Home office

Tips on Minimizing Paper - From a Digital Organizing Guru

Today’s post comes from digital organizing wizard Corey Padnos, founder and CEO of Organizing Division. He helps people transition from paper to digital organizing systems, and manage their tasks along the way. I’m a big fan of Corey and his work, and I know you will be too!

Paper.  

The internet gurus tell us we should have less of it and go digital.

But that's easier said that done.

What about those pesky receipts that are in your cupholder? Or that card that you got from your Aunt that you feel guilty about tossing? Or that business card of that guy who you met at the networking event that you going to call sometime soon when you get a chance but you left the card in your other pocket?O r your kid's artwork?

Let's be honest:  Scanning everything if you don't know what to do takes time.  

download.jpeg

That's why we have this blog post.  My company specializes in digital organization--the art of organizing your digital life--and we have virtual assistants to help keep you and your digital life organized.  Being digitally disorganized is a time consuming and expensive problem.  (Really, on average, the problems I solve are anywhere between $5,000 to $17,000 per month.)   BUT that doesn't mean you have to be disorganized.  
Using these apps are going to get you two things:

  1. You'll decrease your paper by at least 50%.  I promise.  If I'm wrong, email me.

  2. You'll make Lucy's job easier next time she organizes you.  She will love you for it.  

So, here are some apps to make your life easier.

Apps:

Your random papers and receipts...

Scannable (free): A scanner on your phone that can save the images as a PDF or a JPEG.  It also links directly to Evernote (which you can read more about below).  

Where to store your random papers...
Evernote (free): Evernote is a cloud-based note taking app configured like your private notebook.  You don't have to scan your papers into separate files but instead you save them into searchable notes.  This makes it easier to find the papers you've scanned while saving precious hard drive space.(Here's a great course on maximizing your notes.)

Your business cards...

APPBY (free): This app searches for the contact information on the business card and imports it directly to your smartphone's phonebook.  Scan.  Save.  Toss.  Done!

Your kid's artwork...

ArtKive (Free and paid version): ArtKive has the edge for saving your kid's artwork because you can put it into a coverbound album after you've taken pictures of it.  This way, you can safely throw out the artwork and keep it all condensed as memorabilia.

I hope these help.  Please drop me a line if you’re curious about how to use these apps or you're looking for some remote support to offload pesky tasks that hamper your creative energy.  

One Small Taste of Success

My sister and I are close. Not physically - although we live in the same city, we often go days or weeks without seeing each other or talking on the phone. But emotionally, very much so - we’re really open with each other about everything from gossip to family conflict. We HATED each other as children (something something sibling rivalry something), but a switch flipped some time in high school, and I’ve been proud to call her one of my very best friends ever since

All this to say: we were chatting the other day, while my not quite two year old niece tried on all my costume jewelry and harassed the dog, and got to talking about work. She’s a bigwig at a financial services startup, a relatively recent promotion for her, and has been on fire about it since the day she got the gig. She has always been incredibly smart (much more so than I) and the kind of dedicated, hardworking employee anyone would want to have, but this is a whole new level of passion that I’ve never seen before.

Except… I kind of have. In myself.

When I started LMW Edits, I knew that it would be fun and a challenge, but I didn’t know if it would really work as a going concern and I had pretty minimal goals.  I wanted to have a full roster of clients in the San Francisco Bay Area, and serve them well.  That was it!

Where the work gets done.

Where the work gets done.

For the first three years, I worked towards this relatively modest goal. I loved the work and I loved my clients, but I didn’t feel an inner drive to make my business my life. I still treated it as a job, relishing my time off and feeling a little big of a drag on Sunday nights as I faced the work week.

And then, last year, I started to see a shift. It started with the local conference put on by the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) SF Bay Area Chapter, where I saw Debbie Hoffman speak. Debbie is a former Wall Street rock star who shifted her focus to coaching small business owners on the finer points of follow up. I really connected with what she was saying, scheduled a consultation with her the next week, and signed right up for her one on one coaching program.

Getting out there on behalf of my business!

Getting out there on behalf of my business!

As I started to work with Debbie, two things happened. First, I began to see more success: more clients coming in, more interest in my blog, and yes, more revenue in my bank account. Second, I began to dream bigger. The experience of working with so many varied and wonderful clients had started to give me the confidence to express my views on all things organizing related (as many of you have seen here on the blog), and I began to think about how to connect to a larger audience.

LMW Edits is still very much a work in progress, but I’m more passionate about my business and its potential than ever before. I have lots of projects in the pipeline, think about my business constantly, and work more hours than I ever thought I had the capacity to work. And this is all organic and intrinsically motivated - no one is standing over me telling me what to do, I’m just so fired and up and inspired that I absolutely have to get it all done. And all it took was reaching out to someone who inspired me and getting that first small taste of success!

