Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Mastering E-mail Management

Ah e-mail . . . the never ending task in this day in age.  I just finished cleaning out the 4 e-mail accounts I manage.  It got waaay out of control!  How?  Simple:  I got too busy and was not good about keeping up on my e-mail routines.  When that happens, I simply need to pay the price of doing a big cleanup.  While Inbox Zero may not always be achievable on a daily basis, my goal is to achieve it on a weekly basis  In my experience, I have observed a few different approaches to e-mail:

1)  The person that just never checks e-mail.  You know who they are, they never respond to any e-mails, even seemingly important correspondence.  E-mail is just simply not part of their life.  I recently asked someone, "oh - did you see the e-mail about such-and-such?"  The response?  "No. I don't check e-mails."  I am actually a bit envious!  Ok, a lot envious! How lovely it would be to simply chop e-mail management from my life. Oh - and the annoying part of this - is if you are awaiting a response from an e-mail non-checker, without knowing they are a non-checker.  You wait, and wait . . . and wait.  You might even think they are rude or simply don't care about whatever you are awaiting response from.  This may actually be the case, but before you make assumptions, it would be good to see what the preferred mode of communication with this individual is, especially if it is someone in one of your closer circles of influence and community.  They may respond better in person, or via call/text. Just as it can be helpful to know someones learning style, know their preferred communication style.

2)  The E-Mail Lover.  Their primary mode of communication is over e-mail.  They may send multiple e-mails regarding the same subject.  You can tell they check e-mail often on their cell phones, given the quick & usually succinct responses.  This can be a very good thing - they are usually great about responding.  It can also have a drawback if they don't key in to the fact that not everyone communicates well over e-mail.

3)  The Delayed Responder.  They are overwhelmed, yet pretty good about following through.  The responses are usually proceeded with "Sorry for the delayed response!" or similar sayings.  They will get to that e-mail . . . eventually.  I have been guilty in this category!

It does not need to be the impossible task though!  E-mail can be managed and mastered, with some key practices.

A)  Purge Daily & Check Routinely:  Make it a daily habit.  If you can't keep up daily, do a weekly purge at the least.

B)  Set Up Take Action & Archive Folders:  Your "Take Action" folder should now be the priority folder.  Take care of these items before you hit your inbox.  Consider this folder the folder of actionable work that needs attention every time you are in your e-mail box.   Not sure if you should keep an e-mail?  Stick it in an "Archive" folder for safe keeping.

C)  Consider a "Inbox #2":  This little tip comes courtesy of my husband.  Set up an "Inbox #2" where the majority of ALL of your e-mail goes to.  Then, determine who the senders are whom you actually want to receive e-mails from: key individuals, schools, family members etc.  That way you are only focusing on the truly important ones.  You can check #2 as well, but you are first alerted to the ones you care about most.  This technique is great for personal e-mails, but probably won't work so well for business e-mails.

D)  When Necessary, Declare E-Mail Bankruptcy!  I just had to do this with the account I use for junk mail.  I never check this account.  I just use it for when I have to give it to a retailer for a discount, only checking in when I need a coupon or similar transactions.  I had 20,993 messages in my Inbox and only 209 messages in my Junk Folder.  After this clear out, my plan going forward is to clear out the account once a month, only checking when necessary for coupons and the like. Outlook offers a "Sweep" function, wherein you can delete all e-mails at once from a particular sender.  Tip:  Click on the top check box to select all messages in view, then click Sweep.  That way you can Sweep messages from multiple senders at once.  Other e-mail systems should have similar functions.

Michael Hyatt has some great tips on Declaring E-mail Bankruptcy, including signs you need to do it, HERE.

Here's a clip of Michael Scott of The Office declaring Bankruptcy - applies to e-mail Bankruptcy too!:

Note:  There are also numerous e-mail management software options out there.  If your e-mail volume is so high, yet needs attention, you may want to consider one of these tools.  Here are some links with some options for both personal and business applications.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Tips to Automate Your Shopping Life!

Life can get so crazy busy, especially for those who are in what I call the "crunch" stage of life.  The "crunch" is basically the stage where you have little ones needing a lot of attention, homes, work, other family members, schools, extracurriculars, volunteer responsibilities, basically everything surrounding you needs you, all at the same time.  Add on top of that time to take care of yourself, which you know and tell yourself should be happening first - it can be quite stressful!  I love looking for ways to simplify my life, even in the littlest of ways.  Shopping for groceries and household goods is a part of every week (sometimes every day!) tasks, and many of them can be automated. When you automate it's like having little minions working for you!  Ideally I'd like to reach Just In Time (JIT) automation.  Picture a pantry that fulfills with your staple goods right when you need them, without the hassle of a shopping trip.  Technology is not exactly there yet, but with some shopping tools that are out there we can get pretty close!  I try to only go to stores close to home or that are on my way to or from another destination.  I have 2 stores within 5 minutes drive from my house that really have almost everything I would need throughout the week.  This saves time & gas.  I also am trying to avoid going to stores whenever possible, especially with my kids.  Let's just say marketing works wonders on them!  I also am trying to avoid the stores that suck me in with consumerism as well.  Why yes, I "need" that item at Target! - A trap I've fallen into one too many times!  Also, bigger bulk items are not always better! Here are some ways I have automated my shopping life.  I have found online options to curb my consumerism, meet my family's needs and save time and money.  (Many of these are affiliate links - if you have benefited and learned from my posts, I really appreciate you using these links to help me keep this blog going strong!)

