Making Better Use of Your Time

Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.” – Allen Saunders

24 hours can be a daunting limit for any average human being, but especially when you’re someone that wears several different hats and juggles many roles each day. You probably find yourself running on fumes more often then not, and even making understated jokes about how there is just “never enough time to get it all done”. We are all searching for ways to make the most efficient use of the limited hours we’ve been given in the hopes of being able to spend some precious moments doing what we enjoy with the people we love. It’s not easy being all things to all people, so we at In Order to Succeed® have done some of the research for you to help automate some of those monotonous every day tasks to simplify your life a bit. Automation done right can significantly increase your productivity, as well as help build wealth and maintain a happier life. Now that the summer is coming to a close, the kids are going back to school, and the ebb and flow of every day responsibilities are gaining momentum again, it is good to start implementing some of these best practices before life gets more overwhelming. Even with these recommended tools that will assist with clearing space in your busy schedule, you must also remember to set parameters, plan ahead, and focus on your goals. It is easy to get caught up in the anxiety of the ever-present stimulations of multitasking, media updating, email responding, over-booking, over-working, and constantly striving to achieve. It’s time to recharge your batteries a bit and make space for you to relax and be present. 

HEALTH

healthy lifestyleResting your mind and body is the first step all do-ers need to establish as a primary priority to keep the life/work flow moving forward and productive. Not only are you hindering your focus and concentration by trying to squeeze in more time to get things done, but your jeopardizing the quality of your work, relationships, mood, and overall health. Keeping your electronics on to answer “just one more” email, or do “5 more minutes” of research when you should be disconnecting and giving your mind a break, also suppresses the production of melatonin (the natural sleep hormone your body generates when it’s time to go to bed). With a non-stop mentality (as many of us are guilty of), you are eventually going to be running on empty and crash. That’s never a good outcome, and defeats the whole purpose of working so hard in the end. Taking the time to honor and respect what helps you perform at your highest level is of utmost importance. When it’s time to turn down for the evening, listen to what your body is telling you and give in to the sandman. 

ORGANIZE

With that being said, we understand that it’s easier giving that advice than it is to really take it, so set up a better organized structure, block your time, and prioritize so that the external craziness doesn’t effect your racing mind as much. Having an organized system for your day, and a decluttered environment both at home and work, relieves a lot of the tension that you feel when your in the midst of the chaos. Take it from our team of professionals, we see countless clients’ lives improve just by reaching out and asking for a little assistance once in a while to get the job started, and even more so getting it all done. From stacks of health bills and home utility invoices, to messy closets and randomized placement of dishes in the kitchen, the littlest bit of order can go a long way. 

IDENTIFY & ACKNOWLEDGE

Decluttering and organizingWe recommend first identifying where the points of disorder in your life are first, so that you can then execute regaining control one step at a time. Keep in mind, this process is all to help you relieve stress, not add it, so make sure you are looking at what there is to do with a realistic perspective and then map out your plan of attack. We find that blocking your day into segments (and even your personal projects) can help manage your own expectations, and help remind you to pull back when you are spending too much time on one task. Not everything goes as planned, even when you’ve planned it to a T, so it is good to have the rest of your agenda items mentally organized before the inevitable hiccups come into play. You can never be too prepared, so try your best and prepare for the worst. 

CLEAR OUT THE CLUTTER

Rule of thumb: if you haven’t worn it, used it, needed it, or wanted it in over a year.. it’s time to part ways. There is a bit of anxiety that always comes with letting go of things that you “might” use. If it’s paper, do yourself a favor and clear it all out! There are so many brilliant systems that will save everything important for you to access without taking up space on your desk. Evernote, our personal favorite digital filing cabinet, will do exactly that for you. Scan your documents, receipts, photos, notes, or bills right into Evernote by using the app itself or any other document recognition scanning program, and then shred .. shred .. shred the clutter away! You will never lose your files, and you can organize them however you see fit to access at a later time. 

