Monthly Archives: February 2014

Let’s Be More Productive!

As we wrap up February, I thought I’d share a few productivity tips. I don’t know about you, but my to-do list seems to grow longer each month instead of shorter. Somedays it’s downright overwhelming. Maybe it’s being home with a 14 month-old who doesn’t like to nap. Or maybe it’s me. Either way, I could certainly use to follow some of the advice below!

  • Find a calendar you love and commit to it. It may be on your phone, on your iPad, or a paper version. Find one and commit to it. 
  • Create a list of everything you need to do. You can have separate lists for work and home, but don’t keep multiple to-do lists for your personal life.
  • Manage your technology, don’t let it manage you. Check your email at certain times each day and have a specific time to respond to emails. Make sure the blogs and other items you receive are supporting you, not taking away your focus from something important.
  • Schedule some downtime. Otherwise, that elusive spare time will never happen. It’s perfectly fine to schedule it.
  • Break down tasks in to smaller steps. I’ve been wanting to work on my scrapbook for months now. As a whole, it feels very overwhelming. But I sat down a few weeks ago and put everything in my scrapbook box in order. Then I sat down and over a week went through pictures (all on the computer) to see what to print. Then I printed them. Next, I need to take those prints and get them mixed in with everything else. Then I Can sit down and start scrap booking. Tiny steps means I’m on my way to catching up with it.

These are just a few productivity steps to help wrap up February. Start thinking about how you can use them in March. For more tips, check out my Facebook page.

What’s Your Bill Paying Process?

No one likes paying bills. Unfortunately, it’s something we all have to do. The third week of February just happens to be National Pay Your Bills week. So I thought I’d share a few tips on making this process a little bit easier.

  1. Keep all of your incoming bills in one location. This could be a folder or inbox on your desk or a box on your kitchen counter. Where ever it is, all bills that need to be paid should go in it. 
  2. Keep all of your bill paying supplies in one place. Stamps, pens, pencils, your checkbook, envelopes, return labels, etc. should all be kept together. If you like paying your bills while watching TV, keep the supplies in a box that you can take with you to the couch and store out of the way when you don’t need it.
  3. Balance your checkbook before you pay bills. Pull out the receipts from your wallet. (We have one spot in our house where all receipts go so I don’t have to go bothering my husband about receipts when I want to balance our books.) Keep in mind any debits or credits that are going to happen in the next few weeks (such as incoming salary or automated bills being paid). This way you won’t overdraw your accounts.
  4. Sit down 1-2 times a month and pay all your bills at one time. Make these regular times, say the 3rd and 24th of each month.
  5. Immediately record all the paid bills either in your checkbook or your computer software register and (if necessary) file them.
  6. Automate payments where possible. Maybe you can have your cable bill and phone bill automatically put on your credit card. Just ensure you review those bills regularly to ensure you’re not overpaying.
  7. Pay your bills online. I log on to my checking account and pay all of our utility bills at the same time. You can even post date when necessary. Maybe you’re headed out of town and need some bills paid while you’re gone. You can do this with online bill payments.
  8. Consolidate your money as much as possible. Have only 1-2 debit and credit cards to use for everything. You don’t need all those department store cards or gas cards. Fewer bills coming in means it’s easier to keep track of where your money is going.

I hope these tips help you create an easier bill paying process!

Cleaning off your computer

The 2nd Monday in February is Clean Out Your Computer Day. Maybe instead of a day, you need a week or a month. How about spending just a few minutes at the end of each day cleaning off some files. Get in the habit of doing this regularly and you can keep your computer clutter free.

Here are a few tips to get you started. (Some of these can apply to your smartphone as well).

  • Delete any software or apps that you no longer use.
  • Take a look at your computer’s desktop and delete any files you know you no longer need. Last week’s list of errands is probably no longer relevant.
  • Go through any folders you’ve created and delete files you no longer need.
  • Delete duplicates of any files. Do you really need 4 versions of something? Keep only the most recent.
  • Create folders for each person in the house and start putting relevant files into each person’s subsequent folder (if it’s necessary to keep).
  • Go through iTunes and delete any music you no longer listen to or want to keep.
  • Go through your photos and delete any duplicates, blurry photos, etc.
  • Create files for your photos to keep them organized. For example, mine are labeled by year-month-topic (2013-3-Trip to Santa Fe). Use a naming system that makes sense to you.
  • Clear out old emails in Outlook or Mail. Archive old emails if you have many you want to keep.
  • Go through your contact list and delete duplicates or remove any contact that is no longer useful.

