Friday, February 3, 2017

A Great App for Tax Time!

As many of your know I love Goodwill.  They are efficient and their stores are usually organized and their employees are super nice and have superb customer service.

No wonder it's my first choice when I drop off my client's donatable items.

It's a huge plus for client's to see their unwanted clothing and accessories, kitchen items, books, and electronics going to a new home that will no longer be considered clutter!

Here is a list of things you CAN donate.

But those donations are tax deductible.  The most donated items that I haul for my clients is clothing. Did you know that you must only claim the fair market value of the clothing which is normally far less than what you paid for it.  Here is some info directly related to how to determine the fair market value.

To better assist you with keeping track of what you've donated Goodwill now has a great app that will help you determine the fair market value and store your donation receipts for your tax preparer at the end of the year.

It's called Mobile GoodWill and is available on both Apple and Android

Click +Add Receipt

Select the category of the donated item; I picked clothing

I picked Women's

Here are the options under Women's Clothing

I picked accessories

Once you tell the app how much you have it automatically tallies it up
So that's it!  Happy donating and staying organized, productive, and dexterous! 😉

Friday, October 14, 2016

How Brain Training Can Improve Your Life

How Brain Training Can Improve Your Life

While September typically receives all the “back to school” hype, October is the month where the new school year gets serious. The initial introductory period is over, and the work becomes increasingly challenging. For college students, this is the point in the semester where the midterms start to hit and when students get an idea for how they’re really doing in the class.

It’s also at this point in the year where parents start to feel overwhelmed. By October, teachers know which students are struggling to keep up, and it can take a lot out of the parent’s busy schedule to meet with teachers and ensure everyone is on track.

Take my client, who we’ll refer to as Beth, as an example. Beth was in tears because of the issues she was encountering with her son’s education. Both she and her son were diagnosed with ADHD. She understood the struggles of the diagnosis, but wanted her son to experience more success in school. However, she was getting constant messages, phone calls, and emails from the school about her son’s poor performance on class work, homework, quizzes, and tests. The school was offering little-to-no help on how to get Beth’s son to improve and she was going crazy trying to figure out what to do. Of course she wanted to help her son succeed in school, but this issue was taking up a good chunk of Beth’s time, attention, and focus—and she felt wildly out of depth. She hired me to help put some structure in his room at home. We created a better zone for clothing, sleep, and homework so he could better focus during the school year.

A few weeks after helping Beth and her son, I met Gina Foster, director at LearningRx in Tysons. I had Beth on my mind when I learned about the awesomeness that happens at LearningRx for their clients (especially school-aged youth). As a education-based service that helps people of all ages enhance their cognitive learning skills, LearningRx would have been a perfect solution for Beth. Using their services she could have “outsourced” the learning help her son needs to professionals. It would have been a win/win situation—her son would have improved his cognitive skills and she would free up her time and energy from the resulting anxiety.

After meeting Gina and the rest of the LearningRX staff, I decided to complete a cognitive assessment test myself and the experience was incredible. I truly got to remember the pressures of being in school when my brain got a workout during the test!

Once the assessment portion is complete, LearningRX offers targeted exercises that train cognitive skills like memory, attention, auditory processing, and logic and reasoning to sharpen any areas you (or your child) may need some extra help with.

Not only is this service great for kids who are struggling in school, but it also helps adults who have always struggled with a specific discipline or field of study—I’ll admit, mine is math! Plus, with our increasingly hectic schedules and the many different ways in which digital devices demand and grab our attention, taking the time to focus on our cognitive skills is an absolute must.

So, whether you need to free up your schedule from too many parent-teacher conferences or would like to increase your ability to focus on bookkeeping for your business, I recommend looking into Learning RX for help. They also have a book out right now, Unlock the Einstein Inside: Applying New Brain Science to Wake Up the Smart in Your Child, that’s worth the read.