AUTOMATE

Now begins the autopilot phase. How much easier do you think your every day life would be if you did not have to handle manually taking care of each task, may it be purchasing groceries, maintaining your household, scheduling your and your family members’ activities, remembering birthdays? The list goes on and on! These are a few automation tools we have researched to help these simple yet time consuming tasks run on their own without soaking up your precious time:

  • Amazon is a lifeline to some of us running around without a second to spare. Most people, while using Amazon regularly for countless types of purchases, don’t know about one of their best features… SUBSCRIBE AND SAVE! Select the items you purchase regularly (like household essentials), and then set how often you’d like them to be delivered. Once you do that, you don’t have to think about last minute orders or getting caught without toilet paper in a private moment. Amazon will schedule your shipments automatically, and on top of it, subscribers will get up to 15% off of the products as well as free shipping! Saving time? Check! Saving money? Check! Freeing up mental space? CHECK!
  • Grocery deliveryDon’t just stop there. If you’re like us, grocery shopping is rarely the in-and-out errand that we always hope it will be. It inevitably ends up consuming hours of your day each time you embark on the adventure. Have you ever thought about cutting back some of the time you dedicate to driving to and from the store, waiting in lines, perusing the layout of the land, adding countless things you didn’t intend on purchasing, loading up your car, and carrying the items into your home? It might be beneficial to try something different if you’re allocating time you don’t have towards accomplishing this fiasco every week or two. Many highly populated areas in the country have a national grocery store nearby that offers delivery services, and if not, there are countless other services that serve your area regardless. Try a company like Peapod, FreshDirect, or ShopFoodEx (which serves all 50 states), just to name a few. Read more about all of your options here in this LifeHacker article: How Shopping for Groceries Online Saves Time, Money, and Hassle.
  • There is nothing worse than losing a bill or realizing you haven’t paid an invoice too late and then getting slapped with fee because of it! It can be tough transitioning into an automated world at times because you’re not handling the physical writing of a check or placing the call to handle the balance yourself. On the flip side, setting your bills on auto-pay is a safety net that is truly priceless. Automatic online billing services can potentially prevent from damaging your credit or wasting more time and money that could be used elsewhere more desirable and enjoyable with your friends and family. We recommend giving it a shot if you haven’t already. You will eliminate the extra stress of remembering to pay each and every bill you are responsible for, such as banks, credit cards, utility bills, auto payments, etc. When you are working 60-hour 5-day weeks, you cannot afford to lose any of the time you DO have to yourself to instead have to spend it tracking down dates and providers to be paying your hard earned money to on top of it all. Wouldn’t you agree?? This way, you will ensure you never miss an important payment deadline that could very negatively effect you and your future.. it’s an easy choice to give yourself peace of mind. 

These options are just scraping the surface of what types of options that are out there that assist with eliminating the arduous processes you spend a huge bulk of your time on without even knowing it! Our team at In Order to Succeed® specializes in helping our clients manually organize and structure their lives, as well as maintain various diverse systems that free up their precious time. If you’re interested in learning more about our services or how we can lend a hand in freeing up your busy schedule, you can take a look at what some of our past and current clients are saying about us on our website.

Five Ways to be More Organized Parents

Being organized parents doesn’t just make your lives easier, it also makes your child’s life easier. Having systems in place both makes for a less-rushed life, saves time, helps your family avoid squabbles, and teaches everyone valuable tools that can be applied elsewhere in life. Here are five ways to be more organized parents across all the many areas of your life.

Have A Command Center

Kitchen Command CenterEvery family should have a command center: a place where everyone, including parents, figure out what is going on for the day or week, leave important paperwork, get supplies, and write down items for a shopping list. A good command center includes:

  • Color-coded calendars of activities.
  • A list of chores including who does what and due dates.
  • A place to leave paperwork that needs to be filled out (tests that have to be signed, field trips) and to place them once they’re ready to go.
  • Shopping lists.

For many parents visions of Pinterest-inspired projects in bright colors and multiple calendars are a turnoff — you work hard to make your home a beautiful, peaceful place. Your command center does not have to destroy the aesthetic of your home. It’s more about having a place where families can check in and focus for the day and week. Our favorite idea? Turn a closet into a command center to keep it out of site. You can add a lamp or stick up lights and use the back of the door for extra room. Get kids into the habit of checking it each morning, day after school, and at a designated time in the evening.

Organized Parents Have Analog Backups

Daily PlannerWe’re not suggesting you ditch your smartphone. Not at all! But having an analog method of keeping track of things is great for when you lose, drop, or forget to charge your phone. It’s also a quick and easy way to keep track of things when you’re in an area without service. There are two separate ways we recommend. First, a planner like the one that goes with Evernote (why not sticks with what works?) or a simple, beautiful planner like the ones made by Ink + Volt is a lifesaving tool. Not into a planner? Even just a simple notebook where you list your to do’s and other thoughts and then cross them off when finished is a great way to keep track no matter what kind of access you have to your phone.

Many women have jumped on board the trend of decorating their planners. If this works for you, great! We’re in the camp of using our planners as tools and not spending a ton of time decorating them.

