4 Tips to Trap Your Inner Pack Rat

A while ago, I got a new desk for my office. I figured that making room for new furniture was a good opportunity, to not only clean out my desk, but to go through everything in my office.

It seems I am more of a pack rat than I realized. I found documents going back 8+ years. The office was passed overdue for a cleaning.

Are you a pack rat; either at work or at home? Here’s some tips to help break the hoarding habit.

1) Take Inventory

Take a tour of the space you are organizing and take inventory all of your stuff. Look in cabinets, closets, bookshelves, storage containers, the garage, etc. Do you have things you haven’t used in a year or more? Ask yourself, will I use that item again? If the answer is maybe, get rid of it. Call The Salvation Army, recycle it or pass it on to someone who can use it.

2) Share your information

I save books and magazines long after I’ve read them. I find one article I’d like to reference in the future and I hang onto the whole magazine.

If you’re like that, tear out the article, recipe, instructions, etc. and file it in an organized system. I’m going one step further by scanning any such material and storing it electronically, which eliminates the paper altogether.

Recycle those that you don’t plan on reading or using again. Donate them to a local charity, a school, hospital or retirement home, where others can enjoy and learn from your books.

3) Don’t become the Pickle-Jar Guy

Do you know someone who has a garage filled with empty jars because they are going to use them someday? Empty containers make great storage, but how many do you need? If you have more than five or six empty containers stuck in a cabinet or closet collecting dust, add it to the recycling.

4) Ask the key question

‘Is my life going to change if I get rid of this thing?’ Almost always, the answer is, ‘No’. Marie Kondo has created this idea, if an object no longer “sparks joy” for us, it should be discarded. While I have a problem with the idea that our possessions should spark joy, the basic principle is a good one. Why do we hang on to things? Is it nostalgia, fear of offending family or friends, or some other reason. If you’re not using it, and it’s taking up space, get rid of it.

5) Look for the best was to rearrange the space 

After all your clutter and junk is out the door and you have a better idea of what will be left in your space, look around and rethink your layout. Maybe there’s a better way to configure the room, especially if you make good use of wall space. One good rule of thumb is, the more you use something, the closer it should be to you. Lastly, consider how you want to come off to others in the room. For example, a more open layout can give the impression of having earned more space and, therefore, power; or positioning a desk so it’s not between you and clients can seem more inviting.

6) Review weekly

You’ve got your space cleared and reorganized, it needs to be maintained. When you declutter every week, you ensure your space does not fall back to its previous state. Not only is this good for the space but it is great for your mind as well. Having a weekly declutter process will develop a sense of achievement as you maintain a clean and efficient workspace.

A simple template for a farewell speech

A number of co-workers in our office are transferring to new opportunities in new regions. We had a luncheon today to say goodbye and make some presentations. I was asked to say goodbye to one of the employees who was leaving.

Combining the fear of public speaking with the emotions of saying goodbye, can create stressful situation for people. To simplify the preparation, I have a simple template that I use to write a farewell speech.

  • Start with the obvious – use an introduction that says thank you for the privilege of representing the other members of the organization in making the presentation, and perhaps why you were chosen to make the presentation.
  • Talk about beginnings – what circumstances brought this person into the company, or what was your first contact with them?
  • Tell about the person – what are the personal characteristic that made a contribution to the organization: were they energetic, optimistic, perky, dependable, quiet, friendly, etc? Talk about the things people are going to miss when they’re gone.
  • Cover the history – what were the accomplishments or achievements during the person’s time with the company? Use stories, quips, memories to highlight what they contributed.
  • Why are they leaving? – if appropriate, touch on the circumstances that are taking them away. Look at the opportunities and challenges and wish them all the best for future success.
  • Present the gift – finish by presenting the gift that will serve as a token of thanks and remembrance.

Note: Not every one of these thoughts are going to be appropriate every time. If the employee is leaving because of corporate reorganization, you’ll probably omit the “why are they leaving” question. If the employee leaving is one of those who create more than their share of office conflict, try and frame your remarks from a personal perspective, rather than giving a false-positive picture of a warm and fuzzy workplace relationship.

Whether you’re saying a short goodbye to a volunteer coach in a youth league or making a major presentation at the retirement of a long-term employee, a farewell speech should bring conclusion and tribute for those leaving and those staying behind. A template like this will help you cover the points you need to consider when saying goodbye.

10 Tips for Effective Presentation Visuals

When considering what type of visual representation to use for your data or ideas, there are some rules of thumb to consider:

1. Use visuals sparingly. One of the biggest problems in presentations is the overuse of visuals. A useful rule of thumb is one visual for every two minutes of presentation time.

2. Use visuals pictorially. Graphs, pictures of equipment, flow charts, etc., all give the viewer an insight that would require many words or columns of numbers.

3. Present one key point per visual. Keep the focus of the visual simple and clear. Presenting more than one main idea per visual can detract from the impact.

4. Make text and numbers legible. Minimum font size for most room set-ups is 18 pt. Can you read everything? if not, make it larger. Highlight the areas of charts where you want the audience to focus.

5. Use colour carefully. Use no more than 3-4 colours per visual to avoid a rainbow effect. Colours used should contrast with each other to provide optimum visibility. For example, a dark blue background with light yellow letters or numbers. Avoid patterns in colour presentations; they are difficult to distinguish.