1)  Amazon:  I absolutely love Amazon.  If you use Amazon Smile, your school can get a percentage of the sales too.  I have some items on Subscribe & Save, which is great for automation.  I schedule items like paper goods, shampoo, body wash and other personal care products to come at set times. Some monthly, others every other month, others every 3 months.   Being a Prime member with free 2-Day shipping is also so handy for gifts and one time purchases.  Case in point - my daughter has a Birthday party to attend this weekend.  Last night I logged on and we chose the gift for her friend.  It will arrive on Wednesday, with plenty of time to wrap & make a homemade card - so easy!  Also check out their streaming media content and Kindle book rentals.  

2)  Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Boxes - Farm Fresh to You:  If you are long time follower of my blog, you will know I have tried lot of CSA services.  I am loving Farm Fresh to You for so many reasons.  Great quality organic produce, customizable boxes, amazing add-on products, and best part - delivered to your door!  Their online system is easy to use.  You can set up a delivery schedule, put deliveries on vacation hold and set preferences.  Use code KARE1722 to save $10 off your first box.  I often will plan dinners based around what we get in our produce box.  I find we eat healthier when I have the menu centered on healthy, organic produce. 

3)  Thrive:  If you have not checked out Thrive Market yet, you need to.  It's like having a Whole Foods at your finger tips!  Healthy options at great prices, and delivered to your door.  Thrive is great for healthy convenience and packaged foods, vitamins, personal care products, eco-friendly cleaning and household supplies, and healthy cooking staples.  

4)  Scrumpt:  Since using Scrumpt I no longer have to plan my kids school lunches - it's all done for me!  Created by a pediatrician, Scrumpt offers healthy and yummy options for kids lunches, delivered right to your door.  My kids love them!  Each delivery includes items pre-packaged for each lunch along with a little "recipe" card (instructing me what to include or how to assemble an easy to assemble item - like a turkey pinwheel), napkins, and a shopping list of the fresh items you will need (like veggies, fruit, yogurt, cheese). Some items marked with a green dot you just stick in the fridge.  I use a plastic shoe box to put the fridge items in, and another plastic shoe box for the non-refridgerated items.  Having one less meal to plan (x2 kids!) is so worth it!  If you try them out, tell them Neat Doctor sent you.

5)  For those uber crazy weeks, to the rescue!  Check for delivery in your area.  You just log on, place your grocery order, choose a delivery window, and poof!  Groceries at your door.  I was so grateful for this service when my littles were babies.  I still enjoy delivery during those times where I barely have time to think! The only negative about Vons - beware if you buy Vons Gift Cards through your school Scrip program.  The delivery service does not accept gift cards as a form of payment. (I hope they re-think that strategy!)  They also discontinued their eScrip program,  So, although I do enjoy delivery, my store loyalty has drifted to other more Scrip friendly stores.  I like making my money work the most for me, and if our school gets a portion of something I would normally buy anyways, that's a win-win!  

6)  Shaving - My husband and I have tried both Dollar Shave Club and Harry's.  These services provide low cost & high quality products while automating the shipment of your shaving needs. They are wonderful services and we are very happy with the products.  I absolutely love the Dr. Carver's Shave Balm from Dollar Shave Club.  The nice part about having these services is the specialty products and automation factor.  The goods arrive to your door on a schedule you set = one less thing to think about!  Now, if you really want to save some cash, I have used the basic razor by Dorco which I purchased on Amazon.  It is the exact same razor as the Dollar Shave Club basic model, at a lower price.  However, this item is not offered as an Amazon Subscribe & Save option.  You get a lot of blades, but you will have to store them and remember to check when stock is low.  If you want to not have to think about that and be truly automated, that's where the value of DSC and Harry's really shines through!  

7)  Quip for Oral Care - While you certainly can get quality oral care products from Amazon, Thrive, and other sources, there's another specialty company out there focused on oral care - Quip!   I love their focus on quality toothbrushes.  Their electric toothbrushes are a fraction of what you would pay for some popular models, plus you can set up automatic delivery, exactly when you need them.  

8)  Personal Care:  There are so many choices for personal care products out there,  Here I highlight my 3 favorites: Arbonne, Modere, & Honest Co.  Arbonne offers fabulous skin care, makeup and nutritional products,  Their Vegan shakes are our family's favorite!  Modere gets an A+ in my book for automation - check out their app which allows for bar code scanning for reorders.  Getting low on a product?  No problem!  Simply scan & order from your phone!  If baby products like diapers and wipes are on your shopping list, Honest Co., offers some great options for automating your baby care needs,  They have some great cleaning and household products too.  

