non-thinking tasks.
  8. Delegate. Some tasks I know I do not have expertise. Some tasks I can do very well but I choose to use my time on another task. So I pay for others to do these tasks. I also am lucky in that my husband is willing to run errands for me like taking items to Goodwill or going to the post office. I have clients who can delegate some tasks to their children like taking on the shredding. Don’t try to do it all.
  9. Come to each day rested and spend some of the day on you. If you are not rested, well nourished, and centered you will not concentrate on tasks at hand. On your daily schedule allow time for breaks, meals, whatever centering practices that you use, and a decent bed time.

Look over the above list and choose a couple to concentrate on for February. I would love to hear some of your wins.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Plan Your Transition Times


























Managing how we use our time is always a challenge. There is so much to do and we want to do it all. We try to prioritize but we almost always over-schedule. I see this over and over again and struggle with it myself.


One of the big problems is not scheduling transition times.


For example, you have a meeting with a teacher at the school or a networking meeting at a coffee shop. The meeting is scheduled for 3:00 and will last 30 minutes to an hour. Block out the hour. Then realize that you must gather items to take to the meeting and that you must get yourself out the door and into the car (one more trip to the loo and then pouring coffee into your go cup does take time) so add 15 to 30 more minutes. You have to drive to this meeting so add on that time remembering that the meeting is to start at 3:00 so by 3:00 you should be in the meeting place sitting down and saying “hello” – not pulling into the parking lot. You have the meeting. It is now 4:00. You have to drive home – in rush hour traffic. Allow time for that. You arrive home. Now you need to schedule any action that came out of that meeting (set up study times with your child, reread and file away notes from the meeting, write a follow up email, schedule the follow up meeting) and clear your desk of anything you took to or brought back from the meeting. In reality, your one hour meeting needs about a 3 1/2 block of time.


The same can be said for working at home on a project. When you work on a project you usually have to get things out to use. For example, if you are working on your taxes you need to assemble all the required paperwork. If you are working on cleaning out a closet you want to assemble all the cleaning items, donation boxes, trash bags, etc. Then you do the project. Now you have a natural disaster of papers to file away or clothes to return to the closet, trash to take out, and donations to go to a donation site. You must allow time to clean up after any project so that you are ready to work on the next item on your list. We tend to forget how long all of this takes and then get discouraged that we don’t complete all of the items on our “do” list for the day.


My challenge to you is to pull out your daily calendar and look at what is scheduled for the week. Have you allowed enough time for each required item? Make adjustments as needed. Now, breathe. You can do anything just not everything.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Recap of ICD session “Making ADHD Quirks Work!”

At our ICD conference Rick Green of Totally ADD.com was our last speaker. He had so much to share that was great and I would like to post a few of his ideas here.

One of the topics he discussed was adult strengths which when recognized can be a real asset. He listed creative, outside the box thinking, charismatic and funny, intuitive and sensitive, lateral-thinking, talkative, life-long learner, hyper-focus, enthusiastic when interested, sense of humor, loyal and curiosity.

He also shared a ton of tips, tools, strategies, and practices. Since the topic of time management is near and dear to my heart, I’d like to share some of his thoughts on time management.

One thing that really struck me was that adults with ADHD think of time as only “now” and “not now” so long term goals and deadlines don’t work well.

Rick suggested using a paper planner so there would not be distracting apps. Tasks should be under-scheduled but the agenda/planner should be over-used. Use only one calendar.

To track the time working on tasks, use a sweep hand timer (hello, TimeTimer). Know how long you plan to work on the task and what is next.

Finally he suggested we watch the video The Unofficial ADHD test. This video is funny yet right on!
http://totallyadd.com/totallyadd-unofficial-adhd-test/

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Routines – An Often Overlooked Organizational Tool

Almost all of us have certain routines. I would hate to get up every morning and make decisions about should I brush my teeth, take a shower, or make my bed. I have my morning routines and they are certainly on autopilot at least until I have had my first cup of coffee.

Not having to make decisions about when to do necessary chores can really streamline tasks and save time. I know that on certain days I do laundry. I have a set time each week I pay my bills. I know when I am going to plan my menus for the week and make my grocery list. I shop for groceries once a week and that time is scheduled.

The word routine sounds boring and maybe a little rigid but good routines manage your time and energy. By always clearing out your sink and clearing your kitchen counter before you go to bed, you minimize clutter and leave your being rejuvenated. Good routines  give you peace of mind.

Routines ensure that what is really important to us really gets accomplished. Your day has a certain rhythm to it. It feels good to go through your day knowing that you have previously chosen these tasks and that now they are routine.

I challenge you to think of at least one new routine that would make your day less frantic.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer