The mountains of cookies are a memory, the last of the pine needles have been vacuumed up and I think I’ve finally found the last rogue decoration and put it in its place. I think. Hello January!
Now normally I don’t go in for resolutions. I mean, why wait till january to make positive changes in your life? But this year, deciding on my positive goals coincided with the new year, so I’m deciding to call them resolutions. There are two and only two of them – I’ve learned that anything more than one or two things on my “to-do” list traumatizes me away from doing anything at all. So I like to keep it simple and attainable.
My resolution this year? Get organized! Organized home, organized storage, organized business routines, organized EVERYTHING!! It is just a matter of fact that when things are unorganized around me I start to feel a little … well, crazy. Something about “a place for everything and everything in its place” is utterly soothing to me. Knowing that everything is “in its place” relaxes me and opens me up to being more productive and efficient. I like that feeling. So this year, I’m going to finally get serious about getting organized.
What spurred this determination? Maybe the fact that I have a small apartment and even the slightest bit of “extra” laying around makes me feel cluttered, maybe it’s that all the clutter just feels like too much excess consumption, maybe it’s my new iphone with all of its sleek, handy, organized little apps. Ok. I guess I want to be an iphone. But mostly It is because I simply don’t have the time or mental energy to be mucking my ways through a huge to-do list everyday. So streamlining my day-to-day is paramount to actually getting anything done.
So in the spirit of getting organized and, more importantly, staying organized – I thought I’d share some of my favorite personal and business tools that I use to streamline my life.
You’ll find that most of them are business related. Clearly it is the “home” area that needs the most work – probably because I spend so much energy on my business! (My other resolution is to learn how to swim and then do it regularly. But that is a whole other story.)
Despite the fact there are toys spilling all over and my desk is in constant shambles one area of my home life that I refuse to allow to succumb to disorganized chaos is dinner. Feeding my family well is an absolute must and that means healthy, budget friendly, homemade meals on the table every night. Without fail. But I don’t have the time or inclination for multiple trips to the grocery store or last minute scrambling to find something for dinner. Here are the tools that help me get it done.
Menu Planning – My number one key tool is to plan a weekly menu. Once a week I sit down with my cookbooks, food magazines and favorite food blogs and plan what we will eat over the coming week and write out my grocery list accordingly. I make sure to plan based on the day (working late on Wednesday – plan something super fast to prepare.), the cost (sweet potatoes on are on sale cheap – how can we use them this week?) and the type of dish (Pasta four times in one week?! No way!) I plan out everything from the main dish to the side dishes and salad and make sure that every meal is well balanced and has lots of veggies. Then I mark the source and page number of each night’s recipe on the menu, tear out any recipes from magazines and attach everything my fridge. of course, I am flexible and allow myself to switch up dinners if the mood strikes, but the whole system makes knowing what’s for dinner and getting it on the table so much easier.
Pepperplate – Another new find, Pepperplate (free!) makes digitally storing all my favorite recipes a snap! I am constantly sourcing recipes from all over the internet and have previously had to consult an enormous list of bookmarked pages to find the recipe I want. But Pepperplate allows you to paste in the url of the recipe you want and automatically imports the ingredients, directions, photos and all other relevant information in about 5 seconds. AND you can go in and edit the recipe to add your own notes change ingredients, etc … It is so convenient to have all my best recipes in one convenient place when I am planning my weekly menus. They also have a handy little bookmarklet so you can instantly add recipes to your account as your surfing the net and a (free!) phone app so now I can have all my best recipes right with me when I’m at the store or while cooking – which also saves me having to print out the recipe, less clutter!
Slow cooker – I’m still working on maximizing the benefits of this tool – trying to find recipes that aren’t heavy on the meat and that actually come out good. But, when it works it is a thing of beauty. To get some ingredients into the slow cooker in about 20 minutes in the morning and then come home after a long hectic day to smell dinner already waiting for you is a thing of beauty.
Now my real challenge is physical storage for all the stuff. But that is what Ikea is for!
Schedulicity – I feel like I owe this company a big fat hug. For a very fair monthly fee and no commitment I can offer my clients the ability to book their own appointments online anytime they feel like it right from my website. They automatically send out an appointment confirmation and a reminder email the day before. I no longer play phone tag and my clients LOVE the convenience of online booking. In fact, since I started using Schedulicity about 90% of my clients book right online!
Square Up – I’m new to using the Square credit card processing system, but it has been an instant love relationship. I’ve wanted to be able to allow clients to pay by credit card for some time now but the monthly fees, contracts and equipment rental was just way too much to be even remotely cost effective for me. What a hassle! enter Square Up. In two crazy easy steps you can be accepting credit cards through your iphone/android powered phone instantly with no commitment and no fees other than a highly competitive per-transaction fee. 1) Create a (free!) account at squareup.com 2) download the (free!) Square App to your phone. 3) Charge away! The funds are automatically deposited into your checking account and they even provide nice sales tracking tools. They’ll even send you a free swipe reader but you can manually run cards in the meantime.
Gmail – Well, it’s no secret that the folks over at google know their stuff. There are two things I love most about Gmail. The first is that my account can be set up to send my email “from” any email account I have. Since I have amassed a few different email addresses over the years this is a great feature. If I’m sending an email through Gmail I can make that return email address appear as either my personal email or my business email depending on who it’s going to. you can also set up different signatures based on what email address you are using. The second thing that I truly love are Gmail “Canned responses.” If you often send out the same email over and over you can create it as a canned response and insert it into a new email with the click of a button rather than having to rewrite or copy and paste it every time. An indispensable time saver!
Roost – Roost is one of my newest discoveries and makes social media for my business a no brainer. I love interacting with my fans and followers, but can’t always find the time to sit down everyday and post new and interesting things. Roost takes the work out of it by offering a really attractive and easy-to-use interface that allows you to schedule your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn posts weeks in advance. It takes no time at all and you can clearly see your ratio of status updates to quotes to questions to links. And most useful is their “link suggestion tool” which puts hundreds of current industry/interest relevant links suggestions at your fingertips. Prior to Roost I was using Hootsuite, which offers the same kind of scheduling but in a slightly less user friendly interface.(in my opinion) However Hootsuite offers two advantages: 1) you can stream in your various feeds and see all in one place when someone interacts with your posts and then respond appropriately right then and there and 2) they offer a mobile app. So to get the full benefit of both I create my social media campaign through Roost, and track and respond to fan interactions via the Hootsuite mobile app.
The Gift Card Cafe – Here again automation is key! I get lots of requests from out of towners who want to gift a massage to a loved one who lives locally. While I could (and do offer the option) to take a payment then mail a physical gift certificate, many people ask me to send them a digital version via email. So, I also signed up with The Gift Card Cafe which will process a payment for a gift certificate then send out an instant email version all with the click of a few buttons. Priceless for clients looking for an immediate last minute gift that can be easily purchased online and sent out immediately with only a few clicks! And super easy for me!
Have some great suggestions? I would LOVE to hear them, please leave a comment below! I am always on the hunt for creative new ways to make being streamlined and organized too easy to not stick to.