6. Make visuals big enough to see. Walk to the last row where people will be sitting and make sure that everything on the visual can be seen clearly.

7. Graph data. Whenever possible avoid tabular data in favour of graphs. Graphs allow the viewer to picture the information and data in a way that numbers alone can’t do.

8. Make pictures and diagrams easy to see. Too often pictures and diagrams are difficult to see from a distance. The best way to check is to view it from the back of the room where the audience will be. Be careful that labels inside the diagrams are legible from the back row also.

9. Make visuals attractive. If using colour, use high contrast such as yellow on black or yellow on dark blue. Avoid clutter and work for simplicity and clarity.

10. Avoid miscellaneous visuals, If something can be stated simply and verbally, such as the title of a presentation, there is no need for a visual.

7 Energy-Saving Ideas for Summer

Non-profit organizations face the same challenges and costs, when it comes to operating their facilities. Rent, taxes, insurance, utilities are all part of the cost of doing business.

Some of these costs are out of the control of the organization. For example, taxes are set by the municipality, and not many of them have exemptions for non-profits. On the other hand, utility costs can be managed.

Here are seven tips to help you manage your energy costs in the summer.

  1. Consider installing an automated thermostat that turns off your air conditioner at night.
  2. Open windows in the summer. It costs nothing, but it saves energy and money. Keep your windows open in the evening and overnight to allow cooler air into your home, and turn off your air conditioner. Close the windows during the day to keep the cool air in and the warm air out.
  3. Ceiling fans use less electricity than air conditioners or furnaces. For example, a ceiling fan costs about five cents an hour to operate, which is much less than an air conditioner.
  4. Did you know that you use three to five percent more energy for each degree that your air conditioner is set below 24 degrees Celsius or 75 degrees Fahrenheit? So, set your thermostat to 25 degrees Celsius or 77 degrees Fahrenheit to provide the most comfort at the least cost.
  5. Use awnings and overhangs to keep the sun out of south-facing windows in the summers. Take them down the awnings to let the sun shine in during the winter.
  6. Installing high efficiency windows with low-e coatings, argon gas fill and insulated spacers have made a difference to the amount of heat in the house.
  7. A reflective roof can reduce the roof surface temperature by up to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on your climate. A reflective roof prevents the sun’s heat from transferring into the building.

10 Tips for Giving Effective Instructions

Somewhere along the line, you are going to have to tell another person how to perform a task. Whether teaching your kids how to use the dishwasher or training new staff at work, your ability to give good instructions will affect the speed at which they learn.

Giving clear instructions sounds easy, but can be complex, especially in an office environment or within a business. Mixed messages, assumptions and multiple options mean that the message received might differ from what we actually meant.

If you explain things properly, you only have to do it once. Explain things poorly and you will have to do it again. You might even need to fix things that were done wrong. Here are some tips to make sure you communicate instructions effectively:

  1. Get people’s attention. Before giving any instructions, make sure you have the attention of those who should be listening.
  2. Be clear and specific about what you want. Break the task down into step-by-step procedures.
  3. If you’re unsure whether or not people have really understood you, have them repeat your message using their own words.
  4. Demonstrate or illustrate whenever possible.
  5. Only give a small number of instructions at any one time. People have trouble remembering large amounts of information. For more complex tasks, break-down the instructions to each part of the job.
  6. Use direct and specific language. Say exactly what you mean. Don’t leave people guessing.
  7. Don’t rush your instructions. Clear directions save time.
  8. Avoid misunderstandings by asking the person how they’ll approach the issue or task and why. Have them repeat your instructions when you’re finished.
  9. Don’t get sidetracked by excuses or disagreements. Restate your instructions one more time if necessary.
  10. Check back during the initial stages. Give people room to do what you expect of them, but be available to help when needed.

The A-B-C’s of Personal Knowledge Management

The key question in filing or storing material is not, “Where do I put it?” but rather, “Where do I find it?”

You can have the most sophisticated storage systems available, but if you don’t know where to find what’s inside, you’re no better off than having stacks of stuff all over the place.

One of the most useful ideas within GTD is the simplification of the personal filing system. How do you file your own reference materials?

Filing cabinet GTD

Two parameters drive the system:

  1. It must be easy to file materials otherwise you won’t
  2. It must be easy to retrieve materials, or you won’t trust the system.

Having used all sorts of elaborate, cross-referenced, index-card, electronic, with filing cabinets, bankers-boxes and card-box systems, I can tell you, they don’t work. There is nothing simpler than alphabetical order.

This is the beauty of the alphabet: categorize what you have in your hand, put it in a file folder, label it and file it under the first letter of the label. All in order and quick to retrieve. When you need something, you will find it in one of a couple of places.

For example, my gas bill will be under G for Gas or D for Direct Energy, my supplier. A more complicated system might have the gas bill filed under Bills>>Home>>Utilities>>Gas. More difficult to recall, and difficult to set-up. You have to know the rules and categories ahead of time and have some way of keeping track of them.

Electronic file systems sort alphabetically by default, so applying the system to your electronic documents should not require too much brain power.

You can download a free pdf from Davidco, with David Allen’s thoughts and ideas on General Reference Filing.

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