If you’re looking for other ways to clear up your brain or physical space from clutter, let’s talk! I’m here to help make your life easier, whether it’s outsourcing learning struggles or taking control of your day-to-day schedule.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Why You Need to Embrace Your Inner Kindergartner

Why You Need to Embrace Your Inner Kindergartner

Remember how amazing the kindergarten years were? I don't know about you, but back when I attended North Forestville Elementary our teachers gave us a 30 to 60 minute block of free time that allowed our creativity to run amuck. We could play in the fake kitchen, read in the reading corner, or play with blocks. Since this was over 30 years ago, I don’t remember much more than that, but my point is, we had a dedicated time to do as we pleased. This was our time to be ourselves without much direction and it balanced out the day, leaving us feeling refreshed and ready for the next activity.
The importance of playing around
All of these kindergarten memories were kicked back up after I read a Productivityist email from Mike Vardy with the subject line “Why You Need to Fool Around.”
In the newsletter, Vardy emphasizes the importance of adults introducing play time into their everyday lives and he provided a few interesting articles to back his argument up.
Personally, I couldn’t agree more. While it may seem counter-intuitive, allowing yourself some time to goof off can actually make you more productive.
You know those “ah-ha!” moments you have? It’s no coincidence that most of them happen in the shower or while you’re driving your car to work. Your brain needs time to do something else, to be distracted, and get refreshed.
If you need further proof, I found this case study to be very persuasive:  
“Instead of staggering employees’ coffee breaks as it [Bank of America] had previously, it aligned their breaks to allow more chatter. The result, Bank of America told MIT a few months later: productivity gains worth about $15 million a year.” (Mining Human Behavior At MIT)
Not hundreds, not thousands, but millions of dollars. Who said play time doesn’t pay off?

Scheduling time for play
So, my suggestion—no, my entreaty—to you is to find a time of day where you can be free to do whatever you want (within reason!). It can be 15 minutes or an hour—depending on your schedule—where you let creativity run amuck.
I started getting up about 30-45 minutes earlier in the day just so I could incorporate some play time in my life. I'm a night-owl by nature so this is a pretty big deal. I'm also more of a kinetic-doer at night (cleaning the kitchen, sorting papers from the day, etc.) and more of a thinker (writing a blog post, reading or studying spiritual matters, etc.) in the morning. Morning is when it's quiet and I feel like I'm up before the rest of the world, so it’s the perfect time for me—and my schedule—to sneak in some play time.  I schedule time on the weekends for refreshment and when I have nothing planned I try to avoid filling the time with work but doing something relaxing like painting or coloring in my adult coloring book.

2016-09-03 21.56.57.jpg
Here’s one of my masterpieces
Even though the days spent playing in fake kitchens may be gone, it’s important to let our workaholic-selves sit down and let our inner kindergartener out to play. We might find our lives a bit more productive and a lot more fulfilled as a result!  What do you like to do to “play”?
If your schedule is too overwhelming and you can’t even begin to fathom what playtime would look like, then let’s set up some time to chat. I can help you organize your day-to-day life so you can focus on a bit of fun.  

Friday, September 2, 2016

Clear the Clutter Video Series Video #1

Dealing with clutter that's your own is a challenge in itself, but when you have unwanted items in your home that's someone else's it's time to draw the line, be firm, and have a plan to declutter.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Save Time, Make More Money, & Strengthen Client Relationships

Save Time, Make More Money, and Strengthen Relationships with a CRM

Let’s say you attended a networking event yesterday. You collected business cards from potential clients and customers, and they’re sitting on your desk in a neat little pile. What happens to them now that the event is over? Will they end up scattered between bills, tax forms, and other papers? Or will they get stuffed into a drawer only to be dusted off and looked at months later?

How you manage prospect information—and existing client and customer information—is important to keeping your business organized and on the right track. This is where a customer relationship management (CRM) strategy and system can help.

Why you need a CRM system

Before you consider purchasing a CRM system, you’ll need to establish your strategy (more on this below). However, it’s important to know what a CRM system is and how it can benefit your business first.

Here’s a breakdown a CRM system benefits:

  • It keeps all client information in one place
    The right system allows you to track prospect and client details. You can set up fields to identify where a prospect found you, if they have pets, and any other useful information that will help you tailor future marketing efforts.

  • It stays on top of important dates
    A CRM system can manage all of your important business dates—from following up three days after a networking event to remembering any key celebrations in your customer's life.

