earth day

April 22, 2014 will be the 44th celebration of Earth Day.

Use the footprint calculator to learn how many planets it takes to support your lifestyle and what you can do to decrease your carbon footprint.

I eat low on the food chain and minimize the amount of trash I create, so my lifestyle takes 21.7 global acres of the earth’s productive area and contributes 23.2 tons of carbon dioxide (which seems like a lot).

Using the calculator is a fun and easy; the purpose, however, is to make you think about how your habits impact the environment.

If everyone bought less, used less and threw out less stuff, we’d all be better off. What can you do this year to feel better about the condition of the earth?

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book review – Taming the Paper Tiger at Work

Barbara Hemphill created a filing system called The Paper Tiger, which she refers to in this book. Although I find the system extremely cumbersome, it has its share of enthusiast users. Despite my resistance to her pre-packaged system, I wanted to give her writing a quick scan. Instead, I found myself reading the entire book.

Hemphill offers good, solid advice about handling paper at work. I didn’t learn anything revolutionary; however, I found the book an easy read and would recommend it to someone who struggles with setting up and maintaining a filing system.

The most useful information is near the end of the book, where she gives “6 Tips for Organizing the Organization,” including having one person in charge of information management and establishing retention guidelines.

The book I read was from 1998 and referred to floppy disks and other outdated technology. If you are going to read the book, make sure you get the 2005 edition.

How do you manage paperwork at your workplace?

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you can’t manage time

In a recent LinkedIn discussion, Judith Kohlberg asked group members if there were a better term to use than “time management.”

You can manage activities, priorities, tasks, workload, choices, schedule, effort or motivation; however, as I mention in The Clutter Book: When You Can’t Let Go, you can’t manage time. Everybody gets 24 hours each day; either you use it productively or you don’t, but you can’t get more.

Pat Brans suggested “goal achievement” as a substitute for “time management.”

I think I like that one. What about you?

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product review – Container Store Annual boxes

When people ask about storing items, I usually suggest containers that you can see through. While I recommend using labels, it’s easy to see exactly what’s in each bin when they’re clear plastic.

And though I pride myself on not falling for “cute” office supplies, I couldn’t resist focusing on these cardboard boxes from The Container Store.

The design of the box is the year printed all over it. They have 2013 and 2014 and may have earlier years, as well. Because they are cardboard, I don’t recommend keeping them in garages, basements or attics where they can get wet or attract pests.

They would be great for storing each year of a child’s select artwork and school work or for a year’s worth of photos and memorabilia. For $4, you can chronicle your history without stressing over making fancy books.

What would you keep in an annual treasure box?

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happy procrastination week

Procrastinators of the world, unite! Next week is National Procrastination Week, sponsored by The Procrastinators’ Club of America “to promote the many benefits of putting off until tomorrow everything that needn’t be done today.”

Here are some ideas to help you procrastinate productively, taken from The Clutter Book: When You Can’t Let Go.

  1. Take one thing off your list – If you’re not doing it, don’t do it. If you fail to complete a project or follow up on an activity, maybe you need to stop procrastinating and just let it go.
  2. Play favorites – Put off doing an important task to work on another one that is equally important. Everyone has things they prefer to do. Do the one you enjoy more, then do the less pleasant job.
  3. Procrastinate strategically – Give yourself an amount of time to waste. Set a timer to limit the procrastination session, then focus on the work you need to accomplish.

Take a test at Psychology Today’s Web site to discover your procrastination patterns. What’s your best procrastination trick?

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clean out your computer day

The second Monday in February has been designated Clean Out Your Computer Day.

To celebrate this holiday, take a look at your computer’s desktop. If yours looks like most people’s, it’s completely covered with icons. Having a cluttered virtual desktop is as distracting as having a cluttered physical desktop.

Starting Monday, take 5 minutes each day to look at what you’ve been keeping, then start filing.

If you’re afraid you’re going to lose track of current projects, create a folder called Current Projects and load it up with all the loose files. Do the same with Archives, Client Contacts, Manuscripts, Ideas or whatever it is you’ve been collecting.

Your goal is to create a streamlined system on your desktop so you can find what you need quickly, without having to search through lots of extraneous stuff. Just as sifting through physical paper wastes time, clicking on multiple folders to find the right document is just as inefficient.

Give your documents real names, with dates, if necessary. If you must keep earlier versions, name them Chapter1 Revision1, Chapter1 Revision2, etc. or Contacts 2013-9, Contacts 2014-2, etc.

To complicate matters, many people keep multiple copies of the same document in different places. Then they amend the document, don’t remember which file it was in, and make changes to a different one. If you’re afraid you won’t remember where something is, create shortcuts of the file and put the shortcuts in different folders. Every time you click on one, you’ll actually be opening the original document.

For example, I keep the file Donation Sites MoCo in the Binders folder, but I have a Donation Sites MoCo shortcut in Presentations folder. I know that when I update Donation Sites MoCo, the changes will show up across both documents and I don’t have to duplicate my efforts.

Here is a shot of my desktop:Blog illust 2014-02-06

Your desktop doesn’t have to be as Spartan as mine. I feel most comfortable when I can see large categories and drill down to the folder for a specific file. Aim to simplify the search process, not to attain perfection.

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the endowment effect

Are you familiar with the endowment effect? You may not recognize the term, but you surely have experienced it.

Resulting from the study of behavioral economics, the endowment effect is the result of your attributing more value to your things simply because you already possess them. One example is when you want to sell something on craigslist for a much higher price than others are willing to pay. You think it’s a treasure; other people see it as used merchandise.

Another scientific term for the effect is divestiture aversion – we hate to let go of stuff we own. Because we want to avoid the feelings of loss that come with discarding our possessions, we hold on to things much longer than necessary (see the accumulation of broken appliances and outgrown toys in many basements).

The endowment effect even relates to things you don’t own yet. The longer you hold an object, the more you become attached to it and the more difficult it is to give up. Imagine you’re shopping for a specific item and you find something that is close to what you want. If you carry it around the store while you look for other items, you are likely to become attached to it and purchase it, even though it doesn’t have all the necessary qualities you desire (see closets filled with multiple pairs of shoes that aren’t worn).

Could there be some deep, biological need we’re trying to fill? The endowment effect also has shown up in other primates.

Of course, because we can reason, we also can look at our behavior and change it.

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