Ok. This list should get you started. Schedule some time to back up your computer and try to get in the habit of cleaning up your computer’s desktop and files on a regular basis. A clutter free computer is a happy computer!

You Do Have More Time Than You Think!

You have 168 hours every week. You’re in charge of how you spend those hours. Are you using your time as best as you can? According to Laura Vanderkam, you have more time than you think. And I agree with her!

We have dishwashers, washing machines, dryers, microwave ovens, cell phones, DVRs, and numerous other devices to help us get more done quicker. So why does it feel like you still have more to do than you have time?

Maybe it’s how you’re using that time. If you’re watching 23-30 hours of TV a week, like the average American, that’s a lot of time you could be doing something else. Or maybe you’ve signed your kids up for every activity imaginable and you’re rushing around to 1-2 activities every night, trying to figure out how to get your older child to swim practice at 4:00 and pick up your youngest from karate across town at 4:30, all so you can get home, figure out what to make for dinner and head out to choir practice at 6:30.

Maybe you struggle getting everyone out the door in the morning because lunches need to be made, you need to sign a permission slip for your son, your daughter needs help finding her soccer cleats for practice tonight, and you need to  gather paperwork for an important meeting.

Or maybe you feel exhausted come Sunday night because you had 3 birthday parties, grocery shopping, errands to run, a house to clean and a family dinner to attend. You’re left wondering where your weekend went and still feel like you have a million things to do, let alone spending any time relaxing with your spouse.

So how do you fix it? Can you? I’ll give you a few ideas to get started. Then read Laura Vanderkam’s 168 hours: You Have More Time Than You Think for even more.

Start by keeping a time log. For 1 week, log everything you do and how long it takes you. Once you know how you’re spending your time, you can identify things that you can change or tweak. I’m guessing this task will be eye opening.

Think about your morning and evening routines. What can you do at night to make the morning run smoother? And vice versa. Pack lunches and gather paperwork, sports equipment, etc. at night to save time in the morning. Conduct nightly clean ups, putting all toys, books, and laundry away so items are easier to find and clutter doesn’t pile up. Plan meals out for the week so you’re not scrambling to feed hungry family members at the end of the day.

Don’t pack your schedules so full that there’s no room for emergencies, last minute changes or even spontaneity. Maybe each family member gets 1 activity per semester. Try having 1 day a week where no one is allowed to use technology unless you’re watching a movie together or ordering a pizza. Or if your family enjoys being so busy, see if you can share carpool duties with 1-2 other families so you’re not driving all the time.

Plan your weekends a day or two early if possible. My husband and I will talk about the things we need to get done (errands, groceries, cleaning) and things we’d like to do (go hiking, go out for ice cream) and anything else that might already be planned (birthday parties, family dinners). We’ll identify who’s doing what and when we’re doing it. Then we’ll check in throughout the weekend to see how we’re doing on our tasks and if anything needs to be tweaked. I by no means am saying our weekends are always perfect. I have many Sunday nights where I wonder where the time went and why it feels like I got nothing done. But planning our weekends makes them easier.

See what other tasks can be outsourced. Can you hire a cleaning service? Find a way to have your groceries delivered? Automate your bill payments? Delegate tasks to your kids? Depending on their age, they can empty the dishwasher and help clean up meals or put away their own laundry. Maybe they can even be in charge of their own laundry from start to finish. Maybe they’re old enough to help with dinner or make dinner for the family every now and then. It may feel like a bigger hassle to teach them these things, but in the long run, it will be helpful.

There are numerous other tips I could provide, but these should get you started. Think about how you’re spending your time and what changes can be made so you feel less overwhelmed. Remember, you do have more time than you think!