  • It helps you delegate
    When your clients’ information is stored in one accessible location, it makes it easy for you to keep your team on the same page when you need to delegate projects.

  • It automates touchpoints
    You can automate all sorts of marketing efforts through your CRM—whether you decide to set up a thank-you message for your newsletter or send a mass email to all prospects about an upcoming sale.

  • It’s secure
    When everything is cloud based, you don’t have to worry about misplacing a client’s information. A CRM system securely stores all information in one easy-to-access database.

Creating a CRM strategy
How you organize clients’ information is vital to the growth of your business. But before you sign up for CRM system like Contactually or Insightly, you need to have a strategy in place. To build a solid CRM strategy, I suggest doing the following:

  • Map out every touchpoint
    The first thing you need to identify is how you currently manage client relationships. Start from the beginning of the process and go through every touchpoint that occurs when moving someone from prospect to loyal customer. This will help you identify the processes that are working, and where you need to make improvements.
  • Name your processes
    When we give something a name—especially when that something is a business process—we give it an identity. And when something has a clear identity, it’s easier for us to remember. This is why I have a specific name for every step in the customer journey: from the first “discovery call” to the “success follow-up.”

Finding the best CRM for you
There are plenty of options out there to choose from, which makes it tough to find the one that will work best for you. However, once you have your strategy mapped out, all you need to do is match that strategy with the features your business needs.
This article covers a ranking of the best CRM systems in 2016 for small businesses and provides details on the many other options on the market.
Personally, I use Less Annoying CRM for my business and I absolutely love it. It’s highly customizable yet intuitive and user friendly.
Taking advantage of free trials
If you’re still on the fence as to which CRM system to use, I recommend taking advantage of any free trials being offered. Many software companies these days offer a trial period so you can make sure the system will truly suit your needs.
If you’d like to give Less Annoying CRM a try, they have a great deal that can benefit us both. Simply use this link, while I'll get one month free you'll extend your free trail to 2 months! This incentive is another reason why I personally love this CRM—you have nothing to lose while you take it out for a spin.
While it does take some time to get your CRM up and running, you’ll no doubt start to see the positive impact the system can make right away. You’ll find you have more time to invest in your business, while automation will see to it that more business is rolling in. If you need help with organizing your CRM strategy, let’s talk. Together we can find a plan that works best for you.  

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Do You Have Time...?

Do You Have Time to Keep All Those Magazines?

One of the  biggest issues my clients deal with is paper clutter. Many times the general feeling of overwhelm a client experiences is related to the amount of bills, letters, receipts, books, or, in this case, magazines they have scattered around the house.  But when we start to deal with the piles of magazines on a one-by-one basis the answer to the keep or toss question is sometimes "keep...keep... keep."

I love to learn, so I get it. I've gotten some cool and useful information I found in the pages of magazines. I found myself holding on to magazines with the "I'll get to it one day" mantra. But I had to be real with myself. As the saying goes: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

If we keep an inordinate amount of magazines, it can create anxiety and overwhelm. How? The mere act of keeping these items makes you feel  the need to read them all, while cluttering up your space.

Unfortunately, many clients feel that if they  throw out a magazine, then they’re throwing out the useful and cool information with it.

Here's the truth: You probably will be throwing out some cool and useful information. can't expect that with your busy life--whether it’s caring for your loved ones, completing daily home chores, going to your [barre, body pump, zumba, crossfit] classes, or relaxing at the end of a long day with Netflix--you will have time to read all those magazines.

Let's do the math-- follow me to my imaginary chalkboard:

If you subscribe to three magazines, each with 12 issues a year, then we are looking at 36 magazines each year.

Magazines are usually about 120-150 pages on average.

Let's say your magazines all are 120 pages that comes out to be 4,320 pages left to be read.

If you spend just two minutes on average on each page that's 8,640 minutes or 144 hours.

You would have to spend three hours a week to get through all the magazines.

Do you have time for that?

Knowing the numbers and making a logical decision beforehand will help you override any emotional decision later, helping you to let go.