9) Clothing:  I used to love to shop for clothes.  Now, with my busy mom life, not so much!  My preference now when I need a new outfit is to shop my favorite retailers online,  It's so mice to sit in my recliner late at night and get just what I need.  When I need a little fashion inspiration or boost to my wardrobe, Stitch Fix to the rescue!  Fill out a style profile, and a stylist sends you 5 items to try on.  Keep them all and receive a 20% discount.  Don't like any of them?  Just send them back in the packaging provided, minus a $20 stylist fee.  Workout clothes are also a staple for me.  Fabletics offers some fun new fashions to boost your workout wardrobe.  This is a subscription service, but you can cancel anytime.  
Also check out some men's fashion boosting options:  Trunk Club, Bombfell, Fashion Stork, and Men's Style Lab.

I hope you enjoyed these ideas on how to automate your shopping!  Cheers to saving time & money!  

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Resurrecting From the Baby & Toddler Years

Today I sit typing away reflecting on the past 6 wonderful years.  Truth:  I am absolutely exhausted. If life would permit, I feel like I need a week of vacation and pampering (like a personal vacation, not having to pack up the whole family and feed them the whole week!), a week of catching up with household duties, and a week of sleep!  I loved the baby & toddler years - there were so many cherished moments I reflect on and am reminded of when I hold friends babies.  I am so grateful that I had time to spend with my babies, going to mommy & me classes, and watching all of their firsts. It's bittersweet - as I cuddle with my kids at night, they are no longer the tiny little babies I held in my arms.  They are sooo big!  I am graduating to a new phase of parenthood.  I survived the craziness of long nights, messes absolutely everywhere, running around all day changing diapers, wiping faces, feeding, feeling like I just can't sit down or get anything done.  I remember a few years ago I had a friend whose youngest child was the same age as my oldest.  I was amazed at her and asked how on earth is she getting everything done?!  She's volunteering at her kids school, decorating her home so cute, dresses fashionably, and managing to cook actual good meals for dinner, all while seeming to have kids and household under control, hang out with friends and got some home business things done too.  I was a bit jealous.  Ok, I was very jealous!  I had to remind myself, I had a baby - I was not at the same life stage as her, and that was OK!  I really had to work on embracing the mess and chaos (so so hard for my organizing loving self!)  So, messes I have embraced.  I continue to embrace the chaos even as it changes.

Onward to this new phase.  Kids are in school and loving it!  My lack of sleep is only because of my own doing, being the night owl that I am.  My kids have been sleeping through the night for a long time.  I finally have a extra time to be uninterrupted in the morning, focusing on household duties, my blog, friendships, and helping others to get organized.  Oh - and volunteering!  I love being involved in my kids school and activities.  So, basically all of the work and exhaustion is not gone, but it has morphed a bit.  I now can see some light as to how my friend had time to do some of the things I so longed to do when I was knee deep in the baby and toddler phase.  I know it's the kitchy phrase I have rolled my eyes at in the past - but the years really do fly by. If you find yourself discouraged by the chaos, chin up and hold steady - it will morph before you know it!  

If you are knee deep in the baby & toddler stage, I leave you with some book recommendations that helped me to love and embrace that phase of life, and make things a bit easier along the way.  Enjoy!

From Briefcase to Diaper Bag:  How I Quit My Job, Stayed Home With My Kids, and Lived to Tell About It

Friday, July 31, 2015

Neat Doctor's Book Club: Join us in August!

Each month we are reading a book related to simplifying and organizing and chatting about it on our Neat Doctor's Book Club Facebook Page.  For August, we will be reading Joshua Becker's "Clutterfree with Kids."  If you do not have children, or perhaps are empty nesters, no problem!  We will be reading other books each month, just join us when you can.  The entire reading list is posted below.

August: "Clutterfree with Kids" Joshua Becker
September: "Getting Rid of It" &/or "Dream Save Do" Warren & Betsy Talbot
October: "Zen to Done: The Ultimate, Simple Productivity System" Leo Babauta
November: "Lighten Up: Love What You Have, Have What You Need, Be Happier with Less" Peter Walsh (I'm quoted on pg. 24!) smile emoticon
December: "Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness: One-Minute Tips for Decluttering and Refreshing Your Home and Your Life" Donna Smallin
January: "Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight: The Six-Week Total-Life Slim Down" Peter Walsh

Thursday, April 23, 2015

New! Neat Doctor's Virtual Book Club

Hello!  It's been a busy few months for me, hence the break in blogging.  I'm getting back in the swing of things and am welcoming May with my new virtual book club!  1 book a month related to simplicity & organizing.  We are starting with "Everything That Remains" by The Minimalists, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus.

I had the pleasure of hearing them speak at last weeks NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) Conference.  They were simply inspiring!  Hop on over to "Neat Doctor's Book Club" on Facebook to join!