LMW

What I'm Organizing - Seeing Clearly

Fun fact: I wore glasses my entire childhood.  I was born with a condition called strabismus that basically means your eyes don't work together, which causes problems with 3D vision and coordination.  I had surgeries as a baby to cosmetically correct the problem and doctors recommended thick prism lenses to try to force my eyes to link up.

My, ahem, storied childhood athletic record gives it away: the glasses did not improve my hand-eye coordination.  Flying objects and I have always had a somewhat adversarial relationship.  And since I was only a little bit farsighted otherwise, and sick of wearing glasses, I put them down at age 16 and went without.

That is, until this year.  My primary care physician found out I hadn't had my eyes checked in nearly 20 years (whoops...) and sent me off for an eye exam.  Although I hadn't noticed any vision deterioration, her logic is sound: eyes can often give preliminary warning signs of serious health problems.

My doctor recommended City Optix, and I had a great experience there.  It's one stop shopping: there are two doctors upstairs, each of whom perform comprehensive eye exams, and downstairs is a full shop of eyewear that carries everything from basic to designer options.  I was in, examined, frames ordered, and out in about half an hour.  Plus, they have the machine that does an air puff in each eye instead of having to get the drops that dilate your eyes and force you to wear sunglasses around indoors like a weirdo for the rest of the day - an experience I recall detesting as a kid.

In the end, the doctor recommended that I use glasses when sitting in front of a screen, and for night driving.  I still have only mild farsightedness, and this recommendation is more to reduce eye strain than to correct any serious vision problem.

I figured that if I was going to get glasses, I might as well get cute ones.  After a little bit of trial and error, I settled on a pair of contemporary, yet classic Chloe frames.  I like that they make a style statement but remain simple and streamlined, and the lenses are large enough to balance well on my face (seriously, these are the biggest frames they had, I have a ginormous head).

The good thing is, when you take the time to carefully pick out something you love, you're more likely to use it.  This is most definitely the case with me and my glasses.  They've become part of my work routine: sit down at my desk, put my glasses on, open my notebook and email, and get going.  This association means that I feel ready to work every time I put them on, and so I somehow manage to concentrate better and for longer periods than I used to before I got them.  The brain works in mysterious ways, folks!

LMW

What I'm Organizing

Or, should I say, what I'm failing at organizing!  I'm never too proud to admit when I go wrong, and I definitely did last week.

Our renovation means that our contractor has to periodically turn off water and power to move things around, and he wanted a week without us in the house to accomplish the latest round.  So, my plan was to spend the week at my parents' condo at Tahoe.  I'd have few distractions, so I planned to get some serious work done: set up my CRM system, do a lot of writing for the blog, start to work on some cool partnership ideas, take a new look at my social media presence.  Photo below was from Day 1...

If you happened by the blog last week, you'll get an idea of how much of that happened: pretty much none of it!

During the week, whether I was on the slopes or curled up on the couch, I got into that mode where I was happy with what I was doing, l was terribly guilty about what I WASN'T doing, and i was unable to snap out of it.  I had everything I needed in terms of resources, time, ideas, space, and I just could. not. get. it. together.

Looking back, I think it's because I was adrift from my usual work habits and hadn't set myself up for success.  At home, I've developed a series of rituals that make me feel like I'm in work mode and help me concentrate.  For starters, I work on a large computer monitor with separate keyboard and mouse.  There's something about sitting at a desk with that big monitor that deters me from general internet screwing around.  Of course, I only had my laptop with me at Tahoe, and I do plenty of screwing around on that so... 

I also do things like have a candle on my desk that I only light when I'm working (and usually only when it's cold outside, because apparently flame = heat = warm? WTF self?), only wear my glasses when I am actually butt-in-seat working, and only keep work related items on my desk.  At Tahoe there was no candle, I found myself wearing my glasses around constantly, and the small desk in my room in the condo was cluttered with my purse, various charging devices, and other random stuff I brought with me that wasn't work related.

These seem like really small things that a person should be able to overcome easily.  And maybe you're made of tougher stuff than I am and you can get work done anywhere, no matter what.  But for many (most?) of us, the small habits and rituals we create to nudge ourselves into doing the things we need and want to do are crucially important.  This is why I always say that organizing isn't just about stuff, it's about habits.

About to drop down and get first tracks in Counterweight Gully at Alpine Meadows, I'm closest to the camera (Photo by @xoxjulianne)

On the plus side, I spent great quality time with my parents and enjoyed an AMAZING powder day skiing with some of the coolest hard-charging ladies around.  So, instead of dwelling on the fact that I didn't get much done last week and now feel behind, I'm trying to be thankful for the great experiences I did have and start anew this Monday.