Here are some tips to prevent the overwhelm and create a balance between what magazines you can actually consume with what you have on hand:
  1. Decide when you have time to read and stick to those times (i.e. your daily commute if you commute via public transportation; waiting at the doctor or dentist office; sitting on the royal porcelain throne; etc.).
  2. Keep magazines in areas where you're prone to read (by your bedside table, in the car, in your work bag, in a basket in the bathroom).
  3. Have a time limit on how long you keep magazines that are outdated (2 months? 1 year?) then throw them out if you see a magazine that’s past its expiration date.
  4. Have a delegated place to store magazines and once it's filled you have to decide which ones will get the boot.
  5. Use a program like Evernote or Google Drive to store articles that you want to reference in the future.
  6. Sign up for Pinterest where you can make your own virtual magazine-type boards. You can create boards on everything from food and drink to travel, home decor to fashion. And the bonus here is you never have to throw any of your pins away as the storage is endless!

If you’re still having trouble determining what to let go, let’s schedule some time to talk. I can help you walk through the letting go process so you can enjoy a more relaxed, clutter-free life.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

50 Ways to Be Productive While You’re Waiting

50 Ways to Be Productive While You’re Waiting

For type-A personalities, getting stuck in a situation where you’re waiting around can be endlessly frustrating. While boredom can play a factor, it’s mostly because you consider time your greatest asset. Well, that’s at least how I feel when I’m stuck waiting around! I often think long and hard about my day so I can cram strategically pair what I have to get done with where I'll be. I also brainstorm where I can afford to multi-task. Don’t get me wrong, I am not condoning texting and driving or anything like that, but there are opportunities where we can (safely) double up on tasks—like starting a load of laundry while cooking dinner.  

But there will be times (a bunch of times) when the day just doesn't go as planned and you, unfortunately, find yourself waiting around.This could be due to situations like getting a flat tire and waiting for AAA or your phone’s battery runs out, ensuring that Skype meeting you planned ain't gonna happen. Whatever the case may be, it happens—but that doesn’t mean you can kiss productivity goodbye.

So, before you waste time on Facebook, playing Clash of Clans or Candy Crush, here are 50 ways to be productive while you’re waiting around:  

  1. Re-assess your week's goals
  2. Delete useless pictures off your phone
  3. Text two people you haven't talked to in a while
  4. Start (or work on finishing) that book you haven't had time to get into
  5. Reorganize your wallet
  6. Throw away trash in your immediate area
  7. Make a doctor's appointment
  8. Read a helpful or fun blog
  9. Write in a journal
  10. Plan your next vacation
  11. Repeat positive affirmations
  12. Practice a foreign language
  13. Think about an emergency preparedness plan
  14. Break out your adult coloring book (or use an app)
  15. Practice breathing exercises
  16. Practice stretching
  17. Clean out your car's trunk or back seat
  18. Plan your next meal
  19. Reconnect with a friend and plan to have them over for a meal
  20. Draw or doodle
  21. Play with your pet or kid
  22. Write a thank you card/note/email
  23. Take a power nap
  24. Make a grocery-shopping list
  25. Create a budget
  26. Update your budget
  27. Call a relative
  28. Shop on your phone for a great deal for something on your wish list
  29. Text your significant other a sincere note of love (or apology)
  30. Plan your next day
  31. Read a book (great if you have an E-reader or e-reader app)
  32. Unsubscribe to e-mail lists you’re no longer interested in
  33. Listen to a entertaining or educational podcast
  34. Schedule your next massage
  35. Work through a Sudoku puzzle
  36. Sing karaoke (if you are waiting alone…)
  37. Think of something nice to do for a loved one
  38. Take a long walk
  39. Dance
  40. Delete duplicate contacts in your phone or email
  41. Look at shapes in the clouds
  42. Write a haiku
  43. Clear your desk
  44. Clear out a place you haven't looked at in a while (you know what place)
  45. Place needed household items in your online cart
  46. Post something for sale online
  47. Give yourself or get a manicure
  48. Meditate/think deeply/pray  
  49. Reconcile your checking account
The list doesn’t stop here. Any simple or quick task you can think of will work, too. No matter what you end up doing, try to use the time in a positive way and you’ll find the time spent waiting will fly right by.

If you need a little extra help with productivity planning, let me know. We can work together to find solutions that work best for you.