Get Kids Involved

Jobs for kidsChildren should be a part of your overall organization plan. This teaches them good habits from a young age while taking a tremendous amount off of your plate. Organized parents include children to develop their sense of responsibility, make them better guests and students, and empower them to do for themselves. Here are ways organized parents involve the kids:

  • Assign age appropriate organizational tasks like packing lunches, checking the activities calendar and putting items in a good spot to grab them in the morning, placing papers awaiting signatures in the right spot (and picking them up).
  • Talk to kids about what they enjoy and how they can help. If you have a child who likes to write, make them in charge of organizing a grocery list. Have a kid who enjoys cooking — they can handle lunches. There’s no reason for everyone to do everything and by delegating organizational tasks based on interest you’ll avoid traffic jams and keep kids engaged.
  • Get Into A Routine. Everyone loves a routine — this is why parents who devote time to sleep-training their children end up getting more rest. Organized parents have times of day that they check and do things and kids should be brought into this to develop good habits.

Develop A Network

Humble bragging and competing for “Most Busy” have their place for other people. Smart parents, though, know that there is something to be said for how to having time for oneself, time as a couple, and time as a family. This can only be done by developing a good network of friends, neighbors, and family. When your child has an activity get to know other parents and set up carpools. Talk to friends or family with children of a similar age and schedule date nights where you drop the kids for a few hours (or overnight) and return the favor. Everyone wants a break and the best way to do it is find others who feel the same way and work together to schedule them.

Prioritize

Kitchen Command CenterOrganizing shouldn’t take over your life and organized parents know that prioritization is the #1 trick to being organized. That means that a huge part of your organizational routine should be determining and focusing on priorities. Here are the best places to start thinking about what’s really important.

  • Social Engagements. It’s okay to say no to things if you feel you’re stretched too thin. Instead of being the person who says, “Maybe” (stressing out your host) and then doesn’t show or, worse, saying yes and not showing simply go through all of your invites each week and decide which matter and which you have no desire/time to do. It’s okay to say no!
  • What things are the most important? Rank what matters and what you hate doing and you might discover interesting things. We had a client who had a gorgeous garden but when she thought about other interests and took time to rank things she discovered that she really didn’t enjoy it. Delegating or downright eliminating can free up time for other pursuits. It’s okay to give things up; even if it’s just for more play time with your children.

Organized parents find they breathe easier and enjoy life more than their disorganized counterparts. While things will always come up, it’s easier to manage life when you are organized.

Organizing Tips for the Busy Student

Pursuing an education while maintaining a productive and successful student life is not a walk in the park, but it will all be worth the stress and hard work in the end! We’ve rounded up a few tricks, apps, and hacks to help busy students of all sorts (and their parents) through the process of managing a new life of higher learning. From relocation, balancing a college curriculum and class schedules, to navigating a safe social life, and smart budgeting, we’ve got you covered!

Preparation

The first steps are preparing for the move to the new living accommodations and getting all of the necessities before you arrive. Check out this comprehensive College Checklist from Bed Bath & Beyond while you’re getting yourself ready for the big move. Their services allow you to place an order for items you need in advance. Go in to any store, ask for a barcode scanner, and add what you need while browsing, OR shop online, pay for your items, and then schedule the order to be picked up from the BB&B closest to your school. Piece of cake!

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Learning

Textbooks and learning materials are a huge part of college expenses that’ll dent your (or your parent’s) wallets at the beginning of every semester. We found a Chrome extension that is designed to identify the least expensive option for any given course book right on your browser. Occupy The Bookstore will search top book sites like Amazon and Chegg to help you save hundreds of dollars while searching your school’s bookstore website, then overlay the very best deal on the same screen. Who’s up for saving some money?

Money

 

Finance

Financial awareness and spending within budgets are important life skills that are learned through awareness and consistent practice. Most newly graduated high school students are not gifted with the insights or comprehensive instruction prior to being sent off into the world to fend for themselves. Debt attributed to education costs is a major issue that many times, students don’t realize the weight of their burden until it’s time for repayment. Begin managing your finances or bills and track your spending with Mint to understand and prepare for the inevitable obligations and expenses of the “real world”. Don’t allow yourself or your loved ones be blindsided by debt or financially uninformed. See the Mint College Student Survival Guide for more tips and recommendations for building good credit and staying on top of your accounts.