Have a great week!

LMW

 

 

What I'm Organizing

There comes a time (one hopes) in the life of every small business when the number of clients outpaces the capacity of the business owner's brain.  For LMW Edits, that time has come!

I'm really into using integrated cloud-based apps to run my business.  I'm pretty well versed in accounting, marketing, and other foundational business practices thanks to my MBA, but I'm still just one person and anything that streamlines processes is a win in my book.  Plus, part of the way I differentiate my business is by keeping on top of tech trends in the organizing space, so it would be rather incongruous for me to use dated tools myself.

So, when I realized I needed a CRM tool (that would be Customer Relationship Management, a fancy way of saying "how to keep track of clients"), my top priority was to find something that would integrate with Xero, the cloud-based accounting app I've been using since I received my very first payment.  Although I have nothing to compare it to, I've been very happy with Xero: the design is clean, it's super user friendly, and there are tons of resources available including the App Marketplace, which is where I started my CRM search.

At this point, based on reviews and recommendations from other tech-savvy organizers, Insightly is bubbling to the top of the list.  I'm going to do a bit more research, so if you have a CRM solution you love, tell me about it!  I'd be very interested to hear your experience.

LMW

Working With What You've Got

As I’ve mentioned before, my new home office was once a bedroom.  As a result, it has a small closet that was of course designed to hold clothes and which therefore was not working as-is for my storage needs.  The situation became especially dire once I realized that there is no storage (like drawers or file cabinets) in an adjustable standing desk!

It really is very tiny...

...and yikes, what a mess.

...and yikes, what a mess.

I briefly considered having a new organizing system installed.  Briefly.  The starting price of custom closets is in the thousands, and this space is so small that it hardly seemed worth the expense.  Plus, this room may need to be used as a bedroom again, or we may at some point sell this house (please no…) and a weird office closet in a bedroom would hurt resale value.  Instead, I decided to poke around The Container Store to see what I could find.

I quickly ran into two major challenges with finding organizing products for my tiny office closet.  The first was depth.  Pretty much none of the products designed for closets were shallow enough to sit correctly within the existing closet system.  The second was the size of the items I wanted to store.  Closets are generally designed to store larger scale items, like purses, or items that can be easily stacked, like knits.  In order to stay organized, office and craft supplies need to be stored in smaller containers.  However, these challenges just meant that I had to get creative and look outside the closet-specific box!

All emptied out...

...and with new products in place.

I purchased five products: extra narrow Elfa cabinet depth bins, cabinet drawers, stacking paper trays, plastic thread storage caddies, and a gift wrapping organizer.  In order to help them disappear into the background and present a unified look and feel, I ordered everything in white.

Finished product!

I used the bins to hold categories of larger items that I don’t use as regularly (so if they get a little jumbled, it isn’t going to impact my quality of life).  The top bin holds my needlepoint and sewing equipment, the next one down has my travel stuff, and the bottom bin actually has my trusty stash of bachelorette party paraphernalia – a girl’s gotta be prepared!  This solution isn’t perfect since there’s extra space next to the bins on those shelves, but that actually doesn’t bother me since everything I need in this closet already has a home.

I used to stuff all my spare needlepoint thread into Ziploc bags, but it was getting tangled and driving me nuts.  The plastic caddies are cheap and the perfect size for loose thread, and I had a ball indulging my childhood self by lining up all the thread in “rainbow order”!

I used the cabinet drawers to store smaller items that I reach for more frequently, like office supplies, my very petite collection of crafting items (I don’t care who you are, everyone needs a glue gun), and tech cords and chargers.  One drawer even holds my headphones, running armband for my phone, and the baseball I have for rolling out my wonky shoulder!

I keep my stationery (and just a few saved copies of my wedding paper) in the paper trays to protect it, and then line up standard printer paper and spare notebooks next to that.

I decided to embrace the hanger bars rather than try to stack storage in that area, so I hung my spare shopping bags and wine totes by type on regular flocked hangers.  The gift wrapping organizer works perfectly well resting on its side and also allowed space to store my yoga mat.

The closet already had hooks on both walls, which worked out really well.  I decided not to use the ones on the left side because anything hung there would block my most-used storage, but I was able to use the hooks on the right side to line up my everyday tote bag, the “bag of tricks” I take to organizing appointments, and the bag I use to tote things back and forth to Tahoe.

After all of that, what I hope you take away is that you shouldn’t feel constrained by what a product is supposed to do when you’re organizing a space.  Pretty much everything I used in my office closet is marketed for bathrooms or kitchens, but who cares?  Plus, all told, I spent $212.81 (using a 15% off promotion for joining The Container Store’s loyalty program).  Now that’s an expense to impact ratio I can get behind!

LMW