Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Get Ready for the Spring Thaw – Regain your Refrigerator

Here’s a different sort of spring thaw and one you can do yourself. Get prepared to clean out your fridge and freezer. This process is a hot idea with refrigerator rules that will save you money and time.

1. Start now by making a commitment to buy fewer grocery items and eat as much as possible of what is already in your fridge and freezer. Schedule a date as the day you will clean your refrigerator and try not to purchase too much before then. Look at your calendar and find a day and time that you have nothing else planned, preferably the day before garbage pick-up day. Make sure you allow enough time on the day you have picked, to complete your project.

2. Be prepared. Have plenty of extra large, heavy-duty trash bags on hand and have your recycling and composting containers nearby.

3. Let things go. When you start to clean out the refrigerator you may be left with food that is too old to eat or that you haven’t chosen to eat. Maybe it’s just time to let it go. If your poultry is petrified, your sauces are science projects, or if you can’t remember when you bought it—toss it. Check the expiration dates. Pay attention to foods and condiments that weren’t eaten, and consider this when grocery shopping for these items in the future.

4. Take everything out for a good cleaning and use a cooler to store while you clean. It’s spring and you will need to get those coolers out anyway.

5. Get rid of the old ice in the ice trays and give the trays a good washing.

6. Put like things together. Create sections for different types of foods — beverages, veggies, fruit, cheese and deli meats, dairy, other meats.

7. Think proper storage. Meat and poultry should be stored in the center back where it stays the coolest. Condiments are fine in the door where temperature fluctuates. Vegetables are best in the crisper with higher levels of humidity. Use clear containers for leftovers, or repackaged items, and label with the date so you know what it is and when it was put there. Square containers are better than round, as they waste less space.

8. Know what you actually eat and when. We may not notice it but we often eat seasonally. So, just like switching over our closet, we need to change over our refrigerator contents as well. Our spring and summer eating styles tends to change to more fresh produce and barbecue items and there may also be some adjustments when the kids get out of school.

9. Take out the trash. Immediately put that trash bag outside for the collection.

This spring thaw will give you a clean refrigerator with foods that can be easily found, last longer through proper storage techniques, and create more room for easy access.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Rules of Disengagement: Ending Conversations Gracefully and Tactfully

Do you ever have trouble ending a telephone conversation?
Do you need to speak to someone but worry because it always turns into a long drawn out conversation on topics you would rather not speak about?
Do people come in your office and you can't get them to leave?
Do your meetings run too long and get off track?

Some conversations don't just end naturally they need to be closed or disengaged. The following are ways to take back control of your time and disengage from those conversations that are not going where you would like them to go.
Politely disengage:

1. When you are the person making a call, be prepared in advance.
Have speaking points. Know exactly what you want to get out of the call. This will keep you on track. Start the telephone conversation with, "I only have a couple of minutes but I need to ask you..." or "The reason for my call is." When ending the call thank the person you called for providing the information you needed.
2. If colleagues enter your office and start chatting when you don't have the time or you want to end the conversation simply stand and this will signal an end to the conversation. Sometimes you will need to walk the person closer the door and also offer language that will close the conversation.
"Thanks for dropping by" or
"We should schedule a time to get together to speak about this in greater detail."
3. Reference the next time you will see the person. That way it won't feel like you are brushing them off.
4. If you are at a reception and the conversation is going longer than you would like, shake hands and tell the person you are speaking to that it was nice to meet them or to see them again. You can also say something like "I would really like to continue this conversation another time - please give me a call so we can schedule it."
5. In a meeting have a clearly outlined agenda and share it with the group. The agenda should include times for each topic. When things are going long, you can refer to the agenda and say, "In order for us to keep with our agenda we will have to move on. If we need more time on this topic we can reschedule."
People often develop a fear that others will be hurt or insulted if they have to end a conversation, but if it is done properly, the majority of people won't think anything of it. They will respect the fact that you are a busy person and have other matters to attend to. Try using these approaches to disengagement:
Humour- as long as the person knows you are joking:
"Jim will hunt me down if I don't get this to him by noon."
"The office is a madhouse right now."
"I need to get back to my desk, Facebook is calling me."
"I'm trapped under a pile of paper and have to work my way out."

Polite wording - Etiquette has taught us these traditional conversation enders:
"I had better let you go."
"I'm going to let you go now."
"It will be great to see you at..."
Excuses - whether it is real or fictional, either way it is a valid ender:
"I have a meeting to get to."
"I have to make a phone call."
"I'm swamped with work."
"I'm in the middle of something and can't break my concentration."
Positive comments will make the person feel good ending the conversation:
"I'm really glad you spoke to me about this."
"That's an excellent point; I will keep this in mind."
"I appreciate your concern/effort."

Remember, that it is your time. Spend it doing things that are the most important to you. By following these tactics for disengaging gracefully you will respect your time and the people with whom you are speaking.

If you enjoyed this article, please pass it along to others who would find it useful and sign up for our Organize Anything newsletter on our homepage at
© 2010 Colette Robicheau
The Organizing Coach
Organize Anything
Phone: (902) 233-1577 Fax: (902) 455-0553

Permission to reuse or redistribute these materials is hereby granted provided they are reproduced or redistributed in their entirety with full attribution.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

VIP: Very Inventive Procrastinator

Many of us think we have conquered procrastination and have become efficient workers. This may be true for some of us, but when it comes to procrastination we may have just become a little more creative. You may just be a V.I.P. – Very Inventive Procrastinator. Read the statements below to see how many you can identify with.