Mint

Savings

Speaking of budgeting and smart spending, RoverTown is an increasingly popular app started by a duo of young entrepreneurs that provides it’s users hand-picked student discounts near campuses and various online stores. I repeat, free discounts for students, created by students! You can download the app on both your iOS and/or Android mobile device, or use just the web version if you’d rather browse on a computer. College is expensive enough. With RoverTown, college life doesn’t have to be.

 

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Organization & Productivity

Our next recommendation is a full scale curriculum, scheduling, assignment and productivity tool that has been featured on MSNBC as one of the most “Essential apps for college students”. With Studious, you can keep track of your schoolwork, manage your individual classes, add and edit assignments or exams, get reminders about meetings or due dates, send emails to professors from the app, take notes, scan documents, the list goes on. Need I say more?? Think of it as your second brain. Studious is available for free download on Google Play for Android, and can be purchased on iTunes for $1.99 for any iOS device (Studious for iPhone/iPad). Though the two platforms have different developers, they are essentially exactly the same thing with identical capabilities and features.

 

Organizations

Relax

Now that you’re settled in, organized, and (hopefully) studying your heart out, there is probably a good amount of stress on your plate while trying to juggle all of your new responsibilities. It’s very important to keep yourself balanced and healthy amidst your everyday activity. Stop, Breathe, & Think is an app we highly recommend downloading on your devices to help alleviate any tension you might be experiencing and get refocused on your goals. Mindful meditation might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but give it a try when you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or having trouble drifting into la la land. There is nothing wrong with having an outlet in the palm of your hands for a little “you time”, (even if it’s for only 3 minutes).

Relax

Safety

This next app is an absolute MUST for college students, (or anyone for that matter)! At the end of the evening after a night out with friends, safety is not always in the forefront of our minds. For your parents and loved ones, you can never be casual or thoughtless regarding your own safety. Don’t take chances that might cost you your health, happiness, or success, and always remember the tips you’re given at orientation about never walking home or navigating campus solo in the dark. With the Companion app, you can virtually walk your friends back to home base no matter where they are coming from. Help prevent campus incidents like so many that you hear about in the news, and urge your friends and family alike to add this incredible safety tool to their home screens. This app is free to download on the Apple App Store and Google Play – You can’t put a price on piece of mind! Here’s how it works from one of the creators of Companion:

“You can use the app with anyone in your contact book and they don’t have to have the app. You punch in the address or place you’re headed and notify one or several friends that you’re headed to that place. Once your friends are aware of your intended destination, they’re able to keep tabs on your route — if you deviate too far from a familiar path, or it takes you longer than expected to arrive, your virtual companions are notified with an alert.”

Safety2

For more information from our In Order to Succeed® team, please check out our latest blog regarding our Door to Dorm: College Moving Services: “In Order to Succeed® handles total move coordination, start to finish. Need help packing, recommending vendors or securing items from trusted movers and storage companies? We have plans and strategies for every step of any move, whether it is around the corner or across the country]”.

The Best Services and Apps for New Homeowners

Being a new homeowner is exhilarating and exhausting. With more space, projects, and a busy life – things can quickly slip into a disorganized state. At In Order to Succeed, we work with clients to stay organized by offering services like organizing but also provide the latest information on helpful apps, methods, and techniques to obtain and maintain a beautifully run home.

Services for First Time Homeowners

Getting off on the right foot — it’s important in every situation. From starting a fitness routine to a new job, having a routine on day one is helpful. But how do you do it?

Consider hiring a professional organizing firm to help you before moving. A professional organizer or team will help you get rid of things you don’t need and organize your packing so that moving in is much easier. They will also work with you to figure out what you actually need to pack and the best organization styles for your new place. Using size, habits, and aesthetics, a professional organizer can help you organize in a way that is obtainable.

Professional organizers can assist you with securing necessary pieces. New homeowners often struggle with moves because they have more room than ever. Or, for the young professional moving from college to an apartment, they don’t know how to use the space efficiently. A professional organizer can make suggestions about furniture and other pieces based on the space and layout.

Apps for First Time Homeowners

There’s a reason Apple’s tag, “There’s an app for that!” caught on. We love the ease that smartphones bring to our lives. There are some unbelievable apps that can make your life more efficient and productive. Here are the apps we love for new homeowners.

Resources for First Time Homeowners

The In Order To Succeed blog is full of handy posts to help you in your new adventure. We update the website regularly with the latest and greatest in organizing-related tips, tech, and more. Subscribe to our newsletter for quarterly updates on what we can do for you.

New homeowners should consider using a professional organizing service to help them move from point A to B in a stress-free manner. Envision a moving scenario that includes all the organizational support necessary to live abundantly. This is one of the most sound investments you can make!