•I like to get a lot of little jobs out of the way before starting a major project.
•I have a messy desk, overflowing in-basket and paper that needs to be filed.
•I frequently go back to work with my “homework” still in my briefcase untouched.
•I frequently tell myself, “I’ll put it here for now and put it away later.”
•I have at least two major projects at work or at home that I am leaving until I have more time.
•I have several broken items at home waiting to be repaired or articles of clothing waiting to be mended.
•In the mornings I rarely get up when the alarm sounds or at the time I planned to get up.
•I like to stick with a task until it is perfect.

How many of those statements described you at least some of the time? According to Dr. Linda Sapadinin in her book It’s About Time, there are six styles of procrastination:

•The Perfectionist- Spends too much time past the acceptable level of work
•The Dreamer- Focuses on fun and easy things in hopes the difficult will disappear
•The Worrier- Is afraid to make mistakes, so never gets started
•The Defier- Puts things off as a way to object to having to do it
•The Crisis-Maker- Lives for the adrenaline of working against the clock
•The Over-Doer- Takes on more can they can do in a timely manner

Which are you? Each type of procrastinator has uniquely inventive ways to procrastinate.
“…But I want it to be perfect!”
“…But I hate all those bothersome details”
“…But I’m afraid to change!”
“…But why should I have to do it?”
“…But I only get motivated at the last minute!”
“…But I have so much to do!”

Sound familiar? Not to worry, there is hope for VIPs who thought they had procrastination beat. The ideas below should help you kick the habit:

•Change your “can’ts”, “shoulds”, and “somedays” to “cans”, “coulds”, and specific times.
•Identify why you procrastinate. Do you try to perfect everything? Do you worry? Do you like the feeling of beating the clock? Do you take on too much?
•Set a goal for the thing you’ve been putting off. Pick a specific date to do it, and schedule time in your planner to get it done.
•Break down the overwhelming tasks into chunks, and do them a little at a time.
•Keep telling yourself, “If it’s unpleasant, I’ll do it now and get it over with.”
•Disorganization breeds procrastination, so get organized.
•Tackle the distasteful tasks when you’re feeling good or have just accomplished something significant.
•Force yourself to start. Once started, you’ll build momentum. Keep starting, and you’ll develop the do it now habit.
•Decide on a reward for finishing a task that you have been delaying. Example: a coffee break, a new shirt, a night on the town. Provide yourself with an incentive to get it done.

If you enjoyed this article, please pass it along to others who would find it useful and sign up for our Organize Anything newsletter on our homepage at

© 2010 Colette Robicheau
The Organizing Coach
Organize Anything
Phone: (902) 233-1577 Fax: (902) 455-0553
Permission to reuse or redistribute these materials is hereby granted provided they are reproduced or redistributed in their entirety with full attribution.

I would also like to acknowledge Harold Taylor’s “Procrastination Self-Assessment” and “25 Ways to Overcome Procrastination for info in this article.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Planning the Perfect Dinner Party

Hosting a dinner party takes preparation and organization. With everyone’s busy schedules, families and friends don’t often get the chance to sit down and enjoy a special meal together. Here are some suggestions to help make your next gathering easy and memorable.

1) Start by making pre and post checklists of the supplies you will need. As you plan your party, follow your timetable, go over lists and check off each task as it is completed. Make certain to include critical info like date, time, place and reason for the occasion. Ask guests to RSVP by a certain date so you can appropriately prepare.

2) Figure out how big or small a get-together you would like to have so you can plan your budget. Consider how many you can comfortably seat at your table or how you can extend an existing table to accommodate more. Other tables in your home or even an inexpensive fold out rental table can work well when clothed and set. Placing name cards at the dinner table is a nice way to encourage conversation and for people to get to know each other.

3) Consider your china, dishes, flatware and cooking pots you will use. Use your special occasion pieces - this is a party after all. Also consider how well you can work in the size of your kitchen. If you have never done this before start small with some simple dishes and make additions after you have some experience.

4) If you plan on having a party on a specific holiday, be prepared for a fewer number of RSVP’s. People will be less likely to have other plans if the party is scheduled on a date before or after the holiday.

5) Time your invitation for people to come ½ an hour to an hour before you plan to serve dinner. If possible let them know - cocktails at 7:00, dinner at 8:00. The more formal the occasion, the more lead time required. Everything works for invitations - from a phone call, e-mail or handwritten invitation.

6) Ask friends and family members for help as well. Assign tasks or food items for guests to bring to help ease your load. If you are going to serve wine choose after the menu is in place and enlist some help from local wine retailers. Not only can they find a pairing for food but they can also provide amounts required based on your numbers and the size of the wine bottle.

7) An organized house is more attractive and welcoming to your guests. Take the time to tidy up and put your belongings in their proper place. You will feel more comfortable knowing that your guests are seeing your home at its best.

Plan ahead so you have as little to do on the actual day of your party as possible. Take time for yourself before guests begin arriving. Being a relaxed and stress free party host is the best thing to serve your guests